Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #6: The Fifth Five Fall + Our Picks for Semi-Finalists

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #6

Fifth Five Fall + Picks for Semi-Finalists

Bards and Scribes: The Druid – Guest Blog from Jesse Teller

Bards and Scribes: The Druid

Guest Blog from Jesse Teller

The Worth of Hair by A. A. Freeman

The Worth of Hair

New Release Review


Books we love: The books that stole our hearts and got us reading

It was Valentines last week so I, as I often do, sent out a holiday themed tweet:

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What I didn’t expect when I sent that Tweet out was such a huge variety of replies and such a wonderful array of reasoning for why each person had chosen the specific books they were throwing at me. Because I truly enjoyed the nostalgia-trip, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of books that the Fantasy-Faction community ‘truly love’.

My hope is that we can reconnect you with past loves or light a brand new flame for a book you may not have even laid eyes on until today. Do leave a comment with any we’ve missed or with reasons you agree with our choices:

We love our Grandpa (Tolkien, of course!)

The Hobbit (cover)As I’m sure you will appreciate and expect, a love of the work by Grandpa Tolkien was mentioned by a whole host of followers. Typically this was because The Hobbit or The Lord of The Rings were the first fantasy book that our readers came across and the one that sent them searching for more. For me though, the reason Tolkien’s work is so easy to fall in love with is because it is so, so immersive. As a result it’s very difficult not to truly care about the characters. They, their world and their story feels so vivid and so incredibly real to us.

That said, it wasn’t just The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit that got the love and attention of our users… James Geoghegan, for example said his one true love is The Silmarillion because of the themes of the book: ‘perfection spoilt and the underlying sorrow from that loss is simply perfect’.

We have fond memories of SilverFoxes

Although not quite as old as Tolkien’s work, there were a number of fantasy works that I’d refer to as being of previous generations (note: this doesn’t mean the authors of which aren’t still writing today).

Magician (cover)Similar to Tolkien who we just visited, Raymond E Feist’s Magician seems to be one of the first fantasy books that many of our readers stumbled upon. Indeed, it holds a special place in British readers hearts, it was one of the few fantasy books named on the ‘Nations Favourite Reads’ a few years back. Feist popped up many, many times with Magician, but Faerie Tale also got a few shoutouts.

The Dragonbone Chair (cover)Although readers seem to agree that The Dragon Bone Chair by Tad Williams was a slow burner, many say that the amount of time they got to spend in the company of the characters meant that, like Tolkien’s cast, they truly came to fall for them and their tale, and, as a result, the ending was so powerful that this is a novel they will never forget.

dl-charactersIt was good to see that Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman got so much love on Valentine’s day. Although the books do feel dated now, in 2015, readers maintain a fondness and appreciation for them. Many said that although it was the likes of Tolkien who drew them into Fantasy – it was the variety and huge output of Weis and Hickman that kept them here for the long-haul.

The Eye of the World (cover)Although there is a feeling it is too bloated at points, The Wheel of Time series was mentioned a huge number of times. Most of the focus was on Robert Jordan’s first in the series, The Eye of The World. Like so many of the titles above, this was mentioned extensively as ‘the’ book that kindled a love of fantasy within the heart of our readers. Robert Jordan’s series is perhaps the most epic fantasy series that has ever been written and for those who trekked the entire journey it is one that had so many incredible sights and experiences along the way that they’ll never regret embarking upon it.

Dragonflight (cover)Two women writers who often get confused were mentioned time and time again on our lists – Ursula K. Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey. One user even wrote to us over Twitter: ‘I cried the day I was told Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away’ (we, of course, told them – quickly!!!). Anne McCaffrey’s most popular novel on our list was her first in the Pern series: Dragonflight. If you haven’t read it then you really should. It’s an easy book to fall in love with: epic, dragons, fantasy/sci-fi hybrid, dragons, emotional, strong women, dragons. DRAGONS! A Wizard of Earthsea (cover)And as for Ursula, I mean can you really expect anyone to choose a single book? Pretty much everything she has ever written has been ‘special’, right? Well, actually, there was one standout: The Wizard of Earthsea and specifically, The Tombs of Atuan. I’d go as far to say that The Wizard of Earthsea is one of the most beloved fantasy series ever written – those who have taken the time to read it will ask themselves: ‘Harry Potter – who?’.

