The Man Who Spoke Snakish book cover

I love to read and write fantasy, but I’m so tired of the default to the same tropes over and over. Worlds that sprout from the forehead of Tolkien or George R. R. Martin? Been there. Youths with unknown powers and epic destinies? Read that. Kings, princesses, priests, cabals of wizards? Surely there are other possibilities. There must be.

Was there ever in the history of the ancient world a society that wasn’t ruled by some sort of autocrat? One a writer could hand a grand tale on?


I’m so happy I came across “The Man Who Spoke Snakish” by Andrus Kivirähk, translated from Estonian by Christopher Moseley. It’s an epic yarn that follows the adventures of Leemet. He’s a wild forest boy who is the last speaker of an ancient language that can command the animals. Accompanied by a charming viper, seductive bears, lice big enough to ride, flying grandfathers, a giant, sleeping frog-dragon and others, he struggles to find his place in a vanishing world. It’s a wildly inventive and irreverent journey with a wise and wise-cracking hero. It’s also an allegory: a warning about the dangers of colonization, and the struggle between nature and civilization.

If you know other fantasy books set in truly original worlds, please let me know!