Once Upon a Time X

once upon a time x

It’s that time of the year again: Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting his Once Upon a Time challenge for the 10th time! It’s probably fair to say at this point, that the event has become an institution. Kudos! Here’s what the challenge involves in Carl’s own words:

“Monday, March 21st (my wife Mary’s birthday) marks the official start date of the tenth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.”

I’ve decided to go for more books but less restriction on categories and thus the Quest the First category: “Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

quest the first

Making a list for a reading challenge is all kinds of fun in itself, so here’s a number of books I’m very excited about and which are probably heavy on the fantasy, but combine other elements as well:

kynship chronicles

The Way of Thorn and Thunder (Kynship Chronicles) by Daniel Heath Justice

This is a trilogy of epic indigenous fantasy set in the Old World during the 18th century, about the Kyn of the Everland and their detructive encounter with humanity. Drawing on traditions of high fantasy and indigenous mythology, Cherokee author Daniel Heath Justice creates a founding tale of non-European fantasy that bends gender, genre and sexuality. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!


A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This one’s been on my list for ages and it fits the challenge perfectly. Merchant son Jevick has been raised on stories of Olondria, a land where books are common. When he gets the chance to make a trip to Olondria, his dreams seem to come true. But once there he is haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. And there’s now a second story about Olondria, Samatar’s The Winged Histories.

who fears death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I picked this up recently, read a few pages and only then noticed it wasn’t The Book of Phoenix, which I thought I was reading. But, this is quite convenient as I will just read this one for the challenge now. Who Fears Death is the story of a child born of rape in post-apocalyptic Africa, who discovers her magical abilities and seeks to end the genocide of her people.


Princeless by Jeremy Whitley

I absolutely adored the first issue of this one and with Scribd changing its policy, I wanted to get some more comics in. This is for the fairy tale category and it brilliantly subverts gender and racial stereotypes. The author is white but has thought of these stories for his Black daughter, so that she can see herself represented in non-oppressive stories.

midnight robber

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I loved Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring and just cannot resist this one either. This one is fantasy/sf with lots of Caribbean folklore. Set on the Caribbean-colonized planet Toussaint and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen to save herself from folklore creatures.

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature

 Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness by Helen Young

And as a sort of non-fiction compendium, I want to take a look at this one. I’m lacking the sort of context and background that comes with reading a lot of fantasy for years, so I want to catch up but also do this through an critical race studies lens.

Are you joining us in the Once Upon a Time challenge? Or maybe you have some folklore and fairy tale suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

22 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time X

  1. Princeless was such a fun read! Also thanks for the reminder that I need to read more Nalo Hopkinson. I started the Samatar last year but it went nowhere for me, I think more because I wasn’t in the mood for that, rather than the book itself.
    And now I have to go think of my own list!

    1. Yes Princeless is amazing! I still have the other volumes to read but I want to savor such a great story 🙂
      One cannot read enough Hopkinson. Yeah I think Samatar is one you have to be in the mood for. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it! Can’t wait to see your list 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jessica! Hope you have a great OUaT, too 🙂 Hope you’ll enjoy The Way of Thorn and Thunder, I’m very excited about it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Katherine! Haha yes, making lists is such fun, almost as much as the reading itself. Happy reading 🙂

  2. I love the way you choose your books, Bina. 🙂 And, I am in awe of your love for challenges. So inspiring. Let me see if I can try too.

    I will vote for ‘Who Fears Death’ for obvious reasons. 😀

    Since Fantasy is also included, I think you might like reading one of Gaiman’s books. ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is my favourite. I loved ‘Neverwhere’ too. It was a great mix of mythology and urban fantasy. But, I cannot stop gushing about Gaiman. So, I will stop with this. 🙂

    1. Heh thanks! I hardly blogged in 2014 and much of 2015 so I guess I have lots of energy for it and challenges etc now 🙂 Heh I want to read all 5 but Who Fears Death is top of the list!
      Oh I do enjoy Gaiman’s works. I remember really liking Neverwhere in regards to plot and nit enjoying the writing style, but the read American Gods and loved it! Have to read his more recent stuff 🙂

  3. Snap! I’ve got Midnight Robber checked out from the library right now! Your nonfiction book looks really, really fascinating, but of course my library doesn’t have a copy. I suppose I can see about ILLing it. I feel a bit guilty because I’ve ILLed so many books lately. I have an ILL problem. :p

    1. Yay for Midnight Rober, I’m just very excited for more Hopkinson! Heh oh well, I had to ILL the non-fiction book from the uni library 😀 Let’s just say that we demonstrate versatility, they should be pleased 🙂

  4. Wonderful reading list, Bina! ‘A Stranger in Olondria’ looks wonderful. I love books with book-ish plots and this is right up my alley. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I was almost expecting a Nnedi Okorafor book on your list and I was not disappointed 🙂

    I haven’t decided yet on participating in the challenge, but it runs for a long time and so I am hoping that I can sneak in a couple of books. It is so amazing that it is on its 10th year – it is truly an institution as you have said.

    Happy reading!

    1. Thanks, Vishy! I haven’t started the Samatar yet, but I read that it’s also very much a story about books and words, so that does sound like a book for you 🙂
      Haha yes, Okorafor for the win, what will I do when I run out??
      Hope you get to join us, you only have to read 1 book 🙂 Yes, 10 years, how crazy is that 🙂

  5. This sounds like such fun project. I’ll look at my reading schedule and my reading TBR and see if I can do it. But there’s plenty of time, so I just might!

    I love your choices. I just finished Falling in Love With Hominids and MUST read more Hopkinson. Also, Who Fears Death is on my list of books it read this year. Great list overall!

    1. Yay hope you’ll join us! Yes you must! Hopkinson is so awesome, I had to put her entire backlist on my tbr 🙂 Who Fears Death is so good, but a hard read initially. But Okorafor can do no wrong!

  6. Oh my goodness, these look fantastic! I think my wish list just grew a bit longer… though, to be fair, A Stranger in Olondria and Who Fears Death were already on there.

    Looking forward to hearing about how you go with the challenge.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! Prices for academic publications are indeed quite shocking and sadly often not accessible for people outside academia. Thank you for the link, luckily I have access to a university library and ILLed your book from them. Looking forward to reading 🙂

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