10 Worlds I Would Not Run Away To

Posted 12th October 2021 by Sia in Top Ten Tuesdays / 0 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog!

Today’s prompt is Favourite Book Settings. Now, I read SFF, which means being exposed to amazing settings all the time. Definitely too many to narrow down to 10 faves! But then I thought – most of us would run off into the worlds of our favourite books if we could, but what about the settings we love, but definitely would not ever enter willingly?

Thus: 10 settings I adore, but definitely would not want to live in!

The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Andrew Garin
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists

Skythulf wants to live. Raised in the fight pits, trained to kill or be killed, he yearns for freedom that's out of reach. He's a scythewulf: a wolf-shifter considered neither fully man nor beast, his life worth nothing to his keepers…until Brennus, knight-champion of Saorlland, rescues him from certain death and offers him a new life.

When he mistakenly kills a corrupted nun, Skythulf has one chance to redeem himself and restore his honor. He must run with the Wild Hunt: an age-old trial of blood and courage, where every step hides peril and carnage. If he survives, he will be pardoned. If he fails, Brennus will die brutally at his side.

Few have ever returned from the fae-haunted land, where horrors unnamed dwell beside the enchanted and the damned. There is no rest, no relent, and no mercy.
In the Wild Hunt, you run or you die.

Nonbinary knights, group marriages, warrior nuns, Magpie Lords… I’m so very good with all of that. But there’s also an awful lot of really, really terrifying monsters, in a kingdom where you win the crown by killing the previous monarch, and honestly that just doesn’t sound like a stable political environment, you know???

The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1) by R.J. Barker
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists

A brilliantly imagined saga of honor, glory, and warfare, The Bone Ships is the epic launch of a new fantasy from David Gemmell Award-nominated RJ Barker.
Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.

The world of the Bone Ships is a matriarchal, queernorm world WITH SEA-DRAGONS: it is objectively amazing. But it’s a matriarchy governed by whoever produces the most healthy babies (I’m not having kids under any circumstances ever, thanks), the part of the world habitable by humans is not exactly a lush wonderful paradise, and the two cultures that manage to exist under these circumstances??? Are at constant war with each other.

Also, they kill the sea dragons to make them into ships. I’ll grant you that’s an amazing premise, but also, I’m not siding with the folx who kill dragons. NO THANKS.

The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura, #1) by Martha Wells
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell. Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself... and his newfound kin.

My problem if I travelled to the world of the Raksura…is that it’s a world entirely without humans. Humanoid races, sure, plenty of them. But no humans. Between all the beasties who’d consider me a snack and my total lack of survival skills, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive 15 minutes. I mean, human bodies are useless – no claws, no camouflage, and definitely no shapeshifting into matriarchal dragon-bee people! Seriously, who designed these things, and can I get a refund?

The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue, #1) by Christopher Buehlman
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva's. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Buehlman has created a wonderfully intricate and diverse world, with incredible magics, battle-crows, and mage-queens…but again, I wouldn’t last 15 minutes. Also, as original as the setting is, its level of technology is somewhere around the Medieval period. I’m not moving to a world without modern plumbing. Hard pass!

The Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon's Legacy #1) by Deborah A. Wolf
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

The last Aturan King is dying, and as his strength fades so does his hold  on  sa  and  ka. Control of this power is a deadly lure; the Emperor stirs in his Forbidden City to the East, while deep in the Seared Lands, the whispering voices of  Eth bring secret death. Eight men and women take their first steps along the paths to war, barely realizing that their world will soon face a much greater threat; at the heart of the world, the Dragon stirs in her sleep.

A warrior would become Queen, a Queen would become a monster, and a young boy plays his bird-skull flute to keep the shadows of death at bay.

Dragons under the earth, sapient telepathic sabre-tooth tigers, warrior-women in the deserts… I love this world so much, but it is brutal, and nowhere in this trilogy is there room for someone as soft and squishy as myself. Gonna have to admire it from afar.

Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence, #1) by Max Gladstone
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.
When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

A world where gods are real, but only a few of them are left after they went to war with humanity once humans discovered magic??? There is nothing about this setting I do not adore – from a distance. Learning the Craft, assuming I survived the process, would eventually turn me into a fleshless skeleton-thing, which is not exactly on my list of life goals – and I’m a little concerned about using souls as currency for taxis and fast-food!

