My favorite fantasy books (worth multiple reads!)

Elves are real!
[Two little elves I know]

It seems that it wasn't until my thirties that I truly appreciated pleasure reading. I was fortunate to have a brother who had done much more pleasure reading than I. On the phone I once described to him how much I'd enjoyed a recent rereading of Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea and The Farthest Shore, both of which he'd also read. He surprised me by asking me to elaborate on what I specifically liked about those books, which I did. He thereupon suggested I read the first three Sheri S. Tepper True Game series books (which he'd read and which are listed below), which he then lent me. Perhaps with some hope coupled with skepticism that I'd find them anywhere near as enjoyable as the two LeGuin books, I began reading them.

I soon enough realized that I had read one or more of them earlier, perhaps when I was in my teens. However, although I remembered that I hadn't particularly cared for them the first time round, this time I enjoyed them immensely, finding them fully on the same level as the LeGuin books (Thanks, Bro'!!). Both authors deliver strong, interesting characters and a thoroughly enthralling fantasy world.

After learning of the existence of volumes 4-9 of Tepper's True Game series, I sought them out and happily found them at the library. Reading the whole nine-volume series in a more or less single go was an amazingly enjoyable experience, a wonderful simple pleasure. I hope that others can also have such fun with these books, or with whatever other books in whatever genre they prefer. I certainly hope to find more books that I will enjoy this much, but if I don't, I'll still greatly enjoy rereading these gems over the years to come.

The Lloyd Alexander books are an enjoyable children's literature series with some origins in Welsh legend. With a main character who is an Assistant Pig-Keeper, how could you go wrong?

Alexander, a prolific author, includes an interesting author's note at the beginning of most or all of these books. The author's note from The High King, the last of the five books which make up the formal Chronicles of Prydain, starts with Despite their shortcomings, no books have given me greater joy in the writing than the Chronicles of Prydain. I feel this statement of his speaks volumes (ha, ha) about what he put into these books, which in turn has positive ramifications for the joy you can get out of reading them. I also loved his dedication from the last of the five books: For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy. Thanks to my coworker for recommending this series!

The famous Harry Potter series was also quite enjoyable. I enthusiastically recommend it!

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence is quite good, although I feel its fantasy genre appeal is weaker than that of the other stories I praise here. However, its stories pleasantly surprised me by frequently touching on important aspects of human relationships, and it's that which will likely drive me to reread these over time.

After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in 2007, concluding the Harry Potter series, I looked around on the web for suggestions of other promising titles in the fantasy genre. Somewhere I found the suggestion of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The librarian who checked it out to me oozed with excitement about how good the book was, and I indeed found it a delight to read. With 1006 pages in its paperback edition, the short (and consequently numerous) chapters made it easy to stop and start again at reasonable junctures. The chapter titles also made it reasonable to find some memorable nuggets when looking back. After looking at some reviews of it on Amazon, I think I had considered it some years earlier but was probably put off a bit by its characterization as a type of fictional historical novel. While it is quite different from most or all of the other books I write about here (as of 9/2007, at least), I nonetheless found it high entertainment. The characters are wonderful. Susanna Clarke's follow up, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, was all right, but far less engaging. The high point for me was probably this line from the "Mrs Mabb" short story: "Mr Hawkins said nothing; the Hawkins' domestic affairs were arranged upon the principle that Fanny supplied the talk and he the silence."

I think I was stumbling around on Amazon when I happened upon Grace Lin's wonderful Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (which subsequently spawned additional volumes in the series, totaling three as of 10/2016; I'm hoping to read the last one soon). I certainly think that all can enjoy this book, but having grown up in a Chinese family and being familiar with assorted bits of Chinese folklore and mythology likely enhanced my own reading experience.

Note on availability:
You might be able to find all these books at new or used bookstores or at the library. If you're looking to buy out-of-print books, some resources are the online auction site (including its subsidiary for fixed-price sales and the used/new book online search facility

By Lloyd Alexander:

Also about Prydain by Lloyd Alexander:

By Susanna Clarke:

By Susan Cooper:

By Ursula K. LeGuin:

For completeness, the other books in the series are: The Tombs of Atuan (#2), Tehanu (#4), Tales from Earthsea (#5; a short story collection), and The Other Wind (#6), the last two of which were published in 2001. I didn't particularly enjoy #2 or #4 though I didn't hate them, and although I enjoyed parts of #5 and #6, I didn't like them anywhere near as much as I liked #1 or #3. The first three were originally a standalone trilogy.

Additionally, The Wind's Twelve Quarters is a short story collection by LeGuin containing "The Word of Unbinding" and "The Rule of Names," both of which preceded A Wizard of Earthsea but are set in what would eventually became the land of Earthsea. They're both okay as short stories go (read "The Rule of Names" and A Wizard of Earthsea for a comparison of the value of a True Name).

By Grace Lin:

By J.K. Rowling:

By Sheri S. Tepper:

And enjoyable, but which I'm not yet convinced I will want to read over and over again:

I found The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly a bit slow in the early chapters, but things picked up further along. "We face those that we have to face, and there will be times when we must make the choice to act for a greater good, even at risk to ourselves, but we do not lay down our lives needlessly. Each of us has only one life to live, and one life to give."

Midnight For Charlie Bone and Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, the first and second books of the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo, are good, but not as engaging as the Harry Potter books. Realistically, I no longer think I will return to reading the series.

R.A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt series has been quite enjoyable up through book 6 (The Halfling's Gem). As of 3/9/12, that series has 22 (!!) books, and I will likely get to the others in the coming years. Probably more fun if you are familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons game, from which world it originates, but I would think everyone can enjoy a character being named Dagnabit!

J.R.R. Tolkien's well-known Lord of the Rings trilogy, composed of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, is good. More enjoyable than his The Hobbit volume, which precedes the trilogy.

Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Wizard Lord, volume one of The Annals of the Chosen, was solidly entertaining. It had a number of quasi-similarities to Sheri S. Tepper's True Game series (primarily books 1-3), but was not as enthralling. I may yet get to later volumes.

John C. Wright's Orphans of Chaos and Fugitives of Chaos. I might someday get to the next volume in the series, Titans of Chaos. An elaborate fantastical setting, which I can't say I'd want to strain myself to get my head around, but I've enjoyed the stories so far.

The Fellowship of the Ring on their journey (Thanks, Sis, for the artwork!)
[A painting of the Fellowship of the Ring on their journey]
Speak Friend and Enter (Thanks again, Sis!)
[A painting of the 'Speak Friend and Enter' scene]

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