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September 24, 2009 5:54 AM   Subscribe

Fantasy recommendations based on previously enjoyed books.

So I enjoy a good fantasy yarn from time to time and would like some recommendations since like all genre fiction there is probably more crap than quality and would rather focus on the good stuff. Here is what I like:
George Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire (the last book was a little eh but otherwise I enjoyed this series quite a bit)
Robin Hobb - I enjoyed all the books the Fool was in (all 9.. great characters, good story)
Main storyline in Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms (including the ridiculous amount of Drizzt books) (admittedly I read this a long time ago so it could just be fond memories)
Wheel of Time - I only liked the first couple and then it all just became a blatant cash grab full of cliches and painful 2 dimensional characters and gender stereotypes.

Basically I like complex, well written stories with compelling characters (don't we all?) that don't start to feel like "hey I'm not sure when this is going to end so I'll drag it out to line my pockets." I would kind of prefer a longer series so long as it has direction but one offs are fine as well.

If it helps, I also really enjoy Neal Stephenson (basically everything hes written) and William Gibson (ditto). Things in this vein would be good also (for example I was effusively enthusiastic about the Baroque Cycle).

As a bonus question, are the ancillary Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance series any good? I never got into them.
posted by zennoshinjou to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Books of the Swords by Fred Saberhagen? I haven't read them in years, but I remember them as being very Dragonlance-y, if that is a thing.

Also, um, have you read the Lord of the Rings? I've heard good things about that series. (..kidding, probably)
posted by joelhunt at 6:01 AM on September 24, 2009


Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy is amazing: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. I'm going to admit I haven't read the books you mentioned so I'm not sure how close they'd be in terms of style or tone to what you're after but I promise you they have fantastically complex characters, a rich and believable world, and a really fun and complex plot. Seriously, can't recommend them hard enough.

Joe Abercrombie
posted by Neofelis at 6:06 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, this may be a bit of a stretch, but as far as fantasy series characters go, Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have a lot to offer.

I'm not much on recent fantasy; I like older series/characters.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:08 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding Joe Abercrombie's series, and I'm totally with you in loving ASOIF and hating Wheel of Time after the first book.

First Law has great characters, a plot twist at the end of every chapter, and does not water down after the first book. They are all three gripping. They are CRACK.
posted by poppo at 6:10 AM on September 24, 2009


Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, but especially Tigana and the Fionavar Tapestry. He's right up the same alley as the books you describe, epic and complex.

I'd also recommend Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy, particularly the Chalion series. The Sharing Knife books are also good, but don't (to me) have the same epic feel as Jordan or Hobb's stuff.
posted by hought20 at 6:21 AM on September 24, 2009


P. S. So you can take or leave my recommendations with this in mind, I hated Wheel of Time after the first two or three books, I loved Hobb's Assassin series, and I haven't yet read the George R. R. Martin stuff 'cause I can't get past the first third of the first book.

I love Neal Stephenson sometimes, but not others. Anathem was my favorite book of the past year, but I have not yet finished Cryptonomicon and don't know if I ever well.

I read the Dragonlance preludes as a teen and loved them, but I have no idea if they'd hold up now.
posted by hought20 at 6:26 AM on September 24, 2009


I'm pretty sure Steven Erikson's Malazan books will ring your bell. Also worth checking out is Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series and R Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing Trilogy. For a bit of a throwback there's also Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company. Ruckley's Godless World series looks promising, although so far I've only read the first one.

Also seconding the Abercrombie and GG Kay recommendations.
posted by Jakey at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun should absolutely be on your reading list.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:35 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jared- I have read that and the other books related to it. Great stuff.

Lots of good recommendations so far... keep them coming!
posted by zennoshinjou at 6:38 AM on September 24, 2009


I haven't read fantasy for a while but I'd recommend anything by Raymond Feist, starting with Magician.
posted by arzakh at 6:41 AM on September 24, 2009


I just read Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn and Ravenor omnibuses. Yes, they're grimdark Warhammer novels, but the titular characters develop over the three books in each series, and they're complex enough to discourage skimming.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:57 AM on September 24, 2009


Seconding the Malazan books. They're huge, but there's a definite end to the series (book 9 of 10 is coming out just now). And they've been coming out quickly and regularly. They're very hard to get into though, but worth it.
posted by jefftang at 6:58 AM on September 24, 2009


David Eddings' The Belgariad.
posted by Palerale at 6:59 AM on September 24, 2009


Altering Palerale's suggestion; I enjoyed David Eddings' Ellenium and Tamuli series much more than the Belgariad and Mallorean. Didn't stop me from purchasing all four series, though... plus the Belgarath and Polgara supplements...
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:10 AM on September 24, 2009


I will pile on with recommending
- the First Law trilogy: attempts to turn epic fantasy conventions on their head, and actually succeeds.
- the Prince of Nothing trilogy: lots of philosophy, very interesting, very dark. Part of a larger series in progress.
- the Malazan series: huge, sprawling, messy, book 9 of 10 is about to come out.

