Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.
My OCD is going a little crazy with starting this partway through a month and not nice and neatly at the start of the year, but ah well. This week’s topic is:
Top Ten Fantasy Books
(That I fling at people’s heads when they ask for a recommendation)
First up, I’m going to cheat sometimes here. Some suggestions will be for the first book in a series, some will be the whole series as one recommendation. This will mostly be newish books, as I find there are more than enough classic or standard fantasy book lists out there.
1. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Scott jokes that I’m responsible for the majority of his Australian sales, and psh to that – he’s well known here, especially after the ABC radio interview he did. That aside, I certainly have bought a few dozen copies for competitions or simply flinging at heads whether people ask for a recommendation or not.
I love this because it’s epic fantasy but it’s easily accessible by those who haven’t read much fantasy, because the witty insulting dialogue grabs you along and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a con story akin to Oceans Eleven which many feel comfortable with. You can enjoy the story well enough whether or not you take note of the more epic fantasy themes as they’re not crucial to the plot. His characters drive the plot, and it’s pretty hard not to love Locke, Jean, the Sanza twins and Bug. As well as Chains. Lukas Fehrwight. But not the Bondsmage. To hell with that guy.
2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I admit, this book took a while to get into. Once there, though. Boy oh boy. As The Lies of Locke Lamora is a joy of many things, but especially for the wit – Rothfuss’ work is a joy for the lyrical nature and Bard-like telling of it all.
This book often gets a few sour reviews because they think it’s a mary sue/gary stu or whatever the term is, saying that the character has too many abilities too easy. I disagree, I think it’s supported perfectly with the type of life he has had and the fact he’s just a lucky little sod that has a knack for some things and isn’t scared of hard work and practise for others.
I love this because it’s simply a joy to read. And because I love the scene where Kvothe loses the ability to know when something is or isn’t a bad idea. It is perfectly handled.
3. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Cheating here and choosing a whole series instead of the one book, partly because this is a finished series (well, there’s more books coming out in this world, but there are three books in this series that has completed a story arc). Also because I love the first book, but the third is what sealed this series as something special. Books that tear your heart into tiny little pieces will do that, you know.
I admit I could have bought and started this series a lot earlier than I eventually did (I was given it by my work for a birthday present in the end). I hesitated because it seemed to be clinging to Harry Potter fame, asking, what would happen if the Dark Lord had won? Finally I listened to the internet and annoyed the eyeroll that line caused, and am so glad I did so.
I love this series because it feels special while reading it. It has such an interesting magic system and characters that grow along the way while you’re reading them, and then of course the third book which made me emotional. It’s raw, it’s realistic, and it doesn’t try to keep the reader safe as other series tend to do.
4. Robin Hobb
I honestly don’t know where to start or which series of Robin’s to recommend. Other than all of it. ALL. Some have had disappointment with the Solider Son trilogy and fair enough, I’m still partway through that series myself, but honestly – start with Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) and read on through the Tawny Man trilogy, then Liveship Traders and the Rain Wilds trilogies. And don’t look back.
Also, start now because Robin has another series coming out soon enough. So that’s at least 13 novels for you to start with, with a new one out in August 2014 (scheduled for, at least) and then the three Soldier Son books if you so wish.
I love her work because it’s honestly unlike any other fantasy I’ve come to so far. It has animals and makes them intelligent, it has characters you can’t like yet still feel invested in somehow besides. It has a vivid world you can so easily understand. It’s gritty, it’s serious and harsh overall, yet it treats love and family as some of the most important things in the world. Try them.
5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This book (and series) is for everyone who has become scathing and disillusioned by YA – prepare to be pleasantly surprised. I admit I was dismissive when it first arrived for review, then I was hooked by the end of the first page and after a few more, determined to go to Prague. The setting is introduced carefully, showing its eccentricities and describing the landscape, and slowly the plot winds around you tighter and tighter until you’re unable to put the book down and you’re devouring the backstory, which is so cleverly revealed you hardly notice it’s slipping back to the past between sections of the present.