Havenstar by Glenda Larke
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

The Eight Stabilities are islands of order surrounded by lethal chaos—and the order is being swallowed by the unstable. The religious leaders of Chantry try to maintain the Stabilities by ordering the necessity of a once in a lifetime pilgrimage across the chaos. And in that ever-changing world, the most important person is a mapmaker who can make a chart of secure pilgrimage routes…

Keris Kaylen is a mapmaker's daughter. When her father is murdered and a mountain disappears, Keris is betrayed by her brother. Forced to flee into the Unstable, she finds her safety is in the hands of a man bonded to the Lord Carasma, the Unmaker…and her ordered life is turned upside-down. Her survival will depend on a map and a place called Havenstar—but she can't reproduce the map, and Havenstar may not even exist…

Havenstar‘s world is hard to pin down – because it’s always changing; outside a handful of places called Stabilities, reality is not very close friends with the laws of physics. Mountains disappear, gravity reverses itself, fire is wet – it’s really not safe to travel. And the only way to keep the Stabilities secure is…the Rule, which is actually a whole bunch of laws that, surprise! Are not very feminist. Like, at all.

I’m not a girl, but I do have XX chromosomes and those asshats would definitely not let me have any fun. I’d have to run away to Havenstar, and honestly, I’d be pretty terrified to try travelling through the spaces that belong to Chaos. Probably wouldn’t survive the attempt, let’s be honest.

The Waking Engine by David Edison
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

But maybe if I died I’d end up in The City Unspoken…the place souls come to after their cycles of reincarnation (well, it’s not really reincarnation, but it’s simpler to call it that in a quick description like this) when they’re ready to be unmade into oblivion for good. It’s packed full of historical figures who’ve stuck around, fae, nobles who kill each other for fun because death doesn’t stick for them, liches, goddesses, and pretty much everything else you can think of. It’s incredibly beautiful and incredibly ugly and I’m more than willing to wait a gazillion lifetimes before going anywhere near the place, thanks!

Half-Witch by John Schoffstall
Genres: Fantasy

In Lizbet Lenz’s world, the sun goes around the earth, God speaks directly to his worshippers, goblins haunt cellars and witches lurk in forests. Disaster strikes when Lizbet's charming scoundrel father is thrown into a dungeon by the tyrant Hengest Wolftrow. To free him, Lizbet must cross the Montagnes du Monde, globe-girdling mountains that reach to the sky, a journey no one has ever survived, and retrieve a mysterious book.

Lizbet is desperate, and the only one who can help her is the unpleasant and sarcastic witch girl Strix. As the two girls journey over the mountains and into the lands of wonder beyond, on the run from goblins, powerful witches, and human criminals, Lizbet discovers, to her horror, that Strix's magic is turning Lizbet into a witch, too. Meanwhile, a revolution in Heaven is brewing.

I’m not going to lie; as someone who was raised Catholic, I am Very Intrigued by a world where, when you put the communion wafer in your mouth and pray, God talks back to you. To say nothing of witches and pixie queens and rains of mice. But as much as I’d love to toss horrible gross guys into a witch’s press and squeeze them dry of all their useful bits, witches are made, not born, so that’s not a career path I can take. And Jesus is a sweetheart, but I’m not on speaking terms with his dad these days, and siding with the demons doesn’t seem like it’d end well. Better to stay out of it!

The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness (The Black Jewels, #1-3) by Anne Bishop
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions.

Now the Dark Kingdom readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence--and corruption.

Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men--sworn enemies--know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love--and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining...

This is one of those worlds I would love to live in…under very, very specific conditions. If I get to be a dark-jewelled Queen in Kaeleer, I can have my bags packed in a flash. Walking in as I am now? I’d be a landen, not one of the magic-wielding Blood, and the dragons and unicorns would not be for me. Also, while the Blood seem to get a lot done by magic, I’m pretty sure landens don’t even have electricity. That’s just not a life-path that appeals!

What fictional worlds would you absolutely refuse to run away to?


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