Comments? Questions? (Glad to hear from you): daytonascan4911@hotmail.com

March 2005

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the first version of this website. I know it's crap. When time permits, I will design a good layout for this website.

 

 

 

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What's new?

-Shadowmarch

-Donaldson's Last Chronicals of Thomas Covenant

-Russel's Shadow Roads

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I will be adding a lot more books to this list next month; so bear with the small updates for the time being.

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The Best of the Best of Fantasy Literature

                                                                                                 v.3.2

 

Introduction

 

Take a stroll through any mega-bookstore, and you will be inundated by isles and isles of fantasy titles. A few will be great, some good and most, appallingly bad. Finding a good fantasy book is difficult, like sifting for gold among sand. But occasionally, you’ll find that rare nugget, that grain of gold to forever treasure. I find myself in a unique position as a “fantasy pundit”, since I have read most of the fantasy books out there. I often find myself recommending the same books over and over. Tired of this, I decided to create a comprehensive list of “The Best”. Tastes change from person to person, but I think most astute fantasy readers will agree that the books on my list stand out above the rest. 

 

Before I start, let me get this out of the way. People often ask me if authors such as “Dark Elf” RA Salvatore and the myriad of D&D type books (such as Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms) are any good. Let me put it this way: training wheels are good when you first attempt to ride a bike. RA Salvatore, and Dragonlance books work the same way. They are good for people who are neophytes to the fantasy literature scene, but they are only training wheels. I call these “training wheels” the “McDonald Cheesburgers” of Fantasy. They might be filling, but eventually you might want to sample the fancy French cuisine.

 

D&D-type novels have given fantasy literature a bad name. The typical cover usually features some fair-haired, buxom princess clutching a Conan character’s meaty arm. Sort of reminds me of those cheesy Harlequin book covers that make me want to puke right there in the middle of the isle. The only difference between the two is the requisite dragon and wizard fighting in the background. It comes as no surprise then that D&D books give people the shivers—and not the good kind!  Your average Joe often associates “fantasy” with the shaggy-haired kid standing in the corner of the high school hallway, muttering about a level 35 druid named Ragnoth. These books literally scream “nerd”, “geek”, and “social loser” to the world.

 

Yet rest assured there are some very well written fantasy books out there, books that can compete arm to arm with “literature”.

 

You just have to know where to look.

 

 


 

Here is my comprehensive list of the BEST of the BEST fantasy books. I have created several lists. The first is a list of what I consider to the “Top 25” fantasy works. Books that I consider to be very good (but not the best of the best) comprise the “Honorable Mention” list. Then there is the “Good Fantasy Books” list—books that are worth checking out, after you read through the first two lists.

 

Every book on these lists I consider to be the books that stand out above the thousands of lesser works. The books on these lists are the crème of the crop (especially the Top 25 & the Honorable Mentions). If you love fantasy, make sure you read through the Top 25—you won’t be disappointed!

 

Note: my Top 25 list tends to gravitate towards the “Epic Fantasies”, that is, stories that are not contained in a single volume, as opposed to standalone Fantasy Books. Perhaps the title, “Best of the Best of Fantasy Literature” is a bit of a misnomer, as most of my top twenty-five are part of trilogy or saga. This may be my own personal preference shinning through here, as I appreciate complex world building, something a single standalone fantasy book rarely accomplishes.  If you are the type that despise epics, than skip my top 25, and peruse the “Honorable Mentions” and “Good Fantasy Book” lists, which include some outstanding single volume works.

 

 

 

 

                                                                            The Top 25 Fantasy Novels (The “Best of the Best” works of fantasy literature)

 

Honorable Mentions (The “Best” but not the “Best of the Best”)

 

Good Fantasy Books (Well worth reading)

 

                                                                                                                                    The Worst Fantasy Books (The title says it all)

                                 

 

                                                                           FANTASY SUBGENRE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

                                                                                                                                    Fantasy Book Set In Foreign Landscapes

 

                                                                                                          

 

                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

The Top 25 Epic Fantasy Novels

 

#1 George R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga

 

Series Completion: NOT COMPLETED

A projected 7 books in the series. 3 books out. Book four will probably make a December 2004 release.

 

-This brilliant series starts with A Game of Thrones. What can I say about this series other then READ IT! It is universally known as the best fantasy series, ever. Martin writes with flair, deftly weaving multiple storylines in a gritty, even brutal, world that consists entirely of grey characters instead of the classic black and white. It’s a vast chess game spanning continents, and the pieces are lords, bastards, knights, wizards, ladies, and children. What really stands out in this series is Martin’s penchant for axing the major characters. That’s right. No character is safe from the author’s noose. Despite the demise of major characters, the plot lines continue stronger than ever. Tired of protagonists walking through fire without a scratch, falling hundreds of feet without a bruise, and defeating superhuman creatures with the same amount of effort that one puts into scratching an arm? Then this series is your fix. The sheer unpredictability of the series renders a delectable experience.  Dare you to predict the winners and losers? If you haven’t read the series yet, go to your local library or bookstore and procure the series.

 

Similar recommendations: If you like Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga, try Greg Keyes’ The Briar King, the first in his not-yet-complete trilogy which features delicious prose, gritty realism and an enticing plot. You can also try R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness that Comes Before, which features superlative prose, a unique, but fascinating storyline, and the gritty realism that Martin exhibits.

 

#2 Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga

 

Series Completion: NOT COMPLETED: A projected 13 books in series. 10 books out + a prequel

 

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

 

-I can truthfully say that Jordan is the King of Fantasy, if not in complexity, then in page count. This monstrously big series spans over 13 massive books (each at least 700 pages). As of September 2004, he has 10 of the 13 projected books finished. One of the blurbs on the cover pages of Jordan’s books state that “Jordan has come to dominate the world Tolkien started to reveal”. This quote is no exaggeration. If you thought Tolkien was complex, you ain’t seen nothing yet, baby. Jordan is a skillful writer, able to inject dramatic tension into every aspect of his world. Plenty and plenty of political scheming, power struggles, gender struggles, a very well conceived (perhaps the best of any fantasy book) magic system, a world portrayed in pedantic detail, and great characters. There is a reason why Jordan is the #1 selling Fantasy author. He is one of my favorite authors, and I bet will be yours too if you give him a shot. A caveat: hoards of people are pissing mad at Jordan for dragging on the series too long. It’s commonly agreed his first four books are fantastic, but he really starts to drag after the seventh book, notable his last two (book 9 and 10). The series is as of yet unfinished, so realize if you start, you will be pining away waiting for the next two books. If you like Tolkien, you will probably like Jordan.

