DWJ's answers: Harry Potter

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Sep 1 17:33:48 EDT 2001


On Sat, 1 Sep 2001 22:02:36 +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>>What I personally would like is a fantasy that's set in a culture that's
>>technologically and sociologically similar to the early 19th century.  What
>>I would find fascinating is a true Regency novel that's also a
>>fantasy--alternate universe, whatever.  It's possible; it just needs doing.
>>And yeah, there are a few, I'm sure (we could even start a list if you want)
>>but again NOT ENOUGH.
>
>I'm really tired, and feeling very stupid, but could you spell out 
>the distinction?  I mean, does Sorcery & Cecelia fit this bill?

I *think* so but I haven't read it in long enough.  Here's the distinction,
more specifically:

A fantasy set in a Regency-era culture would be something that isn't in our
world, but which is at the same level of technology as Europe/England was
during the Regency period.  More broadly--since the Regency period
technically lasted about 20 years--I'd say 1790 to 1830 or 1835.
Technologically, it would be on the brink of mechanization; educationally it
would be balanced between reason and superstition; sociologically there
would be a thriving middle class, non-feudal (or at least no more feudal
than Jane Austen).  The government might be a monarchy, but the ruler's
power would be non-absolute.  And any of these things might be untrue--for
example, you might have an absolute monarchy--but anything that was
different would be affected by the presence of the other elements.  For
example, an absolute monarchy has a different effect on a society where
money rather than noble birth can determine status.  Dorian mentioned
Barbara Hambly's Windrose Chronicles, which are a pretty good example of one
variation on this theme.  I really like _Stranger at the Wedding_ as well,
though I recall I didn't really *love* it until about halfway through.

A Regency fantasy, despite the similar wording, means a story about the
Regency era of our own world, only with magic.  Either an alternate
universe, an alternate history, or whatever.  Events, personalities, and
places are all as they are in our world, but there's magic or faerie or
something else that makes it a fantasy.  This could range from "the magic
people *thought* worked at that time actually does" like gypsy curses, hedge
witchery, etc., or it could be full-blown high fantasy superimposed on our
world's history.  I haven't read Wrede's _Mairelon the Magician_ yet, but I
just got it from the library, but I think it's an example of this second
kind.  To my memory, this is also what _Sorcery and Cecilia_ is.

>The one I found really, really disappointing was _Shadow of Albion_ 
>by Andre Norton and Rosemary Edgehill.  I saw it on Amazon shortly 
>after reading S&C and the Mairelon books and was so excited at the 
>idea of another Regency/fantasy.  You lot have got me well and truly 
>trained not to use the "B-word" about a book, (and it got 4 stars 
>from 12 reviews on Amazon, so some people obviously like it!), but I 
>*didn't*.  At all.  Had I seen what RE had to say about it in an 
>author's review, I might have expected less:  "James Bond meets Jane 
>Austen in a Regency that never was". 

Eeek.  I'm frightened now.  :)

I hate being disappointed by books.  Last night, having nothing better to do
with my time, and with Alexlit permanently disabled as far as my account
goes (nobody knows why, Jacob can't fix it, they can't fix it, so who
knows?) not to mention that it's not recommending anything I want to read, I
used the Amazon.com recommendation feature.  It's not great--what am I
saying, it's barely useful--but I went through it three times sorting out
books to see if it would come up with anything new.  Sometimes I got very
excited about titles only to see that they were VERY poorly rated, the
excerpts were awful, and they were just plain GENERIC.  Which ought to be a
swear word as far as books go.

Melissa Proffitt
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