Roger-Zelazny_1967_Lord-Of-LightRoger Zelazny is often listed as the favourite and most influential author of George R.R. Martin and the Fantasy-Faction community all seemed to agree with George’s assessment that: ‘he was a storyteller without peer. He created worlds as colorful and exotic and memorable as any our genre has ever seen.’ Savvy readers will note that a number of George R.R. Martin’s characters are even named after Zelany’s book titles or characters too. In terms of Zelazny’s most popular work, we look towards Lord of Light (there’s one), which was an early example of a Fantasy / Sci-Fi hybrid. It’s a truly epic work that covers huge spans of time and you can see why Martin points towards it as an inspiration for him. Even more epic is the Chronicles of Amber series – the first book being Nine Princes in Amber. It spans 10 books, parallel worlds, altering realities and much more besides. Creatures of Light and Darkness and A Night in the Lonesome October were popular picks too.

DragonPrinceMelanie Rawn was nominated for a Locus Award for her novel Dragon Prince when I was 2 years old. I am 28 this year and Melanie is still writing novels: her forth book in the ‘Glass Thorns’ series, Window Wall, is due out this April. It was the aforementioned Dragon Prince that most of our readers nominated and spoke about so fondly of though (written 26 years ago now). Similar in many ways to the work of Anne McCaffrey, this is epic fantasy enhanced with strong elements of romance. Melanie Rawn has an ability to carefully construct a story page by page until you feel as though you are living and breathing in her world. By the end of the novel you will be surprised at how the plot became so complex and the relationships so deep without you noticing.

Elfstones_CoverI must admit that I couldn’t get into The Sword of Shannara… I actually really didn’t like it. To me it seemed as if Brooks had attempted to re-write The Lord of the Rings as a writing exercise and upon finishing it sent it out to a publisher who saw the $/£ signs and decided to put it out into the wild. However, last year I was sent Brooks’s latest novel, The High Druid’s Blade, and I REALLY enjoyed it. The prose was light, the plot was a lot of fun and the characters were fairly complex for a novel that was semi-marketed for a young adult audience. Forget my opinions though, you guys are the ones who made this list possible and you tell me that the second of Brooks’s books (that I am yet to read), The Elfstones of Shannara, is one of your favorite books of all time and, indeed, it is the book the upcoming MTV series has chosen to focus on. So, I should probably pick it up shouldn’t I?

MistsofAvalonMists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is similar to A Game of Thrones in the sense that it is as popular now with non-fantasy fans as it is with us genre fans. The novels focus in on the popular Arthurian Legend, but instead of following the masculine King Arthur or Lancelot, it follows the women characters and their shaping of Britain; Morgaine (half-sister to King Arthur and priestess of Avalon), Ingraine (Arthur’s mother), Viviane (the High Priestess of Avalon) and Gwenhwyfar (Arthur’s queen). Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote many other novels and many of them in various SFF sub-genres, Darkover got a number of shouts for example, but Avalon remains the most read and recommended – and rightly so.

hed1One series that has never gotten enough attention is The Riddlemaster Trilogy by Patricia Mckillip. Like Tolkien’s work this is epic fantasy at its best – the world is a truly immersive one and the prose are as magical as the plot. Perhaps where the novel differs to Tolkien’s is that everything is more complex: you will find it hard to decide whether you love or hate the characters at times, whether you agree or disagree with their choices and the story will keep you guessing until the very end – it is a novel that takes you on a rich and unforgettable journey that is more grey than black and white.

Elric of Melniboné (cover)Then there was the bad-boy, the ‘anti-Tolkien’, Michael Moorcock. Moorcock was a hippy, an anarchist, who made his name writing against the grain. The result was something very, very special that sent fantasy reeling in a completely new direction. Although the fact majority of our users directed their love towards fantasy’s most renowned albino, Elric of Melniboné, other titles such as the Warlord of the AirQueen of Swords, Hawkmoon, Dancers at the End of Time and The Golden Barge got multiple mentions.

The Power of Emotion

Tigana (cover)No author was mentioned as much as Guy Gavriel Kay. Multiple readers commented that they cried whilst reading a number of his books. The most popular and the most heart-breaking seems to be Tigana, but The Fionavar Tapestry, The Lions of Al-Rassan, A Song for Arbonne, The Summer Tree and Under Heaven were all up there. For books to truly touch and affect you in a way that hits your emotions hard – the author has to have a very, very special talent for immersing you incredibly deeply into their world and connecting you with their characters. There is no doubt that Kay is one of the best at this. Because of the emotions Kay has forced upon individual readers it is little surprise so many mentioned his work as unforgettable and a true love of theirs.