 

Similar recommendations: Give George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice a try. It’s a massive epic like Jordan’s Wheel of Time (not as long), and it’s universally held in the highest esteem, a sort of paragon of what all Fantasy books should strive to be. You thought those “Dragonlance” books were good? Try Martin for a taste of what fantasy books should be like. If you like fantasy, do yourself a favor and read Martin. He is the best of the best. You might also try Tracy Hickman & Margaret Weis’s Death Gate Cycle. A monolithic seven book saga that’s reminiscent of Jordan’s style, heavy on the magic, tension and action, but unique enough not to be a banal hack. Also try Michelle West’s Sun Sword Saga, another large epic fantasy saga (six books) that shares some similarities with Jordan’s Wheel of Time. West’s writing style is drastically different that Jordan’s, however--more subtle, and often ponderous. If you are an action freak, The Sun Sword pacing will probably be a bit too slow for you. You might also try Raymond E. Fiest’s Magician duology, as he writes in a style and flavor similar to Jordan (heavy on action and magic).

 

#3 J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

 

Series Completion: COMPLETED: Three Books

 

-Do I even need to discuss it? The father of modern fantasy, the recreation of the English myth, an apex of English Literature; Lord of the Rings is more than mere Fantasy, it is both myth and a fictional history so real, so enticing, that it can be read as “real”. Peter Jackson’s movies capture the imagination of the books with astounding clarity—yet at the same time, the books deliver a different yet equally satisfying experience.

 

Similar recommendations: Sean Russell’s A Swan’s War trilogy. Russell prose is lyrical and beautiful, a very poetic style. Magic remains a mysterious and rare (like Lord of the Rings), and his world is full of mystery and wonder. Also try Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, Thorn saga, which is very reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. It’s is unique however, and Williams, while sometimes to verbose, is a skilled wordsmith. Tolkien is universally praised for his magnificent world building, though his characterization is often criticized. Robert Jordan is another writer in the same epic vein as Tolkien, though, in my opinion, he writes far better characters than Tolkien. Like big epics? Like well constructed magic systems? Like political intrigue? Like gender power struggles? Like the end of the world? Then Jordan is a MUST read. His Wheel of Time is a magnificent epic fantasy that will suck you in. Just make sure you have enough time on your hands when you start!

 

#4 Tad William's Shadowmarch

 

Hidden for centuries behind a sorcerous line of mist, the inhuman Qar stir once more, preparing to make war on the mortals that drove them north.

 

Tad Williams has done it again. He creates a seamless world full of mystery and magic, populated by interesting characters. Tad Williams writes books for people who love to read. His characterization is top notch; slow, but he pedanticaly builds up each character, slowly you, the reader, into the mysterious world.Shadowmarch slowely builds up the tension through the novel; by the time you reach the end, you will be chewing your nails like popcorn. If you like his Memory, Sorrow & Thorn saga, be sure to check this one out. While only the first of a four volume series, it has the potential to be his greatest work yet.

 

 

#5 Greg Keyes’ A Kingdom of Thorn and Bone saga

 

Series Completion: NOT COMPLETED: Three books projected; two books released so far

                I: The Briar King

                II: The Charnel Prince

 

-Keyes stunned the fantasy community with his phenomenal new high fantasy novel, The Briar King, last year. This guy is a master of the English language. His writing is both witty and beautiful; sort of an Oscar Wild meets J.R.R. Tolkien synergy. His plot is thick, rich with interesting characters (and the dialogue is top notch and at times, hilarious), and the world fairly gritty, though less than Martin’s. Keyes takes old fantasy cliques and makes them into something completely new. I can’t recommend this series enough. 

Keyes continues his excellent standard in The Charnel Prince. I can't wait to see what he has in store for book 3.

 

Similar recommendations: If you like Greg Keyes’ The Briar King, try R Scott Baker’s The Darkness that Comes Before, which features superlative prose, an unique, but fascinating storyline, and the gritty realism that Martin exhibits. Also try Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga.

 

#6 R Scott Baker’s The Darkness that Comes Before.

 

Series Completion: NOT COMPLETED: Three books projected; two books released so far

                I: The Darkness That Comes Before

                II: Prince of NOthing

 

In a world saturated by religious fanaticism, Maithanet, enigmatic spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples, declares a Holy War against the infidels. Ikurei Conphas, military genius and nephew to the Nansur Emperor, embarks on a war to conquer the known world in the name of his emperor….and himself. Drusas Achamian, spy and sorcerer of the mysterious northern sorceries, tormented by visions of the great apocalypse, seeks the promised one, the savior of mankind. Anasurimbor Kellhus, heir to the shattered northern kingdom, whose ruins now lay hidden in the deepest north, a place now desolate, home to only the No-Men. Gifted with extraordinary martial skills of hand and foot, and steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men--even great men—may be cast into ruin. For in the deep north, the hand of the forgotten No-God stirs once more, and his servants tread the lands of men once more…

 

-First novel by Canadian novelist, Baker, The Darkness That Comes Before is shockingly good, featuring first rate prose, a dark storyline and a Steven Erickson-like epic scale. This book is sort of like a Clive Baker horror novel meets Steven Erickson meets Robert Jordan. The story will grip you harder than a vice. His second book, Warrior Prophet, maintains the impossibly high standards he set in the first book. Without a doubt, Bakker has established himself as one of the top fantasy authors.

 

Similar recommendations: The vast scope of A Darkness that Comes Before is very redolent of Steven Erickson’s A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga, though the characters are less grey, and the story more focused. Also try George R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which is very epic and very gritty.

 

#7 Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars saga.

 

Series Completion Status: NOT COMPLETED: sev books projected; five books released so far; book six to be published June 2005

 

-First book is King’s Dragon. Complex politics, well thought out magic system, clash between religious and secular powers, an ineluctable catastrophe looming, long lost creatures walking the lands once again, GREAT characterization…what more can you ask for in a fantasy saga. Plot? Good enough to taste.

 

Similar recommendations: Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, Thorn saga. William’s has beautifully reinterpreted Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (and no it is not in the least bit a clone, and no, there is no One Ring), creating a vast world of mystery and magic. Characterization is top notch. 

 

#8 Sean Russell’s The Swan’s War trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three books

I. Swan's War

II. The Isle of Battle

III. The Shadow Roads

 

-First book in this trilogy is The One Kingdom. Brilliant, brilliant books. Russell’s prose is gorgeous. So gorgeous it almost seems lyrical; his world is full of mystery and beauty. In many cases, Fantasy books are so overloaded with magic that it soon ceases to mean anything--a simple Pug or Richard gains-new-power and defeats-even-more powerful villain, ad infinity . Russell opts to keep magic mysterious and rare. He never explains how it works. Martin does this in “A Song of Fire and Ice” and Tolkien in Lord of the Rings as well. If you want to read books that will sweep you off your feet with their beauty, passion and superlative plot, check this trilogy out.

 

Note: Book 2 and 3 are just as good as the first one. All in all, kudos to Russell for creating such a masterpiece.

 

Similar recommendations: J. R.R.Tolkien’s A Lord of the Rings. The Swan’s War trilogy seems both similar yet different than Lord of the Rings. The mysterious and rare nature of magic is a trait shared by both books, as is the beautiful prose that seems half poetry, half fiction (though Russell’s work is more “modern” and novelistic).

