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Kate kate_nepveu
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Second draft, Fantasy of Manners reading list

Okay, second stab at a reading list for fantasy of manners books. I've broken out mannerpunk, "honorary mentions," and unknowns. As I said in the comments thread to the last post, my personal definition of "fantasy of manners" relies heavily on style. If you disagree with something on here, I'd love to hear why—the more detail, the better—but I reserve the right to be subjective about it.

Quick definition: fantasy of manners = Swordspoint; mannerpunk = Bordertown.

I've added a few things, but only since this morning; there were several other suggestions over at sf.written that I've left off since they'd just go under "unknown."

Thanks for all the input.

Fantasy of Manners

  • Steven Brust's Khaavren series. Dumas pastiches.
  • Pamela Dean
    • Tam Lin. Set in a small liberal-arts college, and based on the ballad.
    • Possibly the Secret Country trilogy, which is a variant on doorway-into-another-world.
  • Teresa Edgerton
    • Goblin Moon and The Gnome's Engine. An alternate-world fantasy duology with a Regency flavor and a Lymond/Lord Peter type.
    • The Queen's Necklace. I haven't read it yet, but I understand it to be in a similar vein.
  • Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle. Frankly, I didn't like this book, but it was mentioned at Readercon, so I include it for your consideration.
  • Ellen Kushner, all of her novels:
    • Swordspoint. The classic fantasy of manners novel.
    • Thomas the Rhymer, a ballad-based novel.
    • The Fall of the Kings, co-written with Delia Sherman; set in the same world as Swordspoint. On my to-read list.
  • Madeleine Robins, Point of Honour. Described as Austen noir at the Readercon talk; first chapter online at Tor. On my to-read list.
  • Delia Sherman, The Porcelain Dove. Haven't read this, either, but it was mentioned at the Readercon talk. I am told that it belongs under "fantasy of manners".
  • Caroline Stevermer: all of her novels under this name are fantasy of manners.
  • Martha Wells
  • Elizabeth Willey's novels: The Well-Favored Man, A Sorceror and a Gentleman, The Price of Blood and Honor. These were summed up by someone else as "Nice Princes in Amber"; I've only read the first, and it didn't leave much of an impression.
  • Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  • Patricia Wrede

Honorary Mentions (Things that are close in some way to the above list, yet don't quite seem to fit on it.)

  • Steven Brust, Issola. The most recent in the Vlad Taltos series, and quite literally a novel of manners. First-Person Smartass narration.
  • Steven Brust and Emma Bull, Freedom and Necessity. An epistolary novel set in 1849 with a Lymond-type protagonist. It's ambiguous as to whether there's magic.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign. A volume in the ongoing science fiction Vorkosigan series, the plot of which was strongly and explicitly influenced by Heyer, Austen, and Sayers.
  • John M. Ford
    • The Dragon Waiting ( Pam's review). Alternate history of, inter alia, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.
    • The Last Hot Time. An urban fantasy closely related to the Bordertown universe; I'm putting it under "Honorable Mention" rather than "mannerpunk" because it feels more adult and less "punk" to me.
  • A.J. Hall, Lust Over Pendle. Novel-length Harry Potter fanfic, summarized in part as "A comedy of manners, in the Golden Age detective thriller genre, set in the year immediately after Voldemort's fall." (I waver as to whether to put this in the "Fantasy of Manners" category rather than here. I said this was subjective.)
  • Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret. I think it has a lot of the structural elements, particularly disguise and language, and a bit of the "feel."
  • Walter Jon Williams' Drake Maijstral divertimenti: The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, and Rock of Ages. Farcical caper/comedy of manners sf novels.


  • Holly Black, Tithe. I haven't read it, but the plot fixtures appear to be similar to War for the Oaks.
  • Emma Bull's non-Bordertown novels
    • War for the Oaks. One of the classic works of urban fantasy.
    • Bone Dance. Post-apocalyptic fantasy with an sf feel.
    • Possibly her other novel, Falcon, though it's been long enough since I read it that I'm not sure.
  • Charles de Lint. To me these don't have the same prose style or dialogue as the other urban fantasies listed, but they are close cousins in terms of subject matter, so I put them down tentatively.
    • Newford urban fantasies (numerous)
    • Jack of Kinrowan
  • The Bordertown shared universe, created by Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold. Urban fantasy and the prototypical mannerpunk:
    • Anthologies:
      • Borderland
      • Bordertown
      • Life on the Border
      • The Essential Bordertown
    • Novels:
      • Will Shetterly, Elsewhere and Nevernever
      • Emma Bull, Finder

