Monday, April 1, 2013

Great Fantasy Courtships

Happy April Fool's Day everyone—and what better time to talk about fabulous Fantasy courtships and people being "fools for love!"

Two posts got me thinking about good, old-fashioned courtships in Fantasy during the last month. One was my own 1 March post where I talked about High Romantic Fantasy in the context of my novel The Gathering of the Lost—and then Kim Falconer came along and upped the ante with her fabulous "16 Things About A Kiss" post. (Great post, Kim, btw—loved it!)

So what elements, I thought, can make High Fantasy romantic as well? And why are kisses so important—and what, with one reflection leading to another, are the great Fantasy courtships
that I automatically think about in the context of my favorite genre?

You know the sort: where girl/boy sees/meets boy/girl and sparks fly across crowded ballrooms, or market squares, and then they want to see each other again, sometimes despite obstacles, and maybe—just maybe—they fall in love. There may even be dinners, and candlelight, and dancing—and gifts.

In the end, fewer actual courtships than I'd hoped sprang to mind, but there were still more than enough to share with you today—hurrah! So without further ado, I give you some of those great Fantasy courtships:

Sharra and Diarmuid in Guy Gavriel Kay's "The Fionavar Trilogy":

'And now, in the morning light, amid the busy square, a figure suddenly pushed through the gathered crowd and began a purposeful walk toward her father. Sharra felt herself growing red. ...

"Supreme Lord of Cathal," ...Tegid stopped directly in front of her father ... "I am sent here by a lord of infinite nobility, whose virtues I could number until the moon rose and set and rose again. I am sent to say to you, in this place and among the people here gathered in concourse, that the sun rises in your daughter's eyes."' 

Madrigal and Akiva in Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke and Bone":

'His head bent toward her, his mask muzzle brushing her ear. In his nearness, there was an aura of warmth. He said, "I know who you are. I came here for you."... His face was only inches from her own, his head tilted down so that now she could see into his mask.

His eyes blazed like flames.

She whispered, "You." '

Catherine (Cat) and Vai in Kate Elliott's "Spirit Walker" series:

He pinched a spark of cold fire out of the air and stretched it and wove it to become a golden flower dappled with life as with dew, and then a chain of such flowers like a necklace hammered out of light. 

I stared open-mouthed, for it was the most astonishingly lovely vision. "Ought you to be doing that in public?"

"Who will know," he said, bending closer to pretend to loop the chain from my shoulders low along the swell of my breasts, "if you do not tell them?"

And there is courtship in my own Wall of Night series as well:

Tasarion and Rowan Birchmoon  in "The Heir of Night"'

They had walked together in woods that were faintly misted with green, the first shy flowers peeping above the snowdrifts.  He had stood, bare headed beneath the birch buds, dragging his leather gloves through his hands, and asked her to leave her home and her kin and her beloved Winter Country.  He had not spared her the truth of what a Derai keep was, or the Wall and the surrounding Gray Lands in all their grimness, but he had still asked that she come and live with him there.  

And she—she had stood in the midst of her own world and looked up into the infinite layers of the sky and wondered if she could bear to leave, or bear to forgo his love, one or the other.'

So there you are, four Fantasy courtships — but how about you: what makes a great Fantasy courtship for you? And do you have a favorite fictional courtship? (Fantasy preferred but not required. ;-) )


pegasus358 said...

I think a good fantasy courtship, like any good fictional courtship, has that slow build, where the reader watches the couple slowly realize their love for each other, and then that kiss-- that swoony kiss that makes the reader melt.

Helen, you gave some fabulous examples-- and Ever After and A Knight's Tale are two favorite movies of mine.

There are so many great romances out there, but I'd love to mention Sorcha and Hugh's romance in Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest.

"But his eyes were no longer ice-cool, no longer masked with reserve. Instead they blazed blue as a summer sky, and the message in them was plain to read, and simple to answer. I stood on tiptoe and took his face between my palms, and drew his head down so I could kiss his tight, stubborn, unyielding mouth..."


Helen Lowe said...

Sorcha and Hugh are a great choice, Pegasus358, and I love the section you've quoted!

And definitely the slow build for a courtship--although that first glance across a crowded room can be magical as well.

June said...

I thought about this and it is a hard question. Much harder than one would think.

I read romantic fantasy including Juliet Marillier's work but when you ask about an actual "courtship", it just doesn't occur that much. The romance often occurs in the backdrop of whatever quest / adventure / war is going on in the main story, so there's no time for an actual courtship as such.

The nearest I can think of is Gail Carriger's "Soulless" and the courtship of Alexia Tarrabotti by the Earl of Woolsey.

"Play of Passion" by Nalini Singh is paranormal romance and does contain a "courtship" in the sense of this blog piece.

Helen Lowe said...

I agree, June--there are fewer actual courtships that you'd think, possibly for the reasons you say. But I will admit to thinking it's a shame that it's a concept that seems to have slipped from the oeuvre--if it's not pretentious to say 'oeuvre':)

AndAlexia Tarrabotti by the Earl of Woolsey: of course!

Anonymous said...

Hello Helen,

Thanks for the wonderful post. All the books you listed are on my TBR and they just moved up a lot. It's been a while since I read a nice romantic courtship in fantasy.
But there is one I have to add - Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series. The romance is certainly only a small aspect but it's very well done and gave me all sorts of butterflies. Does it qualify as "courtship"? Well, there are ships involved... and I like bickering couples, so I'm going to say yes.

Another example is N.K. Jemisin's work. Her Inheritance trilogy offers some romance, my favorite being the middle book "The Broken Kingdoms". And just because I love her, let me mention Catherynne M. Valente's "Deathless" which offers a strange and magical courtship involving lots of good food.

At the moment, I'm just happy if I'm not reading about insta-love (latest book where that really annoyed me was "Across the Universe" by Beth Revis) where they see each other and love each other immediately. It's not an initial spark of interest, it's LOVE. What? No, that's not how it works. A lot of YA books seem to take this lazy approach to romance lately.

Also, there's a picture of "Ever After" in your post. Yay! Must re-watch now (and make the boyfriend watch it with me)! On the other hand, I was surprised to see "A Knight's Tale" there. I always thought Josceline was a bitch for making Will do whatever her whim dictated. He deseved better. But that's about movies, so I'll shut up now. :)

Thanks again for the great post. I'll be following the comments for more recommendations. Have a wonderful weekend and happy reading everybody.


Helen Lowe said...

Hi Nadine,

My apologies for only just seeing your great comment on last month's post: I have been away and with only limited access to t'interwebs.

An although my theme was courtships in the traditional sense (hence our Will and Josceline, given that 'tests' are a traditional part of the fairy tale's romantic fare) I am a great fan of Robin Hobb's Liveship seris (my favorite of her series to date in fact, although my partner prefers the "Assassins")and also appreciated the strong romantic elements of the Jemisin trilogy. I haven't read Valente's "Deathless" I did very much enjoy "Palimpsest."

If you enjoyed the Courtships post I do post here on the Supernatural Underground on the 1st of every month, but also post regularly on my own blog, including book reports and recommendations from time to time. You'd be very welcome to 'drop by.' :)