August 17, 2019, 12:00:10 PM

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Topics - Elfy

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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.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / What did you read in May 2019
« on: June 02, 2019, 05:19:55 AM »
Here it is: The what did you read this past month thread.

Come share your list and what you thought of the books you read last month. We're not looking for full out reviews, just a brief couple of sentences that sum up your impressions.

This is also not a contest for who read the most books, I know some of us struggle to find time to read one book a month, and others manage a dozen. That doesn't matter, so don't feel reluctant to post if you have read less books (or way more books) than others. This is all for sharing, and if you read anything, come let us know what it was and what you thought of it.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / What did you read in January 2019
« on: February 02, 2019, 04:07:16 AM »
Here it is: The what did you read this past month thread.

Come share your list and what you thought of the books you read last month. We're not looking for full out reviews, just a brief couple of sentences that sum up your impressions.

This is also not a contest for who read the most books, I know some of us struggle to find time to read one book a month, and others manage a dozen. That doesn't matter, so don't feel reluctant to post if you have read less books (or way more books) than others. This is all for sharing, and if you read anything, come let us know what it was and what you thought of it.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / RIP Julian May
« on: October 23, 2017, 05:35:29 AM »
This is sadly a bit late. Julian May, the author of the Saga of the Exiles (highly popular in the 80's when it first came out) passed away on 17 October, aged 86. This seems to have passed largely without note, which is a little sad, as she was a very popular author for some time. I'm rereading the series at the moment and struck by what a great TV show it would make now that we have the technical ability to pull it off.

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Writers' Corner / Milestones
« on: June 01, 2016, 05:23:46 AM »
Does anyone else get a little thrill when they hit a milestone in writing? Like hitting a specific amount of words? I know there's a long way to go, but seeing that amount of words can just give you a bit of a boost. I just hit 50,000 words on my current WiP and it made me feel good doing it.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / SFF books with spiders in them
« on: September 08, 2015, 07:17:56 AM »
Seeing as I thought we probably should stop hijacking the What Are You Reading thread with images and stories about spiders (we're probably also freaking out the arachnophobes as well), I thought I'd put this one up here for us to talk about books with spiders in them. The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Spellsinger series are 4 that immediately spring to mind for me.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Tolkien's inspiration?
« on: August 01, 2015, 01:36:57 AM »
I was watching a thing on the History of Britain today and apparently a Brother Gundulf (later Bishop of Rochester) designed The White Tower. It seems too coincidental for the good Professor not to have drawn some inspiration for the name of his famous wizard.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Magical animals
« on: April 07, 2015, 04:43:15 AM »
I just read an article on Tor.com about cats in fantasy, and it struck me that plenty of fantasy books do feature animals. While I'm not a cat person personally, I did put a cat in my own YA portal fantasy Realmspace, and I think animal characters are quite cool to use in fantasy. What are other people's favourites? I quite like the Librarian from Discworld.

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Books that make you cry
« on: November 26, 2014, 11:03:48 PM »
I saw a post in the currently reading thread where the poster said that a book made them cry and I wondered if other books have affected people that way. I know my wife has done it, and on public transport no less. I have a few that can reduce me to tears. There's a section in The Lies of Locke Lamora that no matter how often I read the book, and I have read it a number of times, still makes me cry. A.R Lloyd's Kine (think Watership Down, but with weasels instead of rabbits) has a part in the latter 3rd that does it. Out of the genre Wilbur Smith's Cry Wolf also has a scene near the end that makes me cry as well. I know the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords can affect people, heard stories about throwing the book across the room and have to compose themselves before going on. Any that do it to people here?

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I know Arry normally does this, but she's away this month, so I thought I'd start one up for us all to give our thoughts on our September reading.
I had a pretty decent month. I don't think I actually completed anything in August, but that's what happens when you're travelling overseas and seeing new and exciting things every day.
I read 8 books, various parts of the genre and by a variety of authors, including the Fantasy-Faction Anthology.

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Writers' Corner / Writing that inspires you
« on: October 04, 2013, 01:50:53 AM »
Seeing as we have a thread about books that make you stop writing, because it's just so damn good you don't think you can ever approach it, I thought I'd start one about things you read that actually inspire you to write, because the idea hits you hard. I recently experienced this with Theodora Goss' short story The Mad Scientist's Daughter (which I raved about on the What are you currently reading thread). So what have you read that makes you think, what if? And immediately gets ideas running about in your head? In short what inspires you to write?

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I just read the second of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid urban fantasy series and reviewed it on my blog (http://travelsthroughiest.blogspot.com). Here's the review for anyone who may be interested in the author or the series:

Last year when I read and reviewed Discount Armageddon the first of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series I said that it was urban fantasy in it's purest form, and it is. Midnight Blue-Light Special continues that. When I hear the words urban fantasy from now on I will think of InCryptid.

It's been three months since professional ball room dancer and cryptozoologist Verity Price hooked up with former Convenant of St George member Dominic DeLuca and saved New York's one and only dragon in residence (this is male dragon, there are many females). Life isn't too bad and Verity's nearing the end of her year long sabbatical and is facing the fact that she soon needs to make a life choice: dancing or cryptozoology. One is a life long dream, the other means that she makes a significant and life saving difference for others.