Unknown (These were recommended to me by various people, but I haven't read them and don't know enough about them to classify them)

  • Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series. I know nothing about these but that someone in the audience at Readercon recommended the books to me.
  • Andre Norton and Rosemary Edgehill, The Shadow of Albion and Leopard in Exile. These were recommended to me at Readercon by the same person as above, and appear to be alternate history. On my to-read list.
  • Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett, Armor of Light, Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams. On my to-read list.
  • Liz Williams, The Poison Master. From David Kennedy's review, this appears to be a cross-genre mix of alchemy, sf, and some other things. He reports that the prose is fairly straightforward.
  • Francine Woodbury, Shade and Shadow.

I've read about half of your fantasy of manners list and like them all, so now I have the other half as good new stuff to read. Thanks :)

I've read all the Elizabeth Willey books and to me they definitely belong on that list, they have very much the same...feel. Flewelling would be an honorary mention, I think, and Shade and Shadow too.

Someone on sf.written objected to Willey; I'm waiting for more information, but what I recall does fit the "feel."

I've just ordered a used copy of _Shade and Shadow_--it looks very interesting.

Thanks for breaking the list apart--the links amongst books seem much clearer now.

The Poison Master should probably be an Honorary Mention, not a Fantasy of Manners. It isn't wholly concerned with the characteristics you've outlined; the distractions that David noted don't fit. However, I'd maintain that Alivet's plot arc, the main one, agrees with the criteria.

I found my brief plug from earlier this year. It doesn't help at all, though. :) "Thinking person's Gothic" is the only useful phrase.

Thanks; that's helpful information, and so is the blurb.

"Nice Princes in Amber" isn't a bad description of the two Willey books I read. Which raises the question of whether the original Amber books ought to be on the list...

I have trouble saying whether they belong or not, though, as I really can't quite get a handle on this whole thing. There are a lot of books here that I haven't read, but the ones I have read are not things I'd really group together, if I set out to categorize fantasy novels.

Alexei Panshin and other forerunners

The precursors to these books (especially the Walter Jon Williams, which are an homage) are Alexei Panshin's Thurb books. I've given up all hope of his writing the conclusion, The Galactic Pantograph.

I can't say that I find the characters in Willey's books particularly nice; your niceness may vary.

I have a hard time distinguishing "fantasy of manners" from the group of friends who began writing at the same time. I think of Greer Ilene Gilman (Moonwise) as a member of the circle; whether the book is FOM is less clear.

Delia Sherman's The Brazen Mask (have I misremembered the title?) is definitely FOM.

Betsy Hanes Perry

Re: Alexei Panshin and other forerunners

Thanks; someone mentioned Panshin over on Usenet and those books are going on the list.

Willey: as I said, it's been a while and I really don't recall.

Chad reports he read about half of _Moonwise_ and then put it down because it was, and I quote, "strange."

Google claims it's _Through a Brazen Mirror_, and I shall put it on the list.

Thanks for the comments!

Re: Alexei Panshin and other forerunners

I should probably be more specific than "strange," because I've read and enjoyed plenty of things that were "strange."

In the specific case of Moonwise, I had a very difficult time getting past the writing style. Specifically, the habit of strewing about sentence fragments ("Moonwise. Dark of Moon.")drove me up the wall-- it kept interrupting the narrative's attempts to develop some sort of flow. It didn't help that I was trying to read it in bits and pieces while commuting in Japan, but I got something like halfway through, realized I had no idea what was going on, and didn't much care, and moved on to something else for bus/train reading.

Clumping by author

Looking at your list, I see two distinct clumps: the Minneapolis/Scribblies clump (Brust, Dean, Wrede, Shetterly, Bull, with John M. Ford as an honorary member) and the New England group (Kushner, Sherman, Willey, Windling). The East Coasters had Borderland; the Minnesotans had Liavek. Members of each group tend to credit one another in their acknowledgements.

Is there really more going on here than a group of friends who like the same sort of thing, and who share similar writing goals? If there were an FoM school as such, I'd expect to see a steady stream of new novels in the subgenre, written by people who weren't part of the original movement.

A friend of mine pointed out elsewhere that the Kushiel novels probably qualify. (She said, shooting down her own argument)

Betsy HP

Re: Clumping by author

Of course, both groups wrote in both Borderland and Liavek.

