Monday, April 14, 2008

Where to start...


Never read a Mary Stewart book? You might look at her list of books and wonder which one to start with. I could just say that they're all so good you could start with any of them. But that probably doesn't help much.

First thing to decide is, do you want Arthurian historical fiction or romantic suspense? If it is the former, then your answer is easy. Start with The Crystal Cave -- it's the first in the series.

Now if you want a romantic suspense things get a little trickier. They are all stand-alone novels, so you really can start anywhere. We created this little quiz, which is not at all scientific, but might be a fun way of telling you which to start with. Here are my results:
Which Mary Stewart novel should you read?
Your Result: This Rough Magic
 

British actress Lucy Waring believes there is no finer place to be "at liberty" than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea.

Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide ...

Madam, Will You Talk?
 
My Brother Michael
 
Wildfire at Midnight
 
Nine Coaches Waiting
 
Touch Not the Cat
 
Airs Above the Ground
 
The Ivy Tree
 
Which Mary Stewart novel should you read?
Make Your Own Quiz


You might look at which books are people's favorites. My personal favorite is This Rough Magic. Julie's favorite is Wildfire at Midnight. AAR's poll of people's favorite Mary Stewart books is here -- Nine Coaches Waiting got the first slot there, as well as being the current winner in our poll here at the blog.

You can look at our settings map and decide where you'd like to read about. I especially love her books set in Greece.

And my last word of advice is to consider when the book was published. Mary Stewart published for over 30 years -- those published earlier I've found to be more suspenseful and exciting. Those published in the 80s and 90s are a bit more tame and gentle. Thornyhold is my favorite of her later books.

Any visitors -- what was your first Mary Stewart book? I have to say that I don't remember which one I read first. Might have been The Ivy Tree.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

At last, people who love Mary Stewart novels as much as I do! I have been reading them for more years than I care to mention, and I agree with the observation that the older novels have more action. I love the Arthur legend as well, and her series is the best I've ever read. Thank you for the wonderful site.

Angiegirl said...

What a wonderful thing you've done with the site and this blog. And you're right, it's long overdue. Mary Stewart fans need a place to find each other.

Madam, Will You Talk? was the first Stewart I read and it still holds a place of honor for me. Lately my favorite seems to vacillate between it, My Brother Michael, and Nine Coaches Waiting. Depends on the day, I guess. :)

Jennie said...

Anony--Thanks for visiting! Her books just get better with time, don't they? Like fine wine. ;)

Angiegirl--I'm glad you found us! Madam, Will You Talk? is one of my faves as well. It's amazing to me that it was her first novel.

Emily said...

Nine Coaches Waiting was my first. I'd seen it at least once a week since starting my job as a shelver at the library and finally checked it out on a whim one night. I think I read it in about two days. :-D After that I read every one of her books the library had, and ended up buying them all from Amazon within the month.

somebirdsarelikethat said...

The Moon Spinners was my first and is still my favorite. But, This Rough Magic is delightful as well. I can't wait to visit Corfu and Crete...

Pat said...

I have been reading Mary Stewart's novels for about 40 years. I do not recall which one I read first, it may have been "This Rough Magic", which is the one I have read the most and is probably my favorite, although "Touch Not the Cat" is high on my list of favorites, too.

Nicole said...

Hello!!
I found this blog because I'm doing a literary analysis on The Moon-Spinners. I confess, that is the only Mary Stewart book I have read so far.

My sister-in-law gave it to me for Christmas along with Wildfire at Midnight, Nine Coaches Waiting, Madam, Will You Talk? and Airs Above the Ground -- but I must say, The Moon-Spinners will always hold a special place in my heart. Before my sister-in-law married my brother, she would come over to my house, pick me up, take me to Baskin-Robbins for two scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone, and then we'd go back to my house and read a couple of chapters of a book together. We always joked that she would get Mark and I (at 14 years old) would get Colin.

Thank you, Mary Stewart, for the book that takes me to my happy place.

Anonymous said...

My first Mary Stewart novel was Stormy Petrel which I thought was kind of blah. Fortunately, I stuck with it and then came across Nine Coaches Waiting and it pretty much sealed the deal for me--I was obsessed. Since last winter I've read all of her books except the Merlin series. My absolute favorite is My Brother Micheal which I've been re-reading every time I have a spare moment. The scene where Simon Lester recites (in classical Greek!) in the ruins at Delphi has to be one of the loveliest and most moving scenes ever written.

Sharon said...

My first was Madam Will You Talk, the cover looked really dated, and I was a little dubious, but once I got started I couldn't put it down. I finshed Thornyhold today and loved it! I'm a little late discovering Mary Stewart and delighted to find I've so much catching up to do!

Anonymous said...

The first book by Mary Stewart that I read was probably (something like 35 years ago..) the Moon-spinners. Since then I have reread all the books many times and have bought them all in both english and swedish. My all time favourites are My brother Michael and the Ivy tree. But it is difficult to choose!

Anonymous said...

I love all Lady Stewart's books - but the very very best, for me, are The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment. They have been read and re-read countless times (and had to be replaced as they dropped to pieces!) and EVERY time I am sad when I get to the end and have to leave the wonderful characters. I am so glad you have got this site to let other people know what they might be missing.

Diane said...

I love her books. I first read The Moonspinners as a teen. I loved it. They even made a movie of it, although the book is much better. I have retread her books many times. I even tracked dowan The Wind Off the Small Isles on amazon and purchased it. It is a novella and maybe not as detailed as her full novels. Her books transport you to wonderful exotic places, full of rich detail, suspenseful and mysterious.

JOHN ANDERSON said...

Hello
I'm going to Athens and Santorini in August would like to read novels set in these places prior to going
Can anyone out there help
Signed
Grateful in advance
A

Meet Kelly said...

I just finished my very first MS book, Nine Coaches Waiting, at the recommendation of a friend. It was good. I took the personality test to see which book I should read next, my result is This Rough Magic, so I am checking this one out soon! I think I found my newest favorite author...and blog!

Arabella's Cottage (The former Black Cats Cottage) said...

Thornyhold is a favorite and stays on my nightstand. Keeping it company is "The Ivy Tree" and "The Stormy Petrel" because I've been meaning to read them again. Airs Above the Ground moved me to tears in a beautiful scene with the horse in the moonlight, dancing to the distant music.

I am so inspired by Mary Stewart and enjoyed watching her interview on You Tube. When I saw her photo with her cat and another showing her with a dog, I felt as though I was seeing the real life version of Thornyhold- bits of her own life that worked their way into that book. I thought, "Oh doesn't the dog seem like Rags and doesn't the cat seem like Hodge."

She created characters we love and want to keep in our lives. There is no other novelist like her really.