I’m a huge lover of fantasy novels. My personal library at home is stuffed to the gills with them, so it was with great interest that I read a post at List Universe about 10 great fantasy series. The rules of the list were that the series must be complete (there’s one cheat in the list because of one book to be released in 09, but we can probably let it slide), which is to say, no further books must be forthcoming in the series, and the series must span more than one book. So this eliminates Pratchett’s Discworld series quite neatly, as brilliant as it is. Because it’s a list of fantasy novels, it also eliminates Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series and Herbert’s Dune series. (In case you’re interested-and to prevent you from shouting at me for missing a series-the list covers the following series: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; The Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings; The Riftwar and Serpentwar sagas by Raymond Feist; Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony; The Saga of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt, Jr; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan; and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.) So, without further ado, here’s my own list that adds to the list at the List Universe.
10. The Elenium and the Tamuli
David Eddings’ second series was never quite as popular as his groundbreaking Belgariad/Mallorean series, but that was most likely becuase people were expecting another Belgariad. The Elenium (comprising The Diamond Throne, The Ruby Knight, and The Sapphire Rose), and its sequel series, the Tamuli (comprising Domes of Fire, The Shining Ones, and The Hidden City), however, stood up as excellent reads in their own right. The series follows the adventures of a knight, Sparhawk, as he tries to cure a poisoned Queen Ehlana. The Tamuli continued the adventures of Sparhawk and his friends into the Tamuli kingdom. The series mythos is built around that of the medieval church, and makes for some fine reading. If you’re not comparing this series to the Belgariad/Mallorean, you’ll like it just fine.
9. The Dark is Rising
Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series (comprising Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree), although published back in the 1960s and 1970s, still stands as an excellent series of books based around the Arthurian mythos. The books introduce a series a children who are caught up in the fight between the Light and the Dark. The key character, Will Stanton, only makes his first appearance in the second book, but the series is well written, and an enjoyable read. A film version of the second book was created, but many of the events therein were changed significantly from the books. My suggestion is to stick to the books for now!
8. The Braided Path by Chris Wooding
Chris Wooding’s Braided Path series (comprising The Weavers of Saramyr, Skein of Lament, and The Ascendancy Veil) follows the adventures of Kaiku as she tries to understand the reason why her family was murdered. The series feels as if it were set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan, and it’s clear that Wooding has done his homework. The books are compelling fantasy, and I found it hard to to put the series down until I was done with it.
7. Mode series by Piers Anthony
Piers Anthony’s work is always enjoyable and highly compelling reading, but one series he wrote that stood out for me was his Mode series (comprising Virtual Mode, Chaos Mode, Fractal Mode, and DoOon Mode). The series dealt with many complex issues such as suicide, rape, gender issues, environmental issues…the list goes on. At the center of the complex collection of characters is Colleen, a suicidal teenager who falls in love with Darius, a man from another reality. The series introduces a number of alternate realities and strange characters such as Burgess, a character from an alternate Earth where the bizarre creatures in the Burgess layer had survived evolution. Colleen and her friends make their way across the many different worlds and realities to try getting back to Darius’s home. It gets weird, and the issues might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s an awesome read.
6. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series (comprising The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower, which was published in paperback as Siege and Storm) follows the adventure of the kitchen boy Simon as the world of Osten Ard is torn apart by war (when ISN’T it?). The series draws upon several types of mythologies from around the world. The title of the series refers to three legandary swords, the only hope that anyone has against the evil Kings bent on destruction.
5. The Farseer trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy, by Robin Hobb
The Farseer and Tawny man series follow the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who is trained as an assassin. The area of the world that the story takes place in, called the Six Duchies, is under attack by raiders from the sea, and it’s eventually up to Fitz to help stop the attacks. Set some years after the first series, the Tawny Man series describes Fitz’s adventures with the new prince, who first is kidnapped, and the who’s betrothed refuses to marry him unless he sets off on a daring quest, assisted by Fitz. Much of the charm in Hobb’s books is due to the insightful nature of her writing. Her characters are complex and multifaceted. The plots aren’t as world-shaking as other series, but the books are highly entertaining nonetheless.
4. The Last Rune series by Mark Anthony
The Last Rune series (comprising Beyond the Pale, The Keep of Fire, The Dark Remains, Blood of Mystery, The Gates of Winter, and The First Stone) is about two people from this reality, Travis Wilder and Grace Beckett, who journey, intially independently, to a world called Eldh. There they eventually face off against the Pale King, with Travis and his wild magic, and Grace and her nature magic. The series uses mostly gaelic and northern mythologies, and runes play a powerful part in the story.
3. The Secret Texts by Holly Lisle
The Secret Texts series (comprising Diplomacy of Wolves, Vengeance of Dragons, and Courage of Falcons) follows Kait Galweigh, a dplomat in training for House Galweigh. Kait has a secret, that she has an alternate wolf form, and this could cause her to be ostracized. When her family and home are destroyed by rival family, House Sabir, she sets out to get revenge. It turns out, however, that things are more dire than she thought, and eventually she will have to try saving the world. Ms Lisle writes a heart-thumping story, and the fate of the Galweighs and Sabirs makes for a wonderful story with some inventive magics built in.
2. The Quickening by Fiona McIntosh
The Quickening (comprising Myrren’s Gift, Blood and Memory, and Bridge of Souls) is seriously one of the most innovative and brilliant series I’ve read in a long time, and it says something that it’s very seldom that a series take me quite by surprise as much as this one did. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the twists and turns of the story, but it should be safe to say that it follows the adventure of Wyl Thirsk, the last of his line, as he tries to achieve justice in the most unlikely of ways. It’s sheer brilliance, and McIntosh writes some brilliant plots and characters together. I recommend this series very highly indeed!
1. The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix
Nix’s Old Kingdom series (comprising Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) deals with the two worlds of Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. The two are separated by a wall, and while magic works in the Old Kingdom, technology is what drives Ancelstierre. The stories take place mostly in the Old Kingdom, with some forays into Ancelstierre. Sabriel follows the adventure of a girl of the same name, when her father, the Abhorsen-a necromancer-dies and passes on the tools of his trade to her. Lirael, set some years after Sabriel, follows the adventures of Lirael and Sabriel’s son, Sameth as they try to stop an invasion of the dead into both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. The final book, Abhorsen, is a direct sequel to Lirael, and completes Lirael and Sameth’s journey. What I found completely brilliant about the series is the nature of Nix’s imagination: he dreams up wonderful stuff, and the books infuse you with a sense of wonder. Rare for a book to do that to me these days, but Nix certainly carries it well. It’s well worth the read, and will keep you entertained for quite a while.
These series aren’t in the main list because they’re incomplete, and if I’d allowed these series in, I’d certainly have to shift some others out, or create a top 20 list!!
1. Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix – only six of the seven books in this brilliant series have been published as yet
2. Exiles by Melanie Rawn – It’s been more than 10 years since Rawn wrote the second book in the series, and has been promising the third one for a while now, but nothing happening as yet!
3. Shannara and Knight of the Word – there are several Shannara series, but Terry Brooks isn’t done, and apparently his new series links the Shannara and Knight series together. I’m keen to see how this all works out!
4. Dragonlance – Dragonlance is still an ongoing series spanning a heck of a lot of books. This series deserves a blog post of its own!
5. Forgotten Realms – likewise with Dragonlance!
So…let me know what you think. What have I missed? Are there any series that shouldn’t be here? If so, why?