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  1. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by HelloThere, May 24, 2014.

    Hello there people. I wanted to start a thread for the discussion of specific genres, and suggested reading for people who might want to try out a genre but don't know where to start. I'm gonna try and focus this on the aspects of certain novels that are specific to the genre, (obviously sci-fi can overlap with fantasy at times) that can you can take lessons from as writers. Obviously I can only recommend books that I've read, and I am but a young sapling in comparison with some of the wizened old oaks on here :) (PM me for lessons on how to offend people with metaphors) so my initial post will only be a short one.

    Without further ado:

    Tolkein, The Hobbit and The lord of the Rings: Well it's the obvious one isn't it. It certainly isn't perfect, but it has influenced a lot of fantasy trends. I think the main lesson to be learned from Tolkein is his excellently huge world building, Middle Earth is a great example of what happens when someone has too much time on their hands. That being said, I don't believe this world in Tolkein's head is translated well onto the pages, he favours what is described as "Epic language" and while some people might like that, it can be incredibly slow to read.

    The story as well is a classic tale of good vs. evil, and does what I think all fantasies must do on some sort of fashion particularly well - he presents the world through an innocent character(s); the world beyond the shire is just as alien to the hobbits as it is to the reader, and so allows us to see details of the world through their eyes.

    I could ramble on forever about the content of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but to summarise: The book is slow to read, Slooooooooooooooooow, and gets slower every time there's a song, but the sheer depth and variety and awesome nature of Tolkein's tale and world is truly inspiring.

    George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire : Some of the more hip members of the forum may know this as the hugely successful TV show "A Game of Thrones." The world building of Martin's world is on a similarly epic scale to Middle Earth, but in my opinion this is implemented more succinctly than in "The Lord of the Rings." The history behind all the different factions and people in the novel is interwoven perfectly with the motivations of the characters. Not only is each of the vast array of characters fleshed out well, but the main families and kingdoms are so detailed that they almost become characters themselves. Martin's world is also rather interesting in the inspiration it takes from history, if you know much history you'll notice quite a wide variety of different sources he's drawn on.

    Seen as pacing seemed to be one of "The Lord of the Rings'" main drawbacks, I thought it was important to point out just how good the pacing is in Martin's work. Pacing is probably the main reason why I would recommend "A Song of Ice and Fire" over "The Lord of the Rings" to someone less familiar with fantasy - There is an overwhelming amount of POV characters, but they are used to great effect - We experience one chapter worth of a character's viewpoint before being whisked away to a completely diferent side of Westeros. This creates an amazing ebb and flow of tension, every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, this also presents the character's in easily digestible chunks which helps to differentiate them.

    Fantasy is often done on a huge scale, but "A Song of Ice and Fire" goes about this in a way that makes it easy to appreciate the hugeness without becoming crushed underneath it.

    There's one more I want to do but I need to go out and socialize :eek: Post your own opinions on what fantasy novels and series you think set good examples for the rest of us.

    :D
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Tolkien was a pretty boring guy, but his scholarship is exquisite. Everyone interested in medieval poetry should read his essay on Beowulf, it is simply a must - I was told that at university, and I can only echo that sentiment.

    The important works in the development of what we now call Fantasy (since so much of it relies on mid-European tropes) are things like Beowulf, a magnificent Angle-Saxon epic that I'm amazed I only read last year I love it so much. In it the king of the Spear-Danes, Hrothgar (played Skyrim? Remember that name?) is being terrorized by the hideous monster Grendel so along comes the great hero Beowulf to fight him. Killing Grendel (Cain's kin), Beowulf must also fight Grendel's mother who has come seeking revenge - and he does so, proving himself as a good Nordic hero. Upon returning to his home, Geatland (south western Scandinavia) he rules as a good king (cyning - that's the Angle-Saxon word) until he faces his last, and greatest challenge. A fiery dragon, who is enraged because some unknown thief has stolen some of his gold, is laying waste to the land - and as we all know, dragons love their gold! I'll not tell how it ends, but the ending is fantastic.

    I could write and write and write about the majesty of this poem, and I've even translated the first 70 lines of it as an exercise. Obviously from this outline I've gave, it directly inspired Tolkien, and especially The Hobbit. In fact I know a medieval scholar who thinks The Hobbit is really a continuation of Victorian romanticism about old poems like Beowulf - not technically fantasy at all.