If you're looking for something a little more comfort-food than the above (which are all pretty grim), I highly recommend Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. Excellent plotting, puzzly world-building, good characters, perfectly decent writing.
posted by dfan at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2009


The Iron Dragon's Daughter and The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
posted by various at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2009


I actually really enjoyed the Dark Materials series (Golden Compass, etc.). Written for young adults but still perfectly enjoyable to grownups.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2009


I'll second Iron Dragon's Daughter. And anything by Gene Wolfe; he's among the best writers in English, ever, although Book of the New Sun can be hard to get into. You could start with his Wizard Night duology(?) for something more accessible. And Guy Gavriel Kay. My favorites of his are Last Light of the Sun and Lions of Al-Rassan, but you really can't go wrong with anything of h is.
posted by 6550 at 8:13 AM on September 24, 2009


In addition to adding to the recommendations for the Malazan series and the Prince of Nothing, I would also suggest the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. In order, the books are:
-A Shadow in Summer
-A Betrayal in Winter
-An Autumn War
-The Price of Spring
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:20 AM on September 24, 2009


Seconding anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, though I particularly adore A Song for Arbonne, The Lions of Al-Rassan, and the Fionavar Tapestry (first book). The first two could more appropriately be considered historical fantasy though. Fionavar is more traditional epic fantasy. All are fantastic reads, and I particularly recommend them if you enjoyed the bittersweetness of the Farseer books.

Adding Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, though you may not want to start that one if you're fanatical about finishing series. The second book (of three) has been on hold for quite some time. Amusingly enough, the first review on that Amazon page is from Robin Hobbs (whose books I adore beyond all reason, for what it's worth).

I also enjoyed David Eddings and Raymond Feist, but they're more what I would consider fluff, Feist somewhat less so than Eddings. One thing with Eddings; I love his books, really, but he kind of takes a few character archetypes and runs with them, such that they show up in every single one of his books.
posted by ashirys at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2009


You might try Jennifer Roberson's stuff. C.S. Friedman and Terry Goodkind figure prominently on my bookshelves as well.
posted by stubborn at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2009


No one mentioned David Gemmell yet? (Unless I'm blind.) His Drenai saga books are absolutely delicious, every last one. Highly recommended!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 9:15 AM on September 24, 2009


peirs anthony. Anything by Piers Anthony
posted by Redhush at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2009


As usual with these sorts of threads people are just throwing out whatever they like without regard to the guidance the OP gives in his question.

OP: I'm going to base my recommendations on the fact that you liked Martin, Hobb, Gibson, and Stephenson. I can't really square them with your liking for Dragonlance since I don't see Dragonlance having any resemblence to Martin or Hobb or the others; they're completely different worlds in terms of quality. It's like saying you are a fan of of the movies of Stanley Kubrick, Kurosawa, and Carrot Top. Onward!

These are very much in your balliwick:

Steven Erikson: Malazan Book of the Fallen
Joe Abercrombie: The First Law Trilogy

A bit of a departure but pretty close:

Daniel Abraham: The Long Price Quartet
Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind

a little different, but certainly much closer than some of the recs your getting:

Richard Morgan: The Steel Remains

Those are probably your best bets. They all have things to recommend them but are a couple different types of stories. The quality of the prose varies hugely between them (Rothfuss probably the best stylist, Erikson or Abercrombie the worst) but if you like Dragonlance, I suspect you have a high tolerance for prose quality.

Things to avoid because the recs don't really fit:

Eddings, unless you're a 13 year old boy in which case it will be the absolute greatest thing you've ever read. Avoid everything but the Belgariad in any case. Oh, and I'm not being sarcastic. Reading Eddings at 13 was practically a religious experience for me.

Piers Anthony. What the...? He is nothing, nothing like any of what you say you like. Terrible stuff.

Things which are great but not much like what you listed:

Guy Kay. A beautiful writer. Nothing at all like what you said you are looking for, except maybe the Fionavar Tapestry since he was writing it to get the whole Tolkien thing out of his system (Kay was the guy who helped put together the Silmarillion).

Things which might be what you're looking for but are closer to Dragonlance:

Raymond Feist - Magician and sequels. Once again, good stuff at a younger age but I'm not sure I can recommend anything but the first two at this point.

