Tag Archive | cynthia voigt

A Rose by Any Other Name: A Rant on Titles

It’s like people are determined to ruin my childhood or something. Okay, okay, drama aside, let me explain. The books, the books that defined my teenage years for me were, okay, yes, the Anne of Green Gables series, and, yes, Little House on the Prairie, and various teen romance series that were probably too steamy for me to be reading, and Robin Cook thrillers, and Isaac Asimov sci-fi extravaganzas… but I digress. Where was I? The series that I loved, one of those that almost clammer for a screen adaptation, but resolve themselves to staying literature only, was The Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt.

What I loved about the series was mostly the second book, On Fortune’s Wheel, which is terribly romantic, but the third book, The Wings of a Falcon ended up ultimately being my favorite as I got older. Something about two friends making it through everything…it just sticks with me to this day. The first book is Jackaroo, the plot of which at first seems like a knockoff of Robin Hood. And it is, sort of, but the world of The Kingdom, quiet, contemplative, and somewhat melancholy, draws you in. The series just has this rare quality of making the reader feel like you are there. You are going through this, too. This quality is likely why Voigt is such a successful writer of young adult stories.

Anyway, I learned today, just in looking up the series to see if I wanted to buy newer copies, that um, they’ve changed the titles. All of them. Well, the fourth book, Elske, is now The Tale of Elske, and it’s my least favorite of the series, so that one didn’t disappoint me too much.  But the others! I just can’t believe it! Jackaroo, On Fortune’s Wheel, and The Wings of a Falcon have all been changed to The Tale of Gwyn, The Tale of Birle, and The Tale of Oriel. Three wonderful, intriguing titles exchanged for stupidly bland titles that fail to reflect the fact that The Kingdom books, although set in the same world, aren’t sequels, aren’t part of a large, overarching quest or plot, and are each really their own stories almost entirely. It’s almost as stupid as changing D.M. Cornish’s awesome series title Monster Blood Tattoo into Tales from the Half-Continent.

Why do publishers or authors or whoever do this? Blander titles are supposed to sell more books? Really? It would be like me changing my series, Trolls for Dust, to Vale Studios. Boring! Now, if they’d changed them to more interesting titles, I would maybe be on board, but this… Well, my childhood is long over, anyway, and one can’t go back, not really. My memories of those happy reading days will have to suffice. I will treasure my dog-eared original titles and refuse to replace them unless they become absolutely unreadable due to wear and tear.

This winter I want to read the entire series again and go through for you what I love about it and why you or your teenagers might like it too. They will be the same stories, despite the names being changed, but I disagree with Juliet. Names of things matter. Names show identity, they show who you belong to, who loves you, sometimes who hates you. Names can be blessings or curses, beatifying or insulting, and changing a book’s title is no small thing, just like changing one’s own name is no small thing. It is a transformation no matter how one looks at it. The object or person is simply different after. Most of the time, I hope, for the better, but this required a rant because the original titles are infinitely more suitable for the series, and the new titles woefully inadequate. And don’t even get me started on the new covers.

The Kingdom

The covers and titles I grew up with.

The Next Harry Potter–Part 3 of 3

3. The Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt

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This is an older series from the 1990s, but it’s a beautiful, fantasy-type world without magic, and has been one of my favorite series since high school.  The themes and story lines in the books are geared towards an older Young Adult audience.  The novels are all loosely connected and set in a fictional “Kingdom” and the countries that surround it.  The world is medieval, with kings, earls, puppeteers, and so on.

The first of the series, Jackaroo, has a “Robin Hood” plot involving a heroic figure who steals from the rich to give to the poor.  Although an engaging story, it’s my least favorite in the series.  My two favorites are On Fortune’s Wheel and The Wings of a Falcon.  The first is a typical romance/adventure where girl meets boy, girl falls for boy who doesn’t at first care for her, etc., but it’s not a love easily won, and therein lies the story’s strength.

The Wings of a Falcon involves the quest of a young man looking for peace.  He starts out as a slave imprisoned on an island and breaks free, taking another boy with him.  The book is full of action, some romance, a tragic yet happy ending, and has an epic scope built for the big screen.  With names like Oriel, Griff, and Beryl, it fits nicely into a fantasy genre, but again, without the use of magic as a trope.

The standout here is Voigt’s writing, which is notable because one doesn’t note it while reading.  One can become completely involved in the story, and that is the point.  No ridiculous metaphors (I have to battle this in my own writing), or effusive descriptions, just good, clean storytelling.  Modern YA is plagued by “purple prose” possibly because so many of us are going the self-publishing route, but professional writer that Voigt is, she has none of those problems.

Why this could be the next Harry Potter: The stories in the series can appeal to both teens and adults.  The “Kingdom” world is adaptable to the screen and invites the possibility of many more stories set in the same world.  The settings evoke the romance of nature, from woods, to mountains, to sea.  The heroes/heroines in the stories are sometimes childish due to their age, but they are “young adults,” with the emphasis falling on “adults.”  The Kingdom world is closer in gravity and themes to The Lord of the Rings and the later Harry Potter books, and is also not a true “series” as the novels take place in some cases generations apart.  Still, the tales offer much “scope for the imagination,” as Anne of Green Gables (I’d love to see this series remade!) would say.

Thanks for reading.  –Pixie Beldona