Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Tag: Songs of the Earth (Page 1 of 6)

The trouble with comparisons

No, really, it's just like it.

No, really, it’s just like it.

There’s something that keeps cropping up in commentary about my books, specifically the first one, Songs of the Earth, which frustrates me no end, because I just don’t get it. At all. And that’s the recurring comparisons to Harry Potter*.

The latest of these occurred over at Fantasy Faction, which is an awesome site and the team that run it are long-term friends and supporters of my work. They just published their list of Top Anticipated Fantasy Novels of 2014, and were kind enough to include my forthcoming book The Dragon House at No. 20:

 

Why we are excited: Elspeth Cooper has some of the best prose we’ve ever come across. We were a little unsure about Gair and this series at first, but Elspeth has really taken this series from something a little too Harry Potter-esque to a series that walks its own path and that is increasingly epic and high-stake for its characters.

 

This is lovely stuff to hear, of course, and I’m deeply flattered to be included on a list with the likes of Daniel Abraham and Jim Butcher, Carol Berg and Elizabeth Bear. But there’s that reference to Harry Potter again. I’ve also had reviews that mention it. One reviewer on Amazon even went so far as to accuse me of totally ripping off Rowling’s books.

To which I have to say: Wuh?

Songs of the Earth is a coming-of-age story, like Harry Potter. This is hardly unique in the fantasy canon. Bildungsroman is one of the key themes of genre storytelling: finding out who you are, where you stand, and what you will not stand for. Songs also takes place in part in a school for magic, like Harry Potter. It’s far from alone in that too**.

But apart from that, there’s very little similarity between the two books. They’re set in different milieus (a magical-realism version of our world vs a secondary universe), aimed at a different audience, and feature very different protagonists (adult bastard nobody-special vs Chosen One boy wizard***).

Bloomsbury cover of Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone

A bit too Songs-of-the-Earth-esque?

Even the magic itself is not the same (elemental forces vs cod-Latin spells learned by rote). Maybe you could argue that there’s a minor thematic similarity between the renegade Guardian Savin and He Who Shall Not Be Named, in the sense that they’re both powerful mages gone rogue, but is that really enough to call a book “Harry Potter-esque”?

As for the ‘school for magic’, the two are similar only in concept. Hogwarts is recognisably an English boarding-school environment with Houses and common rooms and intramural sporting challenges. It is Tom Brown’s Schooldays with wands and brooms.

In Songs, I tried to play down the actual learning part because it’d been done before, not least by Rowling, so not one of Gair’s lectures or practical lessons is described on the page in real time. Book magic or learning by rote do not feature. This was because the studying bit was less important to me than exploring Gair’s relationships with others, be they friend, lover or mentor.

Yet the comparisons persist, and I just don’t understand why. My theory is that Harry Potter has had such an enormous impact on popular culture that it’s simply the first thing anyone thinks of at the merest hint of a school for magic – even though that element is probably the least significant part of my book.

Or maybe it’s the imagery of the Masters defending Chapterhouse at the end of Songs that makes them think of Professor McGonagall and Co defending Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I can’t help that: I wrote that scene before the first Harry Potter was even published (Honest. The oldest version of the manuscript I have accessible on this PC is datestamped 6 October 1996. Don’t make me dig out the original files on floppy disk).

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. There are far worse books than Harry Potter to be compared to, after all, but at the same time I worry that these comparisons send the wrong message to potential readers (or worse yet, the parents of potential readers). That if you enjoyed Harry Potter, this book Songs of the Earth is quite like it, when it’s not. Not even a little bit.

So why do people who’ve read it, keep maintaining that it is?

***

* Disclaimer: I haven’t read the HP books, but I have seen the films. Any errors or omissions I make should be considered in this context.

** Just off the top of my head there’s Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy, in which Sonea learns to harness her abilities and rise through the ranks at the Magician’s Guild, and Pat Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind in which the University is basically a school for magic on steroids.

*** Seriously. He’s got a distinguishing mark, his parents were killed in mysterious circumstances, and he was raised in obscurity to keep him safe. If he’d grown up on a farm he’d be Belgarion from the David Eddings books – or Luke Skywalker, the most massive example of the farm-boy-comes-of-age-and-saves-the-world trope in the history of ever.

 

David Gemmell Legend Award 2013

The mighty Snaga

Well, whaddayaknow. TRINITY RISING is on the longlist for the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Award – in some very fine company indeed. Lawrence and Williams and Bear*, oh my!

I was thrilled to be shortlisted for the Morningstar ‘Best Debut’ in 2012 with SONGS OF THE EARTH, and am more than chuffed to be considered a worthy contender for the Legend this year.

Is it likely I’m going to win? I’m up against LordGrimdark himself and RED COUNTRY – what do you think? However, hope springs eternal and yon axe would look exceedingly fine in my office with the rest of my arsenal collection of sharp shiny things, so if you’ve read TRINITY RISING and you want to nominate it, go right ahead. It’s a really easy public vote, and you can do it in a couple of clicks HERE. Voting is open until July 31st.