Assassin’s Apprentice (cover)Most readers have enjoyed viewing the world from behind the eyes of Robin Hobb’s Fitz. Sometimes, I find myself unsure what it is about Hobb’s work that keeps me coming back to it – the stories within are so, so heartbreaking, right? – but perhaps it is the fact we, as readers, need to know that life gets better for her remarkable characters. In Assassin’s Apprentice Fitz is the very best kind of person in a dark world where horrors and pain seem to find him easily. No one seems capable of forming the kind of bonds and harnessing the kind of hope that he does. As much as we love Fitz and want everything to work out for him though, I feel Hobb’s writing is something very, very special too. It is just too remarkable and too brilliant not to read and admire. Perhaps it is the contrast of the two – similar to Mark Lawrence’s destruction told with beauty sttle – that enriches the book so much. Whether or not that’s it, how many times do we sit down to read ‘a couple pages’ of a Robin Hobb book and look up to find hours have passed and we’ve torn through 300 pages? Yep. Lots!

swordspointEllen Kushner started her career out writing those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ gamebooks. Remember those? Her novel, Swordspoint, though remains her most popular written work. For those yet to discover it, it’s considered ‘manner punk’, which is a fantasy genre that draws more upon the influences of Jane Austin or Dumas’s The Three Musketeers more than it does Tolkien. Gormenghast would probably be one of the earliest examples of this genre, so if you’ve read that you will have an idea (although this title certainly less ‘weird’ than Peake’s). One reader told us: ‘I loved this book so much I wish I could marry it and have its babies.’ That’s commitment right there. The emotion and tension are very, very high throughout Ellen’s work – the events of the books stay with readers after forcing their pulses to race so often through both danger and romance. The Fall of the Kings, the sequel where ‘sharp swords and even sharper wits rule’, is said to be very, very good too.

We love a sense of humour, us!

lords-and-ladies-2Who doesn’t look for a good sense of humour in the one they love, right? Well, knowing this it shouldn’t surprise you that Terry Pratchett was named extensively. Our good friend and one of our favourite authors Jen Williams named Lords & Ladies as her favourite, but none of our community seemed to be able to decide. So, ‘all’ and ‘any’ were popular words, but we were able to tease out Night Watch, Going Postal, Soul Music, Carpe JugulumThe Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and Mort as specific titles. One user gave Pratchett what has to be the ultimate compliment: ‘if i am sad I open it at almost any page & it makes me laugh’ 🙂 Oh, and there were a good few mentions for a collaboration with another author who, as you might expect, will be appearing on this list later – Neil Gaiman – with Good Omens.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (cover)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is one of the books we – and likely you guys too – suggest to friends who we are trying to convince that fantasy isn’t just about knights, orcs and elves. Scott Lynch offers readers a laugh a page and also a plot with as many twists and turns, ups and downs as a great thriller. Although the Gentleman Bastard series is taking its time getting released (currently on book 3 of 7), each book so far has been episodic in nature so, unlike A Song Of Ice & Fire, for example, they are not hard to break away from and return to. In fact, returning is the easy part – it’s the waiting that’s killing us!

We also love the grey and gritty

Waylander (cover)We miss David Gemmell, but the incredible books he left behind means he will never be forgotten. Not only did his books path the way for many of today’s top authors (many of whom will feature further down this list), but his own work remains completely relevant and consumed by multiple generations. Honestly, I was expecting Legend to be named as Gemmell’s most loved book – the metaphor of a battle against cancer is a powerful one – but most of our community pointed towards Waylander as the book they ‘truly loved’ instead. It could well be because of the more directly emotional scenes, or just simply because Waylander is so damned cool. Other books that got a mention were Ghost King, Winter Warriors, Knights of Dark Renown, Dark Moon and Lion of Macedon.

