The setting of a novel can be as important as the characters, because it can shape the way they behave and react, which drives the plot forward. Several books have a universal setting. It doesn’t matter where you put the characters, the outcome will be the same. As great as these books are, I’m fond of the intricate worlds set up in the books where the setting defines and shapes the characters.
If The Magicians didn’t have Quentin in Brakebills and the magical land of Fillory, his entire story would change. Believing in the magic of the Fillory books is how he got through every day, and it went into how he dealt with his depression. Going to Brakebills College, he learns that magic is real and it gives his life a purpose. Without the magic of Brakebills and Fillory, Quentin wouldn’t have become a Magician and find what’s been missing in his life. Likewise, here are seven other books where the setting is crucial to the characters:
1. Avonlea from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
An orphan girl named Anne is adopted by two elderly siblings, Marilla and Matthew, and sent to their farm of Green Gables in the town of Avonlea. The town is described as lush, green, and sweet. Anne is vain, despising her red hair, but also has an overactive imagination, turning the cherry blossom trees into Lover’s Lane and finding ghosts in the woods. Through this perfect little town, Anne grows into herself, and begins to put others before herself.
2. The three Londons from The Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab
V.E. Schwab creates a complicated and intricate world, following the story of Kell who has the rare and coveted ability to travel through the three Londons. Kell’s story begins in Red London, where she’s raised alongside the roguish heir Rhys Maresh. Red London is a place where magic and life are greatly admired. In Grey London, everything is dirty and boring, and instead of having magic, there’s a mad king named George III. Lastly, White London is a place where everyone fights for control over magic, and in a twist, the magic fights back. Each character’s personality and perspective of magic is shaped by the London in which they live.
3. Tulsa Oklahoma, 1965, from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Socs live on the rich side of town, while the Greasers live on the outside of society. Ponyboy, his brothers, and their friends are Greasers who are just trying to find their place in society. The way they dress, talk, and act is influenced directly from their status as Greasers in 1965. The main character, Ponyboy, is nearly drowned by a group of Socs, only to be saved by his best friend Johnny, though in a sad turn of events, one of the Socs dies. Because of the decade, the two boys know that they won’t stand a chance in court, because it’ll always be Greasers versus Socs.
4. The Maze from The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The whole point of The Maze Runner is the mystery of the Maze and what’s outside of it. The novel opens with Tom as he enters the Maze from below with no memory of who he is but his name. He discovers a group of boys working together to survive in the center of a large Maze that changes form every night, and has mysterious creatures that roam the sections. Being trapped in the Maze shapes each character’s perspective of life. They have a variety of jobs which defines their place within the group. Then Tom jars the order of things, because of his weird connection to the Maze. The group splits between those who want to escape the Maze into an unknown world outside, and those who want to stay in the comfort of the Maze.
5. Ketterdam from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam is a dark and dreary city that breaks and molds the characters with each struggle. The corruptness of the city is necessary, because it gives The Dregs something to rise up and fight against. The novel is told from the perspective of six characters that are struggling to stay afloat in the cruelty of Ketterdam. The characters tie to each other and to the city in an intricate web: Kaz is a thief who buys Inej’s contract from the pleasure house she works for; Wylan is a merchant’s son who is taken hostage by Kaz; Matthias is aiding Kaz in order to obtain his freedom; Nina is making it her mission to free Matthias from prison; and Jesper is a sharpshooter, trying to pay off his father’s debt.
6. Fairfold from The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Fairfold isn’t like most places. Faeries and humans co-exist in a town where tourists come to see the magical wonders. But the heart of this town, and the story, is the glass coffin where a sleeping horned boy lies. Hazel and her brother, Ben, grew up fantasizing about what would happen if this boy woke up. They’d share stories where they were knights that saved him, and the horned boy was someone good, unlike the other wicked Faeries. The magic in Fairfold shaped the way they saw the world, viewed love, and dreamed about their futures. Then one day, he wakes up and they’re forced to face the reality that the boy may not be what they imagined.
7. Antarctica from Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo
When Harper Scott’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina is derailed, she journeys to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to find a new path for her life. The isolation and darkness of Antarctica parallel her journey of self-discovery. Coupled with living among strangers for six months, the setting acts as a force in pushing Harper in a direction she wouldn’t have gone, ultimately learning that failing with grace can be its own success.
What makes a story’s setting stand out to you?
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Featured image via Avenue Of Daydreams