Some of you guys know that I’m a very quirky reader, I’ve talked about it before, and some of you may remember that it takes me forever to read fantasy books. Since these tend to be some of my favorite books, you may wonder why I seem to flail or muddle through these stories. I’m not actually flailing and muddling exactly. LET ME EXPLAIN.
Also, HEY CHECK IT OUT: I’m currently buddy-reading Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta for the first time. That’s something pretty cool, right?
1. I have to get the lay of the land.
I study and almost-memorize the maps. They’re put in there for a reason so why not use them? They’re also usually glorious to look. Mostly, I have to know where every character is at any given time in the story, so I’m constantly flipping back and forth to trace their steps.
If I don’t know where the characters are while I’m reading, I feel lost and lost is not a good place to be in a fantasy world. I need to stay grounded so I can know what is behind me and maybe anticipate what is ahead, with the terrain and landscape and features and all.
When I read a fantasy story and there is no map, it’s actually pretty devastating to me. It’s possible that I put too much into the maps, but I don’t think so.
2. I have to know the cast.
I need to know who is telling the story and why, and I need to know all of the key players. If I can’t figure that out, I’m lost and confused before I even begin. If this happens, I have a hard time engaging and enjoying the meat of the story because I’m trying to figure out who is who, what is the connection between this character and that character, etc. Sometimes the story starts out with a large cast pretty quickly and almost always, the cast has wonky names. I must know which character is which, and I have to know very early on.
Fantasy is one time that I will seek out a list of characters before I read, and I get really frustrated if there isn’t one provided. BECAUSE the names, the pronunciation, the names. If there is going to be a large cast and if the names are going to be pronounced in a very special way that is often mispronounced, A GUIDE WOULD BE HELPFUL. When there is no guide, I take to the internet because usually someone else has wondered the same things before me.
My own personal preference is when the list of characters is at the beginning of the book along with the map, but sometimes this very valuable list is found at the end of the book, which sometimes means that I don’t happen upon it until I’m finished with the book, especially if I’m reading fantasy in digital format. (In this case, I just shake my head and send very kind, silent, pretend emails to publishers to please not do this anymore, put these things in the front pleaseandthankyou, but hey at least you included one so you kind of win a little bit.)
3. I have to read each chapter multiple times.
So here, the big thing. It takes me one good read-thru to flip back and forth to the map (that I now have almost-memorized) to establish where the characters (that I’ve just recently studied) are going. After I’m finished with the chapter or section, I read it again to make sure I’m up on what is happening in the story. Place, then content. Here is where I usually pull out the details that I’m storing for later, in case they’re foreshadowing now. Here is where I’m falling in love with the writing and the characters and the world. Sometimes I’m listening to my audiobook while I’m doing this second read-thru, sometimes I’m not. It depends on how complicated the story feels to me.
Sometimes, I’ll listen to the chapter or section a third time via audiobook without following along in print. By this time, I’m usually pretty emotionally attached to the characters and I’m experiencing everything MORE and BIGGER and everything makes me want to CRY because I love it so much or as some of you guys say, BECAUSE THE FEELS. By this time, I feel like I really have a grasp on what’s going on in the story, and I feel great about moving on to the next chapter, but only after I’ve messaged somebody, somewhere about how I’m overly-emotional in one way or another over some event that has happened, happy or sad or OMG!!!, and really it is the best thing in the world and THIS IS WHY I LOVE FANTASY BOOKS SO MUCH, IT ALMOST HURTS HOW MUCH I LOVE THEM.
Yes, it takes me ages to do it like this, but this is how I do fantasy and I wouldn’t do it any other way. I cannot read fantasy quickly, I have tried, I simply love it too much.