Standalone fantasy novels?
July 24, 2012 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Looking for standalone fantasy novels or duologies.

Strong preference for works that were never conceived of as part of a series, were never retrofitted into a series after proving popular, and are not part of serial adventures that stand alone. Literally one book or two, and that's that.

(It would be nice if they were good, too.)

An example would be Lawrence Watt-Evans' Touched by the Gods.
posted by jsturgill to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Brandon Sanderson's Elantris

Susanna Clarke's Johnathon Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jacqueline Carey's The Sundering (Banewreaker and Godslayer). Definitely not to everyone's taste. It's roughly the Lord of the Rings told from the point of view of evil.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A number of Guy Gavriel Kay's novels (especially the earlier, and IMO better, fantasy historicals) are stand-alone. Specifically: The Lions of Al-Rassan, Tigana, and A Song for Arbonne.
posted by immlass at 11:20 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

A little on the YA side, but Lloyd Alexander's The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen is pretty, well, remarkable.
posted by General Malaise at 11:33 AM on July 24, 2012

The Doomfarers of Coramonde and The Starfollowers of Coramonde, by Brian Daley, is a fantastic duology.

In Doomfarers of Coramonde, a group of rebels are holed up in a fortress. They have detected that a powerful sorceror in the besieging force is going to summon a dragon to destroy them the next day. So they summon... an M113 APC out of Viet Nam, complete with its crew, to fight against the dragon. And then it gets sent back, but the commander of the APC, Sgt Gil McDonald, eventually returns to Coramonde and is the series protagonist after that.

There probably could have been a third story in the series, but it isn't really needed, and since Brian Daley is no longer alive there won't ever be.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:35 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers.

John Crowley's Little, Big.

Glen Cook's The Swordbearer.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:37 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Robert McKinley's YA fiction all takes place in roughly the same universe, but none of them are particularly linear in connection except for The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Ground, which form a duology.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:39 AM on July 24, 2012

Seconding Tigana.

Robin McKinley's Chalice, Sunshine (vampires), and her fairytale retellings if you like fairytale retellings.

China Mieville, The City and the City.

Christopher Priest's The Inverted World is technically science fiction, but a great standalone and I think as a fantasy reader you might enjoy it.

On preview, also Tad Williams' Tailchaser's Song; with the caveat that I haven't read it since my teens. But I read it more than once then and really loved it. Also maybe not if you're a dog person.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:44 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If we're going to get into the classier end of YA, why not The Neverending Story?

Also: Lud-in-the-Mist, The Folk of the Air, The Last Unicorn, The Salt Roads. Admittedly, these don't have very much smiting-with-swords.
posted by Frowner at 11:45 AM on July 24, 2012

Macroscope by Piers Anthony.
posted by eas98 at 11:45 AM on July 24, 2012

Whoops. My prio suggestion is SF. Nevermind.
posted by eas98 at 11:48 AM on July 24, 2012

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle.
posted by antiwiggle at 11:54 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker is also good!
posted by AmandaA at 12:10 PM on July 24, 2012

Howl's Moving Castle, Neverending Story
posted by MangyCarface at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2012

Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. Technically it's distantly related to another series of books he wrote later, but not in a way that I would say makes it part of a series.

Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, albeit a prolonged oddball spiritual allegory type of fantasy.

Hodgson's The House on the Borderland is usually classified with horror or weird fiction, but I think it functions well as fantasy too.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:20 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Strongly recommend Robin McKinley (especially Sunshine) and Guy Gavriel Kay (especially the Sarantine books - a duology, and Lions of Al Rassan. Actually, I'm a rabid Kay fangirl, so I'd recommend all of them except his trilogy, which I like but doesn't fit your requirements.)
Martha Wells' Wheel of the Infinite, City of Bones, and The Element of Fire. (Element has later books set in the same world, but about a hundred years later with distant descendants of a few of the characters in Element, so it acts exactly like a standalone.)
Tim Powers' Declare, The Stress of Her Regard, Last Call, The Anubis Gates.
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs.
posted by PussKillian at 12:24 PM on July 24, 2012

How about Neil Gaiman? Good Omens is an excellent stand alone fantasy novel!
posted by dchrssyr at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like Lev Grossman's The Magicians, which does have a sequel.
I always like to recommend Ernest Kline's Ready Player One, which is maybe a touch more sci-fi than fantasy. But only maybe.
Neverwhere is another good Gaiman standalone.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:33 PM on July 24, 2012

Another vote for Guy Gavriel Kay. He is amazing! All of his stuff is good, but I especially loved the Sarantine Mosaic (two books) and Tigana, which is a standalone.
posted by number9dream at 1:41 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Orson Scott Card has a few.

