Recommend fantasy novels
April 19, 2012 6:14 AM   Subscribe

I want to read some more great fantasy novels and want your recommendations.

I tend to read multi-volume series
Here are most of my favorites:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
(volume 2 was a bit of a disappointment)

Wizard of EarthSea by Ursula LeGuin
(volumes 2 and 3 not so great)

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney (Sometimes called Spook’s Apprentice)

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
(Not fantasy by Sci-Fi which I generally don’t like. Couldn’t put this one down.)

The Heir Series by Cinda Chima

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fablehaven series by Mull

The Golden Compass trilogy by Pullman

The Amulet of Samarkand by Stroud
(This is Vol 1 of a trilogy. Vols 2 and 3 aren’t worth it.)

Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Eon by Allison Goodman
(This is vol. 1 of 2 volumes. Volume 2 was a big disappointment for me.)

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis

Thank you all!
posted by luvmywife to Writing & Language (50 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
The Kencyrath series by P.C. Hodgell
posted by Malla at 6:20 AM on April 19, 2012

Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber have the sort of free flowing vibe that Wizard of Earthsea did, albeit with more modern dialogue.

You've probably already heard of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, but the first three books are superb, so I'll mention them anyway.
posted by ignignokt at 6:21 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay is about as good as epic fantasy gets.

I'll also second the recommendation for the Chronicles of Amber.
posted by 256 at 6:26 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels are a lot of fun.
posted by ook at 6:26 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love almost all of these books (and the ones I don't, I haven't read. So: thanks for the reading list!).

I would recommend Robin Hobb's stuff (but do stay in the Realm of the Elderlings). There are 3 trilogies in the RotE and one incomplete quadrology. The wikipedia list is in reading order, although I read each trilogy in order but our-of-order with the others and they were still delightful.

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy is also fun, although it fell apart a little in book three.

Lynn Flewling's Tamir Triad is great, but it's set in the same world as her Nightrunner series and I find that one very hit-and-miss.
posted by AmandaA at 6:27 AM on April 19, 2012

The Riverworld Saga, by Philip Jose Farmer

The Farhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber

Michael Moorcrock's Elric stories

And though they were illustrated comics, Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese tales are well worth checking.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:28 AM on April 19, 2012

Bridge of Birds
posted by rmd1023 at 6:31 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Margo Lanagan , (in particular Tender Morsels) NK Jemison's Inheritance Trilogy, Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking Trilogy (Nominally SF, but very fantasy-friendly), and (if you haven't read it yet) David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (is fantasy, but has one section that 'looks' like SF).
posted by Wylla at 6:38 AM on April 19, 2012

The Empire Series, beginning with Daughter of the Empire. Bonus - really strong female character. I've been meaning to re-read it for a long time now but no Kindle version. :(
posted by like_neon at 6:43 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hugh Cook's Chronicles of an Age of Darkness is a 10-volume set of interlinked stories that mostly happen at the same time in a strange and wonderful dark fantasy world. Here's the first one.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:44 AM on April 19, 2012

Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
posted by jquinby at 6:46 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh! And if you're ready for something a little darker, check out The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman.

As a lover of YA and middle-grade fantasy you will get so much out of these books. You will also cry.
posted by AmandaA at 6:46 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Dark is Rising series -- bits of these still stick with me 30 years later. Set in reality space, have a neat cosmology, kid protagonists.

Second my thanks for the list of things to try out! :)
posted by acm at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I still love McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. Based on the books you mentioned, you may as well.

And I completely recommend Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
posted by Mchelly at 6:57 AM on April 19, 2012

Agree completely with Gormenghast — but probably just the first two novels.

Disagree completely with Fionavar Tapestry. It's (intentionally) warmed-over Tolkien tropes. Kay became a much better writer as he went along. Tigana is the best of his I've read.

Also recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora, and the sequel by Scott Lynch. There are many more novels planned in the series, but Lynch suffers from crippling depression so it's hard to know when/if we'll get more.

And Cook's The Black Company series — at least the first three — are must-reads, IMHO.
posted by papercake at 6:58 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jack Vance's Dying Earth books, and you might as well read his Lyonesse trilogy while you're at it.