It's about then that Dominic tells her that the Covenant of St George are coming to town and to borrow from a well known Western movie: 'Hell is coming with them!'

Once the Covenant arrive, even though their team is only three strong, every cryptid in New York is in danger. Verity tells the dragons to bunker down and warns the Indian Madhura siblings to get out of town. She tells her cousin the 'cuckoo' (other dimensional race of telepaths, Sarah is adopted and it's really complicated) to lay low and prepares to move herself and her colony of talking mice to somewhere safer than her semi legal sublet apartment.

We get to see some of the other Price family allies, like Verity's Uncle Mike, who is revered by the Aeslin mice as the High Priest of Godammit Eat Something Already. Verity's co-worker the waheela Istas also comes along in the hope of there being some significant carnage.

This was the first real good look readers got at the Covenant of St George and they well and truly lived up to their reputation. They are capital N Nasty.

The book is tight and action packed. I give kudoes to Seanan McGuire for not shying away from the fact that when you're playing this game people will get hurt and killed. McGuire has shown in both the Toby Daye and Newsflesh books (written under the pen name Mira Grant) that she can do tension and make you fearful for the fates of her characters and that happens again here. She has a way of keeping one riveted to the page and I had to finish half of Midnight Blue-Light Special in one sitting, because I just had to find out what happened next! This is rare for me. I'm not one of those people who generally get so involved with a book that the outside world ceases to exist.

This one finishes off Verity's story arc for now and the third book (Half Off Ragnarok, seriously I adore the titles) will follow the misadventures of another member of the Price family and in a different setting.

I liked something that was done later in the book and that's the switching of perspective. Writing a book in first person can limit you a little to the narrators view of things. McGuire got around it in Newsflesh by having the second book narrated by a different character and here she takes the perspective of Sarah for a while. I love Sarah as a character, she's just so quirky, so I really enjoyed seeing things through her eyes. A couple of times the voice slipped and she became Verity, but mostly she was believable as Sarah. In terms of presentations, Tara O'Shea's little dingbats at the top of each new chapter altered slightly to reflect the narrator's passion. Verity is a dancer and Sarah is obsessed by mathematics.

One negative thing that carried over from Discount Armageddon was the relationship between Verity and Dominic. I can buy them as partners working together, but I just cannot buy them being in a romantic, hot sex kind of relationship. I don't know why, it just doesn't work for me.

Back to the positives I completely adore the Aeslin mice and want a colony of my own, they started to develop some more distinct personalities in this and while I can see the problems inherent in overusing them I will be most disappointed if Alex Price doesn't have a colony helping/hindering him in some way in Half Off Ragnarok.

Something else that McGuire has done very successfully and you don't often see it in urban fantasy is create an entire world, history and very believable back story, not just for the cryptids, but their human allies and enemies.

I also really like that while she does mention well known cryptids such as bogeymen and dragons, she also finds more obscure ones like madhuras and waheelas, and then there's the ones she's invented herself such as the cuckoos and the Aeslin mice, this all adds depth to the books and the series in general.

I'm on board with this for wherever it takes me.

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I've seen a call already for this, so here goes. I know we have a general GoT S3 thread, but this one is specifically for those who have seen the show and want to talk about it. Fair warning there will be spoilers here. So if you haven't read the books or seen the episodes as they come out you may want to exercise caution.
Episode 1: Valar Dohaeris (new Valyrian word I think, not one of George's original 8) has been screened. What did everyone think? Have at it!

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Fantasy Movies, Comic Books & Video Games / Marvel Comics the Untold Story
« on: February 13, 2013, 03:34:47 AM »
I just recently read the above book. It's a pretty decent read for anyone interested in the company or the medium. It is understandably quite Marvel centric. If you'd like to read my thoughts on it you can find the review at http://travelsthroughiest.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/marvel-comics-untold-story-by-sean-howe.html

I'd actually be interested to hear if anyone else has read this and what they thought.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / What is Urban Fantasy to you?
« on: January 23, 2013, 12:16:28 AM »
There's been a bit of discussion about what direction the fantasy genre as a whole is going in over at the main forum: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/the-future-of-fantasy/
Our Fearless Leader (Overlord) rather cheekily suggested that Urban Fantasy shouldn't be called Fantasy. That got an impassioned response from one of our resident writers, who also happens to be an Urban Fantasist (Francis Knight, her debut UF novel Fade to Black is coming out soon, there's a review on the front page, and while I haven't read the whole book, I have read an excerpt and it looks fantastic, so I hope others join me in purchasing a copy when it hits the shelves). Francis outlined the difference between PNR (Paranormal Romance) and UF, which are often confused.
In recent times I've seen all sorts of things called UF, things that I wouldn't ordinarily put in the sub genre, but they do fit. I can list things until the cows come home, but I'd like people here to say what they consider Urban Fantasy. Not just books or authors, but what elements does a book have to contain to make you consider it as an Urban Fantasy novel?

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