There are many things that make a book great: the story, the twists and turns, and the characters to name a few. For me, one of the things that makes a book soar is when the setting is so detailed and important to the story that it becomes a character. It becomes a place we want to live, to immerse ourselves in, and driving the story, oftentimes turning it into a classic. The story just couldn’t be itself without its setting. The following seven books have settings just like this.
1. The Ender Quintet by Orson Scott Card
Adventure, coming of age, violence, and war. Ender’s Game has all of this and more, but Ender’s Game wouldn’t be Ender’s Game without the training station that occupies a good portion of the quintet, and holds significant meaning throughout the series. The labyrinth of a station embodies the complicated life that Ender comes into. The halls with their color coded directions for the students and the weightless training room make for an environment that makes the books. The setting itself touches on the themes of technology, sterility, and war, and that’s just for starters. When the book was adapted into film, the setting was the only thing that made is worth watching for me.
2. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Praising Harry Potter has probably gotten old. Or has it? I definitely still find myself bringing it up in conversation and getting into deep, extended conversation about the plot, characters, and positive attributes. Part of that has to do with the world that Rowling created. Hogwarts, in itself, is an evolving beast, with secrets and dangers around every corner. It’s a school, a home, and a safe haven. It houses students, staff, wizarding history, and a piece of Voldemort’s soul. Everyone wishes they could go there, and it has been recreated twice (so far) to scratch that itch. Beyond that, each location within the wizarding world holds its own character, its own secrets, and its own unique charm. From Diagon Alley to The Ministry of Magic to The Burrow, each setting in the story has a significant role to play in the plot and lives of the characters, often evolving with the story itself, just as the characters do.
3. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
There are so many small worlds in The Little Prince, each housing their own little theme and piece of the story. They each contribute to the Prince’s growth and contribute to his (and the reader’s) knowledge and understanding of the world. The locations, however simple, make the story. Love the prince? Check out Netflix’s movie, which, in my opinion, should give Pixar a run for their money come Oscar season.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Oh, Narnia, how every young child (and adult) searches for you in the backs of wardrobes. A wintry world that melts into spring, with animals that talk and lands that shape the story as well as the fates of the characters. The characters speak of Narnia with love and admiration, just as they refer to Aslan himself. A moldable entity, Narnia is changed with the influence of good and evil, just as Edmund is, just as we all can be. It is a world that we all dream of and wish to be worthy of.
5. The Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey
Pern is a world that is villainous, it’s fiery thread attacking from the sky, while virtuous, worthy to be fought for til death. Space and time itself is traversable, offering benefits and danger all at the same time. A well connected community with each piece adapting to the land rather than trying to change it. Pern itself shapes the plot and plight of the characters, its negative and positive attributes providing trouble and resolution.
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
On a different note, the setting in The Hunger Games does not lead every reader yearning to visit. Ranging from overindulgence and opulence to destitution and starvation, Panam’s settings are direct reflections of the social issues that plague it. The arena, however, is another beast in itself. Designed and carefully controlled to force children to kill each other, the setting inserts itself into the story, directly and purposefully effecting the plot of the books. It is an extension of the government, one of its arms.
7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A large, mysterious mansion that is forbidden and a hidden garden all to one’s own: the secret garden as a simple location gives hope and, eventually, new life to its characters. With its healing, the old wounds of the characters are healed. Spending time within the walls of the garden is like spending time with an old friend. The setting itself turns the story around, giving light, life and hope where the characters had none.
You may notice something about each of the books. In fact, the thing you have probably noticed is that you have read them, for when a setting is so well done, so powerful, that it turns into a character, it becomes beloved, classic, and popular. Setting can have a profound influence on a story, and when its done well, it makes the story soar. If you can imagine stepping into that world, inhabiting that place, then the writer has done their job. If you fall in love with that place, the writer has created something truly special.
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Featured image via Narnia Reflection