As a bonus question, are the ancillary Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance series any good?

Not only no, but HELL no. But then I think they're the sort of extruded fantasy product that makes it embarrasing to be somebody who reads fantasy.
posted by Justinian at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I was fairly certain that the Dragonlance stuff was all crap and that my affection for the main storyline was just a product of hazy childhood memory. I haven't read them in probably 15+ years. I was just throwing it out there.
posted by zennoshinjou at 11:22 AM on September 24, 2009


A standalone fantasy that you might like is Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff. Ruff excels at creating complex plots involving multiple characters. If you like that, you might want to check out his sci-fi novel Sewer Gas & Electric (which reminds me of Stephenson) and his mainstream novel Set This House in Order.
posted by creepygirl at 11:24 AM on September 24, 2009


Yeah, I was fairly certain that the Dragonlance stuff was all crap and that my affection for the main storyline was just a product of hazy childhood memory. I haven't read them in probably 15+ years. I was just throwing it out there.

In that case I would push my recommendations even more strongly since you are me.
posted by Justinian at 11:38 AM on September 24, 2009


All of my favorites have already been mentioned, but you really can't go wrong with Bakker and Erikson (keep an open mind until the third book, and TRUST the author that it is all going somewhere). But I will mention my favorite forum for any fantasy-minded nerds (of which I include myself) at the aSoIaF forums. Lots of very well-read folks and good recs.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2009


Justinian is really on the money; there are some... interesting recommendations flying about in here.

My tastes are almost carbon copy of yours and in addition to Justinian's great suggestions, if you've not already read it, you might really enjoy the Lyonesse Trilogy by Jack Vance, similar feel to the Martin, though by no means as sophisticated.

I am gonna throw China Melville's name into the ring. His world is quite unlike Martin, Hobb, et al. But his Bas-Lag books are very political, imaginative and fun. Weirdly I find that I enjoy his books more thinking about than in the act of reading. This said, I do enjoy them whilst reading them.

The Jhereg books by Steven Brust have a slow start, and the prose is a bit twee sometimes, but what I like about them is his genuine willingness to let his characters change and grow as people, also his world building is quite thoughtful and get progressively more interesting. Read in order.

I will keep thinking about this and post back as more titles come to mind.

Please, please please Avoid Eddings, Feist, Jordan, Donaldson, Terries (Goodkind and Brooks), unless your standards are frankly quite low. A good indicator here is that if you read other than fantasy, these books will not be up to scratch.
posted by smoke at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You are me. :) Or at least you have my bookshelves anyway. I enjoyed Feist and Guy Gavriel Kay. The Malazan books are definitely doorstops which as a fan of GRRM I know you can appreciate but I couldn't get into them. Brandon Sanderson's books are good - he was chosen to write the last Wheel of Time book so it might not suck quite so badly as the last 237 in the series. Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind was really good and I can't wait for the sequel. Scott Lynch's Bastards series were quick reading books.

Here's one I'm gonna throw at you since we have such similar seeming tastes: Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. Very different world from GRRM, but lush, well-written, doorstop sized books to dive into. I recommend them wholeheartedly.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2009


Oh chiming back in the recommendations threads (two links) from the aSoIaF forum that i_am_a_jedi mentioned really does have great recommendations (and some not so great) from a collection of people that are mostly really well read. I'm getting good recs from it as I type!
posted by smoke at 7:10 PM on September 24, 2009


Please, please please Avoid Eddings, Feist, Jordan, Donaldson, Terries (Goodkind and Brooks), unless your standards are frankly quite low. A good indicator here is that if you read other than fantasy, these books will not be up to scratch.

I'm going to defend Donaldson a bit here - at least the original trilogy. Yes, he has an, uh, interesting prose style. Yes, he uses the word "clench" a lot. Yes, it seems like he writes with a thesaurus next to him and doesn't quite understand how to use it properly. But it's a unique style, at least, which is more than can be said for Eddings, Goodkind, Brooks, etc. And Lord Foul's Bane was published in 1977. It actually predates the fantasy genre as we understand it today, which began after 1977 with the publication of Lord Foul's Bane and Brooks' The Sword of Shannara.

But unlike Shannara, which is a ridiculous copy of Tolkien with the numbers filed off, Donaldson was doing something original. Where Brooks simply parroted Tolkien (except infinitely less skillfully), Donaldson was subverting him. Much as Martin is subverting modern epic fantasy. The first Donaldson trilogy is very psychologically complex. My own favored reading, for example, is that Thomas Covenant was right: The fantasy world he found himself in, and everyone in it, were simply products of his fractured mind. This reading becomes much less tenable in the second trilogy which is one of the may reasons why it is a lesser work.