 

#9 Stephen R. Donaldson’s FIRST, SECOND, and LAST Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

 

Series Completion Status: First 7 Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant  COMPLETED; First book of “Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant released this month (October 2004)”

 

Book Description
The first book in one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever.

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself. Yet he was tempted to believe, to fight for the Land, to be the reincarnation of its greatest hero....
THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER
Book One: LORD FOUL'S BANE
Book Two: THE ILLEARTH WAR
Book Three: THE POWER THAT PRESERVES

 

-Stephen R. Donaldson changed the face of fantasy in 1977 with the publishing of Lord Foul’s Bane ( book one in The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). It took the world by storm. Hailed as a masterpiece of fantasy literature, TC went on to sell over 6 million copies. And for good reason. Donaldson’s magnum opus is regarded as one the most emotionally compelling fantasy works ever created. Covenant is through and through an antihero. From anti-hero to hero, from tragedy to victory, this is one man’s quest to save The Land from Evil and in the process, find his own redemption… If you love fantasy, READ THESE BOOKS. They are beyond phenomenal. Words cannot describe how good the books are. Donaldson is one of the best characterization writers, ever.

Be sure to check out his first book in the new Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It's a riveting read that will please both old and new fans. I absolutely loved it. Review to come soon.

 

#10 Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle of Stars trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three Books

 

-Starts with The Riddlemaster of Hed. This trilogy has been around for a while, but by no means is it any less worth reading. It is one of the “classics” like Lord of the Rings, that every fantasy enthusiast should read. Fear not, the books are not archaic by any means (published 20 or so years ago).  The story is gripping, the characters indelible, and the prose lyrical--in the style of say Sean Russell. These books are everything fantasy should be and more. 

 

Similar recommendations: J. R.R.Tolkien’s A Lord of the Rings. I also recommend Ursula le Guin’s classic The Earthsea trilogy, which features the same lyrical writing style as McKillip, and the hauntingly beautiful tale of a young boy’s journey from boy to wizard. You might also try Sean Russell.’s The Swan’s War trilogy which features lyrical prose, a pervading sense of pathos and a world full of opportunity, were magic is as mysterious as it is dangerous.

 

#11 Robin Hobb’s Assasin’s Trilogy, Liveship Traders trilogy, and Tawny Man trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three Books in each trilogy, all released

 

-Hobb is, bar none, the best characterization writer, ever. Her characters are vividly real, leaping out of the pages into our minds as “living” characters. She has no qualms about allowing her protagonist to suffer, and suffer dreadfully. I don’t even think Hobb has any concept of Dues Ex Machina. If her protagonist falls into a pit, no mysterious burst of air pads his fall; no, the protagonist will break both legs and likely his arms too. Hobb also creates an interesting magic system and a gripping plot. You will cry and laugh as her characters struggle to overcome their obstacles.

 

Similar recommendations: Guy Gaverial Kay’s Tigania. This books is packed with emotion. If you like the emotional intensity and pathos of Hobb, you will love Tigania.

 

#12 JV Jones A Sword of Shadows saga

 

Series Completion Status: NOT COMPLETED: Three books projected; two books released so far

 

-Starts with A Cavern of Black Ice. Gritty, cold fantasy, with a flair for the gruesome. This fabulous trilogy is jam packed full of goodness. Characterization is great, and Jones, like Robin Hobb and Martin, is shows no quarter to her heroes. This is Sword and Sorcery the way it’s meant to be. Jones has really come into her own the past few years and Sword of Shadows is her masterpiece. My only complaint: It’s taking so damn long for the next book to be released.

           

Similar recommendations: Try George Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which features a brutal world set in an ice filled milieu. You might also try JV Jones’s other excellent Book of Words fantasy saga (starts with A Baker’s Boy).

 

#13 Jennifer Fallon’s The Second Sons Trilogy

 

Series Completion:  COMPLETED: Three books, all released.

 

MAGNIFICENT BOOKS! Starts with The Lion of Senett. Commentary on trilogy to be added shortly.

 

 

#14 E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth”

 

Series Completion:  NOT COMPLETED:  I predict there will be many books in this too-addicting saga. Each book continues Valentine’s story. 

 

Picture a dark, apocalyptic world set in the near future. A world conquered by vampyric aliens, where humans are kept as nothing more than feeding and breeding stock. This is not your normal post-apocalyptic novel. Knight creates a rich milieu, almost reminiscent of an epic fantasy world. Make no mistake, this novel cannot be pigeon-holed into a single genre, it has elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. This is one hell of a thrill ride with a dark tension that keeps you pinned from the moment you open the cover to the second you wipe your eyes at 3 in the morning…

 

#15 Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, Thorn saga.

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Four books

 

-MST is Williams’s version of Lord of the Rings. No, it is not a clone; in fact, it’s very different—in a good way. William’s characterization is top notch; you follow the journey of young Simon from boy to man, from kitchen scullion to hero. The plot is thick and often crawls at a snails pace, but the series is an undisguised jewel. A must for any fantasy aficionado.

 

Similar recommendations: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Another book that shares some similarities is Michael A Stackpole’s The Dragon Crown Cycle, which features an epic, black & white struggle, struggle between good and evil. Tad Williams will be releasing a new epic fantasy saga entitled “Shadowmarch” come November. Based on his past track record of fabulous novels ( and the early reviews that are practically glowing ), you might want to keep an eye out for Shadowmarch. It looks to be a gem. Also, if you like William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, READ his volume 1 of his newest fantasy saga, Shadowmarch. It's even better than MST!

 

#16 Ursula Le Guin’s The Earthsea Trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three books (two more have been added since the original trilogy was written, making a total of 5 books in the series)

 

-Starts with The Wizard of Earthsea. This is a coming of age story; leaps and bounds above the usual run of the mill boy-becomes-wizard-and-saves-world. With prose so good that you will want to lick the pages, and a story equally as enthralling, you will do no wrong buying—yes they are worth BUYING—this series. They are the types of book you can read over and over, then some more. Touching, beautiful, at times sad, this trilogy is one of the great masterpieces of fantasy literature.

 

Similar recommendations: J. R.R.Tolkien’s A Lord of the Rings. I also recommend Phillip K. McKillip’s wonderful Riddle of Stars trilogy, which features similar prose and a similar, though at the same time, very different, story. You might also try Sean Russell.’s The Swan’s War.

 

#17 Steven Erickson’s  A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga.

 

Series Completion Status: NOT COMPLETED: Projected series is ten books; Five Book released so far;

 

-Since Tolkien, Fantasy has rarely been revolutionary, instead becoming more of an evolution and reinterpretation of Tolkien’s original work. Well, I can honestly say Erickson’s saga is revolutionary. No fantasy series is more epic in scope than ATotMBotF. His saga combines both military and epic fantasy into a delightful mix. Brilliant prose, epic storylines, gritty realism, fascinating mix of grey characters, Erickson combines the best of George R.R. Martin with the epic scope of the Greek Classics such as the Odyssey. One word when reading it: epiphany. A refreshing change from the usual Robert Jordan-esque fantasy clones that pop up like weeds these days.