I love this series because of the writing. Laini’s biggest asset in her writing is she makes you feel whether you usually are one of those types of readers or not. Normally I’m not sure I would have been invested in the characters of Karou and Akiva – I’m sure I would have loved Brimstone and Issa and Zuzana regardless, but perhaps not the main characters. But Laini ensures you do, because my goodness does she write love well. I saw a review ages ago that said something along the lines of ‘she makes you want to punch love in the face for being so freakin’ adorable’. Which is so true.
6. Creature Court by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Ahh, strong female characters! Though I’m not really into clothes or dressing up, I utterly love reading about it. (that and food, which is another strength shown in another of Tansy’s series’.) Here we have an excellent series with mostly female characters that feels utterly original and really brings in a style of battle and war that’s believable, interesting, action packed and never dull.
I love this series because again, it’s different to most that’s around – mainly thanks to the characters – and because it has a beauty to it that keeps you reading, trapped in their world completely. Here we have the usual ‘main character comes into powers unexpectedly what will happen next’ and we are delivered a complex and evocative story. Constantly this series goes against expectations. And everything is in fine detail, yet never information dumping or details akin to Tolkien where it goes one stay too far.
7. Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis
Let’s dive into some grit. This is a jumble of genres – science-fantasy historical fiction – taking place between 1939 and 1941 in Germany, London and many places in-between. The Nazis have supermen (and women), the British have warlocks and demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.
I love this series because the characters are morbidly fascinating, the time is captured so well, and it’s a scary thing to think about – what if this had been possible. The idea is enough to chill you to the bone. This is a well-rounded series, one that has a well developed plot, believable characters, beautiful description – transitions initially conveyed using birds, which become a running theme throughout the novel – and above all else – a well written novel.
8. Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal
This was another series I’d meant to read for so long, yet simply took me ages. Because of the cover, I think. The new design would have had me interested immediately (yes, I’m afraid I can’t help but be influenced by the cover). I’m so glad I’ve finally got into the series though, especially since the author is so lovely in general and especially in person.
I love this series because it takes regency and makes it easier to read for those who aren’t all that interested in most other regency novels. It has a fascinating magic system – manipulating strands of magic into allusions – and lovely characters. This series just keeps getting better and better. And I’d love to see more male readers giving it a go.
9. The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
This is a richly descriptive series full of well defined, intriguing characters and an intricate plot that has you hooked from start to finish. It draws you in slowly, to a world where water is sacred and everything is built around it, be it religion or social hierarchy.
I love this series because Larke has managed to weave this complex novel together cleverly, being subtle with her messages of equality and environmental awareness. At no part is this novel boring; it always leaves you eager for more and unable to put the book down. There is something here for everyone who loves a good plot, whether they delight in battles or romance, and with this Larke is sure to bring many more fans to her already captivated audience.
10. The Stone Mage and the Sea by Sean Williams
Sean Williams is incredibly visual. Though he writes of amazing, fantastic things, you’re able to visualise it all before you as if watching a play, rather than reading a novel. His characters are fluid, believable and likeable no matter what they’re doing or saying. You really do feel as if you’re there, and that you know them all almost intimately. You feel their emotions and all you want to do is read on, and on.
I really like how Sean weaves Australianisms into his writing. Describing Tom to look like a Bilby is effective. Having red sand instead of pale yellow, etc. I would love to know what a non-Australian, who’s never been here, would think, reading this book.
I love this series because it introduced me to a new kind of fantasy – one that’s raw and earthy. He has an interesting balance of what’s considered technology and then also how archaic they are in some ways. And the characters. The characters.
What are your go-to fantasy novel recommendations? The lack of George R. R. Martin, Feist and Jordon on mine are probably making someone out there twitch but honestly, I try to be a little different with my recommendations when I can – what use is a recommendation if everyone has already read them?
Many of mine may not be immediately heard of as three are Australian and hence, sometimes hard to find overseas. Let me know if you’re interested, and having trouble finding them, and I’ll do my best to assist. These are books that need to be shared.