I won't, as I said, attempt to defend him as a brilliant stylist or anything. But he is certainly original, both in concept and execution. If you were making a list of 10 books (or series, at least) someone had to read in order to understand the formation of the modern fantasy genre, in chronological order, it would go

1) Tolkien
2) Donaldson

Whether one has to include Brooks would be an interesting question. Absolute dreck, but monstrously important dreck in terms of influence. But Donaldson is unquestionable.
posted by Justinian at 8:24 PM on September 24, 2009


My objections are stylistic, Justinian. I quote from the following awesome review of said book on Amazon. My influential list - limited and partial though it may be, would be somewhat different to the effect of:

1. Edison
2. Dunsany
3. Howard
4. Tolkien
5. White
6. Mcaffrey (god help us)
7. Leiber
8. Wolfe
9. Moorcock
10. Don't know.

Donaldson could not exist without Tolkien; I rank him as a sub branch. I feel that others listed could, and have spawned more taking up their respective mantles, for better and for worse...
posted by smoke at 10:05 PM on September 24, 2009


smoke: except that essentially that entire criticism misses what I mentioned I believe is the most interesting reading of Donaldson's first trilogy. Of course The Land comes across that way. Do you recall what Covenant's occupation was? He was a writer of pulp fantasies. If the land is a creation of his subconscious and everything in it a reflection of his internal state, it makes perfect sense for it to be florid and purple. I simply don't believe this was unintentional: Donaldson's other work (the Gap cycle, Mordant's Need, etc) has some of his quirks but the prose is very different. I think the prose in the first Covenant trilogy accomplishes exactly what it is supposed to.

My influential list

Those are some excellent writers but not really the list I was talking about, which was specifically about the development of the publishing category of genre fantasy which exploded in size after 1977 and through the 80s and 90s. Your list is all fantasy in the broadest sense but not the genre I was referring to and which the OP appears to be interested in. Martin, Hobb, even (gah) Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms books are in that publishing category. But Howard, Leiber, and much of Moorcock, for example, define the Sword&Sorcery genre which isn't the same as this sort of epic fantasy. And your list misses out on a lot of the more contemporary sorts of fantasy. You've got no urban fantasy, for example. Nothing on the list with regard to the Zelazny/Brust/etc axis of first person smartass narration which is a fairly hefty subgenre. Wolfe, frankly, belongs under science fiction. His magnum opus, the New Sun books, are pure SF. And so on. To make a historical overview list for all of fantasy, like yours, would require more than 10 books.

Donaldson could not exist without Tolkien; I rank him as a sub branch.

Exactly! The modern genre of fantasy has its roots in Tolkien. Howard and Leiber (and Vance etc) are certainly influences on some later writers but they have nothing like the monumental influence on modern fantasy that Tolkien does. Hell, Brooks was a much larger influence on the field for a long time (and not in a good way) than Howard or Leiber.

The sort of stuff the OP seems to be asking for is in the genre Tolkien, with his disciples Donaldson and (bleh) Brooks, spawned. If someone likes Dunsany and Edison and White and so on, I'm not going to recommend Martin and Erikson and Abercrombie. I'll probably recommend John Crowley and, possibly Guy Kay. But if someone likes Martin and Hobb, I'm not going to recommend Dunsany and Edison and White. I'll recommend Erikson and Abercrombie. They're not really the same sort of fantasy.

I hope this has been somewhat helpful, OP, particularly in shedding some light on why some of us are recommending the books we are. And also why (even though I didn't specifically recommend him because of his stylistic quirks) I don't think you should write off Donaldson's first trilogy without so much as a glance.

Oh! I've got another rec. The content is occasionally a bit of a departure but it has the same feel as the kind of books you say you like. Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas under Red Skies. Very contemporary (thematically, I mean) fantasy which sort of blends the feel of Martin and Hobb and so on with a bit of Vance and Leiber in terms of content. I think you'll like it but it's my oddball pick.

Boy do I miss rec.arts.sf.written.
posted by Justinian at 12:03 AM on September 25, 2009


I've read and loved almost all the books you've mentioned, felt the same way about WoT, love Stephenson and Gibson. Here are some of my enthusiastic endorsements of books mentioned above:

Abercrombie's "First Law" Trilogy - nthing this. Simply great.

Gene Wolff's Book of the New Sun - this is a Must Read.

