August 25, 2019, 05:36:53 PM

Author Topic: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre  (Read 1128 times)

Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #15 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.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #16 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.
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #17 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 .
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #18 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.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #19 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.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #20 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.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2019, 01:03:46 PM by Elfy »
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline Bender

Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #21 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.
Not all those who wander are lost

Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #22 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.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline isos81

Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #23 on: July 23, 2019, 07:19:53 AM »
Thank you for this wonderful list @Elfy

Ps: We need more emojis :)
Kallor shrugged. 'I've walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I've commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I've spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #24 on: July 23, 2019, 08:00:43 AM »
Yes, thanks for this, super interesting :)
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Offline Peat

Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #25 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!
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Offline tebakutis

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #26 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).

Offline Peat

Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #27 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.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #28 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.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Online Skip

Re: Recommended reading in the Fantasy genre
« Reply #29 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.
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