Seven fantasy favourites

It’s funny, but when I sit down to list my all-time favourite fantasy novels or series, most of them are not what you’d call recent. In fact some of them are just plain old.

Maybe this is because I believe favourites must stand the test of time and re-reading. Or maybe it’s because I just haven’t read all that much fantasy recently. Or maybe it’s because the style of modern fantasy has veered away from that which I prefer. I don’t know.

What I do know is that my favourite fantasy reads must have amazing characters that make me feel every ounce of heartache; they must have what I call ‘three-dimensional’ world-building so that I can almost believe such places exist; and must almost always have a heart-wrenching love story (preferably with a happy ending).

Seven of my favourites, divided among seven different authors, are:

1. The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay — A novel exploring themes of how religion can underpin prejudices, alliances and conflict, set in an alternate version of Al-Andulus (Moorish Spain). It also looks at the legend of El Cid and the fall of Granada. Marvellous characters, thought-provoking drama,Β and a poignant love triangle.

2. The Liveship Traders trilogy, by Robin Hobb — OK, I know I’ve been going on about this trilogy, but I can’t leave it off my top-seven list. It has talking ships, pirates, merchant dynasties, and a unique take on dragons. The characters are wonderfully complex and the setting brilliantly exotic.

3. The Ruins of Ambrai, by Melanie Rawn — The first in a trilogy that was never finished, it nonetheless holds up well as a stand-alone. It’s the story of three sisters of noble birth, separated as children and brought up on two different sides of a mage war. And a minstrel who gets caught up with one of them.

4. Kushiel’s Dart/Chosen/Avatar, by Jacqueline Carey — The first three in Carey’s remarkable series set in an alternate version of Europe are told by Phedre, a courtesan/spy. Another heart-wrenching love story between her and her companion/protector, and lots of court intrigue and adventure. (And quite a lot of bondage…)

5. Mordant’s Need duology, by Stephen Donaldson — An old favourite and I still love it. A depressed woman from our world goes through a mirror into another world, where she is hailed as a saviour. She finds meaning and self-worth and confidence and comes to love an unlikely hero.

6. Second Sons trilogy, by Jennifer Fallon — Something a little more recent (although not that recent!).Β At heart, the story is about the nature of faith, and how those who follow blindly can be exploited. It’s also about the ‘next generation’ — how the sons and daughters of ‘great’ people carve out their own niche in life and either reap what their parents have sewed, or atone for their sins.

7. The Nightrunner series (first three) by Lynn Flewelling — Rollicking adventure with cat burglary, spying, fighting and magic. Lighter in weight than most of the others above, these three are nonetheless a lot of fun. They make my top-seven by virtue of the number of times I’ve re-read them.

Next time I’ll share my top-seven more recent reads that probably haven’t had time to sink in yet.

The reason for all this sharing is to fulfill my obligations for accepting another couple of blog recognition badges that were thrown my way recently. And so I must also stop for a moment to thank those who bestowed them upon me and pass on the love.

The first is the One Lovely Blog award, presented to me first by the wonderful Elaine Smothers and then by the fabulous Judythe Morgan. The second is the Very Inspiring Blogger award, courtesy of the marvellous Janice Heck.

Thanks ever so much, ladies! All three are part of the wana community, writers who have come to understand ‘we are not alone’.

The rules associated with both these badges are the same: thank the person who nominated you and link to their blogsΒ (as above), share seven facts about yourself (hence my list of favourite fantasy reads), pass the badge onto another 15 blogs.

Another 15 blogs. Heavens.

What I’ve noticed with these is that many people don’t seem to get around to playing the game. (I like playing because I feel as though I’m now collecting blog badges in my sidebar!) So I’m going to share 15 blogs with you all, irrespective of whether I think their authors are going to play or not, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be sending some visitors their way.

Here they are, in no particular order: Liv Rancourt (Let’s have a devil of a good time), Laird Sapir (Shabby Chic Sarcasm), Tami Clayton (taking tea in the Kasbah), Sara Walpert Foster (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition), Elizabeth Fais (where the awesome begins), Barbara Forte Abate, Alina Sayre (Illuminations), Suzanne Stengl, Mike Schulenberg (Realms of perilous wonder), Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Cora Ramos, Siri Paulson (everyday enchantments), Rabia Gale (writer at play – new science fantasy novella out soon!), Fabio Bueno (new YA paranormal romance urban fantasy out soon!), S M Hutchins (Live wonderstruck)… That’s 15, gotta stop.

Going back to my seven somewhat ancient fantasy favourites for a moment — Is anyone reading this on the same page as me? I’d love to hear whether anyone else still has these on their shelf… and whether they get any of them out again from time to time.

