I've decided to start reading older books that I missed, back in the day. My first choice was Tanith Lee's 'The Birthgrave.'
First published 40 years ago, The Birthgrave is unusual on a number of fronts.
The protagonist is a woman, for starters. No, we're not dealing with some fantasy princess who slings spells on her way to regain her lost throne or reunite with her lost love. Written in first person, the heroine has no idea who or even what she is when the book begins.
Ah. I see a couple of you out there, looking askance at me. "Is this one of those awful 'main characters wakes up in a blank white room with amnesia' books? Because those generally, well, suck."
No. It isn't. She wakes up in the heart of a dormant volcano, which erupts as soon as she leaves. The world into which she is thrust is a lush dreamscape of wonders and terrors, of old magic dying and new magic being born.
There aren't any cute dwarves or lyrical elves in this world. But there is a sense that it's genuine, that people (and other things) live there.
The heart of the book are the questions it asks -- who am I? What am I? And why am I forced to wear a mask all the time?
If you've ever pondered any of those questions, I think you'll like this book. And even if you haven't, look, Tanith Lee wrote it. Her writing hasn't aged a bit in 40 years, and it won't age after 40 more. The woman was a genius, and it shows in every sentence.
I'm glad I've decided to step back a bit in time and spend some time with older works. Not only is it a lot of fun, I'm hoping the experience might improve my writing. Because yes, I do sit back after every few pages and pick apart what I just read, see if I can pick up any techniques or approaches that lent the pages their particular strengths. I don't think Tanith Lee would mind.
Here are a few more titles on my to-be-read list:
1) Jack Vance. TALES OF DYING EARTH.
2) L. Sprague De camp and Flecher Pratt. THE INCOMPLEAT ENCHANTER.
3) Lloyd Alexander, THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN
4) Ursula K. LeGuin, A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA.
There's always room for more titles. Suggest one in the comments!
Oh, and if anyone out there would like to try The Birthgrave, I believe it's lending-enabled, if you have a Kindle. I'll be done soon, so let me know, and I'll lend it to you when I'm done.