Weekly

T10T: Fictional Places I’d Like To See

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like to Visit. I decided to change the “visit” in “see” because some of these places are too dangerous to spend time in.

All these places are either fictional or fictional counterparts of real places. I decided to choose only one setting per writer, or the list would have been all Roshani Chokshi, Catherynne M. Valente and Yoon Ha Lee.


The Night Bazaar

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The Night Bazaar unfurled before us in a spectrum of color and life. Carts bearing persimmons and custard apples weaved between the crowds. Stores hopped across streets to greet likely customers. Other shops shrank to the size of thimbles, fit only for clientele no wider than a mouse […]

…Roshani Chokshi knows how to write descriptions.

How could I not want to see the Night Bazaar from The Star-Touched Queen? It’s probably my favorite fictional place and also the first one I thought of when I saw this topic. Here you’ll find everything you want, for a price – daydreams, snarls of nightmares, magical chains of star fragments…
It seems like a beautiful, mysterious place – one not without its dangers, but I’d love to see it.


Ghadid

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I read this book just a few weeks ago and fell in love with Ghadid, which is now one of my favorite fictional cities. Not only The Perfect Assassin has an atmospheric desert fantasy setting, Ghadid is also built on pylons in the sky over said desert. It was the perfect setting for this very gay fantasy mystery where assassins fight on rooftops, jumping from platform to platform.


Imulai Mokarengen

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The city lies at the galaxy’s dust-stranded edge […] In the mornings its skies are radiant with clouds like the plumage of a bird ever-rising, and in the evenings the stars scatter light across skies stitched and unstitched by the comings and goings of fire-winged starships. Its walls are made of metal the color of undyed silk, and its streets bloom with aleatory lights, small solemn symphonies, the occasional duel.

One of my favorite fictional cities ever is Imulai Mokarengen, “inkblot of the gods”, from the short story Effigy Nights in Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee. As beautiful cities often do in Yoon Ha Lee’s stories (see Iria from the Winterstrike game), it ends up in ruins and devastated by a war, so I probably should specify “Imulai Mokarengen before the occupation”.
This is a space city well-known for its artists, and its descriptions have some of the best (very purple, but I like that) prose in the whole collection, especially for a story that is actually… haunting, at best, but definitely not pretty. After all, it’s about the people of Imulai Mokarengen burning up their art to survive, and it features terrifying book characters that come to life.


Neptune [Radiance]

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Fade in on a balcony crusted with salt and electric green coral. Its coils and floral motifs and columns recall the balustrades of New Orleans. Rust-bound lanterns hang on long, Marleyesque chains, casting white-blue light onto the churning cobalt sea that covers the whole of the unspeakably vast surface of Neptune.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente is an alt-history space fantasy mystery set in a solar system very different from our own, one that humans started colonizing in the 19th century – which means that this story has a decopunk aesthetic and I loved that. In this system, every planet is full of alien life, the descriptions are as weird as they are beautiful, and Neptune was my favorite. Cobalt sea? Weird corals? Yes.


Cairo [The Haunting of Tram Car 015]

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They were atop Ramses Station where you could see Cairo spread out below: a sprawl of busy streets, spired masjid, factories and architecture that spanned the ages amid the scaffolding of newly rising constructions. […] Corded cable lines stretched across the skyline in every direction, metal vines that curved and bent as they went, interwoven and overlapping the breadth of the city. Aerial trams zipped along their length—leaving bright electric bolts crackling in their wake.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is set in an alt-history version of Cairo where steampunk technology is powered by djinns, where magic meets science, where one of the main methods of transportation are the tram cars in the sky. This book was so atmospheric that I felt like I was there with the characters, but I’d like to actually see it – even only in pictures, this cover is already so gorgeous.


Le Cirque des Rêves

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

I mean, how could I not put The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern on this list? This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read and the descriptions of the circus are exactly what make this book so great. Mazes, mysterious tents, acrobats, ice gardens… there’s everything in here and it will surprise you. I want to see this place, but it doesn’t exist, so I’d like at least to have the time to reread this book.


Terravin

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Then, maybe most beautiful of all, surrounding the bay were homes and shops that crept up the hills, each one a different color: bright blue, cherry red, orange, lilac, lime, a giant fruit bowl with the Bay of Terravin at its heart, and finally dark green fingers of forest reached down from the hills to hold the multicolored bounty in its palm.

One of my favorite settings since early 2016! The main reason The Kiss of Deception ended up being one of my favorite books that year was exactly how atmospheric and quiet the story was, and how beautiful I found the setting to be. Terravin was my favorite part of that because it’s a place that kind of has the whole “Mediterranean small town” feel even though it’s not one at all.


Sky

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This was the city called Sky. […] Above the city, smaller but brighter […] was the palace—also called Sky, and perhaps more deserving of the name. I knew the column was there, the impossibly thin column that supported such a massive structure, but from that distance I couldn’t see it. Palace floated above city, linked in spirit, both so unearthly in their beauty that I held my breath at the sight.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is a fantasy romance (…monster romance featuring a lot of political intrigue) set in a palace built in the sky over a city. You might notice some parallels with Ghadid, and yes, I have a type. If I know that a book is set in a city/palace/whatever in the sky, I need to read it. And I’d like to see this beautiful, terrifying palace, even though knowing who lives there I’d never want to set foot inside of it.


The Little Palace

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[The Little Palace] rose from the trees surrounding it like something carved from an enchanted forest, a cluster of dark wood walls and golden domes. As we drew closer, I saw that every inch of it was covered in intricate carvings of birds and flowers, twisting vines and magical beasts.

The Little Palace has been one of my favorite settings since I read Shadow and Bone in 2015. It’s beautiful – I would love to see its library, or Alina’s room, or the Darkling’s (…without him in them. I might like villains but I would never like to meet him, thank you. I would love to meet Alina and Genya, however.) Anyway, I love this book a lot and I need to finish rereading this series so that maybe I will finally get to King of Scars.


Kali

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Kali waits for me, a spaceship suspended in a sky of fire and black and stars. […] Its creators must have had some whimsy, some fondness for enchantment. […] It looks like a place where witches steal woodcutters’ children from their beds, where gargoyles come to life when the nights grow dark, where headless ballerinas dance in the forests.

If after Imulai Mokarengen you’re also asking yourself if “city floating in the nebulas” is one of my favorite kinds of settings… it is. How could it not be? I want to see this place that according to the heroine looks like a sci-fi fairytale. Also, A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna is an all-around wonderful book and you should read it too.


What are your favorite settings?

12 thoughts on “T10T: Fictional Places I’d Like To See

  1. The Night Bazaar and Catherynne M. Valente’s solar system would be on top of my list, they’re such fascinating, vivid settings that I still think about all the time!
    I love that you included the descriptions from the books, cause now I want to read all the ones I haven’t read yet! (And re-read the ones I have tbh) I’m always so seduced my pretty prose. I mean: “It looks like a place where witches steal woodcutters’ children from their beds, where gargoyles come to life when the nights grow dark, where headless ballerinas dance in the forests.” How am I supposed to not start reading this immediately???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “How am I supposed to not start reading this immediately???”
      (…in fact, you should read it immediately 🙂 )

      I save the pretty prose parts every time I find them, because when I want to talk about how beautiful a sadly fictional place is, my descriptions will never do it justice… so I let the author do it for me.

      Like

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