Truly, I am running out of topics to discuss. There is no great depth to this post, I’m just gonna wing it. I’ve read a lot of books, some of them must’ve had animals, surely I can think of something to say about that. Keep reading to find out!
(When I searched “cat” on the free photo sites to find one for the post graphic above, I saw this cat and immediately thought, “This cat looks like it knows things.” So that made it perfect for this post.)
I’ll link book titles to my reviews!
These are not strictly a fantasy thing, obviously, but who doesn’t love an adorable pet cat or dog or rat or parrot or what have you in a book?
I was trying to think of the most unusual normal animal I’ve seen as a pet in a book, and I remembered the cockatoo (cockatiel?) in The ABCs of Spellcraft series by Jordan Castillo Price. Her name is Meringue, and she’s adorable.
Familiars, talking animals, telepathic animals, animals with high levels of intelligence. Those can be cool.
The only one I can think of right now is in the Inheritance series (Jack of Thorns) by A.K. Faulkner. One of the characters gets a raven familiar who is… marginally intelligent (he’s a baby, he’s learning lol), and if I recall correctly, they are telepathically linked.
Dragons! Gryphons! Unicorns! Someone help, I can’t think of any more right now. I feel like mythical animals are normally portrayed as sort of regal and majestic, which is great, but it can also be a lot of fun when they’re not those things.
Surprisingly, I don’t read about a lot of these. But one that did come to mind is The Dragon Series (Dragon’s Path) by JB McDonald. It has a dragon bonded to one of the characters, and she was like a child-sized, particularly bad-tempered and disgruntled cat that could also fly, and her antics were hilarious. The Steel and Stone series (Chase the Dark) by Annette Marie also has a character with a dragon companion, this one smaller and more sneaky. And then there’s, well, the many mythical creatures in Tales from Verania (The Lightning-Struck Heart) by TJ Klune, most of whom are completely ridiculous and not at all what you’d expect them to be. Like Gary, the unicorn, and Kevin, the dragon. (They could’ve been in the section above too, since they also talk, but I’ve decided they fit better here.)
Beings that speak and walk upright and have a society or are part of ours, but they look a lot like an animal.
This isn’t something I seek out, so I haven’t read it much, but I have read a couple. The Blacksmith’s Apprentice by Bey Deckard is about furry cat-like (I think) beings. And Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn, well, idk that the titular pterodactyl can really be considered humanoid, he’s literally just a pterodactyl that speaks and goes to high school with the humans (it’s a very strange book), but “magical animal” didn’t feel quite right either, so where else am I supposed to categorize that??
There is one portrayal of shifters that still have a human brain, just in an animal body, which is cool, especially if they turn into an uncommon animal. But there are some books that mix in some of the animal brain, which I really like.
Like the Pillars of Magic: Dominion series (Inheritance) by Lissa Kasey, in which the main character sort of forgets his humanness when he shifts into a lynx. And Spell Bound by FT Lukens, in which a character briefly turns into a cat (technically not a shifter, just a spell) and starts acting a bit like a cat.
Riding on Unusual Animals
This is really specific, but I love when, in the world of the book, characters ride on the backs of animals people in our world normally do not. It’s just a really neat visual and so neat to imagine. Horses are cool, but imagine if you could instead ride on the back of a lion or something.
In American Hippo by Sarah Gailey, they ride hippos instead of horses. (It’s not fantasy, more like alternate history, but close enough.) And in The Lot Lands series (The Grey Bastards) by Jonathan French, they ride hogs.
It can be very fun when an animal is the POV character in a book because it’s such a different way of viewing things.
The only book I can think of that I’ve read is The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker, which has a very foul-mouthed dog POV. (Oh, wait, I’ve also read The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, but I don’t remember it.) But I know Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton has a crow POV, and Open Throat by Henry Hoke has a mountain lion POV. (I now realize some of these are post-apoc, which is sci-fi, but again, close enough.)