Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Elfy on July 14, 2019, 07:42:03 AM

Title: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 14, 2019, 07:42:03 AM
I was inspired to make this list by a topic that @Eclipse recently resurrected: “What do you consider required reading in the fantasy genre?” I was somewhat underwhelmed by what was suggested in the thread. Most replies (including my own) were brief and confined themselves to particular sub genres by and large.
I thought about my own experiences with reading the genre over something like 40+ years and figured I could come up with a fairly decent list of recommendations that covered most (probably not all) of the subgenres over the bigger heading of Fantasy.

A few things about this list, it is not definitive, it’s confined to what I have read, enjoyed and would recommend to others if they wanted something. With that in mind, it’s also going to be skewed to my tastes, which I know won’t agree with those of everyone who reads it.

If you read through this and can’t find your favourite book, series, author or even sub genre then it’s for a few reasons: I haven’t read it/them, I have read it, but it didn’t impress me enough for one reason or another to recommend it to other people, I’m trying to include things on this list that have stood the test of time (sort of), so it’s highly unlikely that anything here had its first publication in the last 5 years.

There is one notable exception I probably have to mention. That’s A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. I’ve read the series, I really liked it, but I cannot in all good conscience recommend it. It’s unfinished and unfortunately is likely to remain so. Each book has left the reader on successively higher cliffs, so I find telling people to read it is an exercise in frustration. The series that I do put on the list (even the unfinished ones) tend to be relatively self contained stories leaving the reader with some sense of resolution.

The list will be alphabetical (there will be a few exceptions, I’m really hard put to find authors with surnames beginning with E, I, O, Q, U, X or Z). The year it was first published (as best I can track it down) will be next to the title/s. I’ll also where I can try to include a subgenre (this will get tricky with things like horror/dark fantasy or epic vs high fantasy. I won’t call something YA or children’s as those are categories, not subgenres). I’ll include a few words to give people an idea of what they’re getting into, but I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers.

Because the list became rather large, I'm just going to post it in more manageable bits.

I think that covers everything, so here we go:

A
Aaronovitch, Ben – The Peter Grant series. The first book in the series; The Rivers of London (called Midnight Riot in the US) was published in 2010. (urban fantasy)

Since first appearing in 2010, Peter Grant has gathered quite a following, comics have been done based on the series and there is now talk of a TV series. Aaronovitch is native of London, and he clearly loves the city, all but 2 of the 6 novels and 2 novellas (Foxglove Summer and October Man) have been set in and around London and in some cases like Rivers of London are virtual love letters to the city. There are a lot of cool little known history references in them as well.

The central character and narrator of Peter Grant is a bi racial policeman who accidentally discovers that he has a talent for magic when a ghost comes to have a chat to him at a crime scene, that brings him into the radar of Thomas Nightingale, and he becomes the legendary wizard’s apprentice. He also gets involved closely with the women who are the goddesses of London’s waterways.

They’re cleverly written and involving urban fantasies with a likeable, relatable protagonist. They do sometimes become a little too heavily involved with the police procedural side of things, which smacks of the author saying ‘look, I did research’.

Abercrombie, Joe – The First Law trilogy and 3 standalone novels set in the same world as The First Law. His first book; The Blade Itself was published in 2006 (grimdark)

Inspired by the success of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its low magic, gritty approach to fantasy, Joe Abercrombie embarked on The Blade Itself. It takes a walk on the darker side of the genre (the author jokingly refers to himself as Lord Grimdark on Twitter). There’s little to no magic in Abercrombie’s books (that includes his YA Shattered Land trilogy, which reads kind of like his other work, just with the language toned down and the sex removed). No one in Abercrombie’s books is precisely good, but there are a few who are rotten to the core. He does employ some laugh out loud dark comedic moments at times, which I find sets him apart from other grimdark authors, whose works I find lacking in humour. He does some fascinating characters and his battle scene in The Heroes remains one of the best I’ve ever read.

Anderson, Poul – The Broken Sword published in 1954 (heroic fantasy)

Anderson was writing grimdark before anyone had hung a name on it, and The Broken Sword is a great example of it. For all that the book is not much longer than a novella it contains a mighty adventure in those few pages, involving fights, love, sex, heroes and myths. It proves that you don’t have to write a lot of words to write a big book.

B

Barker, Clive – Weaveworld published in 1987 (dark fantasy)

Barker’s best known for horror work and Weaveworld would have been thrown in that basket if he’d written and published it a decade or so earlier. It’s the story of a carpet into which has been woven an entire world full of people. Then there are people who will stop at nothing to own it. Barker writes achingly beautiful prose and in this he gives one of the best descriptions of a faerie world that I’ve been privileged to read.

Bulgakov, Mikhail – The Master and Margarita published in 1967, although it was written between 1928 and 1940 (literary fantasy)

Mikhail Bulgakov led a fascinating life and he poured the best of his creativity into this his masterpiece. He genuinely suffered for his art and at one point burned a lot of this manuscript and had to rewrite it. It was unfortunately not published until after his death and even then the first version was heavily censored in his native Russia. It concerns the devil, the writer (possibly Bulgakov himself) known as the Master and his lover Margarita. It’s hard not to be blown away by this and it’s had a deeper influence since it became more widely available. It inspired some of Salman Rushdie’s work in The Satanic Verses and Mick Jagger has cited it as being part of the inspiration for Sympathy for the Devil.

