Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Alucard, Feb 6, 2015.
Thank you for the list @Silvion Night
Updated the OP.
Just because something is "classic" or "ahead of its time" doesn't make it better or mean it must be on someone's top list.
Thanks. As I said, these are my favorite authors. I first decided I'd only put up an author once, but then I reckoned it's be more respresentative to select my top 25 fantasy series/books, regardless of which author wrote it.
I have read more classic fantasy, but even so I think Erikson is way up there regarding prose. Neither pompous nor terse. Not flowery, nor stark. His style is just good (Goldilocks style). In my opinion of course.
I hope not. I really look forward to reading these series. I'll be sure to let you know my conclusions after I read them.
Thankyou also for your list @Silvion Night.
Its always a pleasure to read someone's list of favourite books, especially when they give a brief explanation for their choices.
But I've always been one for contrary/big claims!
Personally I don't think Glen Cook would be that enjoyable in audio format, mainly because of the terse style. As for Gentleman's Bastard I don't think it's so great and that's mainly based on the first book which is the one that seems to get all the love. Being dark, gross and violent for it's own sake is not sophistication but yet that seems to be the main reason that series gets so much praise (that and Scott Lynches style which is actually quite good but alas this isn't enough). The Black Company novels are very dark stories, more so than the majority of the Grimdark's being written nowadays I would say but unlike most gritty fantasy writers Glen Cook keeps an optimistic tone throughout, thus creating a stark contrast between his style and the stories he's telling. The effect is almost comical when some of the characters act so nonchalant about doing evil things. Also Glen Cook has been an established author for a long time and has proven himself. Scott Lynch has only written three books and the series is incomplete and so has yet to truly prove himself. As for the Stormlight Archives I actually enjoyed The Way of Kings more than any other book I've read when I did read it. Also as far as the worldbuilding and it's relation to the plot in that series the entire thing with all of those character becoming these superhero like figures seemed to be built within a fragile framework that is arbitrary and inconsistent and as a result I predict the entire series will fall apart by book 4 or 5. I can see where the series is going and it's not going to be towards a good place.
I completely agree. I've never said anything that indicated I thought that way.
I completely agree with what you're saying specifically but in terms of their descriptions I would say Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance are better than Steven Erikson (Erikson is a better story teller, of course). I would also say China Mieville is probably on par with Erikson in terms of prose too.
Indeed, I've read some classic fantasy series (Although I wouldn't say "plenty"). Call me spoiled, but the now familiair tropes are often done better in the newer fantasy books/series in my opinion.
Black Company in audio format is amazing!
I wasn't talking about essential classics. In fact I generally ignore essential classics like the plague. I just think there's probably a lot of "classic" fantasy works that tends to be quite marginalized at the back of most modern readers minds that really disserve more attention and that is actually better than a lot of fantasy works nowadays that are being lauded as the best. For example the author Mervyn Peake get lots of attention in literary circles but if you look up and down people's "best" lists hardly anyone puts Gormenghast on there and Gormenghast is undoubtedly one of the most vividly realized works of fantasy ever. Then Clark Ashton Smith is another very imaginative writer who is largely ignored by today's readers, and then although I haven't read it the book Broken Sword by Poul Anderson is supposed to be similar to LoTR and very good as well, and guess what, it was published the same year! But yet LoTR gets all the love!
My problem wasn't that his list lacked essential classics, it was more that his saying "Erikson's prose are unrivaled in the genre" is indicative of such profound audacity that I couldn't let that comment lay rotting and unnoticed.
Thanks for mentioning Broken Sword, moonspawn. I read the sample and bought it. Love that style.
No, my basis of judgment was based on Silvion Night saying Erikson's prose are unrivaled in the genre which I clarified in my last post. Erikson is a great prose writer but I would hardly call him the best in that regard; best plot writer in fantasy but prose no. I've also been increasingly more impressed by the language use of 20th century authors, and not as impressed with 21st century authors in this regard. It just seems like more older authors really learned their craft, not as much the case today.
