Hi, I’m Milliebot, and I’m a bookhoarder. I hoard many authors and multiple editions of many books, but my biggest hoard is definitely my Tanith Lee collection. So far I’m doing much better at collecting her books rather than reading them. But! I do believe I’ve read enough of her work to be properly obsessed recommend it to others.
If you’ve never heard of her, Tanith Lee is a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer whose published around 90 books and 200 short stories. She was born in London and suffered from dyslexia, but never let that stop her from creating so many fantastical worlds. She’s most widely published by DAW, but you can find her work with several other publishers. She died at the age of 67 back in May of 2015 and I’m not embarrassed to say I shed some tears.
I keep trying to tell people I don’t have just one favorite author, but we all know I’m a dirty liar and my heart always screams “TANITH” whenever I’m asked that question. She’s certainly one of the authors I’ve been reading the longest, as I discovered her Claidi Journals series when I was in middle school and that’s probably the most nostalgic series I own.
She’s not an author I see a lot of in the book community, so I’m here to let you know why I think you should pick up her books!
Tanith is the Mistress of Atmosphere, as far as I’m concerned. I often attempt to describe this whenever I review her work and I’m usually at a loss for words. Her stories give me such a vivid sense of the worlds she creates, sometimes with incredible simplicity. Even if I’m not a fan of the characters (I can admit this sometimes happens – alas, no writer is perfect, not even Tanith) or I’m a little lost on the plot, I’m always fully absorbed in whatever world she’s pulled me into.
This is somewhat linked to the atmosphere she creates in her books. With a few sentences, Tanith can paint a world or a character into life. Her sci-fi books have especially excellent language, including character dialect, and she often creates her own terminology. She might use new words to describe items or elements in the futuristic worlds she’s created or even slang to show how society has changed – this is especially present in Biting the Sun. She sometimes adds just a touch of humor – one of my favorite instances comes from Red Unicorn: “Say yes properly, or I’ll push you into the fire.” “Yes properly.”
The Unexpected Elements
Many of the books I’ve read contain some sort of surprising touch, many of them small details. Calling upon the Unicorn Trilogy again, there’s a semi-steampunk feel given by the mechanical unicorns. In the Birthgrave trilogy, you think you’re reading high fantasy then (pow!) some major sci-fi elements are thrown in at the end of the first book. I love when she blends sci-fi and fantasy and she does it in several instances, Shon the Taken being another that comes to mind.
There’s Something For Everyone
If you like trilogies, she’s got them: Birthgrave, The Blood Opera Sequence, The Wars of Vis
How about quartets? The Secret Books of Paradys and The Secret Books of Venus
Standalone novels: Biting the Sun, A Heroine of the World, Mortal Suns
Novellas: The Dragon Hoard, Dark Castle, White Horse, and Louisa the Poisoner
She has an abundance of short story collections: Tempting the Gods, Redder than Blood, Cold Grey Stones
Her works are also featured in many different themed anthologies: Wizards and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells
She’s written plenty of sci-fi: Electric Forest, Silver Metal Lover, Sabella
Fantasy: Volkhavaar, East of Midnight
A mix of both: The Birthgrave Trilogy, Shon the Taken, Days of Grass
She’s even got at least one example of some surreal magic with Greyglass (which I hated, but whatever)
Looking for middle-grade? Look no further than the excellent: Piratica and Claidi Journals series
YA? The Lionwolf Trilogy and Indigara
She even writes under a pen name, Esther Garber, though I haven’t managed to get ahold of her those works yet.
I Won’t Shut Up Until You Do
Seriously. Just check her out. A lot of her work is out of print, true, but most used bookstores have her more popular works. Your local library should have one or two of her books (if not, request them!) and of course, DAW is re-releasing a lot of her older stuff. The more people I have to talk about Tanith with, the more likely I am to remember to actually read her work, not simply collect it.