Butcher, Jim – The Dresden Files. The first book in the series; Storm Front was published in 2000 (urban fantasy)

In writing The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher, largely redefined the sub genre of urban fantasy. The story has come a long way from Storm Front where Harry Dresden was a down at heel, private eye type who advertised in the phone book.

The first few books were largely episodic in nature until it became apparent that a bigger story was unfolding. He’s only cliff hangered massively at the end of one book of the 15 that have been published. It’s a rocky start with the series for many people, Storm Front is a fairly unpolished read, but Butcher improved and before long he was a much better writer taking people on a wild ride through everything that readers now expect from their urban fantasy these days.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Skip on July 14, 2019, 07:12:34 PM
Thanks for A and B here. The comments are extremely useful and I appreciate how much work goes into that. Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet!
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 15, 2019, 06:30:33 AM
As threatened/promised, here's part 2. This comprises the letters C, D and F.

Carroll, Jonathan – The Land of Laughs published in 1980 (literary fantasy)

This one starts off quite sedately with a largely aimless young man trying to write a biography of his favourite author as a child. At times I felt I was reading a John Irving book. It has that feel and setting, but then a dog talks to the central character and from that point on the story becomes a very different beast with no one quite sure what is real and what isn’t anymore.

Carroll, Lewis – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland published in 1865 (fantasy)
Through The Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There published in 1871 (fantasy)

They kind of have to be spoken about in the one breath. They’ve made a massive impact on the psyche since first appearing in the latter half of the 19th century. Carroll made quite an achievement with these and it’s a great shame that he was never able to write and publish more of young Alice’s adventures. I feel you need to read both books (they’re quite short) to get the full impact of Wonderland and besides if you don’t read Looking Glass then you’ll miss out on one of the greatest epic poems ever and a true literary achievement in Jabberwocky.

Carter, Angela – The Bloody Chamber published in 1979 (literary fantasy)

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of fairy tales retold in Angela Carter’s own inimitable style. These aren’t the ones you read as a child, oh dearie me, no. These are bloody and brutal and quite scary and rarely have happy endings. It’s hard to be shaken by reading a book, but that’s what The Bloody Chamber did to me.

Clarke, Susanna – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell published in 2004 (alternate history)

It took Susanna Clarke over 10 years to write her magnum opus and reading it you can see why. While most of the story concerns a struggle for control of magic between the dour, humourless Mr Norrell and his dashing young rival Jonathan Strange, there’s also the story of the fae and what influence they exert on our world. I found the footnotes in this fascinating, they tell a story of an alternate England where magic greatly altered the course of history as we know it. A lot of people tend to like the Austenish language used in this, but I found it affecting and rather gimmicky.
 
De Larrabeiti, Michael – The Borribles Trilogy, the first book; The Borribles was published in 1986 (urban fantasy)

The Borribles are everything that characters in fantasy aimed at children are not meant to be. A Borrible is a runaway child who was never caught, as a consequence his or her ears grew long and pointed and they never aged physically beyond the pre teen years. The worst thing than can happen to a Borrible is for them to be caught, have their ears clipped and grow up nice, neat and normal. It would a great shame if there were no Borribles, too, because they are all that stand between our world as we know it and dominion by the Borrible’s mortal enemy; a Rumble, a large human sized rat like creature that seeks control of the world. The only thing that can stop a Rumble is a determined Borrible.

Deitz, Tom – The David Sullivan series, the first book; Windmaster’s Bane was published in 1986 (urban fantasy)

Tom Deitz seems to have been largely forgotten these days, which is sad, because he kind of kick started the whole teen urban fantasy thing with his David Sullivan stories. David ‘Mad Davey’ Sullivan and his friends are typical teenagers living in Georgia, USA, when they find out that the mountain near where they live has been made the home of both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts in the USA. David and his friends may not want to get involved, but mortals don’t have any say in it when the fae want to play.

Feist, Raymond – The Riftwar Saga, the first book; Magician was published in 1982 (high fantasy)

What Feist started with Magician back in 1982 turned into 30 books. I gave up partway through, but I did read the opening trilogy, which comprised Magician, Silverthorn and Darkness at Sethanon. The first book is a classic epic, set in a fairly standard pre industrial fantasy world called Midkemia, but it’s when a rift opens between Midkemia and Kelewan (a feudal Japan inspired world) that things really kick off. Magician is really the story of Pug and Tomas (more so Pug than Tomas) and the second and third books of the trilogy concern themselves with the story of Prince Arutha following the Riftwar and tie up the loose ends of Pug and Tomas as well. Feist’s elves, dwarves and dragons are fairly Tolkienesque, but Kelewan is a different creation that we never saw enough of, not even in the Empire trilogy set there that Feist co wrote with Janny Wurts.

Faerie Tale published in 1988 (urban fantasy)

Raymond Feist tried to move away from Midkemia with Faerie Tale. It’s a Stephen Kingish story set in New England and featuring a modern fay family getting involved with the myths and legends of the old folk that have made their way across the Atlantic. It’s still a really good story, although certain things like the introduction of the word processor tend to date it a little.