A Game of Thrones (cover)The inclusion of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin won’t surprise anyone. For many people this book is looked upon fondly by them as ‘adults’. Before A Game of Thrones fantasy had always had a reputation as being ‘for geeks’ or, worse, for ‘kids’. A Game of Thrones exposed the world to what modern fantasy can really offer – grown up storylines, insights to history, a low-magic style that doesn’t take you miles away from reality, etc. But ignoring that, A Game of Thrones changed fantasy for those of us already reading in the genre too. It was one of the first commercially successful novels that was truly epic and truly brutal – it pushed a number of boundaries at a time fantasy was regularly called ‘stale’. Indeed, much of today’s fantasy (which I, for one, love) was only written because A Game of Thrones inspired modern authors. And, far more fantasy is published today (due to increased demand) as result of these books (and the resulting TV series) too. All that said, it is telling and quite sad that no book beyond the third in the series was mentioned by our followers…

The Black Company (cover)The Black Company novels by Glen Cook were mentioned as eye-openers for many. It seems a running theme in this feature is that people hold a special love for the books or series they came across that told them ‘fantasy can also be like this’ – i.e. not simply Tolkien-esque or Arthurian-inspired. Many people who have enjoyed Glen Cook’s books will tell you that he is the true father of ‘gritty’ fantasy, but don’t tell that to our next pick…

The Blade Itself (cover)Yes, there was a lot of love for Joe Abercrombie this Valentines Day. And not just because he’s a handsome, loveable rogue, he’s also pretty good at that writing thing too. What may surprise you about Abercrombie’s work is how many people say that Joe’s books brought them back to fantasy after years away from the fold. His adult themes, stories that reflect real-life issues and characters that are twisted more extensively than 90% of what’s out there further forced the new direction the genre was moving in. Joe’s books have allowed readers to revisit genres such as the Western, the Military novel and the Epic Fantasy in a recognisable, but equally unrecognisable manner. For me, the power of Joe Abercrombie is his ability to have us experience humour, disgust and wonder all within a single page. Most readers maintained a fondness for his first book, The Blade Itself, but The Heroes was very popular and Before They Are Hanged got its fair share of mentions too. My favourite is A Red Country, just to confuse things further.

And just pure dark too

The Gunslinger (cover)Although not Fantasy it seems that horror started the love of the ‘not real’ for many people. I guess that a few decades ago, horror was much bigger than it is now – Hellraiser, Friday 13th, Halloween, Critters, etc were all the rage in the movie world. Popular authors mentioned to help our followers make the transition to fantasy were Clive Barker with Abarat and Stephen King with The Dark Tower novels, which I guess are a fantasy-western-horror hybrid. The Drawing of the Three was the most mentioned Dark Tower novel, incase you are interested!

New Generation Genre Giants

The Name of the Wind (cover)Few authors have the kind of following that Patrick Rothfuss does. Fantasy’s answer to Joss Wheadon came from nowhere and took the genre by storm. His protagonist Kvothe allures fantasy readers as much as he does the characters within his novel. Rothfuss’s recipe for success is that he gave us the ending in the very early stages of the first book, The Name of The Wind. The ending seems a tragic one and for us to find out how things got so bad we need to accompany Kvothe across three novels (one we are still waiting for). The thing is, the journey is told through prose so beautiful and the story is so full of wonder and ups and downs, that we’d follow him across ten novels if the author took that long. I think the reason this book is so special to so many people is because, like Hobb’s work, we truly feel as if we know Kvothe as a close friend. Even, at times, as though we are bonded to him.

American Gods (cover)Neil Gaiman is a fantasy rockstar and anything Neil Gaiman touches turns to gold. Is there an author whose works are each so varied and yet each so brilliant? Whether Neil writes for adults or children, for television or comics or novels – it is always going to be incredible. The books that got the most mentions in our ‘books we truly love’ replies were the ones where Neil takes real-life and touches it with his magic or twists it in a way that makes life fantastical, but reveals more truth than he could even with non-fiction. American Gods was the one that readers pointed to as their favourite – an incredible tale about how the Gods of old could (or could not) fit into the modern world. His latest novel though, The Ocean At The End of The Lane, is one that can be read by adults, by children and by adults to children and for that reason seemed to have found a special place in many hearts already. Neverwhere remains a strong favourite amongst many Londoners too.

Way of the KingsBrandon Sanderson was another modern master who unsurprisingly got a lot of mentions. Something I, personally, have come to love about Brandon’s work is that it is what I consider a successor to the ‘true’ fantasy of old… the kind that is a descendant of Tolkien’s. At a time where a lot of novels are quite grim and full of realism/history, Brandon’s works are always fantastical, on worlds that can’t possibly be our own and are loaded with mind-bending concepts. Another plus with Sanderson is that although his concepts can be pretty complex, his almost YA style of writing sees him explain everything in a way that you can’t help but fully understand them. By the end of Mistborn, for example, you understand the benefits and weaknesses of huge amounts of different powers that the characters harness and when the big battles happen you begin weighing up the characters’ abilities in the same way you would playing Final Fantasy. It wasn’t Sanderson’s Mistborn that got the most love, however – it was The Way of Kings, which is the first title in Sanderson’s ‘big epic’; his Wheel of Time. So far the series shows a lot promise: we have quickly come to care about its characters and although far from being fully realised yet, Sanderson has foreshadowed some HUGE plot threads that could see The Stormlight Archives get as epic and grand as any fantasy. EVER.

