I read fantasy books. Yes, I like books with swords, wizards and dragons in them. I used to be quite the literary guy, but after awhile I was just reading books about people like me going through things that I go through too. I need books to be an escape from my reality. Non-fiction is the same way – I already know how shitty the world is and I don’t really need to know too much more about how it works.
I also spent many years not reading fantasy books because I was afraid of what people would think of me. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t spend years reading books I didn’t like, but I certainly spent years not reading what I love.
I love world building. That is the first thing that I look forward to when cracking a new fantasy novel open is what kind of world is it going to be. The first thing I study is the map of the world I’m about to dive into. I study it hard so when the character is going from the Mountains of Cervix to the city port of Vulva, I knowingly smile and know that will take a few days.
There is always a hierarchy of kings and priests. I really like the politics and religion that is created and how the heroes deal with them. I like how the world is due to the kind of gods rule the realms. There is a lot of political intrigue that takes place in these books with people killing kings and Princes fighting each other and the churches taking sides, but I like the book to have the characters react and act in the world realistically to the religion and political climates.
I always look forward to the magic system that is in place and how much that factors in the story. Despite what you may think, I actually like stories where magic is minimal and extraordinary. Some of the books I have read have magic this easy attainable skill and a spell can do anything our technology can do and better, but yet the world is dark and people are still peat moss farmers. I like the magic to almost have consequences in its use.
I’m not a fan of goody two shoe heroes. I prefer my main character to be grey and my villains not entirely evil. I’m a fan of noir. I just don’t see a hero with a sword being able to hack his way through an army of goblins if he had a true heart and could only be good. You need someone with feet in the dark and the light to be able to pull off charging into a troll cave.
Here are some of the books I have read over the last few years that I recommend. I have left off George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire off because it is already well known because of the HBO series, but I will suggest reading the series because the books are so much better than the show and there is so much more than a TV show could possibly cover.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
I had already read the first four books from A Song of Ice and Fire series when I was recommended this series. When I was done with the series I wished that they would keep going. The hero is Logen Ninefingers, a nine fingered barbarian with a rage so bad he goes into a black out and can’t differentiate between allies and enemy. The books almost has a familiar plot of a band of heroes go on a quest to get something to save the kingdom, but it is never stale and never boring.
This is the best series I’ve read and unfortunately most books I’ve read since reading these have paled in comparison. It is a trilogy with three more stand-alone books that take place in the same world with some of the same characters.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This is the book for the thieve enthusiasts. A young thief grows up in a Venician like city in a Dickensian thief barrow before becoming too good and too troublesome and gets taken to a priest who trains the young thief in all the arts of thieving.
There are three books out now and five books promised to come out. These books read like the Sting in renaissance Italy.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
This book combines the wizard school and coming of age story to the guy who is already a hero trying to be anonymous telling the story. This book is great not just for the subject matter, but how well it is written. Patrick really keeps a reader turning page after page trying to find out what happens next. It’s like watching a myth unfold.
Two books are out and a third is on its way soon. I have never looked forward to finding out the end of a story so bad in my life.
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
This is the book I wanted to write and when I read it I had to throw away 60,000 words because it would have been too similar and would have paled to this series. This is the bad guy you root for book. The world building is wonderful and is revealed slowly for best results. It’s in the first person, which isn’t common in fantasy, but it couldn’t have been done any other way. It’s the prodigal son who rises in power, but in the best way – the evil way.
This trilogy is complete, but Lawrence has a new book coming out next week that takes place in the same world at the same time as this series.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I just finished this series and felt like these books more than the Lord of the Rings books establish the fantasy genre. I felt like I was reading the blueprint of the classic fantasy trilogy, but Hobb does it best. She does a great job of world building, magic system and a plot that kept me guessing. I loved reading the stuff that newer authors had ripped off from Hobb, but she did it best.
This trilogy is complete and she has several other series to offer.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
This is the first book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It is military fantasy that is bold and darkly imaginative. These books are full of myth and magic and characters that are just cool. I always think about the different characters in these books when I roll up Dungeons & Dragon characters or the monsters when I DM a game.
There are ten books written by Erikson and more written by Ian Cameron Esslemont and some that are co-written. To be honest, I’ve only read four of the books, but I have decided to keep these unread until I start running out of other books.
These are not all the books I love, but these are the best. If I didn’t include certain books doesn’t mean I didn’t like them, but I may have not read them or just felt like these were better.
I am re reading the Drizzt series by R.A. Salvatore. These books have stood up to the test of time while other fantasy books I loved as a kid didn’t like the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.
I wouldn’t mind any suggestions.