Fforde, Jasper – Thursday Next, the first book; The Eyre Affair was published in 2001 (comic fantasy/alternate history)

Jasper Fforde burst onto the scene with The Eyre Affair, a completely off the wall story set in an alternate 1985 where classic works of literature hold the same sort of profile that blockbuster movies do in our world (a particular highlight for me was the audience participation performance of Richard III that was clearly based on the audience participation screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and it’s up to Thursday to save the books when arch villain Acheron Hades finds a way into their pages and starts holding beloved characters and storylines to ransom.

They’ve been described as silly books for smart people and that’s a good line, it’s quite true. The series is broken into two parts, the first part contains four books and the second three so far. I feel it would have been better had it finished at the end of the first part, the second part has been nowhere near as entertaining and the last 2 books have been quite disappointing. A case of going to the well too often.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: NedMarcus on July 15, 2019, 10:49:08 AM
It took Susanna Clarke over 10 years to write her magnum opus and reading it you can see why.

I never knew that, and it makes me feel better for taking 7 to write my first. I enjoyed her novel, although several times I wished it'd been shorter.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Bender on July 15, 2019, 11:20:20 AM
No Glen Cook? Black Company is a genre defining series imo.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 15, 2019, 11:59:19 AM
No Glen Cook? Black Company is a genre defining series imo.
Read them, and did enjoy them, but they didn’t make enough of an impact on me to make the list.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Skip on July 15, 2019, 04:24:47 PM
No Cook, but I agree. OTOH, I would've put Bancroft in the list, and Peter S. Beagle as well.

But this is your list, Elfy, and I'm happy to read it. It may well inspire me to make my own list. I have such, but without commentary, and it's really the commentary that adds value. I would address it to my kids and grandkids.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 16, 2019, 06:17:55 AM
No Cook, but I agree. OTOH, I would've put Bancroft in the list, and Peter S. Beagle as well.

But this is your list, Elfy, and I'm happy to read it. It may well inspire me to make my own list. I have such, but without commentary, and it's really the commentary that adds value. I would address it to my kids and grandkids.
I assume Bancroft is Josiah Bancroft, he missed out on one of my criteria, and that's that I haven't read him. He also may have just scraped in on my time list as Senlin Ascends was published in 2013.
The Beagle you'd be referring to is most likely The Last Unicorn and it did come close, but didn't quite make the cut.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 16, 2019, 06:28:17 AM
Today it's time for the G,s, H's and J's.

Gaiman, Neil – The Graveyard Book published in 2008 (YA dark fantasy)

I’ve never been all that impressed by Gaiman, and consequently I haven’t read him widely. The Graveyard Book is a different story, though. It won Gaiman his second Best Novel Hugo award when it came out, and while it is very definitely YA (possibly even slightly younger), it’s one of those books that crosses generations and makes people of all ages think. It’s unusual as a story, anything about an orphan boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts and a vampire can’t be anything but. Despite that it does manage a happy ending, too.

Grimwood, Ken – Replay published in 1987 (literary fantasy)

I don’t think many people know about this one, for all that it did win the World Fantasy Award. I’ve recently seen it rereleased and that pleases me. There’s a lot of Groundhog Day about this, although it’s not as superficial and not played for laughs.

Jeff Winston seems doomed to die in his early 40’s and relive his life from the age of 18 no matter what he does to try and alter it. He eventually accepts it and then it changes again. There’s a wonderful twist at the end which I never saw coming.

Howard, Robert E – the first Conan story; People of the Dark was published in 1932. Gollancz issued The Complete Chronicles of Conan (collecting most of Howard’s Conan stories) in 2006 (sword and sorcery)

Despite dying by his own hand at the tragically young age of 30, Robert E. Howard left a massive amount of writing behind him, including the creation of Conan the Barbarian, which made him almost single handedly the creator of the sword and sorcery sub genre.

The Conan stories were published in the pulp magazines of the 30’s, and there’s only one full length novel written by Howard himself. The collection above contains most of the published Conan work written by Howard. It’s worth a look just to see the birth of a legend.

Hughart, Barry – The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, first book; Bridge of Birds was published in 1984 (historical fantasy)

When it first appeared in 1984 Bridge of Birds was a bit of a revelation. The heart of it was an amusing and clever take on the odd couple murder mystery story. What intrigued many was that it was set in ancient China (I refer to it as ancient China as it never was, but the way you wish it had have been). Asian settings and characters are under represented in the genre. All 3 of the books are fun, covering the adventures of the humble peasant Number Ten Ox (he narrates the tales) and his wily master Li, the venerable ancient with a slight flaw in his character.

There were originally intended to be 7 books in the series, but it finished at 3. Partly because of publisher error and also because Hughart himself felt after the 3rd book that they were becoming formulaic. Having read them a few times I have to agree with him. The first book is fantastic, the second also quite good, but by the 3rd it is becoming tired. Hats off for Hughart in knowing when to end it, rather than running it into the ground or going to the well too many times.


Jansson, Tove – The Moomins, the first book in the series; The Moomins and the Great Flood was published in 1945 (children’s fantasy)

Tove Jansson’s delightful Moomins are well known in her native Finland, and they also have plenty of fans in England, although I think they’re starting to disappear now. I and my wife both loved the books as children and we do now, too. I do however get blank looks when I mention them now.