Of course, you are completely free to vote for anyone else on the ballot who strikes your fancy, and I absolutely will not hold it against you in any way. At all. Promise.

* And Abercrombie and Weeks and Deas and Erikson and all the rest, but it spoiled the joke** to include them all.

** Yes, I know, it wasn’t much of a joke.

 

Monster book giveaway winners!

Stack of Trinity Rising paperbacksLast month’s monster book giveaway closed at the weekend, and the winners have now been drawn*. Check your email to find out if you’ve been selected.

During the draw, I noticed a few things – data points, if you will:

  • The SONGS giveaway was massively over-subscribed, with 240 valid entries to TRINITY’s 49 – that’s almost 6 to 1. This was largely because so many of you hadn’t read my books before, or didn’t specify a book and so got entered into the SONGS draw, or you were cheeky and asked for either or both.
  • Lots of you are called Mike (7). Even more of you are called Chris (9). A surprising number (43, or 15%) have names beginning with the letter J. There was even one lady named Ellie, like me (but it didn’t earn her any special favours).
  • A couple of wee scamps commented more than once. One looks like an accidental double post, so he gets a pass. As for the others, yes, I de-duped your email addresses. I’ll hold my hand up and say multiple entries were not explicitly prohibited, and it’s entirely possible that WordPess screwed up (perish the thought) but in the spirit of fair play, you got one entry each.

Stack of Songs of the Earth paperbacksMonster book giveaway – now even monsterer!

Whilst we’re on the subject of fair play, the extremely high number of entrants for SONGS left me minded to throw a few more books into the pot, so I have drawn a total of TEN winners for that one.

If I could have offered six times as many, i.e. 42, to give everyone a more or less equal chance of winning, whichever draw they were entered for, I would do, but alas Tor only sent me so many copies.

So without further ado . . .

SONGS OF THE EARTH winners: Steve, Haik, Daniel, William, Shelley, Matt, Paras, Linus, Sarah, Nadine.

TRINITY RISING winners: Debbie, Lorraine, Mark, Kirsten, Aaron, Shawn, David.

Congratulations, all of you! You will shortly receive an email requesting your address and personalisation details, and your books will go on the post on the Saturday after I receive your reply.

* For all those interested in due process, the winners were selected by importing all the commenters’ names, deduping and sorting into two lists, then I used a random number generator to select positions on those lists.

Book giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

Folks, I need to clear some space on the shelves in my office. Gollancz just sent me another bunch of paperbacks, and there is no length to which I will not go in order to avoid dusting ’em, so the time has come to run another giveaway.

songs_tor_pbackFirst up, I have seven copies of the Tor paperback of SONGS OF THE EARTH to give away. Many of you will have aready read this, but I am reliably informed that there are people out there in internetland who haven’t yet heard of me (waves to the good folk of Reddit Fantasy) so here’s your chance to try a new-to-you author for free. You never know, you might even like it.

Second, I am giving away seven copies of the larger format UK paperback of TRINITY RISING. These are the not due in the shops until June 13th, so they’re new and shiny and unthumbed.

trinity_pback

Free stuff, people. Who doesn’t love free stuff? Oh, and I’ll sign and personalise each book, too.

This giveaway is open worldwide – all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight UK time on June 15th, and tell me which book you want, then I will put all the names in a hat and select the lucky recipients at random.

When you comment, please make sure you give a valid email address so I can contact you for your shipping addy and personalisation details when the giveaway ends.

UPDATE: If you’ve not read my work before, you should start with SONGS OF THE EARTH as it’s Book 1 in the series. TRINITY RISING is Book 2. If you don’t specify which book you’d prefer, I’ll put you in the hat for SONGS.

UPDATE the second: If your comment does not appear straight away, my apologies, but due to a rise in comment spam I have to manually approve new commenters. I’m training the cats to monitor the feed in my absence.

 

From Russia with love

Cover of Russian editionToday, I had the singular pleasure of receiving my author’s copies of the Russian edition of SONGS OF THE EARTH. Click on any image to embiggen.

I have to say it’s the dinkiest hardback I’ve ever seen, short of the BFS Journal. Compared to the German editions, it’s positively sylph-like, yet still weighs in at a substantial 479 pages, thanks to its delicately-thin paper stock.

Shine on Russian coverExternally, under the gloss finish the entire cover is metallicised to give a silvery sheen to the light through the trees. This does not photograph at all well without clever lighting unavailable to a mere mortal with a phone camera and an energy-saving lightbulb overhead, but I’ve done my best. That orangey bit is my T-shirt reflecting in the finish, and if you look closely, you can even (horrors!) see the shape of my head.

Title page of Russian editionInternally, the designers have gone absolutely to town with printer’s ornaments on each chapter head and page number, and in replicating the cover’s curlicues on the title page:

It’s a strange and strangely lovely thing, completely unlike any of the other books on my shelf, and I’m really rather taken with it.

 

 

Page 1 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

Newsletter Powered By : XYZScripts.com