 

Similar recommendations: George R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga also features an epic scope and the grey characterization that Erickson so loves. Martin’s work is smaller is scale though and tends to be more focused, plot wise. You can also try Scott R. Baker’s The Darkness that Comes Before, which features a vast epic scope and great prose. You might also try Thomas Harlan’s superb Oath of Empires saga, which is an alternative history saga, were the Roman Empire has never fallen and magic works. Oath of Empires is epic, featuring massive magical battles and huge opposing armies (Persian and Roman) clashing so hard you can hear the horses scream.

 

#18 Thomas Harlan’s Oath of Empires saga

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Four books

 

-Alternative history. It is 600 AD and Rome has never fallen. The Roman Empire of the East will join the Roman Empire of the West to invade the inimical Persians who threaten the very gates of Constantinople itself. Featuring epic battles, beautiful babes, and powerful magic, Oath of Empires is an epic story so full of energy that your hair will sizzle. It features the epic scope of a Steven Erikson novel, a Robert Jordan Wheel of Time like struggle, and the George Martin propensity for axing main characters. Yummy! 

 

Similar recommendations: Steven Erickson’s  A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen” saga, which is as epic as they come, and features an array of massive battles like Oath of Empires. The dazzling magic battles are also very similar is scope and size. Harlan’s work focuses more closely on individual characters, however, while Erickson zooms out. You might also try Michelle West’s Sun Sword saga which features a similar type scenario as in Oath of Empires (two culturally different empires clashing, while an ancient evil stirs behind the scenes orchestrating a conquest of the mortal world…).

 

#19 Raymond E. Fiest Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Two books

 

-Classic fantasy at it’s best. These are the books that started it all for super popular fantasy author Raymond E. Fiest. They are the best of his works. Fiest’s books emphasize heavy uses of magic, and political tensions.

 

Similar recommendations: Robert Jordan’s A Wheel of Time saga. Jordan’s masterpiece is chocked full of magic. If you really like Magican, try Fiest’s other novels of Midkemia. All of them are set in the same world, though most of them live up fail to meet the first brilliance of his first two books: ‘Apprentice’ and ‘Master’. The one exception might be his Empire Trilogy coauthored with Janny Wurts. The Empire Trilogy is a fantastic read, and I whole heartedly recommend it.

 

 

#20 Deborah Chester’s The Sword, the Ring, and the Chalice Trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three books

 

-Elves and Dwarfs have become the new byword for unoriginality in a fantasy book. Every time I see the word “Elf” or “Dwarf”, I cringe. Chester however does something original. She writes a Sword and Sorcery trilogy, but unlike Conan, the characters actually have emotions and a brain as opposed to pure brawn or thigh. Characterization is very well done. Who ever thought there could be a Sword & Sorcery with depth? Well Chester’s done it! Make sure you acquire of all three books in the series before you start on the first, because when you finish the first, you will want to tear through the rest.

 

Similar recommendations: Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Dancer saga. Also try her Realm of Light trilogy, which reads is similar (though not as good) to The Sword, The Ring, and the Chalice.

 

#21 John Marco’s Tyrant & King’s

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETED: Three books

 

-Starts first with The Jackal of Nar. Great trilogy. Military fantasy at its best! Marco’s characters are never black and white. Each character, even the supposed “bad guys”, are portrayed as “human” as opposed to just “the requisite bad guy”. And you can viscerally emphasize with them all, even if you don’t agree with their actions. Add to this a healthy mix of action, a fantastic plot, and these books are a MUST READ!

 

Similar recommendations: You might want to give Chris Bunch’s Seer King trilogy series a shot. If you like Marco’s refusal to pigeon-hole characters as either black or white, try his other series, The Eyes of a God and the sequel, Devil’s Armor. If you like military setting of “Tyrants & Kings”, check out Glenn Cook’s Black Company saga.

 

 

#22Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody Trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: Compelted: Three books

 

-Great books. Haydon creates a vivid word that will keep you reading for days and days. Her books have a decidedly romantic feel to them (no, they are not bodice-rippers, thank God), which while some romance is a common theme in epics, it’s rare to have a saga built on the concept. But it works, very well. For the Rommeos and Julliets, this book is a gem.

 

#23 Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Deathgate Cycle

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETE: Seven Books

 

-As you know, I am no big fan of D&D type literature, and Weis and Hickman expending a lot of energy writing those kind of books. This massive epic fantasy saga is no Dragonlance-type book, however. It’s massive, ambitious, and well worth the read. I gleefully lost myself for a few weeks in this very addicting saga. If you like Robert Jordan, and Raymond E. Fiest, then you will probably like the Deathgate Cycle saga.

 

Similar recommendations: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Raymond E Fiest’s Magician books.

 

#24 Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori trilogy

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETE

                I: Across the Nightingale Floor

                II: Grass for his Pillow

                III: Brilliance of the Moon.

 

-This fantastic series starts with “Across the Nightingale Floor”. This series is one of my favorite. Not in several years have I read a book this good, and I have read many—most of the books mentioned here, and more. To tell you the truth, I have read so many books that are trash that I have grown used to, perhaps even expecting poor quality when I read a fantasy novel. Pure drivel like Robert Newcomb's “The Fifth Sorceress” or Terry Goodkind's "The Naked Empire" are popping up like weeds these days.

But amidst the piles and piles of rubble, sometimes you find that rose of exceptional beauty. And "Across the Nightingale Floor" is that rose. It’s vastly different than the usual run-of-the-mill fantasy novels, unique even.

The setting of the book takes place in a mythical Japanese-like society, though it's not a direct allusion to actual history, and it features a smattering of magic. It's a coming of age story, but not in the usual Robert Jordan type of way. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a recipe: Take the majestic backdrop of "Shogun", mix it with the cool assassin factor of “Hero’s Die” (Tekio and Caine would get along nice, me thinks), imbue it with the mysticism of Eric Lustbader's “Ninja”, then toss in a fabulous plot, superlative characterization, a good dose of pathos, a chunk of romance and you have what I consider to be one of the best books, ever.

If you have read “A Song of Fire of Ice” fifteen times, spun through the "Wheel of Time" more times than Nynaeve pulls her braid, consumed every Hobb novel, then give this book a shot; it won’t disappoint.

It's a sweeping epic of love, betrayal, loyalty, magic, and a high quest for revenge, and so dam fine a read you will want to lick the cover when you’re done. I HIGHLY recommend you check this book out.

 

Similar recommendations: If you like the martial art themes or are fascinated by the Far East, read Sean Russell’s “Brother Initiate”. You might also try Curt Benjamin’s epic fantasy with an Asian flavor—a sort of “Wheel of Time” set in china.