Jansson wrote them from the 40’s to the 70’s. They’re a delight. There’s no bad language, no violence. They don’t even behave badly and on the rare occasion when they are mean to each other, they apologise and it’s over with a hug. Finn Family Moomintroll is my favourite, but that could be just for Thingummy and Bob.

Jinks, Catherine – The Reformed Vampire Support Group published in 2009 (urban fantasy)

I refer to The Reformed Vampire Support Group as the anti-Twilight. The group of the title are a small community of vampires living in Sydney, Australia. It points out the many reasons why being a vampire is not at all desirable. They can’t go out in sunlight, they never age (and when you’re permanently 14 years old that’s not fun) and they have to drink blood to survive. It’s a great little book that swam against the tide at the time.

There was a sequel; The Abused Werewolf Rescue Squad, but it wasn't as good as the original.

Jones, Diana Wynne – The Tough Guide to Fantasyland published in 1996 (comic fantasy)

Diana Wynne Jones is a bit of a legend in the fantasy genre for her Chrestomanci books, her Dalemark series and Howl’s Moving Castle.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a bit of an oddity, but it’s well worth any fantasy readers, and aspiring writer’s time to look at it. It unerringly skewers every single cliché and trope that exists in the genre and does them all with its tongue firmly in its cheek.


Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Bender on July 16, 2019, 11:31:38 AM
Why did Erikson, Steven and Malazan not make the cut?  Edit - No Hobb, Robin either?

 :o

Is it a conscious decision to skip the popular ones and highlight the hidden gems?
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Skip on July 16, 2019, 03:38:19 PM
>Why did Erikson, Steven and Malazan not make the cut?  Edit - No Hobb, Robin either?

Elfy doesn't ask to be defended, but I'll do so anyway. It's his list. Making the list is a lot of work--I know because I've done similar work--so I'm just happy that it's shared. Others will disagree, so make your own list. I don't say this to scold--it really is a worthwhile exercise. Then you can share it here, if you wish.

Personally I find Hobb dull and Erikson just oppressive, so they barely make my "books I have read" list. Everyone has their own tastes.

Here's another reason to make your own list. (NB: I'm speaking to the audience here, not the individual) Whether you are young or old, you're going to get older. You'll change. Making the list (and the comments are very important here) pegs in you time. A decade from now, after you've read more, come back to your list.

And another reason: if you have friends, give it to them. If you have children, give it to them. Twenty years later, give the (revised) list to their children. It's a gift.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: ScarletBea on July 16, 2019, 04:06:16 PM
>Why did Erikson, Steven and Malazan not make the cut?  Edit - No Hobb, Robin either?

Elfy doesn't ask to be defended, but I'll do so anyway. It's his list. Making the list is a lot of work--I know because I've done similar work--so I'm just happy that it's shared. Others will disagree, so make your own list. I don't say this to scold--it really is a worthwhile exercise. Then you can share it here, if you wish.

Personally I find Hobb dull and Erikson just oppressive, so they barely make my "books I have read" list. Everyone has their own tastes.

Here's another reason to make your own list. (NB: I'm speaking to the audience here, not the individual) Whether you are young or old, you're going to get older. You'll change. Making the list (and the comments are very important here) pegs in you time. A decade from now, after you've read more, come back to your list.

And another reason: if you have friends, give it to them. If you have children, give it to them. Twenty years later, give the (revised) list to their children. It's a gift.
All this, seconded!
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Bender on July 16, 2019, 04:26:11 PM
There absolutely is no reason to 'defend' anything as the intention is not to attack or poke holes in Elfy's list but rather to understand why certain series that are considered widely as best in the genre don't make the list. I can understand Malazan as the writing style ain't palatable to most, but was just curious on reasons behind Hobb omission.

Anyway it's a great list and I've already added some to my TBR bucket.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: ScarletBea on July 16, 2019, 04:54:33 PM
Oh don't worry, we get it :)
I guess Skip (and I) were just trying to say that whatever list is done, there will always be people asking "what about X?" - that was my initial reaction as well ;D
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 16, 2019, 10:41:52 PM
Why did Erikson, Steven and Malazan not make the cut?  Edit - No Hobb, Robin either?

 :o

Is it a conscious decision to skip the popular ones and highlight the hidden gems?
I did start reading Malazan, but gave up halfway through the 3rd book, because I didn't care about any of the characters or what they were doing or where they were going. I have read Hobb, at least 2 series, but imo she doesn't stick her landings, she did that to me for 2 series and I wasn't going to start another one to have it let me down at the end. I did, however really enjoy a book she wrote as Megan Lindholm, but not enough to put it on the list.

It is a bit of a conscious decision to omit some of the things that are wildly popular and highlight some lesser known works. Not entirely, though. I think it was @ScarletBea who once told me when I did a similar exercise on my blog that I read some odd books.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 17, 2019, 06:58:33 AM
The K's, L's and M's get their chance today.

Kilworth, Garry – House of Tribes published in 1995 (fantasy)

This is fantasy the way Watership Down is fantasy, and it’s here because I just couldn’t bear to leave it out. Garry Kilworth has done a number of books featuring animals facing challenges the way they do in House of Tribes and he’s also done others which have anthropomorphic protagonists in the way of Wind in the Willows or Brian Jacques’ Redwall books.

