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Thread: Fantasy Book Recommendations

  1. #1
      Raptori is offline
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    Default Fantasy Book Recommendations

    I've had a look but can't find any threads on this, which I find surprising! A good proportion of the maps posted here seem to be for fantasy worlds, and I'm expecting there to be a load of people here who would have read (or perhaps even written) a lot of fantasy - so does anyone have any recommendations? Most of my life I've read more sci-fi than fantasy, but after finding a few series that I've loved I'm leaning more towards fantasy at the moment - hence wanting to find out about good series.

    My personal tastes in books are that at the very least they should be set in a well worked out, internally consistent world, with engaging and realistic characters who drive an interesting story. I'm wavering between Liveship Traders and Mistborn as my favourite fantasy series, though I've only read about half a dozen others. Liveship Traders hits the spot because it has such complex and well rounded characters, each with their own story weaving in and out of each other's influence and culminates in a huge climax at the end. Mistborn does because it's incredibly well structured with an amazing level of subtle foreshadowing, and has a great story arc both within each of the three books and as an overall trilogy - there were times when a revelation in those books forced me to go back and re-read certain sections of previous chapters and books because the new knowledge completely flipped my assumptions about what was happening, which doesn't happen often.

    I guess the most obvious thing common to both is that no one character is actually evil - they're all just doing whatever seems right to them, even the completely evil overlord in the first Mistborn book. In that sense they remind me of James Clavell's books, both in terms of character realism and story complexity.

    So, does anyone have anything to recommend?


    Side note: if anyone has a Goodreads account, they're welcome to add me here
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    One of the problems with answering this question is that there is so much fantasy out there, and most of it is really bad. Because there is so much out there, though, peoples' preferences will vary widely. Below are a few recommendations from me, but my taste lies in books where the fantasy elements are subtle, but the worldbuilding is thorough and the story is atmospheric.

    You could always start with the classics:
    --Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
    --Narnia (Lewis)
    --Gormenghast (Peake): this is a bit different to those above, as the fantasy elements are more subtly done. There is no magic or battles, or any of the things you'll find in other stories, so it might not appeal to many folks. It is, however, in my opinion, the best written of the classics, and the most imaginatively and evocatively realised.

    I don't know the Mistborn series, but the Liveship Traders implies you like stories that unfold as sagas (not that there's anything wrong with that). Have you read Robin Hobb's other works of the Realm of the Elderlings: The Royal Assassin Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy? There's also a recent series that she's working on (3 or 4 books published so far) also in that world, and a trilogy (I think it is called the Soldier Son trilogy) that is set in a different world with overtones of American colonial period (but also strong fantasy aspects). Lastly for her, you can try some of her works by her pseudonym, Megan Lindholm (she wrote two relatively small books about a shaman's apprentice in a pre-Colombian American culture). I personally get sick of Robin Hobb rather quickly, although I acknowledge she has some mastery of her art.

    Ursula Le Guin is a great fantasy writer, and her Earthsea Trilogy is now a classic in its own right. It definitely comes highly recommended, although be aware that it also has a somewhat subdued (i.e. slow and subtle) aspect to it. I believe Le Guin's parents were anthropologists, and so the worlds she creates are often very culturally detailed. She's also done a few sci-fi works you may have encountered.

    Diana Wynne Jones was a very prolific writer. None of her books are very serious or epic, but I find them really good to just settle into. Enjoyable, well-written, sometimes sad and sometimes funny. She also liked playing around with fantasy cliches, which can be enjoyable (also, for the humorous side to fantasy, it is hard to miss Terry Pratchett).

    Cornelia Funke has written some good fantasy works: Reckless and Fearless both take place in a fantasy version of Europe, but one in which the modern age is starting to catch up.

    Tanith Lee has a large number of engaging books you might want to try. A trilogy she wrote starting with Black Unicorn is very good (and you don't have to be a unicorn-fan to appreciate the series).

    A recent favourite writer of mine is Frances Hardinge (Fly By Night being a great starting point). She, like Le Guin, enjoys inventing cultures, and seems to take great pleasure in exploring how worlds different to ours might work. Her attention to detail is magnificent.

    Lastly, I'd like to mention One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It isn't really fantasy (it belongs to a genre called magic realism), but it is one of my favourite books, and it seems appropriate to mention it now, because Marquez has just passed away.

    I don't know if any of those titles help you out. I, too, would like to see what other people recommend, and why.

