Thursday, March 26, 2009

top five fantasy

I liked writing that so much I'm going to do another one. Maybe I'll do daily top 5 lists. Maybe I won't. You'll just have to wait and see...

I'm not including The Lord of the Rings in this list, you probably all know I love it. I didn't include the Bible in the last list either, but they both loom large.

I know that a lot of people look down on fantasy, but I think that this is unfair and unwarranted. I want to make a list of books that will appeal to a range of people and maybe interest any non-fantasy readers out there.

Top 5 fantasy books you should read (in no particular order):

The Last Unicorn- Peter Beagle
This is an amazing book, it's got everything- it's funny, it's sad, it's bittersweet and moving and the characters stay with you afterwards. Read it and we can discuss together what it means...

The Wizard of Earthsea- Ursula le Guin
Ursula le Guin is pretty great, and so is this trilogy (well, kind of trilogy). These are pretty sad books, and are about power, and balance, and death- all those important things. Writing is spare and elegaic, or so I think.

The Discworld Series- Terry Pratchett
I've read almost all of them at least twice. Fantasy satire on the real world, Terry Pratchett's encyclopedic knowledge never ceases to amaze me. People are put off by the large size of teh series- don't be, all the books stand alone. Some of my favourites: Men At Arms, Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music.

Perdido St. Station- China Mieville
Unlike the books listed above, I've only read this one once. But maybe that's because my family doesn't own it. It's an engrossing world- kind of fantasy, kind of thriller, conducted in an urban industrial dystopia. It's incredibly engaging and the world is so well drawn I'm going to recommend it.

The Once and Future King- T.H. White
I think this has to be my favourite retelling of the Arthurian legend (sorry Mists of Avalon fans)- it's imaginative, the characters are sympthetic, it deals with the uneasy relationship of power and violence, in a way that only becomes irritating in The Prophecies of Merlin. The first book is so child-like, but they kind of grow up with Arthur. Incredibly lovable. And what would a good fantasy list be without something Arthurian?

I feel like this list is a bit arbitrary, because there are some great books that should be on here. I'll just mention a few in passing: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner; The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper; Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake; Foxmask, Juliet Marillier; The Plum-Rain Scroll, Ruth Manley (similar, but superior, to Lian Hearn)... Once I start thinking about it, more keep springing to mind. But these are a good place to start.


  1. Ooh, this is a nice list. I especially appreciate the mention of Ruth Manley - hardly anyone's heard of her stuff and it really is very excellent. Another series that's in a similar vein is Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain (based on the Mabinogi). Have you read/heard of them?

  2. Anonymous27/3/09 06:29

    The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay is very good. as is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. So I will recommend those to you.

  3. Oh yes, the Chronicles of Prydain! I enjoyed those. Don't know if I'd rank them top five, but they were good, and really enjoyed the Welse mythology.

    I can't believe I didn't mention The Hounds of the Morrigan, based on Irish mythology, as well. I was partially afraid that including children's quest type books would put off the fantasy-adverse. But lets face it, Peter Pan is one of the most moving books I've ever read (and if you haven't read it and are judging me on the Disney movie, then shame) and those books are awesome. You'll notice that I have been inconsistent and included The Plum-Rain Scroll in the first place. Ah well.

    I have read The Summer Tree, but don't particularly count it among my favourites... Have not as yet read The Name of the Wind.

    Also honourable mention to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. And will mention The Name of the Basilisk for mum, because it is her favourite book.

  4. Anonymous1/4/09 00:14

    Glad you mentioned it, but it's actually "Song for the Basilisk", and it's wonderful.