 

#25 Jennifer Roberson’s The Sword-Dancer Saga

 

Series Completion Status: COMPLETE: Six Books

 

-These books are fantastic. Witty, humorous, action packed, and romantic, these books are worth anybody’s time. Great interaction between the two, sometimes diametric protagonists.

 

Similar recommendations: Deborah Chester’s The Sword, the Ring, and the Chalice Trilogy. Like The Sword Dancer Saga, Chester’s Sword & Sorcery trilogy is full of rich characterization.

 

 

 

 

#26 Patrick Tilley’s The Amtrack Wars

 

--Will add commentary on this next update                                                                                                  

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Fantasy Books Well Worth Reading)

 

While these books do not make my top 25, they are nevertheless fantastic reads. Many of these books will probably end up on your own top 25. If you like fantasy, chances are you will love any of the books I list below. They are the cream of the crop.

 

In no particular order:

 

 

Sarah Ash’s Tears of Artemon

            I: Lord of Snow and Shadows

            II: Prisoner of the Iron Tower

            III: Forthcoming

- Ash creates a vivid fantasy world based loosely on Russia. Ash weaves ancient myths (Dracula) into the fabric of her story. With a compelling protagonist who walks the fine line between antihero and hero and a unique storyline, this saga is a must read, especially for those sick of the classic English medieval fantasy milieu.

 

Guy Gaverial Kay’s Tigania

-Laugh, cry, sing…you will do it all in the emotional masterpiece that delves deeply into the human soul.

 

Ann Bishop’s Black Jewel’s Trilogy

-Bishop takes the Heaven and Hell archetypes and flips them around. Satan is the “good” guy, and hell is the place to be. Features a strong cast of characters, a great and well-drawn female protagonist. A warning, these books are extremely sexually explicit, as rape, torture, violence are the foundations of Bishop’s world. Any chicks who dig the romance genre will enjoy these. I don’t pride myself on being any sort of romance connoisseur, but this trilogy was dam dam good. 

 

Glenn Cook’s Black Company.

 

Juliet Marillier’s The Seven Waters Trilogy

-Very very good writing. Alternative celtic fantasy. Her books feature a great cast of female protagonists. These books have a decidedly romantic bent to them, then again, what books don’t?

 

Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin

- Another great book by Marillier. As expected in a Marillier story, the book is about the Celts and the Norsemen, but with magic added. If you liked Gavial Guy Kay’s “Last Light of the Sun”, you are guaranteed to like this book. Marillier’s strong point is her vividly realized characters. Unlike her Seven Waters Trilogy, characters in Wolfskin are far more grey than black and white. 

 

Juliet Marillier’s Foxmask

- The Sequel to “Wolfskin”.

 

L. E. Modesitt Jr.’s Saga of Recluse

-A really, really big fantasy saga, were each story is discrete. Interesting magic system. The books even include sound effects! Worth reading. I recommend you start with The Death of Chaos, then if you like the series, go back and read the entire thing sequentially.  If you like his “Recluse” books, also try his “Corean Chronicles” series.

You will find, if you read his saga, most of the books follow the same patter: callow, powerless lad sets out in the world, learns to use magic, becomes hero. He certaintly won't be accused of being origional, but if you enjoy that sort of tale, give him a shot. He writes good, if unorigional, books. His magic system is an origional one, and very interesting.

 

Note: I have read his latest two-books in the recluse saga, The Wellspring of Chaos and The Ordermaster, and I am quite pleased with them. This time, his hero is a middle age man instead of the usual callow youth. If you enjoy his Recluse books, read them; they are some of his best in a while.

Steven Lawhead’s A Song For Abalion Trilogy

-This is, in my opinion, the best “cross” over fantasy ever, right on par with Gavel Guy Kay’s Fionauar Tapestry and CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. Lawhead’s hero, a rather plain and ordinary London citizen, is accidentally transported into the Celtic times via a magic portal. He is forced to survive and adapt in a hostile culture. It documents his journey from normal to extraordinary, from a warrior to hero. Characterization is top notch here. The protagonist is portrayed as a living and breathing man. Lawhead knows how to write, and he holds nothing back in the phenomenal trology. This trilogy is Lawhead’s best work/

 

Sean Russell’s “Rise of Moontide and Magic” saga

- Sean Russell writes books for people who like to read. Ponderous, slow, and often steeped in mystery, his worlds are rich with characterization and plot. His “Moontide and Magic” is set in a world not unlike the Victorian era. The Farrlands, once home to the mysterious mages, is now steeped in the ways of empiricism. Magic is gone from the world, with the passing of the last mage. Or is it?

Rich, complex, and beautifully written, this is one book you don’t want to miss. One can never accuse Russell of holding to the standard Tolkien cliques. Fans of David Gemmell’s fast paced “beat-em-up-and-leave-em” or Jordan’s “so-much-magic-you-breath-it” type of writing will probably bemoan the pacing. But for those of us who like to read well-written fantasy that emphasizes character and plot over pacing and action, make sure you check this one out.

I: World Without End

II: Sea Without Shore

 

Similar Recommendation: If you like the combination of science and magic co existing, check out Gregory Keyes “Age of Unreason” saga. Another book that retains the same style as Russell’s “Rise of Moontide and Magic” is Ian Mcdonald’s “The Light Age”.

 

Sean Russell’s “Beneath the Vaulted Hills”

-These books are prequels to Sean Russell’s Rise of Moontide and Magic.  Those of you familiar with Russell trademark style won’t be disappointed. These books are every bit as good as his Moontide and Magic books.

 

I: Beneath the Vaulted Hills

II: River into Darkness

 

Sean Russell’s Brother Initiate & Gather of Clouds

-          Russell turns his considerable narrative powers to Far East. Fantasy set in an Asian milieu. Plot, as per usual in a Russell novel, starts off slow. Russell creates a cast of strong, compelling characters, however. If you are in the mode for something different, check this duology out.

 

Ian Irvin’s “The View from the Mirror” saga

 

Michael A Stackpole’s Talon: Revenant

- This is some of the best heroic fantasy out there, and it’s Stackpole’s best work yet. It’s also his first fantasy book. What sets it apart from other similar books is the heavy dose of pathos pervading the novel. It’s not a “happy” type novel; there is a deep sadness that rings through the prose. But the characterization of Nolan is fantastic, and it features a good plot. Nolan is forced to choose between love and honor.

 

Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s A Curse of Chalion & Paladin of Souls

--A Curse of Chalion won the World Fantasy award. Bujold is a fine writer, able to create realistic characters and well-spun plots. Bujold likes to write about anti-heroes, or at least unassuming heroes. These two books fall under that later category. She is a top notch characterization writer who also writes dam good plots. Give these books a shot.

 

Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule.

-Despite Goodkind’s ever increasing decent into the lowest tiers of quality, his first book is pretty good—if you can live with the author’s almost juvenile writing skills. Regrettably, Goodkind has a disturbing fascination of rape and the torture of women--which he practically shoves down your throat every few pages; though to be fair, it’s within the context of the greater story. Not recommended for the kiddies! His first 6 books are worth reading, after that, you will have more fun mowing the lawn.