Gardens of the Moon (cover)One author I knew was popular, but never expected a HUGE response for was Steven Erikson. The author’s Malazan books were mentioned over and over and over again. Whereas many invested in A Wheel of Time and found the series lolled frustratingly, readers appreciated the more consistent pacing of Erikson’s epic that hit almost the same scale. Even more impressive was that few could agree on a single book being their favourite in the series. The one that got the most mentions was Deadhouse Gates with a special mention for how heartbreaking it was, but Reaper’s Gale  and Memories of Ice had their fair share of votes too.

TheDemonAwakensI hesitate to put R.A. Salvatore in here, because he seems to have been writing books forever! However, his books aren’t just being picked up by those who have been reading fantasy for decades, but also by those who are only just stumbling across our beloved genre too. R.A. Salvatore’s work contains our favourite elements from traditional fantasy: epic plot lines, dastardly villains, multiple species and so on, but also much of today’s modern elements too: the grey protagonists, the comic book style prose. One of my favourites, and one I’m glad to see got so many mentions was The Demon Wars. I’d advise you head over to Amazon and check out the first chapter of the first book in the series, The Demon Awakens… that’s a lesson in creating intrigue right there! Streams of Silver (the second of the Icewind Dale books) is the ‘single’ book most people point towards as a favourite.

The Warded Man by Peter Brett (cover)The Painted Man / The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett got huge numbers of mentions, as did Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy. These two authors seem to be reaching a new kind of audience: those who enjoy playing video games and reading comic books, but don’t usually read… so many people who I’ve met that have read these two books start their conversation with me along the lines of: ‘I don’t usually read, but…’. The Painted Man indeed reads like a 10 hour play through of Dark Souls or Skyrim, etc. The Way of Shadows (cover)Brent Weeks’s novels read like a 10 hour play-through of Assassin’s Creed. These two authors are what I think of as the leaders in ‘modern fantasy’. Modern Fantasy in my eyes is written by people who have grown up playing video games, reading comics and generally submerged in geek culture – they know what’s cool and that not everyone has time for overly vivid description.

Storm Front (cover)And, because fantasy isn’t all about being EPIC, it’s no surprise that Jim Butcher got mention after mention. Back in the 1930’s (ish) P.I. novels were all the rage. Everyone wanted to be a P.I. (because it was the next best thing to being James Bond – and slightly more plausible). Jim Butcher’s novels take this idea (everyone wants to be a spy) and add to it (everyone wants to be a spy; and magical powers would be cool too). Told in the first person, in a very familiar style to that of the P.I. novel masters – Raymond Chandler especially – The Dresden Files have become increasingly read by fantasy and non-fantasy fans alike. The Dresden Files put you inside the mind of Harry Dresden and batter you with action, plot twists, and most of all: unforgettable characters and unforgettable storylines. The book most often mentioned was Dead Beat (with a special mention to Sue the Zombie T-Rex) and Changes got a fair few too. Oh, and although we said fantasy isn’t all about the epic – Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, which is Epic Fantasy, got a handful of mentions.

Kids never forget

Many of the books mentioned were books that our users read when they were younger. This isn’t surprising really – for most children reading is a chore. Schools force textbooks upon us and told us off if we didn’t get through them or answer the questions to the level the Government were currently pushing teachers to ensure we achieved. So, when we first came across a book that we wanted to spend time with, a book that we didn’t want to put down in favour of watching television, playing games or even – heaven forbid – going outside: it was a startling treat.