China Mieville is currently my favorite in this genre. I highly recommend "Perdido Street Station" and "The Scar"

Patrick Rothfuss's "Name of the Wind" is great, but wait for the sequel; it's too frustrating to finish it and not be able to continue!

I loved Scott Lynch's "Lies of Locke Lamorra" and I'm sure the sequel is equally good

Now, for some perhaps lesser-known works that I've loved, each in their own way interesting departures from the usual fantasy tropes:

Mary Gentle's "Ash: A Secret History" is fabulous, but hard to find because it's out of print, but you can get it used. It was published as four books in the U.S., but it's definitely one long tale. I don't know why this isn't much better known.

R.A. Macavoy's Lens of the World Trilogy is excellent and deeply satisfying. I read and enjoyed the whole series, but the first book is the best and can be read as a stand-alone novel. I can't imagine anyone who enjoys Robin Hobb not loving this.

K.J. Bishop's first (and only, so far) novel The Etched City. I adored this. It's quite odd, and meanders a bit... I didn't mind at all, though, and wait in breathless anticipation for her next book. I would place this in the same sort of sub-genre (New Weird, I guess) as Mieville's works. Something very different.

Other series I've liked a lot, but won't expand on: Sean Russell's "Magic and Moontide" duology; Cecilia Dart Thornton's "Bitterbynde Trilogy" (beware of reviews; many of them give away an important plot development in the first book... I'd recommend trying the "look inside" feature on the first book just see if you are interested); K.J. Parker's "Engineer Trilogy" (dark and not for everyone; definite anti-hero); Juliet Marillier's "Sevenwaters Trilogy" (more romantic than my usual preferred fare, but still quite good).

And now, for a possibly overlooked classic: Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet. Simply put, I just didn't want to let these characters go. A definite read-again. and probably again.
posted by taz at 1:47 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


My apologies Justinian, when you said 'the modern fantasy genre' I literally thought you meant the genre of modern fantasy as whole, not the genre under discussion! My silly mistake; I wholly agree with your inclusion of Donaldson and - pains me as it does you, Brooks.

OP, I have a recommendation - breaking genre, I'm afraid, but I truly believe will be of interest. A Scottish writer named Dorothy Dunnett wrote two massive sagas set in renaissance and 17th Europe, middle east and Africa.

Whilst wholly without magic, they combine many of the things that you cite about liking in Hobb et al: complex political and familial relationships, multiple and interesting characters, twisting storylines, and many buckles to be swashed. I understand reticence - but this isn't some diana gabaldon garbage, this is real literature written with a tremendous verve. I would start with the first series, the Lymond Chronicles. If you're interested.

Patricia Mckillop is often bought up in these kind of discussion, but I have only read the riddle master trilogy - my edition was marred by a printing error that duplicated 150 crucial pages, so the experience was ruined for me. Nonetheless, she is worth considering.
posted by smoke at 3:53 AM on September 25, 2009


This thread is full of stuff that looks great, thanks!
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:26 AM on September 25, 2009


The Books of Swords mentioned above are great, also there is a collection of short stories to be read after called Books of Lost Swords.

Have you read the Wizard's First Rule? They have recently created a series called "The Seeker" based on the books. Author is Terry Goodkind.

I would have to agree with you on the Wheel of Time series although I have tried several times to get into the books after the first few.
posted by Mardigan at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2009


In case you are still following this thread: Do under no circumstances touch anything by Terry Goodkind if you don't want to read thinly veiled and badly written objectivist propaganda. The very awful tv-series based on his books should give you an idea to stay clear of his work.

Justinians recommendations are on the spot, and others have already made a good case for The First Law triology, so I just want to second the "Prince Of Nothing" series by Bakker. I promise that you are going to like it!

Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains is a welcome departure from old fantasy tropes, a genre that is frustratingly narrow minded when it comes to homosexuality, but I had some problems with the book, better summarised than I could put it by this Strange Horizons review.

You might also enjoy Winterbirth (The Godless World) by Brian Ruckley which came out last year, and often reminded me of Martin's SOIAF without ever quite reaching up to him.
Scottish author Ruckley's outstanding fantasy debut, the first installment of the Godless World trilogy, introduces a sprawling realm abandoned by the gods after two races united to destroy a third. The peoples left behind struggle with centuries-old prejudices and unresolved conflicts that threaten to destroy them all. The start of winter is traditionally a time of celebration, but when the elflike Kyrinin and religious fanatics called Inkallim interrupt the festivities at Castle Kolglas with a masterfully planned attack, the bloodshed is just the first move in an apocalyptic war that won't end until the world itself is unmade.
posted by ts;dr at 9:36 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


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