During the holidays, I saw a thing going around Twitter of people talking about what tropes make for an automatic “yes” on a book — if you see that thing mentioned on the back cover/cover flap, you’ll buy the book. Thinking about this, I don’t believe I have any because other things can balance it out or overwhelm the one thing I do like, but there are certainly things that get my attention, and when I think about those, they’re not quite what I’d have expected.
One of the tropes I can’t seem to resist is magical memory loss. I pretty much hate anything to do with amnesia in romances, but put it in a magical (or possibly science fiction) setting, and I’m all over it. I love exploring the idea of what would you be if you didn’t know who you were — get rid of all the baggage and expectations, and what kind of person are you? I also like the related trope of magical false identity — due to magic, you’re given a fake identity and the memories that go with it. Can you tell that something’s wrong? Does your real self try to break free? I had some fun with this in book 7 of my Enchanted, Inc. series.
I know that the secret/hidden royalty trope is considered a cliche in fantasy, but I love it so much. I suspect I was heavily influenced by Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty, who lived in a hut in the woods but learned she was really a princess. I think that escapist thing is a big part of the appeal of fantasy. You can imagine that you may seem ordinary, but could you possibly be someone important, hidden away? Give me an apprentice underwater basketweaver who turns out to be the long-lost heir (or possibly the child of the great wizard), and I’m there. I’m not quite as keen on the related Chosen One trope when it involves prophecy, but do love when the unexpected person turns out to be exactly what was needed or has abilities that no one would have thought to look for in someone like that.
Portals! I love a portal fantasy. I think that’s because it makes it possible to imagine that I could have that kind of adventure. I don’t live in a fantasy land, but I love the idea that I could visit there (and if I turn out to be the long-lost princess, that’s even better).
Colleagues into lovers — you have to work together to solve a problem/go on a quest together, and as you go through difficulties, you develop feelings? Yes, please. But only if you keep your priorities straight and focus on your goal. No pausing for a romantic interlude when you’ve got a deadline and the bad guys are right behind you.
I seem to have a thing for charming thieves, which is odd because I can’t really stand the “bad boy” type, but when I see a Robin Hood kind of character — a thief for a good cause in a society where the usual rules aren’t working — I want to read it. No ordinary criminals, though. On the other hand, I also can’t seem to resist nerdy wizards, especially the guy who seems utterly inept, but that’s because his talents are so unusual that the typical training doesn’t work on him. He may not be able to do the most rudimentary spells that even young children learn, but he can do things that even the most advanced wizards can’t even imagine. There’s a lot of bumbling and angst before they figure out that he’s not utterly incompetent or clumsy, after all.
I’m sure I have a few more book triggers, but I’d have to go through my shelves to figure out what they are because I’m generally not conscious of what it is that makes me want a particular book. And if I start going through my shelves, I won’t get anything else done all day. Eight hours later, I’ll be sitting on the floor in front of the bookcases, re-reading a book I hadn’t thought about in ages.