This was an extremely difficult post to write. My fantasy book list is several pages long. Anyways, these are my current top 5 fantasy novels.
Middle-Earth turned 100 years old this month. To be more specific, on September 24, 1914, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the first story (actually a short poem) about the world that would become Middle-earth. Depending upon whom you speak with, The Hobbit is either a prequel to The Lord of the Rings or a stand-alone novel that happens to be about Middle-earth. Regardless of your classification, The Hobbit is a must read for any fantasy fans. It is chronicles the famous and unforgettable adventure of Bilbo Baggins and his forays through Middle-earth. The story never stales and is worth reading multiple times. Do not worry, it is not as dense as The Lord of the Rings nor as detailed as The Silmarillion. However, it is a wonderful story and is the perfect introduction to Middle Earth. Also, while I enjoy watching the movies, it really did not require three films. One would have sufficed.
The Hobbit, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, ISBN: 9780547928227
The first section of this tale serves as the inspiration for Disney’s 1963 animated film, The Sword in the Stone. And it remains the best King Arthur movie in existence. Anyways, The Once and Future King is the defining Arthurian tale for the modern age. It is a slightly easier read than Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. However, this is a book readers either loath or love. If you are not a fan of the Arthurian myth/legend, you will struggle to finish this tome. The novel straddles the line between high literature and pseudo-history. T.H.White’s writing style is similar to Charles Dickens when it comes to describing the world of Arthur. Fans of fast-moving fantasy novels full of magic and action may find this an exhausting read; it is a thinking man’s fantasy story. However, if you are the sort of person who enjoys reading high literature or want to broaden your literary horizons, this is the book for you! Also, it is a literary classic and every book enthusiast should flip through it at least once.
The Once & Future King, Ace Trade, 2011, ISBN: 9780441020836
I stumbled upon this book one day while perusing the shelves at Barnes & Noble. This is the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicles. Be warned, Patrick Rothfuss takes about five years in between novels. So far only two books have been published in this series and I am desperately awaiting the third! The Name of the Wind introduces Kvothe. Throughout the book he is a wizard, villain, warrior, slave, hero, and lover. In his world, he is the main hero and villain of a thousand tales. However, the man is different from the legend. This book serves as a biographical tale of a boy who rises above his impoverished beginning and becomes a legend. I love this novel. It has a complex and compelling hero and the tale is fantastic. I finished this book in two days, it would have been one but I started reading it during finals week. If you want a tale that is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, then read this book. You will not be disappointed.
The Name of the Wind, DAW Trade, 2009, ISBN: 9780756405892
4. The Mists of Avalon-Marion Zimmer Bradley
Have I mentioned that I am addicted to King Arthur novels? This is the legend of King Arthur as told through the lives and experiences of the women who manipulated events from behind the throne. The Mists of Avalon is an original and fascinating retelling of the classic tale. I believe this is the first novel that tells the tale from a female perspective-usually the tale is narrated with a male outlook. This story shines a less judgmental light on the maligned characters of Morgan le Fey and Guinevere. The secondary sub-plot deals with the struggle of Christianity to become the dominant religion in a land influenced by the historic paganistic Celtic religion. In a world drowning under King Arthur retellings, this a unique fantasy tale and a riveting read. The movie was alright, though the book is much better.
The Mists of Avalon, Del Rey,1987, ISBN:9780345350497
A good friend of mine recommended this book too me last year. And I am glad she did! This story takes place at the dawn of 19th Century England. In 1806 the Napoleonic Wars rage on both land and sea and most people believe magic has died out in England. However, the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his magical powers and becomes an overnight celebrity. This prompts the young and daring Jonathan Strange (a budding magician) to come out of hiding. Mr. Norrell takes Jonathan on as an apprentice and they join forces to fight against the French threat. This is a “realistic” fantasy story and is written in a pseudo Victorian-era prose. However, the story soon draws you in and embroils you in the world of strange and dangerous modern magic. Romance is an important theme in the novel; however, it is not a romantic novel. Instead, romance serves as the catalyst for a series of devastating events. This book is not for everyone, there are no flashy bangs or fast-paced actions sequences. Instead, this is a book for readers who enjoy a multi-layered tale. Do not give up after the first hundred pages; the narrative really speeds up a little past the half-way point.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Tor Books, 2006, ISBN:9780765356154