How fantasy casts a lasting spell

I was five years old in the first house I ever remember living in. On the shelves of my bedroom were the first books I ever read, though weirdly I imagine the bookshelf from my second house.

The golden spines stood out to me as I scanned the various titles, “The Lion King,” “The Prince and the Pauper” (played by two Mickey Mouses””mouse? mice?) and some other Disney stories I don’t recall. I’m not sure if these count as fantasy but I remember these clearly and fondly.

I was 10 years old when I moved to  a different country for the first time in my life. I knew that this was my new home now but I didn’t know  how to make it my home. I started reading these “Dear America” books and, in a way, understood the past of this country through these young voices. I really fell in love with Patricia C. Wrede’s “The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.” This was where my love for reading really blossomed. I related to the princess who didn’t belong, who preferred dragons that were so wrongly maligned.

I was 11 years old when I was separated from the few friends I made during fifth grade. It never felt like a conscious decision at the time, but I spent most of my time reading, wherever I went. I started trying to learn the secret language found around the pages of “Artemis Fowl” and tried to write notes to my friend in this language. The secret language lasted a few weeks but the friendships lasted a few years. I was 14 and I remember being obsessed with “Redwall,” this series about animals acting like medieval heroes.

I was so absorbed that one girl dubbed me the bookworm. In a “Hey Arnold!” twist, we eventually started dating after a few years of being friends. The foundation of the relationship was weaker than the castles mice live in, sadly.

I was 17 years old and was almost done with high school. I actually already passed the angsty  stage of life when I discovered Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics. The beauty and terror within the pages of the comic really made me appreciate life, its counterpart, death and everything in between.

I was 18 years old and I was lost in college. I spent a lonely winter break, pining for someone, though it seemed  unrequited. I started reading “A Song of Ice and Fire”””better known as the inspiration for “Game of Thrones”.

Something about its bleak world, full of grey characters and grey decisions, spoke to me. In George R.R. Martin’s world, I saw that every person was trying their best to fulfill their desires: their own honor or their own greed or some other hunger.

I am 22 years old and I am about to graduate college. I’ve now read everything Brandon Sanderson has written””minus the “Wheel of Time” books. I even own some of his tomes. He writes worlds that feel strange yet utterly familiar, plots that feel tight and natural yet exciting and unexpected. The interconnected universe appeals to my desire for mystery; there are so many little clues and big revelations to uncover.

I will be 40 years old and I have no clue what my life will be or how I’ll get there. But whatever good or ill befalls me on the way, I know that I’ll have books. I have a hundred worlds to explore, millions of characters to invest a part of myself in and thousands of pages calling out to me to hear the story within.