TheOwlServiceAlan Garner is an author who uses mythology (typically Welsh) to write the most amazing, intriguing, immersive tales. The Owl Service is probably the book that brought him most recognition. It is a haunting book that draws upon legend and has all the elements of a good YA book – that ensures a younger reader’s attention. However, when Adults return to re-read it they commonly report that they didn’t truly understand or appreciate it until they did so. The book has many, many layers and as such has picked up praise by the mainstream – The Guardian, The Observer, The Times all speaking very highly. Other books by Alan Garner that got mentioned were The Stone Book QuartetWeirdstone of Brisingamen and Elidor.

bartemousWhen I was at school everything was advertised as ‘the new Harry Potter’. One series I picked up from a table in a bookstore running such a promotion was the first in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. The trilogy has beauty and humour and, in my opinion, is a YA unlike any other. The young protagonist summons a demon far beyond his ability to control and this demon is rather unhappy about it. That said, this demon is interested in the young man who has summoned him and an incredible dynamic is born from the rules that govern their magically bound relationship. It’s a series with action, but the reason I and many of my followers enjoy it is because below the surface it has a huge heart. Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. has been a bit of a slow burner, but it still got multiple mentions with the mutual feeling that things are about to go down big time.

51ZBM1CG0DLThe Belgariad series from David Eddings certainly feels old in 2015 (having recently visited it), but if you hadn’t read a coming of age tale beyond Tolkien then it’s an easy one to fall in love with. Indeed, many readers say their ‘memories’ of enjoying that series are what give it a firm place in their heart – discovering and caring about a young character and watching him grow for the first time. The series David wrote with his wife, Leigh, The Redemption of Althalus, got noted as having been read ‘time and time’ again too.

TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (part of The Chronicles of Narnia series) rightly got lots of mentions. Many people think of this series as a long fairy tale, but in actuality it is one of the first great Epic Fantasy series written for younger readers. It has come under a bit of heat over in modern times for its various religious themes (some people felt much of the books was meant to scare children into following God), but if you ignore that discussion and focus purely on the books: it is a truly magical tale and one that features some of the most tearjerking and heart-thumping moments in Literature. The Last Battle was also called out as being the best book in the series – one often overlooked for the catchier title of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe.

The Amber Spyglass (cover)Talking of references to religion causing a stir, His Dark Materials / Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman was said to have been responsible for making many of my Twitter followers cry: “it breaks my heart whenever I read it!” said one use and “I cried and cried” said another. All of the books got a mention, but the most love was shown to The Amber Spyglass.

Songlioness_omnibus_bindupTamora Pierce picked up an incredible number of votes. Also, she was the author you guys really struggled to pick a favourite work of. You also didn’t pick novels (as were the rules) – instead you cheated by picking series: The Protector of the Small Quartet and Song of the Lioness Quartet. Both were mentioned around about the same number of times. I guess it doesn’t matter too much though, because the books are both part of one large timeline (The Protector of the Small featuring girl who follows in Alanna’s footsteps from The Song of the Lioness).

The Dark Is Rising (cover)It’s a real shame ‘The Seeker’ (USA) / ‘The Dark is Rising’ (UK) movie was so bad, because The Dark is Rising books by Susan Cooper are remembered as favourites by so, so many. Had the movies contained even a fraction of the books’ magic they could have inspired a whole new generation to pick up Susan Cooper’s masterful work. Not unlike Harry Potter in terms of plot, the series follows Will Stanton (aged 11) who discovers on his birthday that he is destined to weird the power of light against the rising dark.

Charmed Life (cover)Diana Wynne Jones passed away fairly recently. She left behind some of the most memorable, magical novels you could ever hope to read. In addition to inspiring adult readers of today as children, her books are timeless in a way that ensures they will continue to touch readers for generations to come. Howl’s Moving Castle and Chronicles of Chrestomanci (Charmed Life gaining the most mentionswere just two of a long-list that was mentioned. Although we’ve put Diana’s books in the ‘young adults’ section, her books can be – and thankfully, are – enjoyed by all ages.

Ender's Game (cover)OK, so the guy’s a complete ****, but you can’t do a ‘books we love’ list without including Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (the ****). Before we knew OSC was a **** we loved this book and even after knowing that OSC is a **** it’s hard to forget how much we loved it when we first tore through the pages. I couldn’t get into any of the sequels and I’ve heard that the further you get the more OSC’s opinions on certain groups filter into the novels, but the first time you read Ender’s Game you can’t help put be pulled into the world and dazzled. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people who picked up Ender’s Game as their ‘first’ foray into SFF tended to stick with the more Science-Fiction type novels.

harry-potter-sorcerers-stone-new-uk-childrensHarry Potter, of course. We spoke earlier about how A Game of Thrones changed fantasy – but there’s no denying that Harry Potter did even more for the genre. Harry Potter showed people that fantasy is something we can all relate to. In essence, there’s nothing about Harry Potter that we won’t find in other novels: a young boy with a destiny fighting against an evil foe. I think as great as the books were, what was truly magical about Harry Potter was that we, as a planet, came to love these books together. The shared love for Harry Potter added mass-excitement and reading became an almost communal thing for a while. You didn’t need a Harry Potter bookclub, because you could talk to any of your friends or colleagues about your theories and that is incredibly rare. I’m not sure that as long as I live it will happen again and so my memories of that time are pretty special.

