#WyrdAndWonder 2020 | Two cities (and a town) that should appear in more British fantasy

ww-2020-phoenix-2
Decorative phoenix © Tanantachai Sirival

 Wyrd & Wonder is a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story. Get involved here!

When it comes to fantasy, whether historical, contemporary or urban, set in the UK, the two settings I come across most are London and Edinburgh. They’re both great cities (although admittedly I’m more familiar with London than Edinburgh) and it’s understandable why they’re such common settings – an awful lot of writers live in these places, which makes inspiration and research easier, and they’re also cities that people inside and outside of the UK are familiar with – but there are so many other places in the UK that I don’t think are utilised in the ways they should be.

(Plus, as a proud northerner, I’m rather bored of London as a setting.)

So today I thought I’d share some places that I think would be a great setting for a fantasy novel – and the kind of fantasy novels they’d suit!

york

I love York, it’s such a beautiful city and it’s brimming with history. It’s also considered the most haunted city in Europe, so I’m very surprised I don’t encounter more horror and dark fantasy novels featuring ghosts and hauntings set in York. What about a Victorian era historical fantasy series that follows a family of exorcists? Or a contemporary MG fantasy about a child who can see ghosts? There’s so much potential in York.

glastonbury

Glastonbury isn’t a city, but it’s a very old town with a lot of history and a real link to the fantastical. The best way to describe Glastonbury is kooky, it’s full of independent shops selling the queer and quirky, but it has deep roots in Britain’s Pagan history; it’s believed that there’s a hidden cave beneath the Tor that leads to the faerie realm, where the lord of the Celtic Underworld dwells. It’s also believed that King Arthur and Guinevere are buried in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey – people still visit there today to leave flowers on their grave – so there’s plenty in Glastonbury for authors to play with. Any chance I can have a historical fantasy novel starring faeries in medieval Glastonbury?

cardiff

If London and Edinburgh are popular choices, then can the capital of Wales get some love too? Wales has amazing folklore and mythology – not to mention the bonkers tales from The Mabinogion – and Cardiff was even the setting for the Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood. Sadly it can be fairly difficult to read books set in Wales because it’s a setting that some of the big publishers in London don’t think will sell; I worked in Welsh publishing for several years, and met one author who published her novel with a Welsh publisher because she was told ‘no one’s interested in Wales’ when she approached the London-based publishers. Considering there’s a dragon on the Welsh flag, though, is there any chance a Welsh author wants to write me an urban fantasy series about dragons in Cardiff?

Which cities would you like to see in your fantasy novels?

16 thoughts on “#WyrdAndWonder 2020 | Two cities (and a town) that should appear in more British fantasy

  1. Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts says:

    I definitely agree about York! Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has a chapter set in the Cathedral of York. I loved this bit:
    “And I hope that all my readers are acquainted with an old English Cathedral town or I fear the significance of Mr. Norrell’s chusing that particular place will be lost upon them. They must understand that in an old Cathedral town the great old church is not one building among many; it is the building – different from all others in scale, beauty, and solemnity. Even in modern times when an old Cathedral town may have provided itself with all the elegant appurtenances of civic buildings, assembly and meeting rooms (and York was well-stocked with these) the Cathedral rises above them – a witness to the devotion of our forefathers. It is as if the town contains within itself something larger than itself. When going about one’s business in the muddle of narrow streets one is sure to lose sight of the Cathedral, but then the town will open out and suddenly it is there, many times taller and many times larger than any other building, and one realizes that one has reached the heart of the town and that all streets and lanes have in some way led here, to a place of mysteries much deeper than any Mr Norrell knew of. Such were Mr Segundus’s thoughts as he entered the Close and stood before the great brooding blue shadow of the Cathedral’s west face.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa says:

    I don’t know much about any of these places outside of history books and the occasional fiction (since I live in the US and have only been in London in the UK) — but I have a fondness for Cardiff ever since Torchwood, which I loved!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dinipandareads says:

    I love Edinburgh to bits (I think that’s the location I visited most when I lived in the UK) but I think York would be an awesome setting for the types of novels you mentioned. I mean, I’m not one for horror but I can definitely see books taking place there — maybe in the moors?! I’m surprised there aren’t more! Bath is another location that I think would make for a great setting, especially for a romance (I’m definitely not thinking about Persuasion when I say this 😉 Haha)! Maybe a contemporary romance? Great post, Jess!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

      Now that you mention it I’m surprised I don’t need more contemporary romance set in Bath considering its Austen connections! And it is very pretty there. 🙂 I used to live in Somerset, so I’ve got a soft spot for that county in general. I need to go back to Edinburgh! I’ve only been once, around 13 years ago now, but I remember loving it and there’s so much more of Scotland that I want to see.

      Like

  4. Tammy says:

    As a U.S. citizen, I consider all cities in the UK to be exotic and perfect for fantasy, lol! But I love the sound of York especially, and since Torchwood is one of my favorite shows ever, I have a soft spot for Cardiff😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

      Yay for Cardiff love! I go to Cardiff fairly often (I used to work there and my parents don’t live too far away from it) and it’s great for shopping, but I love the museum and art gallery there, too. 😀

      Like

  5. imyril says:

    The only fantasy that leaps to mind that features Glastonbury is World’s End by Mark Chadbourn (or well, certainly one of the Age of Misrule trilogy). It does indeed involve Fae, although it’s the present day – the gates to Faerie swing open one Hallowe’en and all hell breaks loose as the unseelie court ride through to reclaim the land (and when the Seelie eventually show up, they are NOT as big an improvement as you might hope) …needless to say, there are tie-ins to ALL the British myths, so a trip to Glastonbury is required 🙂 In fact, while it’s pretty dark (very dark), Chadbourn’s books stand out for being a sort of dark fantasy tourist brochure for Britain (London makes the sort of appearance that leaves you scarred if you live in London and have to travel by Tube. Or ever stopped at Heston Services. Thanks, Mark).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. acquadimore says:

    Oh this is the UK equivalent of me being annoyed with books set in Venice/Fake Venice! It really does seem like publishing only thinks there are two cities per country and the rest is empty, for some reason. From my perspective, the issue is that books about my country are often written like a tourist even when they’re not about tourists, so only the Popular Destinations get any attention, but I don’t know how much that applies to the UK.
    Anyway, great post! I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard of books set in these cities/towns either and it’s a shame that we have to see the same settings over and over (and I’d totally read about the faeries in medieval Glastonbury, that sounds amazing).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

      I think you’re right there! A lot of people are familiar with London and Edinburgh so I understand why they’re such popular destinations, but London, in particular, tends to put me off a book nowadays – I just find it very boring as a setting.

      I’d love to see more Italian-inspired fantasy that isn’t Venice-inspired, too! Although I would argue there are some out there already and I think some people say Venice-inspired when they actually mean Italian-inspired. Amy Rose Capetta’s The Brilliant Death, for example, made me think more of Rome with its juxtaposition of old gods and newer architecture, and I don’t think Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside is particularly Venice-y either. It’s a shame that Venice seems to be the go-to for writers and reviewers when there are so many gorgeous places in Italy! (I’m still in love with Florence, to be honest…)

      Liked by 1 person

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