 

Raymond E. Fiest’s Midkemia books

-He has got a ton of books out, so I won’t list all of them here, only his better ones. His Magician dualogy made my top 20 list, and his Empire Saga almost did. Here are, what I consider, his other books worth reading:

      -Serpent War saga

      -Talon of the Silverhawk

 

John C Wright’s “The Last Guardian of Everness

 

Curt Benjamin’s Seven Sons saga
Benjamin does something unique: he creates an epic fantasy based in an Asian (Chinese mythology) setting. Very good series, sort of like a Robert Jordan (not as big though!) type of story in china. It’s a trilogy and it’s complete.

 

John Marco’s “Eye of a God” &“Devil’s Amour”

-- His new world. Very well written. Expect the usual grey characterization.

 

Christopher Poulini’s Eragon

-I confess I was skeptical when I heard this book was written by a 16 year old kid. I opened the covers half expecting to see Ramona (inside joke for those who have read the children’s series J ) gain magical powers and save the world from teachers. But, Poulini impresses with his book. At times, it has a “teenage” flavor too it, and some of the scenes’ verisimilitude falters, yet overall it was an enjoyable experience.

 

JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter”

-I will confess a dirty secret: I have never read this series.  Everyone raves about how good these books are, so I thought to include them here. Some people have only read Harry Potter. If you are one of those people, realize that there are many other good fantasy books out there, ones that aren’t written for 12 year olds.

 

Steven King’s “Dark Tower” saga

--I have read three of the seven books. I can’t vouch for the later books (4 to 7), but the first three are excellent. King weaves several different genres together (fantasy, bit of sci-fi, horror) and does so successfully. What is the Dark Tower? Think of the Wild West. Imagine a post apocalyptic world. Mix the two together and you have Dark Tower. A sort of “Louie Lamoure” set in a dark, futuristic fantasy world.

 

Michelle West’s “The Sun Sword Saga”

-Epic in the tradition of Robert Jordan. The characters are well drawn, at cost of the story’s pacing. You will either love West or hate her style. If you are the type of person who likes characterization over fast pacing, you will probably like West’s epic saga. Her books are unique and worth reading (if you can stomach her ponderous writing style).

 

Laura Resnick’s “In Legend Born” & “The Destroyer Goddess” & “The White Dragon”

-Outstanding characterization. Resnick really knows how to write realistic characters. Most of the characters are painted in shades of grey. Her plot is enticing, and after the first few chapters, moves along with the speed and intensity of a freight train. I would hesitate to call this “epic” fantasy, although it does contain trace elements of the epic cliques. This series is unique enough to stand apart from the “epic clone” crowd and the characterization is some of the best you will find in fantasy literature. If you are in a mood for an action packed thrill ride, full of deep characterization, you can’t go wrong with this trilogy. 

 

Lawrence Watt-Evan’s Dragon Weather & Dragon Society

 

James Clemens’s The Banished and the Banished saga

 

CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

-These books are classics. CS Lewis, the great English novelist, and friend of JR Tolkien, penned this series for kids. He masterfully creates an extended metaphor for Christianity in his Chornicals of Narnia. However, one does not have to be a Christian to appreciate his tales. Set in a world full of nymphs, dryads, fawns, giants, heros, and kings, these books will draw you into a fascinating world. This is a tale for all ages. Don’t call yourself a fantasy aficionado until you have read this series along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

 

 

Ian R. MacLeod’s “The Light Ages”

 

 

More to Come!

 

 

Good Fantasy Reads

(These books are worth reading)

 

Michael A. Stackpole’s Dragon Crown Cycle

-This High Fantasy series has gone under the radar for some reason. It’s fantasy in the classic epic tradition. A band of heroes strives against an all-powerful sorceress. Most prominent feature in this four book saga is the graphic violence. These books are full of blood—too much in fact. After a while the constant fighting becomes weary. Still, if you are looking for some epic fantasy that is heavy on the action, and above average characterization, give this saga a shot.

 

David Gemmell.

-Gemmell has so many books, I won’t list them all. He is a very good author, one fascinated with heroism and sacrifice, which always play a key theme in his novels. He delights in telling the story of a broken man who tries to find meaning through sacrifice. Here are his “best” books--though all of his books tend to be pretty good. Some people love his style, while some find he writes the same tale over and over. You either love or hate him.

-Legend

-Waylander

-In the Realm of the Wolf (continues Waylander’s story)

 

JV Jones’  Book of Words saga

-Great read, though inferior to her latest saga: Sword of Shadows. A merge between epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, and sword & sworcery. An obscure baker’s apprentice finds he has the extremely rare gift of sorcery. Sounds like your standard “epic fantasy clone” but Jones draws her characters more clearly than most sword & sorcery novels and the story, at its core, sucks in your interest. The books are well paced with a heavy impetus of action. Well worth the read.

 

Greg Keyes “Chosen of the Changing” duology

 

Greg Keyes Age of Reason saga

 

Mercedes Lackey’s “Shadow of a Lion”

 

Chris Bunch’s Seer King & Demon King & Warrior King

 

Deborah Chester’s “Realm of Light” trilogy

 

Ian Shadow on a Glass

 

Julia Grey’s Gardian Moon saga

 

Tad William’s War of the Flowers

 

Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series

--some of these books are good, but not all.

 

Terry Brooks

--Brooks is a very mainstream fantasy author. His books are everywhere. -These are the mediocre books. There is nothing wrong with these books, but there is nothing really outstanding about them either. His Shannara books are a rewrite of “Lord of the Rings”. This is fine, except Brooks does nothing innovative besides copy. If you like this sort of thing, try him out. I recommend, if you are hankering for something similar to Tolkien, read Robert Jordan’s “A Wheel of Time”. It’s a far better read then Brooks. If you do choose Brooks, keep in mind that there are many other fantasy works that far surpass his.

 

David Eddings

--Eddings’ books are full of cliques. But they are enjoyable cliques. I do recommend you skip these if you are tired of the “farm boy-travels a lot and becomes a the most powerful wizard” convention. If you have been weaned on the likes of Harry Potter, Dragonlance, or Forgotten Realms, you may want to start off with Eddings. Then, once you are comforatabl with the genre, move on to the much better stuff.

 

 

 

FANTASY SUBGENRE RECOMMENDATIONS

 

 

 

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Hybrids

 

This subgenre blends high tech elements with “magic”. Often, but not always, the milieu is a post-apocalyptic world.

 

Patrick Tilley:

 

“The Amtrak Wars”

 

Knight E.E.:

 

“Vampire Earth Chronicles”

I.                    Way of the Wolf

II.                  Choice of a Cat

III.                *forthing

 

Michael Reverend Stover:


           “Heroes Die”

“Blade of Tyshal

 

Stephen King

 

“The Dark Tower” saga

 

Eric Van Lustbader

 

“Book of Five Rings”

 

 

Dark Fantasy

 

Often set in a gothic landscape, Dark Fantasy novels are characterized by the gruesome; elements of horror pervade this subgenre, and the protagonist is often an antihero.