And the rest…

Of course, love is such an individual thing. Some of us have a specific reason for the love we hold for a certain book and although others may not understand why we don’t think their ‘Brad Pitt’ or ‘Angelita Jolie’ is as hot as as our ‘Tom Cruise’ or ‘Cameron Diaz’ nothing will sway us. Here are books that weren’t mentioned as much as the ones we’ve given a special feature to above, but that each have a place in our community’s heart:

Valdemarian saga by Mercedes Lackey
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Crown of Stars
by Kate Elliot
The Diplomacy of Wolves
by Holly Lisle
The Deverry books
by Katherine Kerr
The Raven Ring
by Patricia C. Wrede
Myth Series
by Robert Asprin
by Garth Nix
Conan the Adventurer
by Robert E. Howard & L. Sprague de Camp
The True Game
by Sheri S Tepper
Deed of Pakssenarion
by Elizabeth Moon
by Charles De Lint
A Love Like Blood
by Marcus Sedgwick
by Jack Vance
The Island of the Mighty
by Evangeline Walton
The Raven series
by James Barclay
Spindle’s End
by Robin McKinley
Lord Foul’s Bane
by Stephen R. Donaldson
by K.V. Johansen
by Frank Herbert
by P.C. Hodgell
Enchanted Forest Chronicles
by Patricia C. Wrede
The Book Of Illusions
by Paul Auster
Night Unbound
by Dianne Duvall
The Last Unicorn
by Peter Beagle
by Christopher Paolini
The Eight
by Katherine Neville
Night Watch
by Sergei Lukyanenko
by Karen Volsky
The Nightrunner series
by Lynn Flewelling
The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly
The Acts of Caine
by Matt Stover
The Book of Lies
by James Moloney
The Reality Dysfunction
by Peter F. Hamilton
Into The Darkness
by Harry Turtledove
The Curse of Chalion
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Thousand Names series
by Django Wexler
The Tales of the Ketty Jay series
by Chris Wooding
by Dorothy Dunnett
Gormenghast trilogy
by Mervyn Peake
The Winter King
by Bernard Cornwell
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Snow White and Red Rose
by Patricia C. Wrede
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
by Laini Taylor
Altered Carbon
by Richard Morgan
The Gift Series
by Alison Croggon
Wolf of Winter
by Paula Volsky
The Giant Under the Snow by John Gordon
Go, Dog, Go 
by PD Eastman
by Isobelle Carmody
Fire Logic 
by Laurie J. Marks
The Troupe by Robert J Bennett
Dorian Grey’s Portrait
by Oscar Wilde
Paladin of Souls
by Lois McMaster Bujold
by Jim C. Hines
by G. Martin & L. Tuttle
The Walrus and the Warwolf 
by Hugh Cook
The Slow Regard of Silent Things
 by Patrick Rothfuss
The Hero and the Crown
by Robin McKinley
by Bram Stoker
The Sparrow 
by Mary Doria Russell
Geek Love 
by Katherine Dunn
The Shadow of the Wind 
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
The Eagle of the Ninth 
by Rosemary Sutcliff
Prince of Thorns 
by Mark Lawrence
Symphony of Ages 
by Elizabeth Haydon
by Gail Carriger
The Gone Away World
by Nick Harkaway
The Devil’s Armor 
by John Marco
Lud In The Mist 
by Hope Mirrlees
The Morgaine Cycle 
by C. J. Cherryh
Nijntje in het Ziekenhuis (Miffy in the Hospital)
by Dick Bruna
The Player of Games 
by Iain M. Banks
Cordelia’s Honor 
by Lois McMasters Bujold
The Doomsday Book 
by Connie Willis
Cordelia’s Honor 
by Lois McMasters Bujold
Chaos Walking trilogy 
by Patrick Ness
Artemis Fowl 
by Eoin Colfer
The Troy Game Quartet 
by Sara Douglass
by Lois McMaster Bujold
The End of Mr Y
by Scarlett Thomas
by Iain Banks
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
The Second Apocalypse
by R. Scott Bakker
The Night’s Dawn Trilogy 
by Peter F. Hamilton
The Sword In The Stone
by T. H. White
by Asimov.
Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
by Kelley Armstrong
Kushiel’s Dart
by Jacqueline Carey
Flat Earth series
by Tanith Lee
by M. A. R. Barker
Shattered World
by Michael Reaves
The Wood Beyond The World 
by William Morris
Dwellers in the Mirage
by A. Merritt
Witch World 
by Andre Norton
by John Steakley.
The Princess Bride 
by William Goldman
by Susan Kay
La Horde du Contrevent 
by A.Damasio (not yet translated)
Bridge of Birds 
by Barry Hughart

