It’s me, hi.
I’m Louise Holland, and I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m a fan of Taylor Swift. I’m also a fan of fantasy novels, both indie and trad-pub. When Krystle approached me with the idea for this post, I practically squealed with joy and tripped over myself running to my laptop. A guest post for my favourite book blog? About my two greatest passions? I was beyond thrilled. I had the first draft of this list written within 24 hours.
I may be a little… intense.
With 243 songs to date in Swift’s discography and thousands of books to choose from, I puzzled over why this came so easily. At first, I thought it might simply have been the bard in me (I currently play one in my weekly D&D home game), but the true connection between Taylor and fantasy books is storytelling—the ability to evoke emotions with your work, to make others feel something. Taylor’s music and the worlds of these authors are both rich in lore, weave complicated storylines, and will stay with you long after the last line.
So, without further ado, here is my list of fantasy characters who I think would be Swifties and/or would appreciate her music in one form or another. I always say there’s two kinds of people: those who like Taylor Swift, and those who haven’t listened to enough Taylor Swift. Maybe one of these songs will be your gateway to finally converting to Swiftianity.
Kelsier, Mistborn series (Brandon Sanderson)
Song: Dear Reader
Kelsier is one of those characters that feels like an old friend by now, much in the same way Taylor does for me (twenty years will do that). At first, I was drawn to his charisma and easy-going attitude in the face of such dismal odds. But like the Survivor of Hathsin, Midnights is an album that hides immense pain and betrayal behind a charming, sparkly demeanour. Although Kelsier would absolutely be blasting Vigilante Sh*t in his earbuds as he ripped through a nobleman’s hazekillers, it would be the haunting, melancholic chords of the album’s last track that play as he headed back alone, knowing ultimately what his plan will cost him. Nothing Sanderson does is accidental, as much as he’d like you to think it was until the dominoes cascade in a line and trigger the Sanderlanche; just as Taylor ends an album professing her happiness with a line
like “you wouldn’t take my word for it if you knew who was talking”. Kelsier’s catalyst is still one that haunts me, and I’m still finding new ways to interpret things he said and did on re-reads.
Lyric: “burn all the files, desert all your past lives/and if you don’t recognise yourself, that means you did it right/never take advice from someone who’s falling apart”
For more, read An Interview With Brandon Sanderson
The Fool, Farseer Series (Robin Hobb)
The Fool is possibly one of the most complex and interesting characters ever written, and nothing I can say will even scratch the surface of them. One of my earliest memories of
reading fantasy comes from laughing aloud during Assassin’s Apprentice at the sheer oddity of the Fool’s comments, and I stayed with him through what feels like hundreds of stories. Depending on how far through you’ve read of the mountain of Hobb’s dynasty, I won’t say too much—but let’s just say the Fool has been through it, and I believe they would find a lot of Folklore’s songs cathartic. Taylor’s first pandemic album, Folklore, has an indie-folk sound that conjures imagery of wandering the woods by candlelight, and the bridge of Hoax would feel particularly haunting echoing through the halls of Buckkeep.
Lyric: “You knew the password so I let you in the door/you knew you won so what’s the point in keeping score?/You knew it still hurts underneath myscars from where they pulled me apart/but what you did was just as dark.”
You can send me the bill for the emotional damage. I’ll forward it to Taylor.
Stella Whiterock, Legacy of the Brightwash (Krystle Matar)
Legacy of the Brightwash is one of those books that when you start reading it, you get mad at yourself for not getting to it earlier. A vivid, complex world that simultaneously feels alien and familiar, with a distinct steampunk/urban-y vibe to it. There are guns and running water, but there’s also people with Talent/“tainted” doing most of the work behind the scenes. One such tainted is Stella, and I could tell straight away that the amount of trauma this woman carries would make her an Evermore girl. Ivy, my favourite track on Taylor’s other surprise pandemic album, would take on new meaning for Stella—instead of lamenting a sapphic lover kept from her by an unwanted marriage (á la Emily Dickinson, for whom the song is rumoured to be inspired by), Stella would think of the Authority and the laws of the Dominion that prevent her and Tashué from being together, as well as their own secrets and past ordeals keeping a chasm between them.
Lyric: “In from the snow/your touch brought forth an incandescent glow/tarnished but so grand”
For more, check out SIX ELEMENTALS: Author Interview with Krystle Matar
Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Throne of Glass series (Sarah J Maas)
Song: I Did Something Bad
Anyone who’s read Throne of Glass knows this is true. I don’t have to elaborate, but I will. Not only is Aelin a Swiftie, but she would also force her entire court, cadre, and kingdom to listen. Aelin would hog the medieval AUX cord every single carriage ride and blast reputation from one end of Erilea to the other. I’ve picked IDSB as her favourite not only for the fire imagery, but because I can just see the awkward looks between the male members of the group as Aelin and her pack of deadly besties scream “if a man talks sh*t then I owe him nothing” at the top of their lungs. But as us reputation girlies know: rep is a powerful, in-your- face angry album… hiding a bunch of sticky sweet, hopeful love songs. And that also rings
true of a certain princess who loved her kingdom very, very much.
