Even though people tend to analyse the characters, the plot and writing the most, it is unquestionable that the setting and world building are important aspects of novels as well. And not just in high-fantasy, sci-fi, or other genres that create a brand new world – the portrayal of the world is significant for any story, be that realistic fiction, or historical fiction.
In this post, Clare and I have collected 5-5 settings – some realistic, others made up – we found well-written, intriguing and/or complex. So sit back, friends, and watch, because we’re taking you on a trip through some of the best settings we’ve ever read about.
the world of Wondrous Strange
I fell in love with Lesley Livingston’s writing through this series. Its split between the fae world and the human world (taking place in the theater) and I just genuinely adored it. Fae worlds in general fully captivate me, for example Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince but it is Wondrous Strange that first made me fall in love with it as a setting and it’s still the first to come to mind when I want something beautiful and deadly.
The only country outside of England I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far in my life and I am entirely in love with it. It was an amazing place to visit and it’s just as amazing to read about. Again I have a book that first led me into this and that’s Juliet by Anne Fortier. It was actually the first book I ever got for review and made me love Italy – and Siena in particular. From there I moved all around Italy and finally fell most in love with Venice. Seriously, just give me a book set in Venice and I will instantly love it. It could have zero plot and still I’d be all about it.
I’m one of those kids who was raised on Enid Blyton and dreams of midnight feasts and prefects. My actual school life was day school and your average awful school experience but it was always nice to imagine a world in which going to school was this exciting trip away. Of course the boarding school that most easily springs to mind is Hogwarts. And who wouldn’t be excited to go to a magical school in Scotland? But I also love anything boarding school related. Especially if it’s on the creepy side. Bring on your unsolved murders and possible hauntings.
the world of The Parasol Protectorate
Alternate histories are always fun for me. I studied history at college and any story that involves changing history slightly and seeing how massively that changes everything is right up my street. Of course adding in werewolves and vampires is more than a slight change but for me the joy of the Parasol Protectorate world is just how much doesn’t change. Yes there are now supernaturals roaming about openly but etiquette and society have changed very little. It makes for a very entertaining read. Plus the story is just delightful.
the island in Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is one of my all time favourite books and one that I’ve reread a few times. Plus anything resembling castaway stories gets an instant like from me. A bit like my fascination with changing history, I find it fun to watch how society changes or stays the same when the characters are taken out of society and left to fend for themselves. Plus the feminism of this island of absolute badasses is just never disappointing to read. Seriously if you haven’t read this yet then I highly recommend it even if it’s not a genre you usually read.
The London Celebrities by Lucy Parker is an ongoing rom-com series that I absolutely adore, and that has the best, most fun setting I’ve ever read about – London’s West End. But really, my love for the setting is completely unrelated to England – I simply love to see novels set in the world of the theater, to read about theater folk. It was especially amazing to see the characters on stage, as well as to get a glimpse into how they dealt with the press and other challenges they encountered.
the world of Not Even Bones
Not Even Bones takes place in a world where supernatural beings not only exist, but people know of their existence, and rate them based on how dangerous, or evil they are. The more dangerous a specie is, the bigger the likelihood that it’s legal to kill them. That’s where Nita and her parents come in – whoever her mom hunts down, Nita dissects into smaller parts they can sell at black markets around the world. It’s gritty, it’s incredibly, it’s everything my dark heart has ever wanted, and I am outraged it hasn’t received more love and appreciation. If you ever wanted a morally gray, gory and dark YA fantasy, Not Even Bones is for you.
the world of Psy-Changeling
I don’t read much paranormal romance, but this series, man, this series has my whole damn heart. Each book has its own protagonist, with their own plot and their own romance, still, reading the series in order is more or less essential. For one, there’s an over-arching plot in the series, but perhaps even more important, you can only fully appreciate the world if you see it revealed bit by bit in each book. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an extensive world building as in Psy-Changeling; Singh really does think of everything, and has created something spectacular with this series.
Hysteria Hall in The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
When I picked up The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall I thought I would get a pretty basic ghost YA, so imagine my surprise when I discovered a true hidden gem – an intriguing paranormal thriller with a heart that is frequently missing from the genre. The story centers around Delia, who moves to Hysteria Hall, an old asylum, with her family after she inherits it from her aunt. Hysteria Hall used to be a home for ‘troubled’ girls, and Delia has to realize it the hard way that many of these girls still haunt these walls. The plot is twisted in a way that this is in no way your usual paranormal romance, and the setting is explored and shown in a way that makes it all the more special.
the dystopian setting of the Want duology
The key to a great dystopian novel, in my opinion, is to show a nearly unimaginable version of our world that still rings true. If you think about it, most dystopian works have aspects to them that are realistic and that register as social criticism of our current world – Want takes this formula to the next level. The novel is about a heavily polluted world where the rich wear expensive suits that purify the air they breath in… while the poor are bound to die early, due to respiratory diseases. If you are ready to immerse yourself in a world that seems, sadly, possible, I highly recommend you give a chance to this amazing duology.
Have you had the chance to ‘visit’ any of these places before? What did you think of them/the novels? What are some of the best settings you’ve ever read about?