House of Tribes is about groups of mice, living in an crumbling old house in the English countryside, a home they have to leave when the house is sold by the old owners with whom they had developed a way of life that endured for generations of mice. I loved the way he portrayed dogs as buffoonish types who spoke Japanese and the cats as vicious and sly enemies who spoke French. The mice only ever spoke English.

King, Stephen – It published in 1986 (dark fantasy)

Yes, it’s probably horror, but I simply couldn’t leave it out. I think everyone should give It a whirl. The book is classic King. Set in the town of Derry in Maine, it’s two books in one. One part of the book is set in the 50’s when a group of social outcasts who call themselves the Losers, take on the ancient evil that feeds on the town every 25 to 30 years and the second part in the 80’s when It returns and the kids all grown up come back together to defeat It once and for all. I believe It is the best book King has written.

Le Guin, Ursula K – Earthsea, the first book; A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968 (fantasy)

Without Earthsea fantasy would have lost an entire sub genre. We certainly wouldn’t have ever seen Harry Potter and probably not The Name of the Wind, either. It’s better and more thoughtful than either of those, but then again Le Guin was a genius. She had a way of looking at things in a way that others simply didn’t and articulating them beautifully.

The opening book of Earthsea is probably one of her most accessible of her works, being able to be read by both children and adults and appreciated in different ways. I know my experience of reading it first as a 10 year old and then years later as an adult was different and rewarding both times.

Leiber, Fritz – Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the first story; Two Sought Adventure was published in 1939. Three of his novellas were later collected in Swords and Deviltry, published in 1970. (sword and sorcery)

If Robert E. Howard created the sword and sorcery sub genre, then Fritz Leiber was it’s godfather. He was in the fact the person that gave it a name. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are the archetypal duo. Fafhrd is big, strong and loyal, whereas the Grey Mouser is quick, clever and always ready with a plan, usually one which doesn’t work. Swords and Deviltry is a good introduction to them and their many schemes, generally doomed to failure. They were clearly a direct inspiration to the next author on this list.

Lynch, Scott – The Gentleman Bastards, the first book; The Lies of Locke Lamora was published in 2006 (grimdark)

Full disclosure here, The Lies of Locke Lamora is hands down my favourite book ever, regardless of genre. I’ve read it 19 times and it simply never gets tired for me. I always find something new to appreciate about it. So, if anyone asks me for a recommendation of something to read then I am always going to put The Lies of Locke Lamora into the conversation. Despite the fact that the series isn’t finished (it’s meant to be 7 books, 3 are out) I can still recommend it with a clear conscience, because they’re all relatively self contained (admittedly the 2nd book Red Seas Under Red Skies finishes on a bit of a cliff, but it was resolved in the 3rd book The Republic of Thieves). If you haven’t already done so, read it. Locke would appreciate it.

Martinez, A. Lee – Gil’s All Fright Diner published in 2005 (urban fantasy)

Martinez has written a whole heap of books, all fairly humorous, and hadn’t actually done a sequel until the fairly recent Constance Verity books. Gil’s All Fright Diner is basically the story of best friends Duke and Earl who try to help out the owner of a cursed diner in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Oh, by the way Duke is a werewolf and Earl is a vampire. I loved this, it’s a short book, but a real page turner and laugh out loud funny. It didn’t hurt that Duke and Earl reminded me of Valentine and Earl from Tremors, which is one of my favourite movies.

Mieville, China – Perdido St Station published in 2000 (new weird)

My first experience with Mieville (Embassytown) wasn’t great, so I approached Perdido St Station with a bit of wariness. I needn’t have. This is a ground breaking work. Mieville drew me effortlessly into Bas-Lag. It’s rare that even a fantasy writer can create something truly alien and take the readers along with them. That’s what Mieville does in Perdido St Station, and it should be a must read for any fantophile.

Morgenstern, Erin – The Night Circus published in 2011 (literary fantasy)

The Night Circus is the product of Nanowrimo, although I’m sure what was eventually published was a good deal different to what Erin Morgenstern initially had on her hands after a month of frenetic writing.

It’s a really beautiful story. It alters viewpoints and tenses and slides up and down through the history of one remarkable institution; the Night Circus. Morgenstern created the atmosphere wonderfully. I could smell the popcorn, hear the music and taste the chocolate mice.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: ScarletBea on July 17, 2019, 08:18:06 AM
I think it was @ScarletBea who once told me when I did a similar exercise on my blog that I read some odd books.
;D you're right, I did!
Although that conclusion might be due to: location (many of these books might be easily available in Australia while rare on the other side of the world), age (if I was consciously reading fantasy in the 80s and 90s I might recognise way more than I do) and plain individual taste and book availability.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Eclipse on July 17, 2019, 08:25:01 AM
I think it was @ScarletBea who once told me when I did a similar exercise on my blog that I read some odd books.
;D you're right, I did!
Although that conclusion might be due to: location (many of these books might be easily available in Australia while rare on the other side of the world), age (if I was consciously reading fantasy in the 80s and 90s I might recognise way more than I do) and plain individual taste and book availability.

