5 Tropes Gail Loves & The Books That Use Them (Miss Carriger Recommends) Authors Reading

Like many other authors, what I look for when I read is often different from what I write. Not just the hook (although that is important) but also something about the world/characters/plot/writing style that sets the book apart from all the millions of genre books that I’ve read before.

This element is entirely a matter of personal taste, there are some wonderful unique amazing books out there that I can’t read because they pay homage to a trope I dislike, or are written in a way I find uncomfortable (first person present tense is a big one for me), or contain content I avoid (any kind of rape, too many deaths, and too much gore simply turn me off).

I realize that as a reader I can be quite prejudicial. But I also realize there are some tropes I love so much I will actively seek them out.

For these tropes, I will forgive other things I’d normally avoid about a story or writing style so long as these tropes are adhered to.

Wanna know what they are?

1. Crossdressing for Subversion

Girl disguises herself as a boy in order to infiltrate a patriarchal environment

2. Unique Triumphs

Rare female fighter excels against adversity

3. Culture Conflict

Displaced heroine outside of her own culture must survive confusion

4. Political Machinations

Against all odds, heroine must manipulate politics in order to build/save her world

Daughter of the Empire ~ Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts
Local Custom ~ Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Freedom’s Landing ~ Anne McCaffrey
Crown Duel ~ Sherwood Smith
Kushiel’s Dart ~ Jacqueline Carey

5. Burden of Exile

Excelled nobility must keep her integrity in adversity

Of course, a whole lot of these books have multiple of the above tropes in one series or novel. In some cases, as the series progresses the heroine moves on form of trope to the next.

That’s why these are the books that linger on my shelf.

Other things I always look for are:

  • a good sharp witty heroine
  • some comedy elements
  • a romance thread
  • happy ending

Extra points for a fantasy or future world that has an unusual historical component, or a particularly well drawn alien culture (not just the world-building, but the anthropology of the people within place, as it were).



Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1808 Thursday, September 1 Ladies’ Museum v. 2, plate 122

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Mini Etruscan pots

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Last Swiss Finishing School Admits Men for the First Time

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Catherine Lundoff on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1970s

Book News:
More good stuff from the librarians!
Etiquette & Espionage read by Moira Quirk is on the 2014 Amazing Audiobooks list as a YALSA TOP 10.

“Exasperated with her unladylike behavior, Sophronia’s mother sends her off to a mysterious finishing school filled with spies and assassins. A spectrum of oddball characters are voiced by Moira Quirk with panache and whimsy.”

Quote of the Day:

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”

~ Oscar Wilde

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Posted by Gail Carriger


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  1. Unknown said:

    You have listed some marvelous books and authors.
    Thank you for your "plus" and "minus" tropes. Most interesting.

  2. JoAnn Arnold said:

    Have you tried Illona Andrews? The Kate Daniels series is set in Atlanta where magic rises and falls, the city is in ruins, shape shifters abound, and the heroine has a mysterious background and mad fighting skills. a bit of violence but the dialogue is witty and sarcastic.

  3. June said:

    I gave up reading romances for pretty much the same reasons. However, romance mixed in with other components makes it a lot more interesting.

  4. Karen C said:

    I cannot warm up to first person, present tense either. I have a book on my shelf that sounded so interesting. When I started reading, I tried to wade through it but to no avail. More and more are being written this way. It is very jarring for me.

  5. Giles Hash said:

    I'm RIGHT THERE with you on present tense. But I can't stand it, regardless of POV. I feel that nothing slows down a narrative like present tense. It distracts from the story way too much.

  6. Rachel Bowman said:

    From what you've posted here I can't help but recommend Joel Shepherd's A Trial of Blood and Steel series started in 'Sasha'. They're quite large books so they don't exactly make for a weekend reading, but as far as story line goes I'd call them a mix of the Song of the Lioness quartet and Misstress of the Empire Trilogy (the title character of the first book, Sashandra, is very like Alanna; but the level of detail in creating the fantasy world, the warring races and the political/religious motivations of the various factions is very like Mara's world – a little heavy on at times to take in but well worth pushing through for)

  7. libwitch said:

    Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett is all about trope 1 (and filled with humor, because all his books are, of course).

    What a wonderful postcard. You grandfather had great taste.

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