A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
It’s easy to understand why very few people simply dabble in reading fantasy books. Either you really love the stuff and devote yourself to the time consuming genre, or you ignore all but the unignorable classics—The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and now George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. But the fact is that you don’t have to completely geek-out in order to read fantasy beyond these classics. There are a number of series that have wide appeal, can be read a volume or two at a time, and won’t demand a solid year of your life.
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss: It’s first on the list because it’s my personal favorite. The books don’t depart much from fantasy tradition—the story of a young wizard, Kvothe (pronounced a bit like “qoute”) who overcomes adversity to become a powerful, legendary figure. The real triumph of these novels is that Rothfuss gives us a truly epic story without losing any of the intimacy of a character driven novel. The settings remain relatively unified and the character list relatively short. Rothfuss has now written two of the projected trilogy, Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and while each individual volume is a bit longer than the others on this list, Rothfuss has promised the series will not grow past a trilogy.
Temeraire by Naomi Novik: It’s historical fiction with a fantasy twist—the Napoleonic wars fought with an airforce of dragons. The individual novels are short and easy to follow. You can put the series down for months or years and start back up without missing a beat. Though, I don’t recommend starting in the middle, the relationship that develops between the main characters, Captain Laurence and his dragon Temeraire, is the heart of the story and is best explored in the first few volumes that are collected in In His Majesty’s Service.
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun follows a young executioner—protagonist and narrator Severian—on his path from outcast to supreme ruler. Set in a far future where the sun is dying out, it’s a fantasy novel with a few scattered sci-fi elements. It can be a bit slow moving at times, but the thoughtful way in which Severian looks back on his surprisingly eventful life gives the book a literary quality—with shades of I, Claudius—that only the very best fantasy can match. None of the four books that make up the series is over 300 pages, but it is a bit leisurely in it’s pacing, and extremely bleak in mood, making it seem a little longer. Thomas Ford’s editions are collected in two volumes: Shadow and Claw and Sword and Citadel.
The Belgariad by David Eddings: This series is another personal favorite, and another that is firmly rooted in fantasy tradition. The Belgariad is the coming of age story of Garion, who discovers that his life as a young farm hand is merely an illusion meant to hide his pivotal role in a world of wizards and monsters that he thought was just myth. This is a five book series that averages around 250-300 pages in each volume. Thomas Ford has the whole series collected in just two volumes The Belgariad, Vol. 1 and The Belgariad, Vol. 2.
List by Matthew