I’ve read most of those Bea , you just under read 😉 my prescription for you is to read more 😉 I would have liked to see @graveyardhag  do a list .
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 17, 2019, 10:42:55 AM
I think it was @ScarletBea who once told me when I did a similar exercise on my blog that I read some odd books.
;D you're right, I did!
Although that conclusion might be due to: location (many of these books might be easily available in Australia while rare on the other side of the world), age (if I was consciously reading fantasy in the 80s and 90s I might recognise way more than I do) and plain individual taste and book availability.
The internet has made it much easier to find books, old or new, irrespective of where they were originally published. I’ve read a fair bit of DAW’s material, despite them not having an Australian distributor. I am lucky to have a good speciality store; Minotaur Books, accessible, but I am envious of those in the UK who have the Waterstones chain and when we found Forbidden Planet in London that was like stumbling into Aladdin’s cave for us.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 18, 2019, 04:06:53 AM
N, P and R get their chances today.

Neville, Katherine – The Eight published in 1988 (historical fantasy)

I’m one of the few people that seems to regard The Eight as fantasy, but what else could you call a quest for the secret to eternal life?

Chess, the French Revolution and the Middle East during the volatile early ‘70’s. The perfect recipe for a great adventure. Full of wonderful moments and characters, along with heart stopping action. Neville was never quite able to recapture the magic of her debut novel again (the less said about the sequel; The Fire, the better). I still think The Eight is crying to be made into a movie or a TV series, but sadly those who make the decisions about those things don’t seem to agree with me.

Newman, Emma – Split Worlds series, first book; Between Two Thorns was published in 2013 (urban fantasy)

I love what Newman did with this. It’s the largely the story of Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, a nobly born woman of faerie who wants to leave her restrictive world and life in faery to live with the freedom and advantages available to the ladies of Mundanus (what the fae call our world). It’s quite something to read the way Newman slips
between our world and that of faerie which seems to be permanently jammed in a faux Regency.

Novik, Naomi – Temeraire series, first book; Temeraire (titled His Majesty’s Dragon in the US) was published in 2006 (alternate history)

I’m putting this here with a bit of a qualifier. The first 4 books were highly entertaining, but by book 5 they had become formulaic and laboured. Unfortunately, the whole thing went for 9 books and became a bit of a mess by the end. However, Temeraire was something really fun when it first came out. It read rather like Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brien got together and decided to put some dragons in their story just for the fun of it.
Novik imagined a different kind of dragon and wrote them cleverly, making distinctions between them, depending on what sort of lineage they had and where they came from.

Pratchett, Terry – Discworld, first book; The Colour of Magic was published in 1983 (comic fantasy)

No list of this sort would be complete without mention of Sir Terry Pratchett who stood over the genre like a colossus for nearly 30 years. It’s simply too easy to dismiss Discworld as a series of comic fantasy books set on a flat world.

Over the length of 41 books, written over a 32 year period, Discworld was one of the most impressive achievements in the genre. What Pratchett did with Discworld was create a fairly standard pre industrial fantasy world with all the pre requisite elements, including dwarves, elves, etc. and peopled it with people that had late 20th century and early 21st century mindsets, but had to solve problems that only occurred on their type of fantasy world.

Over Discworld’s course Pratchett developed multiple series within the one. There’s the Rincewind books, the Witches books, the Death books, the City Watch, Moist von Lipwig and Tiffany Aching. There were standalones too. No fantophile’s reading list is complete without at least one Pratchett on it.


Rowling, J. K – Harry Potter, first book; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) was published in 1997 (children’s fantasy)

This had to go in here. It comes in for plenty of criticism now, although I feel some of that stems from people’s need to find fault and nit pick anything that is immensely popular.

Rowling’s tale of the orphaned chosen one wasn’t unique or even original, she was far from the first author to make a magical school her setting. It was more the way she did it and all the clever hidden references in it, and the fact that if you read the series through, you notice how early she set things up and made them pay off neatly later on in the books.

It also did something I couldn’t remember seeing other series aimed at young audiences do, as the readers grew, so did the books and the characters in them. We love to categorise things now and Harry Potter falls squarely into fantasy, with Rowling even winning the best novel Hugo for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but she’s said that she never thought of them as fantasy, she knew they were, but she was really just writing books about people, who happened to be magical.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 19, 2019, 06:30:54 AM
This time S, T and V come out to play.

Stroud, Jonathan – Bartimaeus Sequence, first book; The Amulet of Samarkand was published in 2003 (alternate history)

When I first picked up The Amulet of Samarkand it was described as the ‘next Harry Potter’ which is not what it, or any of the other books in the series, are. It has magic and one of the protagonists in it is a young man learning to be a wizard, but that’s where the similarities end.

It’s set in an alternate world where the ability to wield magic is what sets classes apart. The rich can use magic, the poor can’t. The first 3 books (a 4th, a kind of prequel was later added) are told in alternating points of view. Nathaniel’s story is told using 3rd person, whereas when Bartimaeus (the djinn Nathaniel binds) is front and centre, the story is told using 1st person and in Bartimaeus’ inimitable style. It was done so seamlessly that I was halfway through The Amulet of Samarkand before I even picked up on it. Fun books and they have a decent message. They seem to have become a bit underrated now.