    THW
    Last edited by TheHoarseWhisperer; 04-18-2014 at 03:46 AM.
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      Eilathen is offline
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    Well, if you want to have well thought out worlds (as in "realistic", consistent and deep worldbuilding) and complex stories and are not afraid of the modern fantasy (aka not so much feel-good fantasy anymore these days, the best of fantasy atm is more in the vein of realistic and gritty), then you absolutely have to try out these two series:

    Steven Erikson - Malazan Book of the Fallen (first book is Gardens of the Moon)

    R. Scott Bakker - The Prince of Nothing (first book is The Darkness that comes before)

    Both authors have very deep and consistent settings but are both quite gritty. Bakker is even grim and dark at times.
    Erikson is unparalleled when it comes to worldbuilding (ok, Tolkien is still the king, but he is close) and his cultures are very realistic (no wonder as he is an anthropologist and archeologist). His work is epic and for me, all in all, the best there is atm.
    Bakker has a very good grasp on the psychology of his characters. Also, as he has a PhD in philosophy, his work has philosophical influences and in-world philosophies. Bakker can definitely write! Although, in the end, writting style is a matter of taste. As i said, his world is quite a dark one. So if you are not a fan of the...darker aspects... of human life, i guess this is not for you.
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    How about anything from M. Night Shayamalan.......LOL I couldn't help it
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eilathen View Post
    R. Scott Bakker - The Prince of Nothing (first book is The Darkness that comes before)
    I heartily second this one. Probably among the greatest settings and stories I've seen in 30+ years of reading fantasy.

    I've read several books from Pyr publishing recently that are great - they really seem to be trying to make a name for themselves with new and innovative fantasy. Two of my favorites are 'The Barrow' by Mark Smylie (although it's probably not for everyone as it's loaded with some pretty deviant sex), and 'Blackdog' by K.V. Johansen. This second one has a great, seldom-seen central Asian/steppes setting and milleu, really great world-building.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheHoarseWhisperer View Post
    One of the problems with answering this question is that there is so much fantasy out there, and most of it is really bad. Because there is so much out there, though, peoples' preferences will vary widely. Below are a few recommendations from me, but my taste lies in books where the fantasy elements are subtle, but the worldbuilding is thorough and the story is atmospheric.

    You could always start with the classics:
    --Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
    --Narnia (Lewis)
    --Gormenghast (Peake): this is a bit different to those above, as the fantasy elements are more subtly done. There is no magic or battles, or any of the things you'll find in other stories, so it might not appeal to many folks. It is, however, in my opinion, the best written of the classics, and the most imaginatively and evocatively realised.

    I don't know the Mistborn series, but the Liveship Traders implies you like stories that unfold as sagas (not that there's anything wrong with that). Have you read Robin Hobb's other works of the Realm of the Elderlings: The Royal Assassin Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy? There's also a recent series that she's working on (3 or 4 books published so far) also in that world, and a trilogy (I think it is called the Soldier Son trilogy) that is set in a different world with overtones of American colonial period (but also strong fantasy aspects). Lastly for her, you can try some of her works by her pseudonym, Megan Lindholm (she wrote two relatively small books about a shaman's apprentice in a pre-Colombian American culture). I personally get sick of Robin Hobb rather quickly, although I acknowledge she has some mastery of her art.

    Ursula Le Guin is a great fantasy writer, and her Earthsea Trilogy is now a classic in its own right. It definitely comes highly recommended, although be aware that it also has a somewhat subdued (i.e. slow and subtle) aspect to it. I believe Le Guin's parents were anthropologists, and so the worlds she creates are often very culturally detailed. She's also done a few sci-fi works you may have encountered.

    Diana Wynne Jones was a very prolific writer. None of her books are very serious or epic, but I find them really good to just settle into. Enjoyable, well-written, sometimes sad and sometimes funny. She also liked playing around with fantasy cliches, which can be enjoyable (also, for the humorous side to fantasy, it is hard to miss Terry Pratchett).

    Cornelia Funke has written some good fantasy works: Reckless and Fearless both take place in a fantasy version of Europe, but one in which the modern age is starting to catch up.

    Tanith Lee has a large number of engaging books you might want to try. A trilogy she wrote starting with Black Unicorn is very good (and you don't have to be a unicorn-fan to appreciate the series).

    A recent favourite writer of mine is Frances Hardinge (Fly By Night being a great starting point). She, like Le Guin, enjoys inventing cultures, and seems to take great pleasure in exploring how worlds different to ours might work. Her attention to detail is magnificent.

    Lastly, I'd like to mention One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It isn't really fantasy (it belongs to a genre called magic realism), but it is one of my favourite books, and it seems appropriate to mention it now, because Marquez has just passed away.

    I don't know if any of those titles help you out. I, too, would like to see what other people recommend, and why.