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun and the other series that follow it are not strictly fantasy, but share a lot of the same elements.

For something more recent, and totally different, Steph Swainston's Castle books are pretty good.
posted by pipeski at 7:02 AM on April 19, 2012

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb is excellent.
posted by futz at 7:07 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. The Napoleonic wars re-imagined with air forces made up of dragons crewed by men. So great.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:09 AM on April 19, 2012

Steven Brust's Dragaera and The Khaavren Romances series are a good romp with sorcery, witchcraft, humans and 12 species of Dragaerans. Floating castles, living gods, soul-sucking weapons, thievery and intrigue. I wouldn't say fantastic but I've been reading them since the first books came out in '83 and always eagerly awaiting something new.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:10 AM on April 19, 2012

Disagree with Gormenghast. Give it a try for a chapter or two, if you like it then power to ya. If you dont like it, put it down forever and feel no regret. I plugged on thinking the plot/actions/anything had to get better... Never really happened.

Have you considered the wheel of time series? It's an amazing, epic saga that's, while not perfect, pretty great. Be warned this is coming from someone who keeps losing interest around book 8 or so. Ill finish it one day.

Last, if you can handle it The Dark Tower..... Amazing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:12 AM on April 19, 2012

Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series/setting is pretty good. More along the line's of Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards or Cook's Black Company series/settings in that there is a lot of gore and no hero is untarnished.

The Temeraire books sort of fell apart for me halfway through the third book (it's like everybody suddenly woke up and said, 'Holy shit! We're flying dragons! Wait we have been flying dragons for some time now! Society should be completely different.') but the first two are really fun adventures.

I will always +1 Bridge of Birds (and it's too few sequels).

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series is a fun read with an interesting setting (Roman based society as opposed to medieval).

posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:18 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also recommend wheel of time, and I also lost interest around book 8. I heard it gets better after though so... someday, someday. First 5 books are spectacular
posted by MangyCarface at 7:21 AM on April 19, 2012

Seconding Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora and Lev Grossman . Pretty much everything by Terry Pratchett. Lois Bujold's Curse of Chalion and its sequels. Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry is alright, but like Papercake, I think his other books are so much better. Rosemary Kirstein's trilogy that begins with The Steerswoman's Road is interesting.
posted by Janta at 7:22 AM on April 19, 2012

I don't recommend Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire series unless you like something extremely drawn out.

I strongly recommend the Elric series. It has the feeling of being an old legend.

I enjoyed the Elenium series by David Eddings and the Magician (Riftwar) series by Raymond Feist. I'm not sure they would be considered great works of literature, but the plots and the characters are compelling.
posted by demiurge at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2012

Oh goodness. This is right up my alley.

Seconding Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Robert Zelazny and Lev Grossman. Other things I'd suggest giving a whirl: Megan Whalen Turner (hang in there, the first book is mediocre until the last few pages when you suddenly realize you haven't been reading the story you thougth you were!), Robin McKinley, Jaida Jones, Terry Pratchett, Ellen Kushner, Neil Gaiman, Jacqueline Carey (warning: lots of deliciously kinky sex, but it's not at all a Romance Novel), Richard Morgan (also does great sci-fi), Ysabeau Wilce, Cornelia Funke, Emma Bull, Meredith Anne Pierce, Tanith Lee. That should keep you busy for a while.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion is good!
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read a lot of fantasy, but have totally fallen in love with Lois McMaster Bujold's science fiction Vorkosigan series. Start with The Warrior's Apprentice. Her Chalion series of fantasy books are also very good.

Agreed with the recommendations for Robin Hobb's Farseer series, Guy Gavriel Kay (I preferred Tigana to the Tapestry series), and George R. R. Martin. If you don't mind some sexytimes in your books, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series (start with Kushiel's Dart) is excellent.
posted by stompadour at 7:37 AM on April 19, 2012

The Dark Tower
Were I you, I would try and find a friend who's read this series to give you a recommendation. It's hard to talk about without spoiling it, but I'd been reading the series since 8th grade, and by the time I'd read the final book (which came out after I graduated from college) my immediate emotional reaction was "Steve, I thought we were friends!" I literally felt betrayed when I finished it. It was a terrible feeling, and I haven't read anything by King since. So it's really great, and you should have someone you trust let you know if it's worth your time.