Tolkien, J. R. R – The Hobbit published in 1937 (high fantasy)

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’ thus begins one of the greatest ever fantasy works. While The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can be read and enjoyed separately, I prefer to look at them as a bit of package deal.

While The Hobbit is no way as grand or epic than the book that followed it, I tend to prefer it. I like the lighter tone, and Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as something for himself and his children to enjoy. It owed it’s publication in part to an enthusiastic reaction from the 10 year old son of publisher Stanley Unwin. It’s a modern day fairy tale and it contained something that no one had ever seen before; a hobbit.
However it is only the prequel to one of the all time classics.

The Lord of the Rings published in 1954 (high fantasy)

Tolkien wasn’t the first person to write high fantasy, both Dunsany and Eddison predate him, as well as the sagas and romances from which Tolkien himself drew inspiration, he has however been given the mantle of the Father of Modern Fantasy, and like great musicians inspire what goes after them, so has what Tolkien wrote. If you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, you really should to see the building blocks of what is currently being published and written.

Tregillis, Ian – The Milkweed Triptych, first book; Bitter Seeds was published in 2010 (alternate history)

This one was for me; mind blowing. I’ve tagged it as alternate history, which it is, but it contains science fiction, time travel, dark fantasy and even dabbles in the burgeoning sub genre of super hero fiction. It deals with a World War Two that differs from what we know, largely due to Germany’s attempt to create an army of super powered soldiers and Great Britain’s response using ancient magic, throw in the machinations of someone who can see the future and manipulate events to reach a planned for conclusion and it adds to an absolute cracker of a series. I find it highly underrated and it deserves a bigger audience and all the praise that they can lavish on it. Why someone hasn’t attempted to bring this to the screen I do not know.

Valente, Catherynne M – Fairyland, first book; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making was published in 2011 (fantasy)

I’ve long held the theory that at some point in the past Catherynne Valente met the devil at a crossroads one midnight and they signed a pact in blood to make her the best writer in history. What this woman does with words and concepts quite literally defies description. People don’t read books written by Cat Valente, they experience them.

The Fairyland series is shelved with books for younger readers, but it’s one of those cross generational works that can be read by all ages and they will all find different things to delight in them. There were a number of Valente’s works that I could have put in this list, because they’re all brilliant, but Fairyland is probably the easiest to classify and the most accessible of what she’s written. It’s hard not to fall in love with September, who is taken to Fairyland by the Green Wind and her best friend the wyverary  (a cross between a kind of dragon and a library) A through L.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Bender on July 19, 2019, 07:36:54 PM

Stroud, Jonathan – Bartimaeus Sequence, first book; The Amulet of Samarkand was published in 2003 (alternate history)

When I first picked up The Amulet of Samarkand it was described as the ‘next Harry Potter’ which is not what it, or any of the other books in the series, are. It has magic and one of the protagonists in it is a young man learning to be a wizard, but that’s where the similarities end.

It’s set in an alternate world where the ability to wield magic is what sets classes apart. The rich can use magic, the poor can’t. The first 3 books (a 4th, a kind of prequel was later added) are told in alternating points of view. Nathaniel’s story is told using 3rd person, whereas when Bartimaeus (the djinn Nathaniel blinds) is front and centre, the story is told using 1st person and in Bartimaeus’ inimitable style. It was done so seamlessly that I was halfway through The Amulet of Samarkand before I even picked up on it. Fun books and they have a decent message. They seem to have become a bit underrated now.

Lovely. I'm glad this made it to your list.

One of the earliest books I've read and though technically YA, it sports a very mature story and theme. Also it's impossible not to love Bartimaeus! Cracking 4 books in all.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 23, 2019, 06:21:21 AM
And so we come to the end. There's only one letter (W), I couldn't come up with any authors beginning with Y and Z that I could fit in this category. I confess that I've never read Zelazny.

Walton, Jo – Tooth and Claw, published in 2003 (literary fantasy)

If Jane Austen had been a dragon and written her comedies of manners about dragons in a dragon oriented society then she would have written Tooth and Claw.

In recent times it’s become a popular thing in fantasy to ape Austen’s style and language, no one has done it better than Jo Walton in this book. It won the World Fantasy Award in 2004 and deservedly so. Made me kind of wish Austen really was a dragon.

Wendig, Chuck – Miriam Black, first book; Blackbirds was published in 2012 (urban fantasy)

The Miriam Black books by Chuck Wendig are brutal. They contain short, choppy, visceral sentences and they are chock full of description. Miriam’s not a hero, ask her, she’ll tell you that. She lives with a curse. A curse that allows her to see a person at the moment of their death by skin to skin contact. She spends the books wandering through the underbelly of modern USA society, trying to find a use for her ‘gift’ and a way of getting rid of it. These books are like a punch to the guts, but in the best possible way.

White, T. H – The Once and Future King published in 1958 (Arthurian)

Ever since the legend of Arthur first appeared people have been fascinated by it and attempted to retell it. T. H. White’s ambitious attempt is I feel the most successful. Parts of it were later adapted into Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (the movie somehow managed to miss the point of the books and was a pretty horrible mess). It has the feeling of a much older book and it covers all of the Arthur legend, it doesn’t gloss over the less attractive parts of the legend or the less savoury aspects of many of the key players, including Lancelot and Arthur himself. It’s the best way to read the legend and it also provides insights into what has come since.