There is the recent _Point of Honour_ and _Tithe_, and I don't know that Madeleine Robins and Holly Black have any close ties with these groups.

But, frankly, I never claimed there was more going on than that--just that I liked it. =>

I'm passing on the Kushiel books, so can't comment on those.

Fantasy of Manners

May I recommend Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin stories? Rather hard to come by, but several are reprinted in various anthologies of her work. They are a series of unrelated stories about different faerie kingdoms from the 1600's onward. Very sharp, cool and witty. Well worth the search.

Re: Fantasy of Manners

Thanks; I'll add them to the list.

This is an interesting series of posts to read. I guess I'm still having trouble putting my finger on what your terms mean, though, even though I've read and quite liked many of the books on the lists. I tend to think of Bordertown, deLint, and Emma Bull as "urban fantasy" and I'm not sure what alternate set of characterizations you use to break them out as "mannerpunk" per se. From the "fantasy of manners" list I've only read "Tam Lin" and "Howl's Moving Castle," which don't seem to me to relate to one another in any way I can put my finger on other than being fantastic. But whatever you're driving at, you're hitting a number of books and authors that I like, so I'd really like to understand what the connection is that you're drawing so I can follow the thread myself to other books.

I know what "steampunk/anachrotech" is, and I know what "cyberpunk" is, but I am just failing to grok "mannerpunk/fantasy of manners."

Darn, I thought I'd responded to this earlier. Nothing *substantive* to respond--yet--but just to let you know that you and a few other people have, quite rightly, raised the same question, and I'm trying to hammer out a post on the style--which is proving difficult, finding words for "I know it when I see it."

Also, I'm frankly not sure I grok mannerpunk either, and it was initially included only because they tend to get talked about together.

So thanks for the question and it's provoked considerable thought.

Elizabeth Marie Pope Perilous Gard

Sherwood Smith Crown Duel (the paperback version, with both books)

Thanks; _Crown Duel_ is on the list pending my reading of it (it's on the inpile). _Perilous Gard_ looks interesting, from Amazon blurbs; do you recommend it?


There's another old one, Sally McGraw's Witch of the Glens and I second the recco of Syvia Warner Townsend. Some might even make a case for E.R. Eddison. I don't see Kushiel's Dart fitting on the list; the first one was more like slash (or more correct, character torture) Mary Sue, not COM. Haven't read any of the others.

But then lists are going to vary; frex, if you were to include Swordspoint then why not the Lymond Chronicles, which S.P. is an homage to?


Sylvia Townsend Warner

I recommend both Elizabeth Marie Pope's books highly. The Perilous Gard is an Elizabethan retelling of Tam Lin; The Sherwood Ring is a set of (American) Revolutionary War ghost stories set in a roughly contemporary frame.

I had a longer post (below)

But managed to delete most of it. At any rate, wanted to second the Crown/Court Duel recommendation, not necessariy because it fits in the fantasy of manners category (though I suspect it does), but because I really enjoyed what Sherwood Smith was trying to do with her narrator, as well as her worldbuilding. I liked the two novels much better than her Wren novels.

Re: I had a longer post (below)

(Deleted duplicate comment, hope you don't object.)

_Crown Duel_ is relatively high in the in-pile at the moment. I loved the Exordium books so much that I'm giving her YA stuff another chance, despite being disappointed in the Wren books.

Really long-winded response here.

The Andre Norton/Rosemary Edgehill books would go with Sorcery and Cecilia, so under Fantasy of Manners.

The sequel to Howl's Moving Castle might apply as well, but I'm not sure how fantasy of manners applies to non-western cultures.

Oh, and likewise The Blue Sword and A Knot in the Grain which at least seem to have elements of the fantasy of manners.

I'm not sure how fantasy of manners applies to non-western cultures

Me either. Something else to ponder, thanks.

Sorcery & Cecilia

Interesting topic, and thanks for the reading list. If you have time to reply, what is your favorite (excluding Diane Wynne Jones and Patricia Wrede; I'm familiar with their works).

Thanks again.

Re: Sorcery & Cecilia

Oh, brutal question!

Of the whole list, my personal favorite would have to be _Freedom and Necessity_, because it happens to hit me in just the right spot(s), in addition to being very well-executed.

Of the FOM proper list, ummm, tie between _When the King Comes Home_ and the Khaavren books?

(Half-baked post on style and fantasy of manners in progress, pending house cleaning and stuff. In the meantime, everyone should go read coffeeandink's post linked to in comments above.)