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Accessible fantasy fiction for fans of MUDs & RPGs?
May 30, 2012 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I used to enjoy playing fantasy MUDs, particularly this one, which involves a mostly solo adventurer, some gothic/supernatural elements, magic, dwarfs, ogres, and a dragon. I also like fantasy RPGs like Oblivion and Skyrim. However, I haven't read much fantasy fiction. Outside of Tolkien, what are some fantasy books I might enjoy on similar fantasy RPG themes?
posted by iamisaid to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
What you're looking for is high fantasy (Wikipedia conflates it with epic fantasy, which isn't always the same) and/or sword and sorcery. High fantasy often has magic and various staple fantasy creatures you mention, often epic in scope, whereas sword and sorcery has a narrower focus. Here's a high fantasy list from Wikipedia. The Wiki page on S&S lists some of the major works of the sub-genre. If I were more familiar with either, I'd give you some specific books to check out.
posted by xenization at 3:12 PM on May 30, 2012


I suggest The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini.
posted by soelo at 3:14 PM on May 30, 2012


The Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
posted by cakebatter at 3:29 PM on May 30, 2012


1. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Lieber: A cornerstone and considered essential by a lot of heavy fantasy readers. Not as openly mystical as ou might want, but there's plenty of fun times. Roguish thief and northern barbarian get into lots of fantastic adventures. Highly recommended.

2. Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin: Not as openly fantastical. Magic takes a back seat to political intrigue. Think of it as historical fiction loosely based on The War of the Roses with lots of political intrigue, backstabbing, incest, and all that comes with power corrupting the powerful. Excellent series even if it's not exactly what you're looking for.

3.The Assassin Trilogy by Robin Hobb: Slower paced, heavily based on the characters. But there's some magic, a little romance, and the series builds nicely to an explosive conclusion. It's about a young boy fostered by nobility who is trained to become a royal assassin. Hobb's got a good eye for character development and atmosphere. Also followed by a couple more trilogies in the same world, one of which follows the principle characters from the Assassin Trilogy.

4. Dying Earth by Jack Vance: These are mostly a lot of short stories that you can now get in an omnibus edition. Vance is credited for inspiring the magic system from Dungeons and Dragons. The works are both archaic and timeless if that makes sense. Definitely one of Fantasy's often-times overlooked treasures. Lots of high magic and adventure, wizards, that sort of thing. They're whimsical and bizarre in a way I find hard to describe. Vance is simply perfect.

That should be enough to get you started. If you want something a little more bombastic, go for Vance or Lieber. If you want something more subdued, Martin and Hobb are what you're after.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone pretty much listed what I was going to list. But one book I really enjoyed was Brave Story written by Miyuki Miyabe.

I think it was meant for YA, but it is really really good. It reads just like a video game RPG, so not as serious as George R.R. Martin, but nonetheless still insanely awesome.

I don't know how to properly link on my phone, but here's the Wikipedia.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_Story
posted by Sweetmag at 5:30 PM on May 30, 2012


The oddness of the materials used in the Oblivion etc. games makes me want to recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora and its sequel (more may be coming someday) by Scott Lynch.
posted by wintersweet at 6:08 PM on May 30, 2012


You might like anything from the old TSR line, like the Dragonlance books or Gord The Rogue series.
posted by The otter lady at 9:29 PM on May 30, 2012


I'm going to anti-recommend Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, and George R.R. Martin. In my opinion, the Wheel of Time series is very badly written--the man cared nothing for word choice or economy, and the saga itself is derivative to the point of absurdity. Ditto Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, only moreso. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series has a cracking good start, but he went way off the rails once he decided to split book three into two books, forcing the reader to relive several scenes through multiple POVs. Sadly he also abandoned what little sense of word economy he had for the first two novels at the same time. He is somewhat redeemed by an amazing sense of character and a rather adept hand with plot, but the quality of his actual writing is going rather downhill and the plot is grinding to a halt.

Having said that about some rather beloved fantasy authors, I will say that if sprawling and somewhat self-indulgent books are the sort of thing you like, then these guys will be the sort of thing you like.

Now, to recs:

Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea series is quite good and beautifully written. There are dragons and other fantasy creatures. I find it accessible, but ymmv.

Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksennarion trilogy has been compared to various D&D resources, and follows a Joan of Arc type figure depicted as a paladin. Dwarves, elves, etc. all figure into the world.

Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles are currently in progress, but I've only read the first. It's a gritty, adult world featuring the fae that I found gripping. I've heard that the second book was something of a letdown.

David Eddings' Belgariad books were popcorn entertainment, though I wouldn't recommend reading more than one of his series--they're just an awful lot alike.

If you're willing to dip a toe into YA, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain are a charming and occasionally quite dark retelling of various old Welsh myths. They remind me a bit of the Harry Potter novels in that the earliest books are digestible by younger kids but the themes grow progressively darker as the children reading them age.
posted by xyzzy at 10:33 PM on May 30, 2012


I had exactly the opposite reaction to Rothfuss, xyzzy: the second book convinced me that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that the first book was not merely good by accident.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:06 AM on May 31, 2012


Read: Ursula LeGuin (Earthsea quartet) ; Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast) ; Fritz Lieber (Fafhrd) ;

Don't Read: Tad Williams ; David Eddings ; Any Tolkein that isn't The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings;
posted by BigCalm at 4:23 AM on May 31, 2012


I did not like Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind and find them rambling. The same with GRR Martin, although to a lesser extent. I enjoy David Eddings, and recommend the Elenium trilogy if you want some light, fun fantasy. The Magician series by Raymond Feist is similarly entertaining. I highly recommend the Elric novels by Moorcock.
posted by demiurge at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2012


Not super well written, but worth a look from the other side of the High Fantasy fence is Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward. High fantasy with the epic Heroes being bad guys who have to restore balance. It's kind of cliched by now, but it was innovative at the time. It's out of print and really expensive, but I'm sure that if you don't mind reading it on a screen there are ways around that.

Nthing LeGuin and Lloyd Alexander. Some of the D&D books are ok, some are crap. None that I have read are really good. The Dragonlance (Hickman and Weiss) series and the books by Salvatore are the decent ones I remember.

Eyes of the Dragon by Steven King. High Fantasy, quite well written.

Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

Diana Wynne Jones wrote a couple of books taking apart the High Fantasy genre: Dark Lord of Derkham and Year of the Griffin. (The first much more than the second, the second is a sequel to the first.) Howl's Moving Castle and especially Castle in the Air (the sequel, although you don't need to any knowledge from the first to read the second, the end of the second spoils the first book) also kind of fall into this category. Not as broadly sweeping, but Castle in the Air is fun, as it explores an Arabian Nights type setting

A bit YA, but the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patrica Wrede are also good. Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons and Talking to Dragons. The last one is the weakest and was written first, although it is the last in the series chronology.

Finally, the Challion books by Louis McMaster Bujold. Curse of Challion, Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt. Absolutely wonderful, Paladin of Souls won a Hugo, not so strong on the Dragons and Elves but a wonderful look at a world where the Gods directly intervene in the world. The second and third books have much more magic, although the creatures are still all mundane.
posted by Hactar at 9:50 AM on May 31, 2012


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