Williams, Tad – Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, first book; The Dragonbone Chair published in 1988 (epic fantasy)

The success of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was one of the things that convinced George R.R Martin that there was a still a market for epic fantasy, and convinced him to pursue his own vision along those lines. It also predated Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, and it was the progression from Tolkien, but did it in a less derivative way than The Sword of Shannara, and a more adult manner than The Belgariad, and more lyrically than Magician, which was at times more workmanlike than anything. Epic in every sense of the word. Hard to believe it was only William’s second published work, it was a masterful thing.

The War of the Flowers published in 2003 (urban fantasy)

This one isn’t often mentioned, which is a shame, because it’s one of my favourites. It’s that rarest of beasts these days, a completely standalone novel that tells it’s story from start to finish between the pages of one book. It has the best vision of faery that I’ve read. It’s a hard to classify one, but as the author himself refers to it as urban fantasy that’s what I’ve tagged it as. The last time I reread it, I found it hard to tear myself away from, it compelled me to keep reading, even though I knew how it ended. Williams tends to be like that.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: isos81 on July 23, 2019, 07:19:53 AM
Thank you for this wonderful list @Elfy

Ps: We need more emojis :)
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: ScarletBea on July 23, 2019, 08:00:43 AM
Yes, thanks for this, super interesting :)
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Peat on July 23, 2019, 12:56:23 PM
And so we come to the end. There's only one letter (W), I couldn't come up with any authors beginning with Y and Z that I could fit in this category. I confess that I've never read Zelazny.


There's Zimmer-Bradley if so inclined; the only Y I can think of easily is Jane Yolen, who I read only a few chapters of in an anthology and liked - but not quite enough to track down the full book.

Anyway, interesting list - tempted to do my own now!
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: tebakutis on July 23, 2019, 06:51:01 PM
There's Zimmer-Bradley if so inclined; the only Y I can think of easily is Jane Yolen, who I read only a few chapters of in an anthology and liked - but not quite enough to track down the full book.

Anyway, interesting list - tempted to do my own now!

I'd heartily recommend Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Books ... they remain among my favorite dragon-involved literature (they were marketed as YA but are suitable for all, IMO).
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Peat on July 23, 2019, 08:26:46 PM
There's Zimmer-Bradley if so inclined; the only Y I can think of easily is Jane Yolen, who I read only a few chapters of in an anthology and liked - but not quite enough to track down the full book.

Anyway, interesting list - tempted to do my own now!

I'd heartily recommend Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Books ... they remain among my favorite dragon-involved literature (they were marketed as YA but are suitable for all, IMO).

Those were the books the anthology chapters came from - she's not particularly well published over here alas.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 23, 2019, 10:38:17 PM
And so we come to the end. There's only one letter (W), I couldn't come up with any authors beginning with Y and Z that I could fit in this category. I confess that I've never read Zelazny.


There's Zimmer-Bradley if so inclined; the only Y I can think of easily is Jane Yolen, who I read only a few chapters of in an anthology and liked - but not quite enough to track down the full book.

Anyway, interesting list - tempted to do my own now!
I have read Zimmer-Bradley (Mists of Avalon) and I think I've mentioned my feelings about that elsewhere, that would be why she's not on the list. Also read Yolen, but didn't like her enough to recommend her to others. There are a few letters where I just couldn't find an author I liked enough to put them on the list.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Skip on July 25, 2019, 04:56:03 PM
Adding my thanks to the pile. I've scraped the whole thing and am using it as inspiration and foundation for my own list.

I also must add that I'm pleased you included T.H. White. The full set of novels (there's more than just the first; the play Camelot was derived from them) is genuinely powerful, gets grimmer and sadder as you go, yet somehow manages to feel hopeful by the end. I have just about everything White wrote; his other work is remarkably difficult to get.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on July 31, 2019, 07:45:23 AM
Thanks to whoever read this and commented. It was something I enjoyed doing and compiling the list gave me some good memories of reading, even if cutting a few names and novels hurt at times.
I look forward to seeing your list @Skip
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Peat on July 31, 2019, 11:09:20 AM
Any authors in particular that it hurt to cut?

Also, I've just realised you didn't include GGK and now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: isos81 on July 31, 2019, 02:08:34 PM
now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(

Rules: You can use no magic but the magic of love ;D
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: cupiscent on August 01, 2019, 06:01:13 AM
Also, I've just realised you didn't include GGK and now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(

I'll be your second, @Peat. :D
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Elfy on August 01, 2019, 07:53:53 AM
Any authors in particular that it hurt to cut?

Also, I've just realised you didn't include GGK and now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(
Dave Duncan was one, as was Seanan McGuire. As for GGK I’ve read him, but he’s never really knocked my socks off as a writer.
Title: Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
Post by: Peat on August 06, 2019, 07:14:09 PM
Any authors in particular that it hurt to cut?

Also, I've just realised you didn't include GGK and now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(
Dave Duncan was one, as was Seanan McGuire. As for GGK I’ve read him, but he’s never really knocked my socks off as a writer.

 :o

You are clearly not to be trusted!  :P

now thee and me must fight an inflatable sword duel until we run out of breath  >:(

Rules: You can use no magic but the magic of love ;D

That's okay, I cheat anyway.