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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Suspiciously Specific #6: Books where setting is as much a character as the characters themselves

Suspiciously Specific is a new bi-weekly series of assorted book recommendations, inspired by the subreddit by the same name, as well as a short video-series by BooksandLala on Youtube. In short-form, I’ll recommend ten books across genres, that happen to have something very specific in common. Whether it be a very niche trope, a cover-trend, or a theme that is só specific you’re surprised there’s more than one book that includes it. Requests for a list are always welcome if you happen to have a specific trope you love, but think is too niche to find recommendations for.


I’ve already announced this post a few weeks ago on Goodreads, as well as in my last post, as I’ve been wanting to share a list of my favourite setting-driven books or quite some time now. Unfortunately for me, not only did life get in the way; this list itself became a beast out of control. I found out I have far more “books where setting is as much a character as the characters” than I thought, and instead of the usual 10, I ended up with over 30 candidates…

For that reason, this week’s Suspiciously Specific will be a bit more short-form than usual. Instead of going into detail on each book, I’ll simply give you the setting, genre and a link to where you can find more info (either my review or a Goodreads-page) if it tickles your fancy.

Without further ado, let’s get into over 30 books, divided over three categories of settings:

Natural Environments

Genre: sci-fi horror The Setting: Area X; an abandoned, isolated stretch of wilderness that has been mysteriously cut of from contact with the rest of the world. Eleven expeditions have entered to explore and map its alien landscapes; none have returned unscathed. Today, we follow the 12th expedition, in a final attempt to uncover the secrets of Area X. Think natural, overgrown, mutated nature where everything is just a little “off”.

Genre: horror The Setting: a treacherous pine-forest on the edge of the Alpenglow glacier, that toys with space, time, landmarks and the expedition of people who travel within it.

More reality-bending landscapes: The Ritual, Catfish Rolling

Genre: literary fantasy The Setting: the Mediterranean island of Aeaea where our titular protagonist is send into exile. At first, she resents her prison, but as time passes she comes to love the land, its creatures and herbs, and the magic she can distill from them.

More enchanted islands with strong naturalist/herbalist magic vibes: The Gloaming, The Queens of Innis Lear, A River Enchanted.

Genre: literary fiction/mystery The Setting: Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village in North Carolina, surrounded by swamplands. These swamps are home to “The Marsh-girl”, a strange young women living off the lands and far from “civilized society”. But Kya is not the feral child people think she is, which we learn as her story unfurls.

Genre: literary fiction The Setting: an isolated lighthouse on the Farallon Islands, an exotic and dangerous archipelago off the coast of California, where our protagonist spends a year as a nature photographer, capturing the landscape and escaping her old life.

Genre: fantasy The Setting: the titular Cage of Souls: a prison island, surrounded by deadly, swampy jungle, where monsters, mutant and madmen roam within the walls ánd outside them. Tchaikovsky brings to life not only the swampy outskirts of the prison grounds, but also the city of Shadrapar where our protagonist originally hails from in vivid details. I could feel the heat, smell the swampgasses and taste the muggy air on my tongue.

Genre: science fiction The Setting: the surface of Mars, obviously, where our protagonist is stranded with nothing but his wits to survive, after a horrible accident during the first manned Mars-mission. More Mars-settings: Red Rising (although these two books couldn’t be further apart)

Genre: horror

The Setting: we start our story in a strange museum of taxidermy and curiosities, only for our protagonists to find a hole in the wall that leads to an even stranger place. A foggy, liminal space filled willow-trees, each marking the entrance to a different, often unsettling parallel world.

Genre: horror The Setting: Antarctica, where a group of explorers is left stranded in the wake of WWI. They soon find themselves haunted by more than just the cold, hunger and isolation… More arctic isolation: The Glass Woman, Who Goes There

Genre: magical realism, middle-grade The Setting: a Navajo reservation, where nature is literally a character, in the form of a water-spirit coming to life and befriending our protagonist.

More reservation grounds in middle-grade fiction: Elatsoe & A Snake Falls to Earth

Genre: literary fiction The Setting: sweeping across India, and bringing to life the different faces of not only its stunning landscapes, but the people who inhabit it. I’ve never wanted to visit India before this book, but after it I wish I could buy a ticket today!

Genre: fantasy The Setting: a sailing-vessel powered by heartstone-fires, crossing the miles-high expanse of prairie grasses that form an ocean in this world. This is one of the most unique fantasy worlds I’ve ever encountered! The cover does a fantastic job of giving you an idea of the setting.

1 comentário

26 de mai. de 2023

Thank you for drawing my attention to the Annihilation trilogy. I loved It!

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