Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books
Some of the following worlds sprang to mind readily, while others took much more thought (and staring at my shelves). Sometimes descriptions of setting and world-building can bog a book down for me, but in these cases it only added to the experience.
1. Harry Potter series - J. K. Rowling (The Wizarding World)
There's a really good reason (besides raking in cash) why they've built a Harry Potter theme park. Who wouldn't want to visit Hogsmeade and Hogswarts? Every little detail in these books made this world come alive, from the Ministry of Magic to The Burrow to Hagrid's Hut. Everything was just completely magical (pun intended).
2. Song of the Lioness & Trickster's series - Tamora Pierce (Tortall)
When you've created a well-fleshed out world for a series, why not write more stories set in that world? That's exactly what Tamora Pierce did, and it's a treat to revisit different areas/aspects of this world. I'm looking at you, Ms. Rowling.
3. Graceling & Fire - Kristin Cashore (Seven Kingdoms and The Dells)
Similar to Pierce's Tortall, Cashore's Seven Kingdoms and The Dells are such a great example of good world-building. I loved both of these books and the setting felt real to me. Bitterblue's kingdom is one that I never want to revisit, despite being set in this same world. I suppose it's a great example of a vivid world, only not in the way that I usually prefer. Thanks, I think I'll pass on the massively depressing setting and the worse than nightmarish activities of its residents.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis (Narnia)
My favourite glimpses of Narnia are found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (I hate that there's no Oxford comma in that title)—the lamppost, Mr. Tumnus's house, the stone altar (for its significance), the White Witch's Castle. All of it added to a truly magical and memorable reading experience that I enjoyed as a child and still do as an adult.
5. The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien (Middle Earth)
Thanks to Tolkien's excessive amounts of description, I feel like I have a really good idea of what Middle Earth looks (also, thanks to Peter Jackson and crew for making this come alive on the screen). There's a reason all of the concept art is so spot on—Tolkien spelled it out for them in great detail. Lothlorien, Rivendell, the Shire, Rohan, Mordor...all so vivid!
6. Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor (Prague, Marrakesh, etc.)
I've been to Prague, and Laini Taylor did an amazing job describing it, making it leap right off the page. Rather than try to express this in my words, here's a quote or two that demonstrates just how her writing breathed life into the setting of this book:
"The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze. On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghostlight, Karou's own footsteps and the feather of steam from her coffee mug..."
“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”Need I say more? I didn't think so.
7. The Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins (Panem)
District 12, the Capitol, the arena(s)—all so vivid to me. I could picture the broken down poverty of District 12 which stood in stark contrast to the sheer opulence of the Capitol. Both arenas (sorry if that spoiled anything) were very visual, particularly the one in Catching Fire. Given the nature of that arena, it was very easy to picture. There was this pervasive sense of impending doom throughout the series that I think Collins did a fantastic job of bringing to life.
8. Cinder - Marissa Meyer (New Beijing)
Cyborgs, and androids, and lunars—oh my! I loved that Marissa Meyer set this story in Asia, but gave it a whole new flare. I think this is what takes it from a simple fairy tale retelling and kicks it up a notch. It definitely had a Sailor Moon-ish vibe while still maintaining that fairy tale feel. It just seemed so unique to me that it's actually difficult to put into words.
9. The Stand - Stephen King (Post-apocalyptic USA)
First, let me say that Mr. King is the king of description. The Stand was set in a post-apocalyptic United States in the aftermath of a devastating virus. The landscape is littered with decomposing bodies. Entirely detailed smelly and oozy descriptions ensue. There were times that I was surprised I couldn't actually smell what the characters were smelling, it was that vivid. But, this only added to the devastation and hopelessness of the situation. Mr. King is the master. The End.
10. The Zion Covenant series - Bodie & Brock Thoene (WWII Europe)
I started reading this series as a teen, before I knew much about World War II. Much of my early knowledge of this war came from this series, and it was pretty well-researched and written. I came away from these books with an overwhelming sense of fear and dread much like what the characters must have been feeling on the pages. I understood this sensation of always being watched, always being at risk of capture or death, surrounded by madness and loss. A truly gripping series.
How about you? Are there any worlds/settings that really jump out at you in the books you've read?