Sunday, 20 September 2009

My Essential Fantasy Reads|Part One

I've been thinking about doing one of these for a while - and I'm going to need to keep thinking, because I go through so many books every year that I can't immediately pick out my favourites. You may have noticed: there's a lot of good fantasy out there. So, without further ado, here is part one (in no particular order):


Guy Gavriel Kay

I could recommend just about anything from Guy Gavriel Kay for this list, but Tigana is something special - even for Kay. Set in the Peninsula of the Palm, a quasi-Italian mass of feuding city-states, the tyrant Brandin - driven by grief at his son, Stevan's death in battle - obliterates the name of a nation: Tigana. At the novel's core is the conflict around this identity, and the importance of it - and Tigana is told in almost lyrical prose, telling the tale of a tragedy through interwoven plotlines that are never black, nor white, but Kay's masterful grey.

Amazon page: Tigana

The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss

One of my more recent choices, The Name of the Wind is, soimply put, a masterfully-told tale. The first page captured my imagination: "...the patient, cut flower sound of a man who is waiting to die", and Rothfuss' prose was equally enrapturing throughout Kvothe's tale. The magic is logical, well explained, and - in this spirit - less of a Deux-Ex-Machina than a well savoured device for the reader. The tale of a man, Kvothe, who became a legend, and now tends the bar in the Wayside Inn, is cleverly divided between the tale itself, and Kvothe's telling of it - in the quieter, more dangerous world that he left behind. Rothfuss' second novel (The Wise Man's Fear) has unfortunately been delayed, but I eagerly anticipate its release (predicted sometime in 2010).

Amazon link: The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)

Gardens of the Moon

Steven Erikson

One of the most controversial series in modern fantasy, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is either on your bookcase in its entirety - or equally entirely absent. High page counts, devilishly complex plotting across volumes, and lengthy philosophical passages make Erikson's work a love-or-hate series. But I find Erikson's inter-volume plotting and "grey" morality enormously refreshing in the context of the epic fantasy - and make no mistake about it, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is certainly an epic fantasy. Spanning (in points) thousands of years, the series entwines seldom-understood, but rule-bidden magic, and a world so breathtaking in its entirety that even after nine volumes, very, very little is - yet- uncovered. Erikson's prose, like Kay's, has an almost lyrical factor to it, and the omniscient narrator's views blend effortlessly the viewpoints of very different characters, in effortless (albeit philosophical) transition. Erikson is a must-read.

Amazon page: Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

And that's it for today! I'll be continuing my (lengthy) list later this week, as well as my reviews of Dust of Dreams and Into the Nightside. Thank you for reading. :)


  1. I have not heard of Tigana till now. I will have to look into this one.

    I have just read and reviewed at my site The Name of the Wind. ( ) I have to say I CAN NOT WAIT till he gets the second book done. He has such a way with words. The visuals, smells, tastes, and I can't forget about hearing what he puts on paper. His words themselves are like poetry or music all in its own. I was so taken with his style, but I would love an end to the story.

    Now the Malazan books. I want to get to these is such a bad way. See, there is another at the Barnes & Noble site that between the 2 of us we really dig into a book and think (speculate and define) as we are reading. I think this series would be wonderful for us to do, but it is such a long series. But I WILL get to it one of these days.

    I am curious have you ever read any Ramond Feist books? I have not read them all but I very much enjoyed them as well.

  2. You should, I think - it's Kay at his best, and very poignant. It's probably the best of his books, in my opinion (though not without its flaws) - I'd be interested in comparing opinions if you read it sometime. :)

    Well, the Malazan books certainly are lengthy! I was in two minds about beginning them, until I did, and it was well worth it for me (although I became very... erm, antisocial for a while). I'm reading Dust of Dreams now (I'll be posting the review sometime soon), and I'm enjoying it very much (although I slightly preferred some of his earlier volumes).

    Yes, I have, actually! I was planning to put the first book, Magician, on part two of the list - it might have a few stereotypes, but it's a brilliantly-narrated tale, and the Tsurani world is not (as is typical) portrayed as hostile, but possesses human motives and politics - as well as complexity. I have to say, though, the series does worsen - I couldn't get into the Darkwar books much (maybe I should give them another try?)

  3. I haven't seen many sci fi book bloggers out there! You have a great site.
    Natalie :0)

  4. I don't normally read sci-fi but I fell in love with the Name of the Wind and have been looking for good sci-fi reads since then. I will be checking out the other two. Thanks

  5. Tigana has moved up on list of tbr books. I will look for this one in the stores and online. I think I will really like this book as well.

    When I finally get it and get it read I am stopping back here to see if we can discuss it. I love discussing books, I think that is part of the fun of getting lost in their worlds.

  6. Natalie W,

    Thanks! I can't match up to the more established sites (just look at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, or A Dribble of Ink), but I'm doing my best. :)


    I understand entirely - I felt the same way. That was one of the books (along with The Dragonbone Chair, above), which got me reading the genre properly.


    I'd enjoy that very much - just give me a tip off when you'd like to do so! My email address is along the sidebar, or just leave a comment. :)

  7. "Name of the wind" is absolutely fantastic. The way Kvothe's character emerges and transforms is spellbinding. I reviewed it at

    The second book was a bit of a disappointment. The story hardly progressed, and a lot of it felt like a collection of anecdotes. I had hoped that the overall picture of the story would start getting clearer, but unfortunately, Rothfuss leaves us lurching from incident to incident.

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