    The other major source for Tolkien's Middle earth was the Norse Edda. This is something I have read, and am still working on familiarizing myself with. Most of the important Eddic poems come from the Codex Regius manuscript (known as CR in academic papers, in case you ever see that) and here we find all of the great Norse poems that detail the mythology of gods like Loki and Odin, these poems are much less known to the general English reader but anyone interested in fantasy owes it to themselves to read them!

    The Icelandic Sagas and Germanic Sagas (different to the Edda but heavily related) were also a huge influence on Tolkien. These include things like the Saga of the Nibelung. Another thing that is a lot more controversial, but I certainly think it inspired Tolkien (they both used the same sources - the Saga of the Nibelung) is Richard Wagner's four part opera trilogy Das Ring Der Nibelungen. This is a huge epic story centered around a ring of power. In Wagner's story, the wearer gains immense power but he must sacrifice the ability to love. I adore Wagner, and you should too, if you think you can stomach the idea of 17 hours of opera.


    Away from the whole Tolkien line, there is also the fantasy works of Robert E. Howard, and the Conan mythos - though these stories are in fact heavily related to the mythos of his friend H.P. Lovecraft, so what kind of fantasy stories these are is somewhat debatable.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2014
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  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I'll echo the ssllllooooowww read of LoTR.
    I picked it up years ago and put it down after 5 pages or so...
    Maybe now I'd be able to get through it but I find little desire to bother.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with you there. ;) I did read LotR and The Hobbit, the latter being a decidely easier read. The Silmarillion made my brain pull a Windows Vista and freeze up at every opportunity. A huge part of what made LotR and The Silmarillion difficult to approach were too many names that were too fantasy/foreign and too similar one to the next. It was hard to invest in anyone when I was having difficulty keeping track of who was who.

    A Song of Fire and Ice is too now for me to read. That sounds snobbish, but I just can't read a book or series when it's happening.

    I have to wait until this subsides.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    So Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire are both High Fantasy. They're based on fictional kingdoms and races that don't exist in our world along with magic.

    Anyone know anything about Low Fantasy? From the definitions I've found, it would be based in our world with MAYBE fictional races and lots of magic. It just so happens that I discovered that my own writing seems to be Low Fantasy. I would love to read other LF works to see what I'm up against, because I've found none.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If this list is for people who are new to the genre, I would suggest listing less popular books because I'm sure pretty much everyone has heard of (or even read) Tolkien and Martin. That would be more useful for someone like me.
     
  7. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Well like I said I am a bit of a noob so this is the best I can manage, my hope is that more well read individuals such as @Lemex will contribute their recommendations.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think Lemex reads much fantasy, either. All of the works he listed are considered epic poetry. Sure, they have elements of fantasy, but I would argue that the fantasy found in a novel is much different than the fantasy found in epic poetry.
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Sorry, @HelloThere, but I actually don't.

    I can give you the major works that form the basis of modern fantasy and tell you enough to write an undergrad paper on them, but as for contemporary fantasy novels - sorry but I'm not fantastically interested. Most of the fantasy that I've encountered I can't recommend, they don't even come close to my standards of taste, but I can recommend Ian Irvine, who I actually know vaguely, and remember enjoying very much when in high school, all those 7 years ago now.
     
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  10. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I have some recommendations but please bare with me I'm not very good at breaking stuff down but I hope I manage to get some people reading these

    The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

    Well technically it is Urban Fantasy I cannot deny how much I've enjoyed the series and I think anyone interested in fantasy should check them out.

    It combines various fantasy tropes, mythological figures and hardboiled detective genre and tackles it all in new and interesting ways. It also has many characters I find believable and very enjoyable to the point I've even gotten choked up when ones are killed off.

    The commentary on the supernatural world by protagonist professional wizard Harry Dresden is not only hilarious but often how I can picture someone living in a modern world reacting to traditional fantasy. Such as cracking jokes about Star Wars to ancient supernatural beings or quoting Evil Dead in a room full of Fae to get across his point.

    But he's not all just quotes and quips he actually grows and changes as the series goes on from an average gumshoe wizard who is extremely reckless to a smart chessmaster haunted by the events that happen of the course of the series (such as the death of friends, war, coming into contacts with secrets and corruption with the supernatural and normal world)

    To top it off The Dresden Files has some of the best fantasy world building I've ever seen.

    Look I cannot stress if you want to get into fantasy that you must read this series. It is not only in my top ten series but top ten fictions in general (And that's throwing in movies, video games, comics etc)

    And it just keeps getting better and better each book.

