Top Ten Tuesday: Most Vivid Worlds or Settings in Books

It's startling, now that I think of it, how many stories are told with little reference to setting—and yet they read perfectly well. That said, I love finding a story where setting and action depend on each other, where the world is a character in its own right. This week's topic should be fun.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

To keep any one story from taking over, I'm limiting this to one mention per book/series.

1. The Wizarding World, notably Hogwarts. We love the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and Godric's Hollow—but there's nothing like that castle wherein doors pretend to be walls, portraits move and talk, staircases go somewhere else on Fridays, and Peeves might drop something on your head at any time. Hogwarts has more wonders and mysteries than any other place I've ever found in fiction. (The Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling)

2. Perelandra, although I seem to remember Malacandra being pretty visual, too. The waves, the seaweed, the ever-changing topography of the floating islands, the forests, the colors—Perelandra is beautiful. I couldn't blame Ransom for wanting to go back, and I'm sure he loved settling there at last with Arthur and the other Pendragons. (Perelandra and the rest of the Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis)

3. The unnamed world of the Wheel of Time, notably the Aiel Waste. There's beauty and fascination from the agricultural valley of the Two Rivers to the walled city of Caemlyn, to the White Tower in splendid Tar Valon, to the fishing town of Tear with its great Stone fortress, to Cairhien and Ebou Dar and the ships of the Atha'an Miere and the dream-world Tel'aran'rhiod—but the story spends a lot of time in the Aiel Waste, and that scenery impressed itself particularly on me. (The Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan)

4. Mt. Purgatory, though the Inferno is horrifyingly vivid, and though the less-visual but ever-bright Paradiso is my favorite. The mood and imagery of the Purgatorio begins with a walk along the sea, and then it's all dreams and eagles and sculptures and visitations and terraces until it tops out with Eden. There in earth's paradise, with the rivers, with Matilda singing and picking flowers and eventually the appearance of the griffin-drawn chariot from Heaven, all in procession... I'd rather not carry a giant rock on my back or have my eyes sewn shut, but some of the depictions are so beautiful that I could almost wish those images, at least, weren't symbolic. :) (The Divine Comedy, Dante)

5. Middle-Earth. The Shire, Rivendell, Lothlorien, Moria, Mordor, Gondor, Ithilien, the Houses of Healing, Tom Bombadil's home—and Valinor, which is not technically in Middle-Earth—There's so much to see in Tolkien's world. (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien)

6. Battle School and Lusitania. I couldn't pick one. Battle School isn't beautiful at all, but its gray lines, paths of colored lights, and rounded formation set a great stage for Ender's trials. Lusitania is a fascinating planet, with its fenced-off colony and the uniformity of its species. (The Ender books, Orson Scott Card)

7. Moonacre Manor and Silverydew. The tunnel at the beginning takes Maria and her companions into a lightly enchanted, alchemical world of golden sunshine and silver moon, of the lion and the unicorn, of a little church and hills of sheep and a shepherd boy and children, and of a splendid manor that is practically a castle. (Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge)

8. Mt. Eskel. The little quarry village on the great mountain comes to life as young Miri learns to sing along with the linder stone. The Bayern books all have good settings, but I think Mt. Eskel has the most personality. (Princess Academy, Shannon Hale)

9. Forks. Maybe it's partly that I live so close to it, but I thoroughly understood Bella's relationship to the forests and the rain and the preeminence of the color green. Seeing it well filmed was my favorite thing about the Twilight movies. (The Twilight saga, Stephenie Meyer)

10. Prince Edward Island. The Anne books, the Emily books, the Pat books, Kilmeny—it doesn't matter which Montgomery work you choose. Her love for P.E.I. underscores every one, and her descriptions are lovely. (Any of the above works, L.M. Montgomery)

That's off my shelves and off the top of my head. I suspect I should have Dickens on here somewhere, but it's just been so long since I read him.

Which fictional settings have you found most vivid and memorable?

EDIT: I just discovered that I'd forgotten about The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). Black and white with the red scarves of the reveurs, real magic played off as illusions, and colored fire and the Wishing Tree and living statues and acrobats and the twins with their red hair... Rank it up as #2 for sheer visual beauty and mystery, please.


  1. Also, I didn't include Narnia and probably should've... and I completely spaced Thisby from The Scorpio Races, which definitely would have been included had I remembered. This is SO the list that could go on, and on, and on...

  2. I would like heaven to look like either Middle-Earth or Narnia.

    Hogwarts is definitely a wondrous place. I've always had a preference for Malacandra over Perelandra.

    As for other fictional worlds that have stood out for me, I'd have to say Pern from Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders series is a notable one. I read the books so much when I was younger I grew very comfortable with the world setting. I also find the world in the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr. to be notable. Also the world of the Elenium by David Eddings.

    The simple setting of The Wind in the Willows also appeals to me.

    Although I'm baffled why this one article I just read would suggest Westeros from George R.R. Martin's series to be one of the places people would love to visit.

    1. You're dead one with P.E.I. and Middle Earth! I just read Lord of the Rings again and couldn't help getting sucked in.

      I also get wrapped up in Ray Bradbury's Mars, Wuthering Heights whole scene, and Camus' Algeria in "The Adulterous Woman" and The Stranger.

  3. My heart may have swelled at little at seeing Lucy Maud Montgomery on another TTT list. I will forever love Avonlea because the world and it's inhabitants are so vivid.

    And absolutely nodding my head at Middle Earth and Hogwarts and Battle School!

    My TTT

  4. Where's the world The Way of Kings is set in? One of the most unique I've ever read about.

    1. I've never read that, but now I think I'll have to. :)

  5. No Arrakis? Seems to be about the most important aspect of the entire series.


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