Lyric: “they’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one/they got their pitchforks and proof/their receipts and reasons/so light me up, go ahead and light me up”*
*this wasn’t a reference to the Thirteen on purpose, but now it is. Yikes.
Lessie Shilling, Spark of the Divine (Louise Holland)
Album: Taylor Swift (debut)
Song: Picture to Burn
It would be ridiculous if I didn’t include at least one of my own characters, right? There was a great deal of Taylor’s influence in my writing—hiding lyrics within the pages of the Kalaraak Chronicles is a highlight of the writing process for me—but you’d be surprised to hear that Lessie, despite being as close to a self-insert character as you can get (I played her in the D&D campaign Spark is inspired by), would not be a Swiftie by choice. The gun-toting, guttermouthed ranger would be subjected to her little sister’s music tastes; her love for Trixie forcing her to grit her teeth and bear the self-titled Debut album blasting day and night. Lessie would have a soft spot for Picture to Burn, though, since setting things on fire for revenge is just the type of thing she’d relate to, and the rest of Spark’s crew would pretend not to notice her humming while running recon for the next bounty mission. Trixie, however, would be an extremely loud and unapologetic Swiftie, and the mingling sounds of Our Song and explosions as she worked on her latest Arcane invention would be a common occurrence in the Shilling household.
Lyric: “And if you’re missing me/you’d better keep it to yourself/‘cause coming back around here/would be bad for your health”
Check out Esmay Rosalyne’s review of Spark of the Divine
Jesper Fahey, Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)
Song: Cruel Summer
I know I’m taking a low blow by using a song with gambling references to describe Jesper, but if the shoe fits, walk in it. Lover is the opposite of Reputation—a pastel, happy-go-lucky album that, when you look past the glitter gel pen, reveals a ball of anxious abandonment issues and the fear of screwing up the best thing you’ve found. Jesper hides behind a mask of bravado and devil-may-care, flirting with anything that moves and not taking a single thing seriously, but we all know he’s terrified of his own failings. The fear of rejection, of not being good enough, keeps him from going for it and just telling Wylan how he feels, goddammit.
Lyric: “and I scream for whatever it’s worth/I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?/he looks up grinning like a devil”
Honourable mention: Kaz, while not being a Swiftie per se, would play The Archer on repeat at 3am and stare out a window but ignore anyone who asked him what was wrong.
For more Leigh Bardugo, check out PL Stuart’s review of Ninth House
Yvaine, Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
Album: Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
This album fits Yvaine so well I couldn’t even narrow it down to a single song; so many tracks effortlessly capture that wide-eyed naivety that comes with being young and in love (though too stubborn to admit it). I will preface this by saying although I have read Stardust a bunch of times, it’s the ONLY time I’ll say the movie is better. Therefore, I am basing this on Claire Danes’s portrayal. From the jealousy of Tristan’s infatuation with Victoria (You Belong With Me), their journey with the lightning pirates and finding their true selves (Fearless, Jump Then Fall) dancing on the ship in possibly my favourite scene in a movie EVER (Today Was A Fairytale) and ending on the most satisfying, tropey HEA ever (Love Story), both Fearless and Yvaine have that passionate, warm quality that can’t help but do what stars do best—shine.
Lyric: “can you feel this magic in the air?/must’ve been the way you kissed me/fell in love when I saw you standing there” (Today Was A Fairytale)
For more Neil Gaiman, check out John Mauro’s review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Olenna Tyrell, A Song of Ice and Fire (George RR Martin)
Album: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)
Anyone who’s spoken to a Swiftie for more than three minutes knows that Taylor likes to hide things, hint at things, add multiple layers to her music. You can enjoy it at a surface level just fine, but it’s extra juicy if you know the lore, so indulge me. Speak Now, Taylor’s third album, was entirely self-written with zero collaborations, in an attempt to silence the growing whispers questioning her success. It was also the record that came out after that incident at the VMAs. The song Innocent, at surface level, appears to be about forgiving those who’ve hurt you, stating “every one of us has messed up too”. People applauded the then 20-year-old Taylor for her maturity at handling an unpleasant situation with grace. But if you squint at a few of the lines, they take on new meaning, and can be construed as a diss/throwing shade. Imagine a teenager patting you on the back and saying “it’s okay, life is a tough crowd/thirty-two and still growing up now”? After you humiliated them? You’d probably feel a little patronised. K*nye certainly did, and continued his shady treatment of Tay for another decade.