The Wheel of Time
This was a real test of endurance when the writer kept adding more and more books to the expected number to be written. Add three or four books smack in the middle where the tone shifts and the characters become much more involved in politics and maneuvering in uncertain environments (and it seems like less and less happens) rather than adventuring and Making. Things. Happen. and lots of people lost the faith. Understandably!

But things are better now, and the last book (for real reals!) is coming out in January. On a re-read, even books 7-10 have their own charm,and things really pick back up after that point. If you have time for a 14-book series that has multiple websites devoted to chapter breakdowns and lets-figure-this-all-out wikis, it's worth a shot. Personally I'm excited for January (and am currently in book 9 on my preparatory re-read).

Bonus: I think The Wheel of Time pretty much has the market cornered on Strong Female Protagonists (have not read any Martin, so be advised), though opinions differ on how likeable some of them are.
posted by Poppa Bear at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2012

I think you would love The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Nthing Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar books.
posted by ke rose ne at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't see Judith Tarr's Avaryan series among the recommendations. I thoroughly enjoyed the first trilogy (collected in Avaryan Rising). I haven't read the second trilogy (collected in Avaryan Resplendent.)

While I'm here, I'll nth a few of my already-mentioned favorites:

Wolfe's Book of the New Sun; Moorcock's Elric saga; Lieber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories, which Dark Horse has reprinted in an eight-volume series called Lankhmar (beginning with Swords and Devilry); Cook's original Black Company trilogy, collected in Chronicles of the Black Company; Peake's Ghormenghast novels; Vance's Dying Earth; Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.

You can also try Pratchett's Discworld series, if you think a humorous send-up of fantasy tropes would be to your liking.
posted by Boxenmacher at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not fantasy, more "paranormal fiction", but the good kind (not twilighty). Both a pretty long series, but very enjoyable.
Dresden Files
The Hollows
posted by pyro979 at 8:02 AM on April 19, 2012

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb is excellent.

Yes yes yes, and the sequel Fool Trilogy that comes afterwards.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

you guys! this is the best reading list. let's all be best friends and start a book club!
posted by AmandaA at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

A vote for Robin Hobb, Ellen Kushner and Scott Lynch from me as well, and for Naomi Novik's Temeraire (although her books get progressively blander after the third).
posted by Skyanth at 8:39 AM on April 19, 2012

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian is great new fantasy, characters with depth - a rarity in the genre in my opinion. The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is good too. Seconding Gene Wolfe, I'd recommend The Wizard Knight for you. Enjoy!
posted by Alex Voyd at 8:44 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Personally I thought The Magicians was a brilliant, genre-transcending, and perfectly self-contained work, and The Magician King was a completely unnecessary case of Type VII Sequelitis. YMMV, but I thought I'd throw it out there: reading the sequel really devalued the original work for me.

Do read The Magicians, though, it's wonderful. (It's worth rereading the Narnia series beforehand, while you're at it.)
posted by ook at 9:07 AM on April 19, 2012

Also in the darker realm, but if you like them they could be an introduction into a whole other genre for you - The 20 Palaces series by Harry Connelly. If you don't mind e-reading (on a kindle or on the computer-based app) you can try the first one, Child of Fire, for $1. It's fantasy with a noir detective feel to it, which I happen to love. Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series are also in that vein, with a vampire protagonist who follows the noir antihero model. If you end up liking that noir feel and want to branch out of fantasy you'll find the world of Parker and Strange open to you.

The Dresden books are more the Spencer detective fantasy than the Sam Spade flavor. Laura Resnik's Esther Diamond series is also urban fantasy with a little more humor and less world-building than Dresden. Chris Farnsworth's President's Vampire series is also fun contemporary fantasy.

