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I want more books about powerful wizards
February 11, 2012 11:56 AM   Subscribe

BookRecommendation Filter: More books that follow a character from youth through adulthood, to become someone powerful, famous and influential. ie- I'm looking for more books like Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle.

I recently discovered that I love books that follow a character from youth through life as an influential powerful person. In Rothfuss' books, we follow Kvothe from his early childhood and hear his story to becoming one of the most (in)famous wizards in the world. I'm almost done with the first Farseer book, and I love how we follow Fitz from his early days through his adolescence becoming a clearly powerful assassin/wizard who will have a great deal of influence on the world as a whole.

This focus on a single character who is very three-dimensional and also very powerful is scratching a literary itch I didn't realize I had, and I want more. I've read both of the Kingkillers so far, and I've got all three of the Farseer books on my Nook, but what else is there to read? I mostly read fantasy series', but I'm open to sci-fi and literary fiction as well. If there are any amazing biography/autobiographies that would fit this mold, I'd be interested in those as well.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (39 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
The Horatio Hornblower books are great.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Chrestomanci series.
posted by neushoorn at 12:08 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Fits the bill perfectly (as a non-fiction biography). Can't recommend it enough.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:09 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Growing up, I was never a huge fan of K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series, but one in particular (The Ellimist Chronicles) always stuck with me. It traces the evolution of the title character from a young member of a peaceful species through cataclysm and years of wandering through the galaxy until he acquires godlike power over space and time. It's pretty much a standalone work, so there isn't any need to know the rest of the books.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:13 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're looking for a bildungsroman!

You really really want to read A Wizard of Earthsea. I discovered this book and proceeded to go on an epic Ursula K LeGuin rampage where I read six of her books in a month.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:14 PM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ooh, an excuse for a walkthrough of my library. Let's see:

- Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga - scifi, and fantastic. Miles is a great character.

- Brust's Taltos books - they aren't in internal chronological order, so it's a little less of a linear progression from street rat to legend, but that's definitely the arc. (And they're mostly great books in themselves.)

- I'm sort of hesitant to recommend the Belgariad, because I think it's flawed in some pretty visible ways to the adult reader, but I love it fiercely and loyally.

- A lot of the Valdemar books basically do this, but The Last Herald-Mage actually follows the character all the way to full maturity rather than stopping at 16 or 18 or so.

- The Lies of Locke Lamora - also not quite sequential in itself, but a great book.

A lot of books dealing with the King Arthur mythos do this, if you are at all interested in going down that rabbit hole. The Once and Future King is probably the touchstone, although it's not really my favorite for a couple of reasons (it's anachronistic as hell and spends a bunch of time making now-dated political points - it's not a bad book, just not exactly what I want.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:14 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Belgariad, which is about as subtle and addictive as weapon-grade crack.

Mary Stewart's Arthurian novels are my gold standard for Camelot adaptations, and they fill your requirements for two characters: Merlin in the first trilogy, and Mordred in sequel The Wicked Day.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:25 PM on February 11, 2012

Not fantasy, but Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War is an amazing book about the life of a boy who survived World War I (not a spoiler) and grew into an old Italian professor of Aesthetics. He doesn't become a wizard or anything, but it is a remarkable piece of humanism and worth reading.
posted by gauche at 12:27 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series.
posted by waterlily at 12:27 PM on February 11, 2012

The Once & Future King, of course.
posted by scruss at 12:28 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since the ladies are underrepresented on this page so far: Jo Graham has a trilogy following powerful women through Greek/Roman mythology: "Black Ships" traces the life of a seer who joins Aeneas, and "Hand of Isis" traces Cleopatra and her sisters.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:31 PM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

nthing Miles Vor.. pardon me, Admiral Miles Naismith by Bujold; Vlad Taltos and Loiosh growing up together by Brust and Hobb's newer series The Soldier Son trilogy - the lead character truly grows up and goes through a more miserable life than most central characters I know but recall it being still eminently readable.
posted by infini at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2012

If you care for historical fiction, Gary Jennings' Aztec (following the life of an Aztec boy who moves up through Mexican society during the Spanish conquest and becomes a powerful Aztec leader) and The Journeyer (about Marco Polo) are pretty good tales of young boys growing up to be powerful/famous.

One of my favorite SF books is West of Eden by Harry Harrison (and its two sequels, Winter in Eden and Return to Eden), an alternative history where the dinosaurs never died out but evolved into the dominant species on Earth, the protagonist of which is a human boy who is captured by and grows up among the lizard-people, and eventually becomes a powerful figure in their society and later the leader of his human tribe.

