This post was influenced by a trip to Barnes and Noble in San Luis Obispo’s wonderful downtown area. Both my brother-in-laws and I roamed a few of the streets, hitting a record store (Boo Boo Records. Go there if you have a chance!), a used book store that was so irresistibly messy with full shelves and the overflow of stacked books serving as paperback end caps, and finally the B&N.
We looked around and eventually came across the fiction section and then the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. One of my BILs asked what would be a good book to read just to read in general fiction. I struggled to give much of a recommendation but when we stumbled into the aisle of my preferred genre, I was quick to offer recommendations if they were interested.
That escapade brings me here. I cannot say for certain who comes to read my blog (family and friends are quick to visit and I appreciate that greatly. Encourage your friends to as well and feel free to leave comments), but I have a feeling (if I’m wrong, then please forgive me) that there might be some curiosity as to what I might recommend to readers for their fantasy interests.
So here we are! Continue reading and I’ll provide some recommendations based on my extensive reading of the Fantasy genre. I’ll also help provide some key themes and terms that (once again, please forgive me if wrong) may not be familiar.
Fantasy as a genre has been around a good many years. Modern fantasy is a bit of a mixed bag depending on preferences. For classics, I would be remiss to not steer you in the direction of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Both of these authors had a grasp of the genre that has greatly influenced just about every work to date in some form or another.
I can only recommend what I’ve read, so please don’t jump and claw at my face if there’s something you disagree with or don’t see. Rather, throw out recommendations in a comment. In no particular order of preference, length, popularity or any other critiquing factor, here we go!
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson) – If you read my previous On This Day post, then you’ve already been given some background info on this particular series. Wonderful characters and world building with a complex and impressive magic system that plays a role in the story. I would qualify this as a High Magic series which in general terms simply means the magic system is vast and influential throughout.
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – I admit, I’ve only read the first two books of this series and will eventually return to it and finish once it’s been completed. You can watch the show but be denied the complexity of plots and subplots Martin has woven throughout. In comparison, this would be considered Low-Mid fantasy due to the downplay of magic. It’s evident but not pertinent to the story. The characters drive the story and are the reason to invest your time. Note: If you’re put off by extreme violence and sex, you probably want to be wary.
The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson – Epic in the sense that it feels grander in a shorter amount of total pages. The first trilogy is where to start. He has continued the story with a new trilogy that takes place centuries ahead of the first. This is the series to read if you love inventive, imaginative magic systems. Sanderson created such a magnificent system that screams of being adapted to film in the future. Part crime caper and part chosen one story, you’ll love what he does to introduce tropes in the genre only to turn them on their head in ways that keep you reading well into the night and ignoring your bedtime.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson – Epic by all definitions. Characters, world(s), magic, plot twists and turns. Nothing is more vast than this series. I struggled with it due to the complexity of the writing but highly recommend it despite that. It’s truly mesmerizing in its scope and goal.
The Drenai Saga by David Gemmel – Hero fantasy. Best way to put it. The saga follows a singular hero and his many journeys in life. The best of the best who survives against extreme odds. There’s a fair amount of violence, some sex and even some humor. Legend, the first book of the saga is a good introduction to the genre of fantasy.
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss – Easily one of the best out there. Rothfuss spent years honing his craft. There’s a type of lyrical flow to his writing that keeps you trapped in the world of Kvothe (pronounce K-woeth) who is a musician first and wizard/magician second. Amazing writing and world explored in a first person narrative.
The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie – Given the credit for being one of the forbearers of the most recent boom of what’s aptly called Grimdark Fantasy, this series is dark, violent, and depressing. Characters are grey. Heroes and villains are not denied vices and the “good guys” don’t necessarily win by the last page of these books. Still, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre and would like to leave behind the clichés and tropes so many other series seem to get trapped in.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchet – Want to laugh? Then read this one. Pratchett takes his readers on a ride through a witty, dry world that takes place on the back of terrestrial turtle shell (yes, you read that right). With dozens of books in the series, you can read about the misadventures and quests of wizards, witches, Death, city watchmen and more in this instantaneous favorite. Listening to these in audiobook format is equally fun.
The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham – This ones less familiar in most circles but a very good series of Low Fantasy. The magic system is unique and while it plays an integral role in the plot, it does not overshadow the characters.
The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook – Preceding Joe Abercrombie, this series was Grimdark before the term was invented. It follows a mercenary unit of soldiers caught up in a mess of twists and turns where they do all they can to survive. Great world, characters and magic. One of my personal favorites.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – While I was not allowed to read this series growing up, as an adult, I tried it out and fell in love with the characters and world. I call this High Imagination. I am not convinced this series is suitable for children as it explores very dark themes and elements throughout but I believe it’s a great work that explores the journey of adolescence into adulthood. Whatever your feelings are towards it, it’s worth reading.
Call to Action: Recommend a book or series to me! It doesn’t have to be Fantasy or even fiction. Share with me something you’ve read and loved!