    Discworld by Terry Pratchett

    If you’re looking for something that is more normal fantasy then Discworld is a good bet for you and it is probably one of the most in genius things ever thought up.

    Discworld plays on every fantasy trope and cliché with absolute brilliance.

    I haven’t read every book in the series but out of the ones they are some of the most funny and heartfelt books I've ever read. Besides being possibly if not the best deconstruction and parody of high fantasy it also has an amazing cast of characters from Sam Vimes to DEATH and everyone in between.



    Tales of The Shadowmen

    Okay now this is a bit of a complex one and I don't have much to say about it. And I would only recommend to anyone interested in old pulp, modern day fictional. They are just books of short stories by various French authors which crossover various pulp and public domain characters.

    Its just a bunch of random and sometimes connected crossovers.

    Such as James Bond meeting The Saint or Captain Nemo and Cthulu just stuff like that.

    It pretty much features every character of that style (mostly from like I said old pulp and literature) meeting each other. I ordered an English version off Amazon and I will be honest the writing quality isn't the best imo.

    But I found books interesting mostly due to the character interaction. Though I would suggest Discworld or Dresden over this.


    Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

    YES!

    Jim is on the list again but this time Codex is a high fantasy and not urban. It’s basically Rome meets Pokemon to degree.

    It is set in the world of Alera which like the Dresden Files is Codex Alera’s world building is top notch and though I believe Codex Alera plays on some very old fantasy tropes.

    Butcher’s writing and characters and a few plot twists kept me hook. And even though I prefer the Dresden Files in the long run I cannot deny that the first two books in Codex were much more intense and left me on the edge more than the say….the first two in Dresden.

    I would suggest to anyone who is just looking for a different spin on fantasy or someone who wants to check out Jim Butcher and aren't into Urban Fantasy.


    Okay........

    Now forgive me I'm going to be lazy but other things I would suggest are

    Stephen King's Dark Tower series

    Brandon Sanderson's works (even though I haven't read his works I own Mistborn Trilogy which I hear is an amazing fantasy series so I have to get around reading it and I believe its well known all his fantasy stories are top notch)


    Rick Riordan who writes the Percy Jackson stuff ......I've never read the Percy Jackson series but I can say I enjoyed the Kane Chronicles trilogy so I'd say give that a look as well.

    Hope I helped :)
     
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  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think low fantasy is supposed to NOT be about battles and wars and adventures but more about people and more daily stuff, though I'm not sure. My friend tells me I write low fantasy and that's what I'm writing, sooooo...

    As to the OP - yeah, LOTR and GoT are very chunky, difficult books to get through that would turn a lot of people *off*, I think. If LOTR was my first fantasy book, I'd be turned off the genre for life. I've still not bothered with GoT because to be honest, the world building is actually a turn OFF for me.

    I actually write fantasy myself and do do world-building. But I'm just saying, people who enjoy fantasy do not necessarily enjoy world-building. It's why I am far more drawn to YA fantasy than I am to Adult fantasy. YA focuses much more on the here and now - the story and characters living alongside magical or supernatural aspects of the world. Adult fantasy I find too difficult to immerse into it because bloody hell, I just want the adventure, I really don't care about the world. The magical aspects make the story more fascinating than the average drama does for me, but that does not mean I care about all the history and background etc.

    Anyway - recommendations...

    Narnia - lovely and romantic with a great touch of magic, and CS Lewis was a genius and so articulate (he gave me insight into grief that I still remember based on something he wrote after his wife died, and Mere Christianity is excellent)

    Brandon Sanderson - he writes some very entertaining and solid fantasy. Nothing difficult, nothing particularly epic, but very interesting and entertaining. If you're looking to relax, his books can always be trusted to deliver. For someone starting out in the genre, I'd say his books would be great. I particularly loved Elantris, his debut.

    Hunger Games - I know it's not fantasy, it's soft sci-fi or dystopian, but seriously, I LOVED IT. Haven't seen such excellent characterisation and poetic prose in a very, very long time.

    His Dark Materials - the most famous first book title being Northern Lights, by Phillip Pullman. As a teenager I loved them. I reread the first 2 books as an adult and found the 2nd book to be a little dull. However, the first book - Northern Lights - was excellent and extremely original, set in a world like our own but where humans are born with a daemon - basically like a Familiar, a creature who's part of your soul and cannot be separated and is so intimate that it is taboo to touch someone else's daemon. And it's about what happens when people try to separate them. Very, very creative with some lovely language, great world-building but not so much that it detracts from the story.