I suppose the Dune books might also qualify, since Paul Atreides (who becomes the emperor of the known universe) is a teenager as the story begins, and his son Leto II succeeds him during the series.

And then there's Wicked, about a girl who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite SF books is West of Eden by Harry Harrison (and its two sequels, Winter in Eden and Return to Eden), an alternative history where the dinosaurs never died out but evolved into the dominant species on Earth, the protagonist of which is a human boy who is captured by and grows up among the lizard-people, and eventually becomes a powerful figure in their society and later the leader of his human tribe.

Thank you for reminding me. Now to dig it up out of the archives again after almost two decades.

Also Stainless Steel Rat by Harrison but that might not be in the category requested.
posted by infini at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2012

Raymond Fiest, the Magician series and some of his later trilogies as well (although I didn't like the later ones as much).
posted by jacalata at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2012

Well, I think Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" series (4 books) matches your stated requirements. The main character, as a teenager, starts off hunting for food for his family, misses killing the deer he'd been stalking because a very bright flash scares it off. Don't want to give any spoilers, but yes, he becomes very powerful and influential.

Caveats to the above recommendation: I haven't read any of the books folks listed above (except Dune) so I don't know if Paolini's books are similar. Also, if you read the user reviews on Amazon they are very critical, but I and several of my friends and relatives have really enjoyed them FWIW.
posted by forthright at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2012

Seconding many of the above listed, and adding Robin McKinley's Song of the Lioness series.
posted by PussKillian at 1:12 PM on February 11, 2012

My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev for literary fiction.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jim Crace's Arcadia.
posted by mannequito at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2012

Song of the Lioness, absolutely, but it's Tamora Pierce. I was coming in to rec that! She's written a number of series, mostly about girls, that cover an adolescent's growing up and coming to full power. I loved the Beka Cooper trilogy, which she just finished. Also try the Immortals and the Circle of Magic quartets if you really want magic. Mercedes Lackey's Arrows trilogy is incredibly cheesy, but is also total crack.

Seconding the Earthsea books (which are wonderful), and the Belgarid (cheesy though it is).

You have read the Harry Potter books, right? That's basically exactly what you're looking for.
posted by min at 1:36 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe Heinlein's "Citizen of the Galaxy"
posted by Marky at 1:45 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey, for a (lone?) female example, how about Theodore Dreiser's masterpiece, Sister Carrie?
posted by crabintheocean at 2:16 PM on February 11, 2012

For series that are not fantasy, but rather historical fiction in a similar vein, try Dorothy Dunnett.

The House of Niccol├│ follows a 15c boy as he becomes a successful international merchant in renaissance Europe.

The Lymond Chronicles is set in the 16century and is a bit of a rollicking tale of the son of a Scottish lord trying to clear his family name amidst political intrigue.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

My first though was Robert Caro's biography on LBJ. Definitely one of the most highly rated biographies, and the fourth volume is set to be released in May.
posted by puellaeterna at 2:48 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the absolute classics of the genre is Maugham's Of Human Bondage.
posted by smoke at 2:52 PM on February 11, 2012

The Camelod Chronicles by Jack Whyte is an alternate Arthurian history which includes the ancestry and whole life of Merlin.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:52 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

This isn't exactly what you're asking for and it's tremendously different in style from much of what is listed above, but your question made me think of C.P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers cycle. The novels follow the career of a poor young Englishman who winds up having professional, academic, and political success. It's a little off point for your question because while all the novels are narrated by this character, many of the novels aren't exactly focused on him, but it definitely follows a trajectory from powerlessness to power. Snow is mostly known for his "Two Cultures" lecture now, not his fiction, but I find his novels to be really compelling in an understated way.

(I just noticed your title and am worried this is really not the genre you're looking for - but it does have one thing in common with fantasy series in that if you like one there are a lot more where that came from.)
posted by yarrow at 3:07 PM on February 11, 2012

There are a lot of excellent suggestions here. I want to add that the Farseer trilogy isn't a standalone -- once you're done with it, you should move on to the Liveship Traders trilogy (which follows events alongside/slightly ahead of the Farseer trilogy) and then the Tawny Man trilogy (the conclusion of Fitz's adventures).
posted by fight or flight at 3:43 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The heroine of "Sister Carrie" is not a wizard, nor particularly famous, powerful, or influential, and the plot involves little swashbuckling action or political intrigue, which I suspect you're gunning for. [off-topic part with no bearing on your question] It is also my least favorite book of all time, so my opinion is biased. [/off-topic]

