So, our friend Tlatoaniitzcoatl made a grievous error. He asked whether I like fantasy novels. (https://twitter.com/CuartoTlatoani/status/591418238795407360)
And now the nonsense begins.
Fantasy novels, eh? Oh, the wondrous steps that a person can take starting out here! There’s so many different directions to go in, so many different authors to choose from, so many different sub-genres…. SQUEEEE. I quit playing video games and was about to leave my computer desk, but no, I’m definitely staying for this now. There might not be sane descriptions here, but in the worst case, bookseller descriptions should do a fair job providing what I leave out. WATCH OUT FOR SPOILERS!
Okay, so, let’s start with some of the more “classic” fantasy.
There’s the original gangster himself, J.R.R. Tolkien. Countless fantasy novels have tropes and stereotypes and ideas that were really made and popularized with this genius fellow. If you want to start with the progenitor of the fantasy genre, you can do a lot worse than starting with J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. I started with the Hobbit and then moved on to the Lord of the Rings. I think the Hobbit is a lot more enjoyable that way.
As a wee lad, I really got into fantasy novels with the Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings. These books might not be as grown up as the offerings I read nowadays, but I loved them as a kid. If you want to watch a little boy get thrust into a complicated conflict between deities and countries and such, this is a good one.
Another series I started with when I was younger was the Riftwar, starting with Magician: Apprentice and ending with Magician: Master. These are two pretty big books, with some interesting characters and some real fun with magic. And plenty of swords, if you like swords. The series went on many books after this, but these two have always been my favorite of them all. PLUS, you can feel SUPER COOL when playing the old RPG, Betrayal at Krondor, since that’s based on the same world, and you may even recognize some characters…. At any rate, follow a young boy who gets thrust into the middle of a war between two vastly different powers! Watch as he grows up, and his friends grow up and take their places in the world. And watch how cool Arutha is. Trust me, he’s cool. Super cool. Go Laurie!
If you want dark, and like people with lots of initials, well, there’s the obvious of George R. R. Martin. Do you like people dying all the time, and when they’re not dying, they’re often naked or being very witty, or being very witty whilst being naked? A Song of Ice and Fire is for you! The first few books are the strongest in the series, in my mind, but I’ve enjoyed every last one. I’m not sure if I really needed to mention this, as HBO seems to be taking care of it for everyone. This is a dark series, and gritty, with a light dusting of magic. There’s just enough to make it interesting and very special.
Now, let’s say you ::don’t:: fancy people dying all the time, but you still want a really long book series. Let’s say you have roughly fifty seven years to burn… if you read a book about once every 3.8 years, then Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is for you! The series has 15 books, and I’ll admit, a few of them lag a bit along the way, but when you’re not waiting 2-4 years for the next one, it’s not bad at all. This is a wonderful series with a ton of characters, nations, cultures and fun facts. It’s a very big world in there, and even at the end you feel like there’s more to be discovered…. This is a really good series that only grows in scope as the books go on.
If you like D&D style fantasy, and or Dragons or surly mages, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance books (Dragons of Autumn Twilight and so on) are a good choice. If you want to see action centered around characters who could have walked in off of the gaming table, these folks are for you. They’re good books, though I don’t put them in the same category as Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin. These books feel faster to read, and a lot lighter than the others’ more heavy offering.
Some of the cool kids must be clamoring because I haven’t mentioned Patrick Rothfuss yet. Well, Patrick Rothfuss is amazing. Now, I don’t know if I’d START reading fantasy novels with this fellow. Not because he’ll necessarily spoil the genre for you, but because of how well he USES the genre. The Kingkiller Chronicles (starting with The Name of the Wind) is amazing. (Are amazing?) This is a book told from the perspective of the main character, Kvothe. (Like “Quoth”.) These books are smart, sexy and despite being told what is going to happen by the main character himself, will still surprise you. Now, I wouldn’t start here, because some of the really fun things that Rothfuss does won’t be as much fun unless you’ve read some other fantasy first, at least in my opinion. Either way, you cannot go wrong with these books.
Now, another camp of cool kids might still be mad. (There’s all sorts of camps in this genre). I haven’t mentioned Brandon Sanderson yet. I’ll start by saying that this is the man who was brought in to finish Robert Jordan’s books after he passed away. Brandon Sanderson has a lot of talent. If you want to read a series about a world with its own unique and very special set of rules, read ANYTHING by Brandon Sanderson. Like many, I started with his Mistborn trilogy. This is a wonderful place to start. The world has its own special breed of magic based around ingesting and “burning” metals in your body, if you’re capable. If you’re lucky to have this ability at all, you’ll probably end up with one metal you can burn. For example, tin, which enhances your perception. (Ever hear of the “tineye” app? This is where the name comes from). Mistborn folks can burn ALL of them. With wonderful powers like iron and steel, you can be Spider-man! But no webs required! You “push” and “pull” on iron and launch yourself, or the iron. Bam! YOU ARE A MACHINE GUN. It’s a wonderful series. (Also, read his modern “super hero” books, starting with Steelheart. Amazing).
There’s so many more:
The Old Kingdom / Abhorsen by Garth Nix
The Green Rider Series by Kristen Britain
I’m currently rereading the Sword of Shadows series by J.V. Jones
Oh man! DO YOU WANT TO WATCH A CHARACTER GET EMOTIONALLY PUNCHED IN THE FACE FOREVER?! OH BOY! Go read the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. It’s about a boy who is born out of wedlock to one of the most noble nobles who ever practiced nobling. If you thought that being born in that sort of circumstance was bad enough, just wait and see. I had to wonder whether Robin Hobb hated her own character for a long time….
If you want urban fantasy, read Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere.” It’s great. It’s about the city that lives underneath London, unbeknownst to its inhabitants….
Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is, well, dark. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s been fun. “Fun.”
I know I’m missing a ton of my favorites here, and I’m going to kick myself later. But this is the best I can do for now. I’ll leave you with one more.
Terry Pratchett. Anything by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld series, or even “Good Omens” with Neil Gaimann, though that’s not really fantasy, per se. But Discworld is basically a fantasy world to the extreme, with TONS of political and topical commentary rounding it all out. There are puns, there is sarcasm, and the characters are just so colorful that it’s simply amazing. There are a lot of books, so you’ll almost never run out. Sadly, Terry Pratchett did just pass away recently, but he’s left behind a truly wonderful legacy of books.
So here’s a largely nonsensical list of books and authors and series. I should have formally done descriptions of each, and plot summaries and blah blah blah, but I don’t want to risk spoilers. These are all too good. And if you had to pick one, I’d say A Song of Ice and Fire (if you haven’t watched it on HBO) or Magician: Apprentice, though that could be the nostalgia talking. If you worry about the nostalgia factor, well, Tolkien might cause a problem there, so I’ll say The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. The first three books are amazing, and a wonderful example of a colorful world, with interesting characters, frightening foes, and a system of Magic that makes sense and is anything but boring. Plus there’s 15 books. You’ll never get bored! (Except book 7, and maybe 10, I forget which couple dragged.)… … … Fine! Alright! Go read Tolkien, Magician: Apprentice, then Wheel of Time / A Song of Ice and Fire and then Mistborn and the Kingkiller Chronicles! GO GO GO!
I expect a book report by Monday.