May 26 2014 8:30am

Getting Spirited Away by Manga, LeGuin, Ashley and More

In 2001, I was transfixed by a fantasy tale flowing across a movie screen about a little girl who entered a fantasyland full of mysterious creatures. Less of an acid trip than Alice in Wonderland for me, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away started my obsession with the plot line of individuals entering a new realm of fantasy.

Shortly after seeing Miyazaki’s film, an older me discovered what would be my first introduction to fantasy romance, Escaflowne, that actually came out the year before Spirited Away. The main character Hitomi was a high school girl to whom I could relate: Sleepless and depressed, she wants to escape the monotony of day to day life and thus she is swept away into Gaea, a mysterious world where she faces a destiny as “The Winged Goddess.”

From Far AwayMy obsession with fantasy-worlds in anime led me to read a number of manga titles centered around the same theme. My favorite and the most romantic is Viz’s English adaptation of the manga Kanata Kara or From Far Away in English. A bomb blast transports Noriko into a fantasy world where she meets the hero Izark, who is there to kill her because her presence in their world means a terrible fate for him. Needless to say, hero doesn’t kill heroine and the two embark on a grand adventure, featuring one of the hottest kiss scenes I’ve read.

Being transported into another world isn’t a completely foreign concept to the realm of romance novels. Robin D. Owens’s Lladrana series features everyday heroines who are called from our realm to fulfill destinies beyond their imaginations including becoming sorceresses, law marshalls, and magicians.

Jean Johnson’s Sons of Destiny series starts with Kelly Doyle waking to her house on fire and then finding herself in a realm where four sets of twin brothers live waiting for the women who will help them fulfill their destiny. While not all of the heroines are from Earth, the series is a creative fantasy romp rife with humor and passion.

Author Marie Hall takes a new look at fairy tales with her Kingdom series. The first book, Her Mad Hatter and the fifth book, Hook’s Pan, feature human heroines who are swept up into the realm of Kingdom where fairy tales are real. Readers who enjoy alternative fairy tales will like learning how Alice of Hawaii charms her Hatter or how Trish snares the supposedly dastardly Captain Hook.

Her Mad Hatter by Marie HallKristen Ashley’s fandom is already familiar with her Fantasyland series in which heroines in the Earth realm are switched with their fantasy world double and vice versa. My favorite in the series is The Golden Dynasty. Readers should be warned that there are scenes of rape, but for those who enjoy and want Danyeres/Khal Drogo wish fulfillment, this is the book for you.

Tasha Temple’s Warlord has the heroine Sara travelling to an unknown time and place to encounter the warlord, Arystan. The two quickly burn up the sheets, but readers should be warned that despite the name, the book is not as culturally rich as Elizabeth Vaughn’s Warprize.

A fantasy-transportation from a male and female perspective, fantasy powerhouse Ursula Le Guin delivers in The Beginning Place also titled Threshold. The two main characters live mundane lives until they gain the ability to traverse to another world known as Tembreabrezi. The narrative switches between the two characters, a somewhat bitter Irene who doesn’t like anyone disturbing her special haven and Hugh, a somewhat dumbfounded newcomer to the fantastic realm. Together they embark on a quest and find love along the way. The emotions are subtle but pretty profound, and also features the first masturbation scene I ever read.

What books have spirited you away?



Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.

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1. kae
Kristen Ashley's Fantasyland series made me loose sleep. As to favorites, I am swinging between Wildest Dreams and Golden Dynasty. The first two does have that GoT feel. Fire and Ice, genders reversed in book one? Hehe.

I read Kanata Kara every year. It is love. Gets me everytime.
2. ladynat
Now I admit that it has been a while since I saw escaflowne. But I dont eeally remember it that way. Though I didn't watch it on cable. I watched it in the original format. Could be different. But i do remember what a great story it was. However, when you are mentioning Japanese fanrasy romance, you can't really have a conversation without Fushigi Yuugi. A tale of 2 friends who get sucked into a book, fall for the same guy, and wind up on opposite sides of the fight. Asia really has some wonderful tales. Beautiful love stories that carry us away. Check out hulu for some wonderful series. Especially anything by the Hong sisters. OMG they will mess you up. I've been reading fantasy all my life. Mercedes lackey is still one of the greatest authors I've had the privilege to read. Her worlds are rich and colorful. Years later I still think of her heralds as treasured friends. I learned a lot about how to be a better person through her work. I actually still reference something she said in lark and wren at least once a year.
3. elmindreda
Hitomi is no Winged Goddess. Van is a winged Atlantean.
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