    I've not read these books but I hear Ursula le Guin's Earthsea series is meant to be excellent, so great that Studio Gibhli made a movie out of it (the film unfortunately wasn't great though).

    Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere was very creative - very quirky. Personally I wasn't as drawn in by his style but I can tell he's certainly a very good writer. I'd say his works would be very good to start as again - they're very easy to read, very light, again the magical aspects do not detract from the story but serve to make it more interesting, and seriously, this guy has some very original ideas.

    And I guess Harry Potter and perhaps Terry Prachette :) I love how creativity Harry Potter is. I've only read one book by Prachette but again, like Gaiman, there's a very quirky, unique thing going for his world and once more it is light and very accessible. The particular one I read by Prachette was A Hatful of Sky.
     
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  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    For those who are more of YA fans...

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians
    There are five books in this series: the Lightning Thief, the Sea of Monsters, Titan's Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, and the Last Olympian. Don't judge this series by the movies... They do a terrible job of making the books come to life. They even pull scenes from the third book and put it into the first movie. And the first movie is basically a completely different structure than the book.. Ugh! Don't get me started.

    Anyway! The story is told from 12yo Percy Jackson's perspective. He has dyslexia and ADD and bounces from school to school. Then one day while on a field trip, his teacher turns into one of the Furies and it all explodes from there. He eventually finds his way to Camp Halfblood -- a "summer" camp for demigod children of the Greek god/desses hidden in the woods of New York. He battles monsters and prophecies and Greek Gods and other campers. It's funny, emotional, and action packed.

    If you get through those five, Rick Riordan continues Percy Jackson's story in the Heroes of Olympus series: the Lost Hero, Son of Neptune, Mark of Athena, House of Hades, and the Blood of Olympus (coming out on October 7, 2014). The series starts up pretty close to the end of the Last Olympian. It also features Percy Jackson, but also Jason, Hazel, Leo, and many others. While this series includes the Greek gods and Camp Halfblood, it also includes Roman gods and Camp Jupiter, the camp for Roman demigod children.

    These two series are my absolute favorite. Rick Riordan is a fantastic writer. I'm really sad for the last book to come out, because I know they're over for good this time. :( He's also writing a series about Egyptian gods called the Kane Chronicles, but the characters and the plot isn't nearly as strong as the Percy Jackson books. He's said he's going to write his next series on Norse gods, so I'm stoked for that. I just hope he does it better than the Kane Chronicles.

    Eragon!
    No one's said Eragon yet, right? Either way. Eragon is completely fantasy, full of dragons and urgals and dwarves and elves. It's a four book series, looonggg books, but they are fantastic.

    Wings
    For those fairy lovers out there! Wings follows a teenager named Laurel who discovers she's a fairy adopted by humans. Trolls are the arch enemy of fairies, and a group of trolls soon finds Laurel. She and her friends struggle to fight them off while still keeping her wings a secret. There are three additional books: Spells, Illusions, and Destined. The battle between the fairies and the trolls continue, and Laurel is forced to put her human friends in danger to protect the fairies and Avalon. It's a very magical book. :) It's actually what brought me to Paganism. And it was the first book I read when I started reading for enjoyment. My favorite thing about it though is that it isn't your typical fairy novel. I don't want to get into details and ruin it, but she has some pretty original ideas, and I applaud originality.

    House of Night series
    This series is scheduled to have 12 books. I only read the first seven. It takes place in modern times, where vampires are common and known. They are very talented, so they are often actors and singers (I think Shania Twain is mentioned to be a vampire). It follows a teenage girl Zoey who becomes "Marked" during school. Marked is basically when a person is chosen and a crescent moon appears on their forehead, marking them as a vampire. They are forced to move into a Vampire Finishing School (as the authors so lovingly call it) called the House of Night. It's full of adult vampires and other teen fledglings. It's believed that if a fledgling vampire doesn't move into the school to be around other vampires, they'll die. Zoey struggles to survive being away from her friends and gets into several altercations with fellow students. It's a decent series. I'm not sure if the series started to get weird or if I just started to grow up, but I haven't been able to keep reading the books. I'd like to some day, but as of right now, I can't. :p
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Has anyone else read Shirley Rousseau Murphy's The Catswold Portal? No idea what type of fantasy it is, but it has an alternate subterranean world interacting with our own (1950s San Francisco) as the female MC, a cat-human shapeshifter, has to overcome dangers and challenges that affect not only herself but the inhabitants of both realities.

