Top Ten Tuesday: Worldbuilding 101

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. It was a little difficult for me to decide what topic to focus on for this week but I decided to Worldbuilding 101 because I love reading books that let me sink into their world. If I ever teach or join a worldbuilding class as a student, I would love to read and discuss the books in my list below. I feel like they represent books or series that have detailed, imaginative and intelligent worldbuilding.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – This series was a huge part of my teen years and I definitely loved the magical world that Rowling created. Although I was past the right age, I wanted to receive an invitation to attend Hogwarts!

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Another magical world which I loved reading about as a child. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in Narnia, with all its magic and talking animals and Aslan?

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – How can a class about worldbuilding not have Tolkien in it? Such a classic example of intricate worldbuilding that includes history, language, and everything else.

Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – One of my favorite series of all time, I feel like I keep mentioning it in my TTT lists. But it’s really appropriate for this one because MWT created an amazing world reminiscent of ancient Greece, complete with gods and goddesses who influence major events but in such subtle ways.

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – I really like the magic vs. tech background of this world. And I like how each book deals with a different kind of magic and mythology originating from various countries. (Bonus: I’m also a fan of the worldbuilding in the authors’ Burn for Me, with the mafia-like magical families.)

Cesky - view from palace

A shot of the fairytale town of Cesky Krumlov, which seemed like a good choice for this post.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore – Technically these two books are set in the same world but they’re so different. I liked both kingdoms that had different sorts of people with magical abilities – in Graceling, they have a special skill called a Grace while in Fire, there are radiantly beautiful (and colorful) animals and humans called monsters who can control minds.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – One of the first YA fantasy titles that I fell in love with, I really enjoyed being immersed in this world. I liked that Harry is a character from a world similar to our own, with a magical world bordering it. Aside from the magic, I liked the tension between the two cultures and how it represents colonization. (Bonus: I also loved the worldbuilding in McKinley’s Pegasus. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get the sequel for that soon!)

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – This is actually just one of the titles set in Smith’s fictional world Sartorias-deles. She’s been writing that setting ever since she was a child and I like how her books are set in different time periods of the same world, so that it keeps building the history. There’s a little bit of magic in this book but focuses more on court intrigue while a new government is being built after the fall of previous ruling family.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – I remember being amazed that the two main characters came from parallel worlds, and the series of events lead them together. I was really impressed with Lyra’s world and intrigued by humans and their daemon counterparts.

Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Host – I had a hard time choosing between Host’s Medair and Touchstone because both have excellent worldbuilding. I’m going with Touchstone for this list because I liked that the heroine was just walking home from school one day when BAM, she makes a turn or something and steps into an alternate universe that’s way more technologically advanced than our own. I also love that she’s from Australia.

If you taught or studied a Worldbuilding 101 class, what books would you include?

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16 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Worldbuilding 101

    • Harry Potter high five! I really feel like I belong in the Harry Potter generation. Sigh, I still remember reading His Dark Materials during finals week in college and not being able to concentrate on studying. Priorities, I had them.

  1. Oooh! It’s been so long since I’ve read either The Blue Sword (though I’d recently re-read The Hero and the Crown). I can’t believe I forgot to add either book to my list! They would have definitely been added because the world there was fantastic. Also, Harry and Aerin–respectively–are awesome.

    • I really wanted to include a Robin McKinley title in my list since I love her worldbuilding, she writes fantasy that have a fairytale feel to them. I went with The Blue Sword since it’s my favorite. I agree with you, Aerin and Harry are both awesome. 🙂

  2. Well, apart from the ones you mentioned, these are off the top of my head:
    Eileen Wilks – World of the Lupi
    C.J. Cherryh – Foreigner Universe
    Michelle Sagara West’s Universes, either one of her big series
    David Eddings, but not the Belgariad, but the series with Sparhawk as the main character…
    J.D. Robb’s near-future but so different New York in the In-Death series.

    • Oh yeah, Eileen Wilks’ world is also a good one! My only problem with it now is that it doesn’t feel like there’s an end in sight for the series. My interest tends to taper off when there’s no set number of books for the whole series.

      I haven’t read the other authors you mentioned! I have Michelle Sagara West on my wishlist.

      • Hee, actually I like having open world stuff (provided I love the characters and their interaction), so Wilks and that particular Cherryh series are great for me (there is no end in sight).
        J.D. Robb (= Nora Roberts) is on +30 books by now, I’ve enjoyed the first 30, but think she is running out of new ideas for the murder mysteries which are the plot-of-the-book bit. The character interactions themselves remain spot on, though.
        Same with MSW, so I guess none of the mentioned series would really be your cup of tea ^^ (although there is a subset, called the Sun Sword series, which is finished up at 5 books). She’s like Sherwood Smith in that there are lots of stories still to be told in her universes.

      • Haha okay then, looks like you enjoy series that never end! I was going to say that didn’t MSW have a Chronicles of Elantra series that didn’t have too many books… then I looked it up and it has about 12 now. You’re right, the Sun Sword series is shorter. What I like about Sherwood Smith is she writes standalones or separate series set in the same world. So it’s not as overwhelming as one long series.

        If I get to try any of these authors, I will definitely let you know. How have you been doing lately? 🙂 Ready any amazing books?

  3. I love it when world-building is done right. Yes to The Queen’s Thief series. I miss those guys. I just might do some re-reading to address this. 🙂 I also love Nalini Singh’s world-building both for her Psy/Changeling and her Guild Hunter series.

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