Finally, I’d just like to say thank you to all our Twitter followers and Forum Users who got involved with this feature. What was pretty awesome was that authors such as Guy Gavriel Kay, Terry Brooks, Peter V. Brett and many, many more were retweeting and thanking the many users involved. To interact with an author who has created a book you fell in love with is an experience I’ve had a number of times and one that I know means a great deal to each and everyone of us. Love to you all, guys 🙂

Title image by KachurrynCreations.



  1. Avatar Carole-Ann says:

    OMG this list is wonderful! It scares me witless that I’ve probably read at least 95% of all those named! Mind you, I’m old enough, and started reading Fantasy early (aka late 50’s/early 60s) 🙂

    Thank you for putting all this together {{hugs}}

  2. Avatar JC Crumpton says:

    Though I read The Hobbit to introduce me to the world of fantasy fiction, one author that kept me enthralled within the genre was Dave Duncan. I am disappointed not find his name at least mentioned in “The Rest.” That being said, both his Seventh Sword and Handful of Men series kept me firmly entrenched in the fantasy genre during the last decade of the twentieth century.

    Thank you for this list. There are mention of many books that I have added to my list of works I must read. I guess if I want to make certain that authors like Duncan receive their due, I should come out of the 20th myself and get signed up to Twitter and follow Fantasy Faction rather than just logging on to the website daily.

  3. Avatar Tao says:

    The first fantasy author I loved reading was Neil Gaiman, but he didn’t make me fall in I love with fantasy, just his stuff. Stardust is still a personal favorite because of how it made me feel as I was reading. But it wasn’t until Name of the Wind came along that I went, “I need to read more fantasy books”. Now I read more fantasy than anything else.

  4. Avatar carine says:

    I know it is impossible to mention them all – but we should not forget the great EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS! And I recently discovered some new authors (new for me) like Kate ELLIOTT, Martha WELLS and Stan NICHOLLS (Orc series!)

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      I really like Kate Elliott and Stan Nicholls – I read his entire trilogy whilst travelling in Thailand. That was a BIG book to carry around, it was around about 1000 pages :O

  5. Avatar Forvalaka says:

    Not entirely surprised but still disappointed that the Deryni, The Adept, and other books were not mentioned. Fafhrd (?sp) and the Grey Mouser are also among the missing. The world of The Magic Goes Away was also a favorite for years. I suppose there’s just too much for any one list go contain in the realms of fantasy…


  6. Avatar Danny says:

    The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper is definitely one that will always be close to my heart! Great list, great article!

  7. Avatar jordan says:

    great list, agree with so much of it, surprised as well. i really appreciate that it wasn’t just a “here are the same 5 authors we all know” list…but just as i was getting over my shock that Garth Nix wasn’t up there (so many great series and the Abhorsen stuff is so brilliant) i realized Dune and A Wrinkle in Time were overlooked! (i know they are all in the list but come on i thought they were foundational) I guess we all come into this world from different avenues…I still recall being given A Wrinkle In Time to read in school and being blown away. Completely justified my vivid imagination as a kid.

  8. Avatar Nicole says:

    Love this list! So many great titles it makes me want to go dust them off on my shelves & give ’em a hug. Actually, for several of these I’ve re-read them often enough, they don’t have much shelf-lingering time anyway! 🙂

  9. […] Books we love: The books that stole our hearts and got us reading […]

  10. Avatar Jessi says:

    One of my favorites has always been Robin McKinley, ‘The Blue Sword’ and ‘The Hero and the Crown’ being the two books that really captured my imagination. No matter what mood i’m in those two can put a smile on my face.

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