    It has some chronology issues that make me itch to write a little fanfic to straighten them out, but Murphy does a good job bringing the situations alive and making you wonder, "What if?"

    And it's got cats in it, which I like.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2014
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  14. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rangers Apprentice is a very good Young Adult book. I haven't read it since I was younger but I remember it being good and I enjoyed the first nine books. They're a bit shorter I think.
     
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  15. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    R.A.Salvatore: Anything involving Drizzt Do'Urden: This is where it gets a bit nerdier (I blame my father for that.) Set in the dungeons and dragons world of "The Forgotten Realms" the series follows the character Drizzt Do' Urden and his companions. I won't say it's the greatest piece of work committed to paper, but it's strengths lie in its character building, and it's the characters which make it fun to read. There is a possibility that some of these characters are verging on cliche, although this series is nearly thirty years old now so perhaps this was less the case when he started writing. Seen as series are such a common feature of fantasy I think it's important to see how characters can be continually developed over such a long period of time, and the characters always remain interesting and always keep changing. The main bad guy of the series is possibly one of my favourite villains, Artemis Entreri, he even got his own trilogy at one point - he has a brilliant character arc.

    The books are easy to read, I wouldn't recommend them as an introduction to fantasy but if you are interested in character development then this series will certainly be informative.
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If anyone wants some unconventional fantasy, I recommend Little, Big by John Crowley.
     
  17. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good luck waiting. The first book was published in 1996 and there are at least 2 more in the works...


    As a big fantasy buff, I thought I would add my 2 cents worth for recommendations. Aside from what has already been mentioned (Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn), I would also recommend Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, or really anything Joe Abercrombie has written.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As I said before, Conan is great pre-Tolkien fantasy, so you don't get the influence of some pseudo-Norse world. Also, Gormenghast is apparently really great too, but the weirdest and most fantastical fantasy novel I've ever read has got to be The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath by H.P. Lovecraft.
     
  19. HealSomeBabies
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    Read The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison. it's about a war between demons and witches on the planet Mercury. You won't be disappointed. It was written in 1918 I think, and it ruined every other fantasy novel for me. Lots of battles, treachery, lore, mythological craziness, amazing stuff. The writing style might turn some people off (it's quite fanciful and Shakespearean), but to me it just adds to the magic.

    Right now I'm reading The Book of the New Sun b Gene Wolfe about a near-feudal society in the distant future when the sun is dying and Earth's ecosystem has evolved onto other things. The main character is a wandering executioner, who must carry out the bidding of gargantuan god-like entities he sees in his dreams and might live under the sea / on another planet. Very fascinating.
     
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  20. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    Don't forget Jarlaxle!
     
  21. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Of course not. :D Love the relationship between him and Entreri - I don't even consider him a villain really, he's just on his own side.
     
  22. Cesare Blanc
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    You named some of the most amazing titles ever to appear in the English language. The Book of the New Sun is a very interesting example of a small genre called Dying Earth, which was named after Jack Vance's series of books, but like many other things has its roots in more ancient works. It's by far one of my favourite genres.

    Other than that...

    The Gormenghast Cycle, by Mervyn Peake, which is a feasts for the mind in terms of language, inventive and sheer depth (and not easy to approach either, given it was written in the mid-XX century, but it's worth the effort)

    Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville, which is a great and long book that's choke-full of imagination. A true example of how much fantasy can evoke things far, far away from the medieval aestethic and still pull it off (and, in my opinion, fare even better)

    The Bartimaeus Sequence, by Jonathan Stroud, a great example of so-called Urban Fantasy that has humour, wit, and lovable characters. It's easy and fun to read, and as good as fantasy can get these days.

    Also, outside of the anglo-saxon playground, I strongly reccomend reading some Jorge Luis Borges - it's not strictly fantasy per se (read: not playing by medieval celtic anglo-saxon tropes), but his short stories stimulate imagination like very few other authors; try The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969. Also, Michael Ende. Many of you will remember the Neverending Story movie, but the book is so much more than a feast of cheap fur monsters and 90's pop music.

    I'd add more, but I think I'd write three pages...
     
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  23. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    The fantasy that impressed me the most was Michael Moorcock's Books Of Corum & Eternal Champion.
     

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