Hart's Hope
Treason (which is actually sci-fi, but fantasy-ish)
posted by tacodave at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2012

posted by Zed at 4:29 PM on July 24, 2012

The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It has a sorta-sequel, unread by me, but really the novel is a standalone, and an excellent one at that. It might be my favorite book from either King or Straub, which is saying something.

The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King. His first and last straight-up high-ish fantasy book. I remember adoring this one as a kid. Like many other King books, it ties into the greater King mythos, but it's a standalone book by any definition.

Weaveworld, by Clive Barker. Dark, rich fantasy.

Seconding Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If a book is set in the same universe as others but isn't part of a trilogy or series, would that work? For example, Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in the same universe as her other time-travel books, but (AFAICT) stands alone.

Many of Sheri S. Tepper's books are stand-alones. The Companions, The Family Tree, The Gate to Women's Country, Six Moon Dance, The Visitor, After Long Silence, Beauty, Singer from the Sea, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Shadow's End, The Fresco. A Plague of Angels and The Waters Rising are a duology, but Waters is much weaker than Plague (Tepper has reportedly been suffering from chronic pain for many years, and IMO the pain and the painkillers have detracted from her writing).

Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Diamond Age, and Anathem are all stand-alones. (So is REAMDE, but to quote another MeFite, "I cannot recommend that you read this.")

Sarah Zettel stand-alones: Reclamation, Kingdom of Cages, Fool's War, Playing God.

Jumping back a number of years (hey, I'm looking over at the bookcase and seeing what fits), Pohl and Kornbluth's Gladiator at Law. There's also the duology of The Space Merchants and The Merchants War.

Storyteller by Amy Thomson is a stand-alone. The Color of Distance and Through Alien Eyes are a duology.

Hellspark by Janet Kagan.
posted by Lexica at 6:23 PM on July 24, 2012

I'm thinking you could probably look at most of the books in the Fantasy Masterworks series, some of which have been mentioned above.

Some are whole series in one book, like The Riddle-Master Trilogy or The Dying Earth Saga, but they are technically one book (or two max) if you want to cheat. They aren't all dragons and elves either.
posted by Mezentian at 8:03 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm
posted by Joleta at 8:29 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Patricia McKillip has a ton of these. Other than the Riddle-Master Trilogy, it's pretty much all stand-alones and a couple of duologies. I like all her stuff, but might particularly recommend The Tower of Stony Wood, In the Forest of Serre, and Winter Rose.

Looking over my bookshelf, I also see and recommend (along with a lot of stuff that's already been mentioned so I'll leave them off) ...

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Dianna Wynn Jones

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack
posted by kyrademon at 9:10 PM on July 24, 2012

I enjoyed the Mordant's Need books by Stephen R. Donaldson, which are The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through. It's sort of like King Lear with mirror mages and has some terrific minor characters.

Nthing Tigana and the other Kay books mentioned and I liked the Sanderson books, too.
posted by dragonplayer at 10:01 PM on July 24, 2012

Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls go together as a duology but could also be read independently of each other. The Hallowed Hunt is sort of set in a different corner of the same world, but can either be read as a totally separate book or ignored utterly; it's not a part of a series, it just has some of the same gods and mention of country names, but is otherwise very different.
posted by Lebannen at 2:38 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echoing the recommendations for Robin McKinley (especially Sunshine, yes!) and Diana Wynne Jones' novels.

If you still want more, I remember liking George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle's Windhaven, and I really recommend Katharine Kerr's Snare.
posted by harujion at 10:49 AM on July 25, 2012

My iPad ate my lovingly detailed answer! :-(

Now, giving up on links, I am just going to say that you should check out K J Parker for some dark but witty and splendidly engaging standalones: The Company, The Hammer and The Folding Knife. If you look Parker up on Wikipedia, you'll also find links to some free short stories, which I have not read yet but I'd imagine would give you a good idea of his/her writing style.

Also, Barbara Hambly has a couple of duologies (and is a reliably good writer), Paula Volsky has several standalones including the wonderful Luck of Relian Kru, and the people recommending Martha Wells, Tim Powers, Lois McMaster Bujold and Diana Wynne Jones are fine, upstanding citizens with your best interests at heart.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:28 PM on July 25, 2012

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