 

The Banned and the Banished” saga by James Clemens’

 

The Black Jewel’s Trilogy” by Anne Bishop

 

“When True Night Falls” –by CS Friedmen

 

Romantic Fantasy

 

Most fantasy books (in fact, most novels regardless of genre) have elements of romance ( or a romance story) . These books are founded on romance; however, I want to make an important distinction: These ARE NOT HARLEQUIN BODICE RIPPERS. While romance plays a key part of the story, it does not subsume plot, characterization, and world building.

 

Elizabeth Haydon:

 

 Rhapsody trilogy

I.                    Child of Blood

II.                  Child of Earth

III.                Child of Star

 

Symphony of Ages

I.                    Requiem for the Sun

II.                  Elegy of a Lost Star

III.                *Forthcoming

 

Laura Resnick:

 

“In Legend Born”

“The White Dragon”

“The Warrior Goddess”

 

Anne Bishop:

 

“The Black Jewel’s Trilogy

 

Phoenix

Celtic Fantasy

 

This genre uses some form of the Celtic myth as the background. One defining characteristic of “Celtic Fantasy” is that “Celts” are always portrayed as the caretakers of nature, often possessing some innate form of magic in return for their services. In “Celtic Fantasy” the pre-natural world exists, that is, a sort of “fairy” world that overlaps our own.

 

Juliet Marillier:

 

The Seven Waters Trilogy

                        I. Daughter of the Forest

                        II. Son of Shadows

                        III. Child of the Lady

 

FoxMask

 

Wolfskin

 

 

Steven Lawhead:

           

A Song For Abalion

                        I. The Endless Knott

                        II. The Silver Hand

                        III.

 

 

Guy Gaverial Kay:

           

            Last Light of the Sea

 

 

 

Military Fantasy

 

A Fantasy genre that places heavy emphasis on military tactics. Battles are often shown in pedantic detail. Usually, the novel centers on a squad (or individual), fighting against overwhelming odds.

 

Chris Bunch:

I. Seer King by Chris Bunch

II. Demon King by Chris Bunch

III. Warrior King by Chris Bunch

 

John Marco:

            Tyrants & Kings

I.The Jackel of Nar

II.The Grand Design

III. Saints of the Sword

 

Steven Erickson:

            Malazan Book of the Fallen

I.    Gardens of the Moon

                        II.  Deadhouse Gates

III.  Memories of Iced

IV. House of Chains

V.                 Midnight Tides

 

James Barclay:

            Chronicles of Raven

I.                    Dawnthief

II.                  Elfsorrow

 

Glenn Cook:

            Black Company (all of them)

 

 

Alternative History Fantasy

 

Harry Turtledove:

            All of his books

 

Eric Flint’s 1632

 

 

 

Unusual Fantasy 

 

These books can’t really be defined. They are a bit on the weird side though still worth reading.

 

Peodio Street Station” by China Melville

 

“The Scar” by China Melville

 

“The Iron Council” by China Melville

 

“The Year of Our War” by Steph Swainson

 

 

Literary Fantasy

 

Gene Wolf’s The Knight Wizard - His prose is beautiful; his plots usually blend reality and fantasy in the form of a lucid dream.

 

Guy Gaverial Kay -- This guy is a very skilled wordsmith; plots are strong too.

 

Karen Michalson's Enemy Glory & Hecate's Glory -- interesting books. VERY similar in style to Gene Wolf, beautiful, lyrical writing. If you liked his Torturer books, you will probably like these two, as they read similarly.

 

China Melville - Very, very good with words. He certainly put his thesaurus to work writing the book. The story is good, though very very weird (think Gene Wolf style). He has three books out. I believe he also has a PhD in English.

 

Cecilia Dart-Thorton (The Ill Begotten Mute) - I don't think I have red a writer who uses so many archaic words. The plot is fairly standard fare, but her writing is gorgeous, a sort of lyrical, poetic style. Better have your OED standing by when reading her books though, your're going to need it!

 

 

 

FANTASY SET IN NONE MEDIEVELL LANDSCAPES

 

 

 

Fantasy Based in an Oriental Milieu

 

The Seven Son’s Trilogy by Curt Benjamin:

            1. Prince of Shadows

            2. Prince of

            3. The Gates of Dawn

 

Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn * READ THESE BOOKS!!!

1.      Across the Nightingale Floor

2.      Grass For His Pillow

3.      Brilliance of the Moon

 

Brother Initiate by Sean Russell

1. Brother Initiate

2. Gather of Clouds

 

                                                                       

 

Fantasy Set in a Russian Milieu

 

 Sarah Ash:

 

Tears of Artemon

I.        Lord of Snow and Shadows

II.      Prisoner of the Iron Tower

III.    *Forthcoming

 

Indian (Punjabi) Flavored Fantasy

 

Julia Mckenna:

Southern Fire

 

 

 

(Very) Dishonorable Mentions

 

This list contains the authors you should avoid at all cost. Author’s that make it should never have been published. Don’t touch these books with a 12 foot pole! Note: to make this list, the book must REALLY be a steaming pile of donkey defecation.

 

Terry Goodkind’s The Naked Empire (Sword of Truth 7) and The Pillars of Creation (Sword of Truth 8)

-Some people might be wondering why bestselling author Terry Goodkind is missing from the top 25. Well, I have been saving a special spot in the ‘Worst Fantasy’ section for him. Wait, you tell me. “He is a best seller.” Yea, so was Madonna, but that doesn’t mean she knows how to write her name or formulate a written sentence. I admit, Goodkind’s first few novels were pretty good, then he dropped the ball, hook, and a few semi-trucks with his last few releases. His recent book titles can be used as a euphemism for crap, puke or other less than wholesome words.

 

Robert Newcomb, The Fifth Sorceress, The Gates of Dawn, Scrolls of the Ancients, and any other peice of paper cursed by his pen.

-What happens when you blatantly copy a bad fantasy writer? Simply, you write a really bad fantasy book. The only books Newcomb ever read was Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth saga . At least Goodkind can write half decently—which is more than Newcomb can claim by a mile. The blurb on The Fifth Sorceress claims it is the “epic fantasy of the year”. Yea right and Madonna’s religious claims are true. While Newcomb certainly has a fertile imagination, he lacks the writing skills to translate ideas to paper. His books are so riddled with cliques it’s no surprise he sinks to the bottom of the quality barrel. 