If not — what makes it to your all-time favourite list?

31 comments

  1. Thanks for the nomination, sweetie! Maybe I can do a 7 fave vampire books post…
    And as for your 7 favorites, well, now you’ve made me want to read each one. Except for the one with the heart-wrenching love story. I don’t like to have my heart wrenched, although the bondage might make up for it…Heh!

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  2. I haven’t read any of the books you listed but am intrigued by many of them. I swear my TBR pile is so abundantly high with great books calling to me that I could read all day every day for an entire year and still not get through them all. Such is the life of an avid reader and writer…

    And thanks for the shout out! Greatly appreciate it. Like Liv, I may do a 7 favorite list of a different variety in the near future.

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  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Ellen! I’ve played this game before, but I like your idea of picking a theme.

    I’ve read too few of the books on your list. I’m interested in the Lynn Flewelling and Guy Gavriel Kay titles.

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    1. Actually I think I borrowed the theme idea from Janice Heck. I thought it was a great idea too. I can’t rave highly enough about the Lions of Al-Rassan. Highly recommended! I made my book group read it some years ago and I think non fantasy readers can enjoy. (although I know you’re a fantasy reader, Rabia!)

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  4. I’ve not read any of those books, although I’ve been admiring at least a couple of those authors from afar.

    I don’t know if I have any all-time favorites. I have books that I’ve read more than once, but I often find that they aren’t as cool as I remembered them being when I was younger. I suppose Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories and the works of H.P. Lovecraft hold up pretty well, in my mind.

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      1. I’ve actually read one of Guy Kavriel Kay’s books…Under Heaven. I read it because it’s set in like a fantasy China, and so is my WIP, so I thought it would be good to see what he did with it. I enjoyed it πŸ™‚

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        1. I’m part way through Under Heaven… Enjoying it (although I’ve put it down for a while), but it doesn’t have the intensity of emotion and character that his earlier work has – in my view. He is still a wonderful writer though!

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          1. You might be right about that. I haven’t read any of his other stuff, so I can’t compare it to his earlier work, but I enjoyed it well enough. The Asian flavor was the big draw for me.

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        2. Also… Have you read Lian Hern’s Tales is the otori? The first is ‘across the nightingale floor’. It’s got more of a JapAnese flavour.

          More recently, Alison Goodman’s Eon followed by Eona are fabulous oriental fantasies.

          Both authors are Australian and I know Alison personally.

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          1. As a matter of fact, I’ve read all 5 of the Tales of the Otori. I liked the original trilogy a lot, but the one that comes after–The Harsh Cry of the Heron, I think–left me a bit cold. Then I read the prequel to the trilogy and thought it was pretty awesome.

            I haven’t read Alison Goodman’s stuff, but it definitely sounds like something I should check out. I just put Eon on my to-buy list.

            If you like reading Asian-flavored YA fiction, you might check out The Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone. It’s pretty fun.

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  5. I have discovered Canadian author Guy Gabriel Kay by his latest two wonderful novels set in China – River of Stars and Under Heaven, both based on real characters and real events, come to life incredibly believably. I haven’t read his earlier works yet but based on those two books I am already a fan.
    I would add Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series to my list of all time favourites. a bit dated now perhaps but still wonderful. she has turned to urban fantasy now with a pretty cool female central character.

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    1. I’ve nearly finished Under Heaven, which I’ve been enjoying (when I pick it up here and then), but it hasn’t quite sucked me in. I find it a bit detached and unemotional for my tastes. But he is such a wonderful writer, I keep plugging away at it. I hope you will go read The Lions of Al-Rassan now and see what you think!

      I read the early books in Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series when they first came out years and years ago and loved them. They’ve stuck in my mind too — their premise and structure are so original. I also loved an science fiction novel called Palace which she co-wrote. I am not across her latest urban fantasy at all. But a “pretty cool female central character” sounds good!

      Thanks for dropping by today and following the blog. πŸ™‚

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      1. Hi Ellen,
        interesting your reaction to Under Heaven. I didnt find it so at all, but then I knew who the characters were referring to and new the back story. For me its an amazing novelisation of historical figures. Interesting that you find the characters unemotional, or the book such, as Chinese people do not show their emotions as much as ‘westerners’ so I am wondering if somehow Gavriel Kay has captured some of that???
        I have been meaning to get his earlier works so I will book make the Lions of Al-Rassan. I’m thinking of just downloading on kindle – easier and quicker.

        KK’s latest books are something about “licence to ensorcerell” etc – fast paced, good fun, and yes the strong central female figure is a lot of fun.

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