If you liked Ender's Game but want a more fantasy take, the first book in Card's new series, The Lost Gates, I found very enjoyable.

For outright humor I can't think of a funnier fantasy author than Christoper Moore. I've been reading his stuff since Contemporary Demonkeeping and he's never disappointed me.
posted by phearlez at 9:17 AM on April 19, 2012

you guys! this is the best reading list. let's all be best friends and start a book club!

Goodreads, baby. I'm there.
posted by phearlez at 9:18 AM on April 19, 2012

Oh yes! The Riddle-Master Trilogy is spot on!

And another series: Diane Duane's Wizardry books. Deep Wizardry is super intense.
posted by ke rose ne at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2012

I second a lot of these recommendations, particularly the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman and anything by Robin McKinley. McKinley is probably my favorite fantasy writer of all time - I love the characters and worlds she creates. I wish she did sequels, but she rarely does, unfortunately.

Quite liked A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - don't think the sequel is out yet.

Have you read any Anne McCaffrey? I really liked her Talent series (the first book is To Ride Pegasus).

I'm just finishing the Chaos series by Patrick Ness - possibly a bit more science fiction-y, but engrossing nonetheless (although I will admit book 3 is not my favorite so far).

I can't believe nobody has mentioned The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins yet - a must!
posted by widdershins at 10:04 AM on April 19, 2012

I think you would love The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Nthing Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar books.

I actually just started the first book in this series. I haven't read these since I was around 13 years old. It's very good.
posted by papercake at 10:18 AM on April 19, 2012

Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series is the smartest fantasy trilogy I've read - it manages to be both a critique and conscience of traditional fantasy (especially Tolkien) and a damn good story in itself.
posted by Paragon at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2012

Loved Diane Duane, started with So You Want To Be A Wizard

Really, really love Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, start with Sabriel
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:44 PM on April 19, 2012

I am going to offer authors:

* guy gavriel kay -- his writing is good and it is epic. I have enjoyed all that he has written
* neil gaiman -- his whole body of work from short stories, comics to novels have been great and is the cruel benchmark I measure things
* garth nix -- relegated to young adult books his material touches on some hard truths. The material ranges to fantasy of the Old Kingdom to the science fiction dystopia of Shade's Children
* Feist and his Magician series though I agree that his later work needs some serious CPR. Magician reminded me of a stellar and I do mean stellar D&D campaign
* Barry Hughart's material that begins with the Bridge of Birds -- it is hard to find fantasy that has just that much brio to tackle fantasy in a non-western historical culture.
* Pratchett -- just because he covers so much and you need the laugh
* Mckillip -- Good and solid. Stands to more than one reading

All the other recommendations of this list are on my shelves so I cannot fault them at all.
posted by jadepearl at 6:03 PM on April 19, 2012

Anything by Kate Elliot, but especially the Traitor's Gate trilogy, beginning with 'Spirit Gate'
posted by lazy robot at 9:54 PM on April 19, 2012

I see that nobody has mentioned Tim Powers either. Last Call and Expiration Date are contemporary fantasy.
posted by phearlez at 6:24 AM on April 20, 2012

I enjoyed Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet a lot. The first book is A Shadow in Summer.
posted by dragonplayer at 1:37 PM on April 21, 2012

Dave Duncan's stuff is underrated. He has a lot of standalone and shorter series.
All excellent.
posted by jefftang at 8:49 AM on May 4, 2012

I strongly second both Rosemary Kirstein and Dave Duncan (especially the King's Blades series) and would add Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks.
from the Amazon review:
"In the wake of the successful movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, bookstores have been flooded with new high fantasy. Much of it is derivative and badly written; some is well written and singular. Among the rare and glorious successes is Laurie J. Marks's Fire Logic, an original, skillfully written, powerfully imagined novel of war and intrigue, a high fantasy that owes little to Tolkien's trilogy, though both are intelligent, adult works that may also be enjoyed by younger readers.
In the world of Fire Logic, the rare individuals born with magic talent are known as elementals, because they possess the power of fire, earth, air, or water. "
posted by exceptinsects at 11:38 AM on May 15, 2012

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