Friday, May 26, 2006

Best Fantasy Novel


Uploaded on April 21, 2006
by karl_eschenbach
It's my birthday, two weeks from today that is. But one can't start preparing too early, right?

See, other than a "brain-machine interface [that comes] with an optional invisibility array, four speaker sound system and 2.9% financing", I'll probably be getting some gift certificates and after satisfying my pressing needs: Teva sandals, and my girly needs: a skirt, I hope to have enough left over for about 3-5 books.

Yesterday, then, I did some preliminary research at our local Book City (something in between indie and super-book-store, re my post about bookstores. As usual, I skipped the popular fiction table, looked at the literary aisle, skipped mysteries, took my time at the SF section and was about to continue to the non-fiction science books before I stopped myself. Why, of why do I skip fantasy? I don't know.

Here, my secret is out. Other than reading LOTR, I've hardly read any fantasy books. Ever. I tried Neil Gaiman (if he's considered 100% fantasy, I don't know), but it didn't do anything for me.

After spending half an hour in front of the fantasy books and having no idea what to buy, I walked home really annoyed. I mean, know some names - Goodkind, Pratchet, LeGuin, Jordan etc. - but I still don't know what to get.

The first thing I did when I got home then was to look at some Best Fantasy Lists, which with the exception of LOTR and Harry Potter (oh, yeah, I've read that one too), they were all over the place:
World Fantasy Awards
Locus Poll: All Time Best Fantasy Novel - I actually read a few books from this list.

So I'm asking for help. If there are any avid fantasy readers out there please tell me which books you think are best and why. (If you post about it, I'll link to it here of course).
Just for reference, I don't like fluff and much prefer disturbing.

Thanks all.

Jack actually wrote about this in April:My Favourite Books
Cavan also directed me to a list: EXHAUSTIVE ESSENTIAL FANTASY READING LISTS - I think he meant exhausting...

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Pat Kirby said...

Award winners rarely impress me. For example Tooth and Claw (World fantasy 2004) was rather blah, with a cop-out, happily ever after ending. Dragons in hats, bleh. I just tried to read "The Horlack" (novella) in Link's story collection Magic for Beginners, and found it weird and lacking a plot.

Michael Swanwicks, The Iron Dragon's Daughter is dark...and weird. I love it, but it may be an acquired taste.

I hardly ever read epic fantasy anymore, finding that it spends too much time on world building and lacking any real characterization. That said, I love George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Tad William's Trilogy, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, is a great coming of age wrapped in an epic. I also enjoyed his The War of the Flowers.

Le Guin's Earthsea stuff amused me when younger, but now...not so much. Pratchet is amusing but tries too bloody hard and can get tiresome.

Jordan...UGH! UGH! Jordan makes me a misogynist. After the second or third book, with his twitchy, bitchy, hair tugging women, I wanted the men to take em out behind the woodshed and f*ck the BLEEP out of them. And the endless descriptions of clothing. You'd think Jordan was a chick, he knows more about clothes than I do. Hate Jordan.

Goodkind is the king of unresolved sexual tension (not good) and gratuitous torture scenes. Snore.

Nowadays I gravitate towards contemporary/urban fantasy like Jim Butcher or Kelley Armstrong. Christopher Moore is good for a laugh.

Eon Colfer's Artemis Fowl series is fun (YA or middle reader, I believe). His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman is great and thought provoking (YA, but with very adult/challenging themes.)

Now that I've insulted every else's fave authors, I off for a long weekend. Tah.

Melly said...

Pat, oh Pat... :)
So the best is???
I think you mean that The Iron Dragon's Daughter is the one you would recommend, right?
I tried to read Artemis Fowl once. Found it boring.

Jack Slyde said...

Hi Melly, I posted my favourites a little while ago.

And I completely agree with Pat about Jordon.

Cavan said...

That 2.9% financing is a real deal-maker, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm like you in that I tend to skip the fantasy aisle. I read LOTR, I love Harry Potter and I read quite a bit of fantasy in my younger days, but it doesn't hold a lot of appeal for me anymore, though I couldn't exactly tell you why.

As for recommendations I'll provide this link:

Uber-hip urban fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer made a list of essential fantasy novels, though it includes some rather non-traditional choices like Nabokov, Kafka, Pynchon and Swift. He's also put together a huge comprehensive listing. Might be some stuff of interest for you there.

Melly said...

Thanks Jack, I'll add it immediately.

Cavan, thanks for the list. I've seen lists like VanderMeer's that include Alice in Wonderland and the likes and none of them mention the names I know. So either I don't know noting about fantasy, or there's like this literary fantasy high-brow crowd...
Do you think he really read all these books???

paul darcy said...

You should give Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series a go.

Start with book 1 - Lord Foul's Bane and see if you like it.

Good stuff, really.

Fred Charles said...

Well, I have read every fantasy that there is to read. Most of it, unfortunately, is very LOTR-esque. If you want to read some fantasy that is different and most excellent, I recommend the following:

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin: Possibly the most entertaining and unique fantasy series. The characters are amazing and real and you never know what will happen.

I would also recommend:

The Guilded Chain - Dave Duncan

ME Strauss said...

Hi Melly,
As a person who stays on the edges of fantasy . . . I'll submit this.

Someone gave me the Pullman series Pat mentioned -- His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman is great and thought provoking (YA, but with very adult/challenging themes.)

The concepts and characters drew me as a reader and as a writer. It won some awards I think. The idea of daemons was quite compelling. The characters have stayed with me.


Diddums said...

I've just finished 'The Stone and the Flute' by Hans Bemman (translated from German). It was pretty deep stuff in that it's not just 'fluff' - there's a certain amount of soul-searching and philosophy too, but not to the irritating extent that Stephen Donaldson's Wounded Land etc go to (though I enjoyed those too). It's a bit of a saga, not a short and nifty story, and definitely doesn't go the way you expect - so be warned. Maybe better borrow rather than buy. :-). My copy is headed for the local charity shop as I'm still trying to make room in my bookcases.

Melly said...

Paul, Fred, Lis, Diddum - thanks for all your suggestions.
It's amazing, but there's actually seems to be a convergance on a few books. Maybe these are indeed the ones...
And what's also amazing is that I can't believe how little I know about fantasy and how someone can simply choose to ignore something most of her life.

Jennifer said...

Is your b-day June 9th??? Mine's June 10th :D So you're a Gemini huh!

I don't have any suggestions for pure fantasy. Most of the stuff I've read is more along the lines of Sci-Fi than Fantasy.

shona said...

Sidharth Dhavant Sanghvi's "The Last Song of Dusk"

a must read.

To know more log on to

Melly said...

Jennifer, my Gemini sister. Between the two of us, we're actually four! :)

Shona, thanks, I'll try and find it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with trying Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy; they were awesome. I'd also suggest reading Charles De Lint, Sharon Shinn (she's a bit more romantically inclined in her novels but they're very well done none the less),Robin McKinley or Anne McCaffrey, although I think the last one there is more Sci-fi than fantasy. A new author I stumbled on recently is Nina Kiriki Hoffman; her book A Fistful of Sky is something else ( and i mean that in an "I loved it " way).
Anyway Happy hunting.

Melly said...

Wow, thanks anon :) This is some list.
I've actually read Anne McCaffrey and sure there were dragons, but it did feel more sci-fi.