 

Robert Stanek.  ANY OF HIS BOOKS

-There is a suspicious amount of positive reviews posted at amazon.com concerning this author’s Rune Mist saga. They either range from five to one star. Rumor has it that Rob has been padding Amazon.com with fake reviews in an effort to hawk his own books. After reading book one, it was immediately apparent (after the first page) the rumor is true. Stanek is, quite simply, the worst author I have had the misfortune of reading. He possesses not a single atom of writing ability. I’ll put it like this: Keeper Martin’s Tale evinces all the skill of an adolescent girl, writing her first creative piece on a prancing pony. Keep away from his books if you value your sanity. His prose is so bad your eyes will bleed.

 

Don’t believe me? Here is a review I posted about on of his books. Apparently, stanek didn't like what I had to say. He got his friends at amazon to take down my review.

 

"I had the dubious pleasure of reading Keeper Martin's Tale a few months ago. My mouth still hurts where it hung constantly open for the entire duration of the book. A few choice words come to mind when ruminating on the experience. Appalling. Disgusting. Terrible. Ghastly. Horrific. Repulsive. Sordid. Vile. I could go on an on enumerating the list of synonyms for bad.

I’ll end it with this phrase: It was a pile of sh*t!

I'm not in the habit of attacking authors, but in this case, I feel the effort warranted. After all, Rob uses smarmy tactics to promote his books (fake Amazon reviews, fake Amazon lists, trashing other authors while recommending his own, etc).

Unquestionably, Stanek wins the worst-fantasy-writer-ever award. I never thought anyone would top Robert Newcomb in this category, but Stanek succeeds and succeeds with ease. This guy's writing is a textbook example of what not to do when you write. How is it possibly that people actually buy this pile?

The prose in Keeper Martin's Tale is abysmal, the plot boring, awkward, and the characters dull as a spoon. "Keeper Martin's Tale" reads more like tenth grader's first creative writing project than the expected professional type prose exhibited by publishable authors.

Simply put, the man cannot write, not a bit, not a ounce, not a scintilla, not a single atom. All those Amazon "reviews" equating “Keeper Martin's Tale” (indeed all of the Ruin Mist series) as the Second Coming are complete fabrications.

After reading the book, I went back and read some of the “reviews” laughing so hard I almost broke a few ribs. Reviews like the following abound on Amazon:

I'll just add to the glowing reviews of this book. I have some (limited) negative feelings about this book like others do, but overall I think that it's a unique book that's well worth having. Does Robert Stanek know how to write??? Oh yeah!!! He's very good at getting inside characters heads without being obvious about it. He's very good at describing a fantasy world. He's very good with dialog. The plot and pace is excellent. Okay, so I too am VERY jealous of anybody who can write such a great story. BUT HE'S EARNED HIS PLACE WITH THE GREATS OF FANTASY!!! He's worked very hard for his success and he has the courage to pursue his dreams unlike 95% of the population (including myself). And NO I don't belong to his Official Fan Club, but I'd probably join it, if he had one

What a load of crap! Anyone who has actually read the book knows these are fake reviews! Lets deconstruct the "review".

"Does Stanek know how to write??? Oh yeah???"

Ah, are we on the same planet? From what I've seen, Stanek couldn't write a publishable paragraph to save his life.

"He's very good at describing a fantasy world"

No. NO. AND NO! Stanek's "descriptions" are appallingly bad. Geez, even dragonlance authors do a better job!

"The plot and pace is excellent"

Try Slow and plodding. After reading the book, I’m still asking myself, what was the plot?

"He's very good with dialog"

Uh...not true. IN fact, the dialogue is stilted. No personality whatsoever. Want good, witty dialogue? Read Greg Keyes' "The Briar King". Now THAT man can write.

"BUT HE'S EARNED HIS PLACE WITH THE GREATS OF FANTASY!!! He's worked very hard for his success and he has the courage to pursue his dreams unlike 95% of the population (including myself). And NO I don't belong to his Official Fan Club, but I'd probably join it, if he had one[/I]”

SO much for objectivity in a review. Can we say FAKE REVIEW?

NO ONE with an once of sense would ever waste a breath of praise on Stanek's drivel, much less post effusive reviews in the vein of "STENEK IS BETTER THAN JORDAN AND MARTIN" or "STANEK IS THE NEXT JORDON"

Don't believe me? I'll prove it by posting a few sample paragraphs from the book:

Always more reminders of the things she should or should not do—her proper place, always her proper place. She knew all about the proper things, the proper mannerisms, the proper greetings, her proper duties, her proper place. She had even been taught, though only recently, the proper things to do to invite a man's attention. She was to begin courting. But why?

Blah, horrific.
I wrote better than this in grade five. And one more painful passage to convince the skeptics:

Seth returned to the room they shared then and did a thing he claimed not to understand. Galan was sitting on the edge of her bed, running a comb through her long hair. He sat beside her and the next thing he knew his lips were pressed against hers.
Immediately afterward, Seth fled the room and in his confused state of mind, said he knew of only one person he could turn to. Brother Liyan had been meditating in his private chambers and, without announcement, Seth burst into the room and in one great rush of thoughts explained all that had happened since he left the hall
.”

Does this prose seem childish to you? It's definitely not up to publishable standards. Or at least the ones I'm familiar with! The entire book is like this. Even worse, the book is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

STAY AWAY from this author! Though if you are in the mood for a good laugh, read it. The book's so bad it's almost funny."

 

SOME of Mercedes Lackey’s books

Ok, I might take a lot of flak for this, but I think she is, in general, a horrific author. Her plots tend to muddle around in never-never-land and characters are flat as a cookie. The only time she manages to crawl her way out of the bowels of mediocrity is on the contrails of more talented coauthors. In a few of her books, she has the infuriating tendency to have her protagonist adopt homosexuality (or bisexuality) halfway through some of her novels, which is frustrating when you—as the reader—are not gay. Not all her books are bad; several books she coauthors (with more talented co-authors I might add) are actually quite good (The Outreached Shadow, The Shadow of a Lion). I wish I could say the same about the rest of her books. Summery: if your gay, you will probably like her books, as she usually tries to include homosexuality in one form of the other, if your not, then steer clear of them (or at least the books she writes by herself).

 

The prodigious amount of D&D-type books out there (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, etc).

You can usually spot the D&D book rack a mile away. Simply look for the shaggy-haired kid wearing outdated clothes and the horn-rim glasses. This is the stuff that gives the fantasy genre a bad name. Avoid these! It’s that cheap type of bread you pick up for fifty-cents in the discounted section at Safeway. You might think you got a good deal—till you find it crumbles to pieces on the way home. Pick up a real author like George R. Martin and enjoy a real feast.

 

More to Come!

 

 

A very good place to find information on the best fantasy reads is this forum: http://www.sffworld.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=3f241b60c873dd88b54578ccf3e9ef8f&forumid=6

 

Here, there is a healthy, thriving community of fantasy enthusiasts who discuss what’s worth reading and what’s drivel. If you want to read discussions, recommendations and reviews of fantasy literature, check it out!

 

This list is in a constant state of change. I will continually be updating it with new books. If you wish to procure the latest incarnation of it, simply email me at daytonascan4911@hotmail.com and ask for it.