Authors Reading ~ Tropes Gail Loves (Miss Carriger Recommends)

Like many other authors and editors, what I look for when I read is something different from the norm. Not just a hook, but something about the world/characters/plot/writing style that sets the book apart from all the millions of genre books that I have read before. This 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).

Here is what I mean by tropes (as I am aware we all have different definitions.) I read romance novels pretty, mostly they have what I call the Six Austens:

  1. Emma ~ boy has loved girl forever, girl is ignorant (my favorite)
  2. Mansfield Park ~ girl has loved boy forever, boy is ignorant
  3. Pride & Prejudice ~ boy and girl meet and instantly dislike each other, sparks ensue
  4. Sense & Sensibility ~ boy and girl meet, are perfect for one another, circumstances tear them apart
  5. Northanger Abby ~ girl willfully misunderstands boy and boy’s intentions
  6. Persuasion ~ girl and boy have a past, mistakes were made that must be rectified


from my Grandfather’s postcard collection after WWII

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. Girl disguises herself as a boy in order to infiltrate a patriarchal environment
Alanna: the First Adventure ~ Tamora Pierce (first in a series)
Sword Masters ~ Selina Rosen (stand alone)
The Price of the Stars ~ Debra Doyle & James D. MacDonald (first in a series)
Newt’s Emerald ~ Garth Nix (stand alone)
To Play the Lady ~ Naomi Lane (sadly, unfinished series with no sign of hope)

2. Solo or rare female fighter/shape shifter/magician excels against adversity
By the Sword ~ Mercedes Lackey
The Hero and the Crown ~ Robin McKinley
The Raven Ring ~ Patricia C. Wrede
A Soldier’s Duty ~ Jean Johnson
Moon Called ~ Patricia Briggs
Daughter of the Lion ~ Jennifer Roberson
Children of the Night ~ Mercedes Lackey
The Silvered ~ Tanya Huff

3. Displaced heroine outside of her own culture must survive confusion
Larissa ~ Emily Davenport
Taming the Forest King ~ Caludia J. Edwards
The Fire Sword ~ Adrienne Martine-Barnes
Restoree ~ Anne McCaffrey
The Blue Sword ~ Robin McKinley
Warprize ~ Elizabeth Vaughan

4. 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. Excelled nobility must keep her integrity in adversity
The Serpent’s Tooth ~ Diana L. Paxton
To the Haunted Mountains ~ Ru Emerson
Lord of Two Lands ~ Judith Tarr
Sorcerer’s Legacy ~ Janny Wurts
A Princess of the Chameln ~ Cherry Wilder

In the case of series I mainly listed only the first book. 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 one trope to the next. That’s why these are the books that linger on my shelf. Some of the above authors above have many books that hit these markers, so I only included one series on my list. Lackey and McCaffrey come to mind. And yes, I’m aware I skew heavily to the 80s and 90s,I’m not certain if that’s when these tropes were most popular or just that I did most of my reading during those decades.

somanyperioddramas ~  Sleepy Hollow (1999) tumblr

Other things I always look for are a good sharp witty heroine, some comedy if possible, and a romance thread. 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


Curtsies & Conspiracies
~ The Finishing School Book the Second. Out now!  
Soulless Vol. 3 (AKA Blameless the manga) ~ Out now! 

Waistcoats & Weaponry ~ The Finishing School Book the Third. Release date to come.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last. Working rough draft.
Prudence ~ The Parasol Protectorate Abroad Book the First: Delayed. Why? Rewrite begins soon.


The Books! 

The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies


The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels
 $0.99 short stories (ebook only) Marine Biology, My Sister’s Song, & Fairy Debt

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


No Responses

  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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