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 technically “Childhood Favorites“, but I thought a list of either relatively popular English books (they have to be, to get translated) and Italian books no one knows outside of Italy would have been dull – and I don’t remember many of them that well.
So what I’m doing today is talking about some old favorites and what more recent books I think younger Acqua would have liked.
Younger Acqua Loved: The Golden Compass
There are many reasons I loved this novel, one of them being how much the idea of a shapeshifting animal companion appealed to me; it being about a girl who is angry and sometimes rude and yet not unhappy and rebelling against evil religious institutions was another very relevant one, due to what was happening in my life when I was in middle school. The escape from Bolvangar is still one of my favorite scenes ever.
Would Have Loved: Dragon Pearl
If I had a time machine, a translated version of this novel (no, 11-year-old Acqua couldn’t read English, but she probably knew her own language better than 19-year-old Acqua does) would be one the things I’d bring with me. Here we have a shapeshifting main character who is actually a magical fox in space, who is a liar and gets in all kinds of trouble: I know 11-year-old me would have found all of this really entertaining. On a more serious note, while this doesn’t talk in any way about religion, it has a casually-but-unapologetically-and-explicitly queer world. Which I really couldn’t find in the books I liked to read.
Younger Acqua Loved: Fairy Oak
You don’t find books like this one in the English market. This is such an Italian story, even though many of the characters have English names and it isn’t really set in Italy.
This [part-fairytale, part-historical fiction, but that feels so timeless it’s like a magical contemporary] fantasy novel is also inspired by the specific culture and language of my region (Italian isn’t the only language spoken in Italy, even though local languages are kind of dying) and my dream would be to write something like that too. Anyway, this is a story about an atmospheric small town, magical plants, and two witch sisters who have to fight an evil that is coming back. It’s beautiful and it’s magical and I’ve never seen another book use mixed media and illustrations (such beautiful illustrations, ancient-looking ones too) the way this one did.
Would Have Loved: Labyrinth Lost
I don’t know any other books that are even vaguely inspired by my region, but I do know a novel about witch-y sisters (well, brujas) and how magic can influence family dynamics. Since this is also a great middle grade-YA crossover, I do think I would have liked it more had I read it when I was younger. It talks about a young girl’s relationship with her culture and said girl is also bisexual; this could have been helpful too.
Younger Acqua Loved: Guerre del Mondo Emerso
[these are the illustrations of the three covers. Art by Paolo Barbieri.]
This is an Italian fantasy series about a girl forced to join a cult of assassins, and I loved many things about it – like the romance, or the fighting, and especially the main character Dubhe herself – but I didn’t love how it took itself too seriously then (I would have noticed certain inconsistencies less if that hadn’t been the case) and I don’t love how overwhelmigly lacking in any kind of diversity it was now. It’s important to me, but like all of Licia Troisi’s books, it could have been so much better.
Would Have Loved: Sorcery of Thorns
This is a fantasy novel that has a somewhat trope-y m/f romance and some creepy aspects, like the previous series does, but that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that seems to understand the concept of diversity (the love interest is bisexual, for example). I really think I would have loved it had I read it a few years ago; I really liked it now, but it doesn’t mean what it could have meant to younger me.
Younger Acqua Loved: The Scions of Shannara
The first trilogy is kind of a Lord of the Rings copycat. The later trilogies are mostly forgettable (at least, the ones I read before stopping were). This one, however, I remember it relatively well, and it’s the kind of older-style fantasy I don’t see that much of anymore, the slow-paced and… epic-feeling fantasy (this world. So many maps. So many unforgettable settings). The characters were mostly underwhelming, but they weren’t what I read these books for.
Would Have Loved: The Star-Touched Queen
This was a difficult one to find a recommendation for: epic fantasy “in the vein of The Lord of the Rings but not quite as heavy” isn’t common anymore, now everything is more Game of Thrones style, and 13-year-old me hated A Song of Ice and Fire.
However, “the characters are kind of forgettable but the settings will stay with you forever for how beautiful and slightly-creepy-to-horrifying they are” is a perfect description of the Star-Touched Queen duology. As non-western ownvoices fantasy was basically nonexistent in Italy when I was in middle school, I think this one is a solid choice. I’m not completely sure I would have liked the writing style, but I had the patience to go through the whole Silmarillion, so I won’t exclude this series just because of that.
Younger Acqua Loved: Il Sogno di Talitha
I’m only counting the first book; there are four in the series, and I read all of them as they got progressively worse (did they really get worse or was I starting to notice just how low-quality the average Italian SFF book is? That’s the question). I loved it because of the worldbuilding – cities built under and over magical trees! magic tied to air! evil magical convent! – despite its many inconsistencies, and because of the atmosphere (undeniably unique).
Would Have Loved: Red Sister
These books have basically the same premise, “girl is forced to join a convent, and the world might or might not be ending soon due to climate events and war”, but this one doesn’t have a romance with a weird power imbalance in it, and has a main character who is bisexual and not completely insufferable (Talitha kind of was). “Dangerous school-like setting but in a possibly evil monastery” is now one of my favorite very specific tropes, and while I was reading Red Sister for the first time I couldn’t stop thinking about the book that started my love for them.
Are there any recently-published books you think you would have loved when you were younger? Have you read any of these?