I’ll be honest, I haven’t had to do this in a while because I haven’t read a big high fantasy deserving of a break in a long time, which probably means that I’ve jinxed myself into immediately reading one, although, that’s not a problem? I love a big high fantasy that totally takes the stuffing out of me. It’s easily one of my favorite reading experiences.
Obviously, the first instance that comes to mind is Katy Rose Pool’s The Age of Darkness trilogy. Those books messed me up so much that I wrote individual reviews for every single one just so that all of you could suffer with me. I talked about it in every single post that I put up for an entire year, and I’m still here writing about it on and off. The first time that I read the first book, though? I didn’t know what to do with myself after. I kind of just sat there, in both shock and awe, and tried to conceptualize the fact that I was going to have to wait a year before the second one would release. I had such a major hangover from this trilogy that I had to take a step back from high fantasy for a little bit.
And although high fantasy is my number one fave for genres, those books can really knock me into left field sometimes. We talk about book hangovers all the time, and it’s such a real thing, that we’ve just been dragged six ways to Sunday through the hell that is a truly phenomenal book, and we need some time after to consider our lives and where we’re at in them. Every time I think about the Girls of Paper & Fire trilogy by Natasha Ngan, my brain short circuits a little. Every single page of that trilogy is fantastic, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it, and I immediately dove into some contemporary when I was done with it.
That’s not to say that there’s anything less in contemporary because there are plenty that have done much of the same to me–looking at you, The Mirror Season–and I’ve had to swing off into middle grade or a graphic novel or just something that I knew would be fluffy and light. And I think that’s it–I usually switch to contemporary from an epic high fantasy hangover because it’s generally lighter. There’s no lore or magic to consider, no heightened stakes that are putting everyone in a life or death type of tension, no enormous monster to fight. In most contemporaries, it’s just emotional stakes, which are draining, yes, but not as much as surviving a war with literal dragons.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that there are plenty of high fantasies out there that don’t leave me in a state of holy shit what just happened to my brain because, if every single one was like that, I don’t think I’d like fantasy as much. It almost feels like finding unexpected gold when you’re just out hunting for berries. You’re not thinking that a revenant is going to come galloping through a battlefield in the guise of a warrior nun, but there it is anyway! I love that books like Vespertine by Margaret Owen are still rare finds. I love that I couldn’t tell until I was a fourth of the way into Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor that Lazlo Strange was absolutely going to own my heart and destroy it. I love that it’s not a oh I’m picking up a high fantasy, better have some contemporary on deck. I love that it’s only sometimes, and I love that it always takes me by surprise.
Sure, there are some that I feel like I know are going to wreck me. The amount of noise that I’ve seen about Dark Rise by CS Pacat lead me to believe it’s going to send me into a wicked hangover when it’s through, but you know what didn’t? This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron. Man, that truly came out of left field. I thought I was going to enjoy it, but not to the point of not being able to put it down and thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. To be fair, too, This Poison Heart is urban fantasy, and there’s just something about that lack of a magical other world that makes the hangover way less potent, so I’m still feeling pretty good after it, but it still cracked me down the center, and it was wonderful.
Taking breaks is good, though, I think. We need to reset every once in a while from the toll that reading has taken on us, particularly if we’re reading things like epic high fantasies that require all of our attention and a lot of our hearts. Say what you want about it being a dormant sport, but my bpm has spiked time and time again while reading, and it can certainly be a small form of cardio every once in a while. High fantasies get me going, and I like being able to take breaks after them.
I’m not sure if there was any real point to this post other than to hype up my love for epic high fantasies and to continue to hold a spot in my heart for contemporaries that give me a much-needed break after their insanity, but I just love books, guys, and I love the way they make me way too overexcited sometimes.