    THW
    Yeah there's a lot of rubbish out there, hence me asking! In general I'd say I have pretty similar tastes, but then again the magic in Mistborn is very conspicuous, and it also works for me... it's so difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes you enjoy reading specific books. I doubt you'd like Mistborn if you actively dislike it when the fantasy elements are in your face - one of the biggest selling points is the in-depth and unusual magic system. However the worldbuilding is extremely detailed, and the story is compelling, so if it's more a preference for subtlety than a dislike of fireworks then you'd probably enjoy them!

    I'd say I'm not too fussed either way actually, anything from novellas (or even short stories) to really long sagas is fine by me. Some of my favourite books are stand-alone novels (a couple of examples are A Canticle for Leibowitz and Flowers for Algernon, both of which are great sci-fi novels), and I didn't like any of the sequels of Dune despite loving the first book, so I'd say really it's just about whether or not the story interests me regardless of length. However, one problem I have is that I read fast - most books that I read take me under a couple of days to read (600-800 pages being the usual length) - so a more extended series lets me really get into it over an extended period without having to force myself to put the book down all the time.

    I've read all the Real of the Elderlings books and liked them all to varying degrees. Liveships probably stands out for me because it's more complex and morally grey, and then the two trilogies centered on Fitz also come pretty close. Interestingly I hated the Soldier Son trilogy, they're literally the only books I've read that I couldn't bring myself to finish - so I get what you mean about getting sick of her writing, though it's weird that only this series caused that reaction in me. I've read a couple of her Lindholm short stories, and didn't really like the style or general subject matter at all.


    Anyway, on to the books you've recommended!

    LOTR: I read it about a decade ago (I was early teens). I think I loved it at the time, but I've been mening to go back and re-read it (and read The Hobbit as well) to see what I think of it now.

    Narnia: I always thought these were more children's books? I've apparently lost the ability to enjoy stuff that's actively aimed at children - I used to love the Harry Potter books, but now I can't bear the writing style. Wonder if I'd feel the same about these.

    Ursula Le Guin: Earthsea had been on my to-read list for years, finally read the first four books a few months ago. I found it a bit of and odd experience - I loved the world, liked the story, and would've probably thought they were great overall, but the pacing of the endings jolted me a bit. Compared to the pace throughout everything seemed to get wrapped up very suddenly, and in some ways the endings felt pretty contrived and left me left feeling realy underwhelmed at the end...

    Diana Wynne Jones: Howl's Moving Castle is a book?! Must find out more...

    Haven't heard of any of the others, I shall look them up and see which ones appeal to me most!


    Quote Originally Posted by Eilathen View Post
    Well, if you want to have well thought out worlds (as in "realistic", consistent and deep worldbuilding) and complex stories and are not afraid of the modern fantasy (aka not so much feel-good fantasy anymore these days, the best of fantasy atm is more in the vein of realistic and gritty), then you absolutely have to try out these two series:

    Steven Erikson - Malazan Book of the Fallen (first book is Gardens of the Moon)

    R. Scott Bakker - The Prince of Nothing (first book is The Darkness that comes before)

    Both authors have very deep and consistent settings but are both quite gritty. Bakker is even grim and dark at times.
    Erikson is unparalleled when it comes to worldbuilding (ok, Tolkien is still the king, but he is close) and his cultures are very realistic (no wonder as he is an anthropologist and archeologist). His work is epic and for me, all in all, the best there is atm.
    Bakker has a very good grasp on the psychology of his characters. Also, as he has a PhD in philosophy, his work has philosophical influences and in-world philosophies. Bakker can definitely write! Although, in the end, writting style is a matter of taste. As i said, his world is quite a dark one. So if you are not a fan of the...darker aspects... of human life, i guess this is not for you.
    They both definitely sound interesting, thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Slylok View Post
    How about anything from M. Night Shayamalan.......LOL I couldn't help it
    Lol I guess the fact that he makes movies and not books is a... twist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Diamond View Post
    I heartily second this one. Probably among the greatest settings and stories I've seen in 30+ years of reading fantasy.

    I've read several books from Pyr publishing recently that are great - they really seem to be trying to make a name for themselves with new and innovative fantasy. Two of my favorites are 'The Barrow' by Mark Smylie (although it's probably not for everyone as it's loaded with some pretty deviant sex), and 'Blackdog' by K.V. Johansen. This second one has a great, seldom-seen central Asian/steppes setting and milleu, really great world-building.
    Cool, they look good too!



    Thanks all of you for the great replies so far, I still want more though - a long to read list makes a happy Raptori

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    They're out of print, hard to find, and more than a little strange, but you might try the four-book Omaran Saga by Adrian Cole. The first book is 'A Place Among the Fallen'.