Anyway, Olenna Tyrell, the matriarch of the House of Highgarden, would be a Speak Now stan not only for the entirely self-written aspect (girl power) but also for the reminderthat even the most delicate rose has thorns. She would recognise the snark behind the kindness, and she would respect it.
For more about Game of Thrones, check out John Mauro’s Ranking A Song of Ice and Fire
Tandri, Legends & Lattes (Travis Baldree)
Album: Red (Taylor’s Version)
Song: Begin Again
Reading Legends & Lattes feels just like holding a warm cup of coffee in a cosy café (which is kind of the point). Viv, the orc who leaves behind a life of slaying and looting to open a coffee shop, may have a bard to play there occasionally, but on his off days Taylor’s fourth album would be the main rotation. And it would be Tandri, the succubus barista/subtle love interest, who would be programming the fantasy jukebox. Red is full of bops that celebrate not having it all figured out, interspersed with songs that mourn what could have been and what was lost, and of course the infamous All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) [yes, that is its official name, and the storytelling worth listening to
every second of it]. But Begin Again—a song about meeting someone who might just be the home you’ve longed for after going through the ringer—would be the one Tandri queued up repeatedly. Not sure if Viv would get the hint, though.
Lyric: “I’ve been spending the last eight months/thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/but on a Wednesday, in a café/I watched it begin again”
For more Legends & Lattes check out C.T. Phipps’s Review
Mildred Percy, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons (Quenby Olson)
Album: 1989 (Taylor’s Version)
Song: You Are In Love
Now, this may seem like the most out-of-place pairing if one has any familiarity with either work. Miss Percy, the Regency-era/historical fantasy set in the charming English countryside, paired with 1989, the synth-pop, bright-lights-of-New York masterpiece that catapulted Taylor into the start of true superstardom? Yes, because of four words – You Are In Love. One of three bonus tracks on 1989 (why are the bonus tracks always the best songs?) YAIL differs from the rest of 1989 in much the same way that Miss Percy differs from the other fantasy books on this list. There is a tangible, indescribable feeling about them. They both convey their worlds so poetically, so thoroughly, so whimsically, that you can’t help but feel yourself falling in love, too. Romantic love isn’t the central theme of MPPGttCaFoBD (wow, not typing that again) or 1989, but more a love letter to finding your truest self, and it was a delight to experience Miss Percy do just that. As for Mildred being a Taylor listener… I get the feeling that most of the synth sounds of 1989 might send her into quite the tizzy. But if she had ever heard YAIL, she would think of glancing at Mr Wiggan from across a plate of sandwiches as they studied her Great Uncle’s notebooks. Not all loves must conquer insurmountable odds or battle hordes of demons or push through blood and betrayal. Sometimes, love can be quiet, and comforting, and certain. That’s even harder to find.
Lyric: “you can hear it in the silence/you can feel it on the way home/you can see it with the lights out.”
Check out our SPFBO8 Review of Miss Percy
And there you have it, folks!
As much as this list started out as a joke, I ended up putting a lot of thought into it and stand by every decision. A part of me was worried to go too hard for fear of being made fun of—for taking it too seriously or being too intense about my love for Taylor. Since discovering her on MySpace in 2006 (outing my age a bit here), I’ve endured years of ridicule and bullying for being a Swiftie, and almost as much for daring to like ‘nerdy’ things like reading fantasy books or playing Dungeons and Dragons. It seems alien to me now in a world much more accepting of people’s various hobbies, but there was once a time where I felt compelled to hide what I loved. I make up for it now by shouting about it from the rooftops, though, because as Taylor herself once said, “just because something’s cliché, doesn’t mean it’s not awesome.”
So, I told that voice in my head to shut up and gave myself permission to be passionate. I will be a Swiftie and a fantasy fan and everything else that makes me me, and I will be
proud. And the people in this wonderful, inclusive, welcoming community of SFF & indie lovers will appreciate it.
Everyone else’s opinions… I’ll just shake off.
Post-Script: a note on (Taylor’s Version)
In 2019, Taylor’s old record label sold the masters of her first 6 albums to a man who hates her instead of to her. In response to this, she started re-recording them. She is only able to do so because she owns the songwriting/composition rights, since she wrote all of them. This is why (Taylor’s Version) is tacked on a bunch of the albums. At the time of writing this post, only ‘Reputation’ and ‘Taylor Swift’ (debut) are yet to be owned by Taylor herself. We only listen to Taylor’s Version, because not only should artists own the rights to their own work; but it’s also a big old middle finger to the jerk that bought them. Which is metal as hell.