In honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to talk about a book series that has a special place in my heart: Leagues and Legends by E. Jade Lomax. This’ll be spoiler free because I would love to encourage anyone who haven’t read these books to give them a try.
Quick background: Leagues and Legends is a trilogy of fantasy books (Beanstalk, Echoes of a Giantkiller, and Remember the Dust). They’re available in eBook/download form for free (!!), so you can pop over to ejadelomax.com and start reading them right this second if you want. (You can also buy print versions if you like classic book-in-your-hand feel like I do.)
Here’s the blurb for Beanstalk:
Jack Farris doesn’t want to save the world, just every person he knows, encounters, or hears of.
It’s a bit of an issue.
S. Grey doesn’t want to save anyone but himself. He wants to know everything and majoring in sagework at the Academy is the best way to do that.
Laney Jones left her home to avoid the constraints there, only to find different barriers holding her back at the Academy. Eager to learn, to excel, to escape, she has far from given up.
Rupert Willington Jons Hammerfeld the Seventh would just like everything to be orderly, thank you very much, but it seems the only way to make monsters and myths (and malicious but mundane men) stop rampaging through his world is to go out and do some hero-ing himself.
They are put together as an unwilling study group, but they become something more.
Some things you can find in these books: Found families. Friendships that are tested and rebuilt. Fairytale retellings. Critiques of social inequality within education systems. Casual LGBT representation. Cool magic theory. Deconstruction of what being a hero means. Beautiful, poetic writing.
Beanstalk is one of my ultimate comfort books. It has made my very short list of books to bring to college (dorm room = minimal shelf space) because I can curl up and sink into it so easily. Watching this group of main characters fall into each other’s orbits and build different kinds of friendships with each other is such a beautiful thing. Between Laney’s steely determination not to fail to Jack’s easy camaraderie with people he meets to Rupert’s quiet competence (bringing extra snacks and armor!) to Grey’s encyclopedic knowledge and insistence that he’s not getting involved with any adventuring shenanigans, their personalities clash and complement each other in fascinating ways, and the author is always digging deeper into the layers of who these people are. There are also many subtle character and plot details that give it amazing re-read value after the wild ride that is Echoes of a Giantkiller.
Giantkiller is also on the single shelf in my room because one of my favorite characters in any media, ever, is introduced in this book. And also because it’s brilliant in general. Giantkiller is absolutely unafraid to push the relationships that were built in book one, letting the choices characters have made and are making have genuine, hard repercussions. We dig deeper into the backstories of our squad from Beanstalk, and I love the new cast of characters we meet in the process. In Giantkiller the plot also really kicks into high gear, and it’s got one of the more compelling villain characters I’ve met in fiction. If you’re a fan of Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender I would recommend checking this series out — although the Leagues and Legends character I’m thinking of is different in many key ways, I have a lot of similar emotions about the two of them. The subtle hints of a fairytale mythos from book one also escalates here into full-blown creative fairytale retellings. I adore Beanstalk but Echoes of a Giantkiller is when I truly fell in love with Leagues and Legends.
Remember the Dust is actually not on my shelf, but that’s because it was on loan to a friend at the time I was moving in. The first time I read this book I thought: it’s like reading a fanfic where the author goes “hey these two characters didn’t interact a ton in canon, let’s give them a chance to talk more” and “hey let’s explore the complicated emotional aftermath of this major event because the canon story ended right after”…except it’s all part of the canon series itself. There’s not too much else I can safely say about this book without hinting at spoilers, but it’s got a really fascinating exploration of magical technological developments, more new characters who are complicated and interesting people, a scene I got chills at because it was such a powerful moment that I could vividly picture, and once again, all the friendship feelings.
I love a lot of books, but it’s rare that I’ve felt such a deeply personal connection to a series as I have with Leagues and Legends. Everything I’ve said about the series so far is absolutely true, but layered on top is this intangible bond I have with the books, where it feels like they were written specifically for me, to capture the things I love best about fantasy, about fanfiction, about playing make believe games as a kid. It lets characters not just hurt but heal, it lets seemingly insignificant characters matter because they are people too. There’s a real, genuine magic in these pages.
Bottom line? I’m always going to hold these books close to my heart. Thanks E. Jade Lomax, for Leagues and Legends.