    Also very good is The Years of Longdirk Trilogy by Ken Hood (AKA Dave Duncan), starting with 'Demon Sword', and John Maddox Roberts' five-book Islander series.
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    My second-favorite fantasy author after Hobb is Tad Williams. He takes a little while to get traction, so you'll be about a quarter to a third of the way through the first book in a given series before it starts to come together. I haven't read Shadowmarch yet, but I really enjoyed Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland, which may seem like cyberpunk, but it's got strong fairy-tale underpinnings.

    The Chronicles of Narnia is definitely children's literature, but it's from an era before we started condescending to our children, so it's got a lot more to offer stylistically than Rowling's work. At times it can be pretty bald-faced Christian allegory, though, so if you're put off by that you might have a hard time enjoying them. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most well-constructed. In The Last Battle, I feel like Lewis is clubbing me with the allegory. If you read them, I recommend you do it in publication order rather than chronological (which would start you with The Magician's Nephew). Disclaimer: I am a Christian, and it's not the theology that turns me off, but the allegory.

    My wife keeps recommending the work of Patrick Rothfuss, but after enduring The Wheel of Time, I'm not getting involved in any more fantasy series unless I'm certain they're going to be finished eventually. That's why I've so far refused to read any George RR Martin. Anyway, she assures me that I'll like them, and since she's as big a fan of Hobb as I am I take her at her word.

    If you're interested in urban fantasy, you might give The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher a look. They're the popcorn of fantasy literature—enjoyable but of little substance. Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels are somewhat the same, although I find that I enjoy them a little less with each new volume. The Khaavren Romances are hilarious if you read some Alexandre Dumas first. It took me a little while to realize it, but they're a spoof of The D'Artagnan Romances.
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    Oh man, you've hit a spot with me with this post!

    I'll be happy to add you on goodreads so we can rummage around in each others bookshelfs... (NOT an innuendo! )

    I'm too eager to suggest books to more than skim the other entries, apologys to everyone!

    The obvious current suggestions would indeed be Goerge RR Martin, but as Midgardsommar has pointed out, it might not get finished... though it really is good.
    As for Pat Rothfuss, he's still young and there's only one book left in the trilogy, so definitely a recommendation.

    A more organized list here:

    - Joe Abercrombie: The First Law Trilogy
    If you don't have a problem with lots of swearing and a somewhat bleak perspective on life, this is going to be very entertaining. Also a small sense of british humor is advised.
    - Scott Lynch: The Gentlemen Bastard series
    The first book is The Lies Of Locke Lamora. Again, lots of swearing, but wildly amusing, great characters, plot twists and whatnot. Read it.
    - Jack Vance: Lyonesse Trilogy (1st book being Suldrun's Garden)
    This is what I consider classic fantasy. Jack Vance died last year at 96 years of age. So you can imagine how long he's been around. The Lyonesse Trilogy is set in the times pre King Arthur, on a fictional island that would have been Atlantis. It's a little unusal to read nowadays, I'd say, but this is LITERATURE!
    - Daniel Abraham: The Long Price Quartet (1st book being A Shadow In Summer)
    Very well written, unique world, great characters. Abraham is a friend of George RR Martin's and has co-authored a few stories with him.

    I'll be bouncing back to this thread because I'm always on the lookout for some good new fantasy!
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      Meshon is offline
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    Great idea! Reading this thread has given me lots of new material to consider. And of course I have a couple things to suggest...

    1) Fritz Leiber, specifically his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales. This was my second exposure to fantasy, after Tolkien, and it's pretty much the opposite of Lord of the Rings. Mostly these are collections of short stories about two "heroes" who are more thieves than adventurers, and end up spending most of their ill-gotten gains on drink and whimsical ventures. They also adventure in Lankhmar which is one of the greatest old fantasy cities in my opinion. If you're looking for a place to start I would actually recommend the second collection, Swords Against Death, which includes "The Jewels in the Forest" from way back in 1939.

    2) P.C. Hodgell's God Stalk imagines another amazing city along with some very interesting characters. I'm not totally sure about the larger story this book is part of (because I haven't read all the books), but it can stand on it's own. Now that I think about it, the main character here is also a thief... I wonder if I have a predisposition?

    3) Glen Cook and the first novel of his series, The Black Company. It's a thoroughly enjoyable military fantasy about a long-standing mercenary company with mysterious origins and a historian-soldier as the main character. I liked the later books only very slightly less, but they're all still pretty great.

    4) And then I really like all the old Conan stories for pure nostalgia, and the fact that a large number of the villains are felled by a well-aimed random object forcefully hurled by the barbarian hero...

    I would say that numbers 2 and 3 are actually quite good, but Leiber influenced the whole genre in a seriously significant way (I think he may have invented the idea of the Thieves' Guild) and Conan is... well... Cimmerian!

    cheers,
    Meshon
    Last edited by Meshon; 04-25-2014 at 01:00 PM. Reason: Added a link to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser info
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