"The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley is technically a prequel to earlier book "The Blue Sword," but you can read TH&TC first--I did. It's about heroine Aerin growing up as an awkward princess overlooked or scorned in her big royal family, due to shady stuff in her dead mother's background. Aerin's a lonely kid who mostly raises herself through books, from which she gets the idea to pick up dragonslaying. Then there is asskicking and much, much awesome. (Ditto "The Blue Sword," but it's not the childhood-to-adulthood story you're looking for. )
posted by nicebookrack at 4:46 PM on February 11, 2012

Martin Eden, by Jack London, and The Children of Violence series, beginning with Martha Quest by Doris Lessing. Also The Rise of Silas Lapham, by William Dean Howells.,
posted by emhutchinson at 6:17 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whups, I totally smooshed my two replies into one message. Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness, and Robin McKinley's Damar books. I would also throw in a historical-fantastical book by Judith Merkle Riley called The Oracle Glass (unloved, disfigured girl from a distinguished but impoverished family becomes a powerful player in the secret underworld of the Paris witches) and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising books.
posted by PussKillian at 9:53 PM on February 11, 2012

Song of the Lioness follows a young girl's story from disguising herself as a boy to begin training as a knight to being the King's Champion, one of the most powerful magic users in the realm, and a wife and mother. In the story's romantic elements, she has to reconcile her desires with her chivalric ambitions, lots of fun internal and external struggle.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci are great because you get to see one Chrestomanci (nine-lived enchanter who polices the use of magic in the nine parallel universes) growing into his own and then mentoring another. Also loved Robin McKinley's Damar books and The Once and Future King. I think The Mists of Avalon might do a bit of this as well, but it's been a long time since I read it.
posted by Devika at 11:17 PM on February 11, 2012

If you are looking for fantasy fiction, you might enjoy the books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in the Dragonlance series that chronicle the life of the wizard Raistlin Majere. You can begin with the Raistlin Chronicles trilogy that traces his early life, and go from there to the Dragonlance Chronicles and finish with the Legends Trilogy.

Admittedly, I read these as a teenager so I was initially a bit hesitant to recommend them, but looking at the books on Amazon reveals high enough reviews to confirm my memory that they are well written (and Kindle versions are available!). I'm actually going to purchase a couple to re-read myself.

If you venture beyond these in the Dragonlance universe (Wikipedia claims over 90 Dragonlance books were written in total), stick to the ones by Weis and Hickman--I also remember being less than impressed by other authors contributing to the series.
posted by jtfowl0 at 11:22 PM on February 11, 2012

Not fantasy, but you may like Wolf Hall, which recounts the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell from a beaten, miserable pauper boy to Henry VIII's right hand man. It's rather tersely written, and doesn't focus on his rise as such, but it's an amazing story and fascinatingly written.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 4:20 AM on February 12, 2012

Thanks so much for the great recommendations!

I have read the Earthsea novels, as well as most of the Dragonlance Chronicles. I hadn't thought of looking for Bildungsromans. I'm actually an English teacher and we spent some time talking about Bildungsromans in my Adolescent Lit class in College. At the time, though, it was focused on non-fantasy bildungsromans like Daddy Long-Legs and the Little Women novels.

I look forward to checking out as many of these as I can! Keep them coming!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:05 AM on February 12, 2012

Just wanted to second Tamora Pierce. I think the Beka Cooper trilogy is her best work so far, but most of her series would fulfill your requirements. The Circle of Magic quartet and its follow-up quartet, The Circle Opens, are also fantastic; they're about not one, but four characters who grow up together to be powerful.

Also, many of Mercedes Lackey's books are good for this, but her best trilogy (and also her first set of books) is the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, starting with Arrows of the Queen.

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is a classic series, though aimed at a younger audience, I guess. The last two books in that series are the "gold standard" for Coming of Age stories, for me.
posted by ashirys at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2012

Late to the party, clearly, so I will just second Susan Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series, the Belgariad, Magician, and Chrestomanci.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:18 PM on February 13, 2012

Seconding Butcher's Codex Alera, which really scratches this itch. Feist's Magician is not as good and not as focused on this aspect.

The under appreciated Dave Duncan has a good one: The Gilded Chain
posted by jefftang at 8:01 PM on February 13, 2012

Hi! I am a new member and just stumbled on this thread, but I wanted to recommend The Magicians books by Lev Grossman. They're quirky and quite good. Two out now, but I believe he is producing a third.
posted by erinsaurus at 8:11 PM on May 3, 2012

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