Fantasy had a long history before LoTR so I'm not sure what you're saying here.
No, it's more a matter of making effort to get used to archaic language. If it's slightly hard to read then.... so what? That doesn't tell me anything about the authors use of literary technique or how evocative their language is. If I hear an authors language use is difficult (in a good way) then this compels me because then I at least know it's more likely to have some substance than easier to read writing.
That's true if you're talking about some of those 'essential classics,' you mentioned earlier but there are a lot of well known literary classics and many more obscure, lesser known classics that are not simple and are in fact more complex than the majority of the simple stuff readers are used to today. But then again there are many 'modern classics' that are complex and difficult to read as well as lesser known complex works that I'm ashamed aren't better known. I'm not one for making generalizations here.... If you want me to list some works so you can see what I mean I could. ...
On clarification I'm not partial to any specific era of fiction. Thus far from the mid 1800's onwards to the 21st century I've found much fiction I've enjoyed. I'm a firm believer that great fiction transcends time and so we should appreciate both the masterworks of the past as well as the great stuff being produced nowadays, and if you're someone who enjoys reading fantasy on-release that's fine to although I think those readers are taking greater chances that they'll end up reading something bad than readers like myself who deliberately seek out great fiction across the breadth of time.
Me too. Read a bit about it and it sounds great. Thanks for pointing this one out @moonspawn
@moonspawn : I like to use bold statements and I knew the one about Erikson's prose would trigger a response. It's fun, because these type of statements evoke discussion (which is what boards like these are all about).
Just to be clear, I have read classic fantasy books with great prose. To me Erikson's prose is beautiful though. Not too archaic (which is fine, but archaic prose can become cumbersome to me at times), but eloquent. I should probably have said that "To me, Erikson's prose is unrivaled" or "Erikson's prose is unrivaled in modern fantasy", but either of those 2 statements are simply a bit boring and not thought provoking.
Some people read for entertainment. In fact I'd say most people read for entertainment. And that should be enjoyable, not hard. I think only a small percentage of fantasy readers in general are interested in genre origins, old school fantasy and themes behind the writing itself. Most people aren't into educating themselves about these things or having an understanding of the field. And that's perfectly fine!
Personally I find myself oscillating between these two positions. Sometimes I just want popcorn entertainment (enter Iron Druid or White Trash Zombie books here) and sometimes I want to know about the history and tradition of the fantasy genre (enter my ptr list of all the Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks or Jack Vance's books or Dune).
I disagree. Difficult language even used in a good way doesn't guarantee more substance over simple one. A skilled writer can have a much more of an impact on me with a simple language, than a skilled writer with a difficult language. But I'm a minimalist in almost everything.
I'm happy to be of service!
This is perfectly fine!
I read in order to draw influences for my own writing but at the same time I want to be entertained along the way and most of the time I find more substantive works more entertaining.
I agree with this. Some writers are good because their writing is clear, concise and smooth, not difficult at all. Robin Hobb is like that. It all depends on how the author does it.
I noticed I have not yet posted my personal favourite 25 fantasy books / series.
I will start with this post by taking over my ratings I just updated in the "BFB Ratings" thread, and come back later to explain in more detail, why I like these series/books.
1: Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher : 9.4
This series does not really need much explanation, if you are interested in "Urban Fantasy". The interesting thing is that when I read the first book in the series, "Storm Front", I could not really understand what the fuss was all about. Sure, it was a nice book, but it was quite short (especially considering the price it was sold at), and while it had a few interesting new ideas, the story was not very special in my opinion. Only when I continued with the series, I got hooked, as the storyline began to unfold, more interesting characters got added to the cast, and the pace of the story picked up.
2: Dagger and the Coin, by Daniel Abraham : 9.35
Daniel Abraham is possibly one of the more underrated fantasy authors out there (ok, not here on the forum, where there are quite a few to sing his praise). What I (and others) like are his full-fleshed characterizations of the main protagonists, who are rarely black and white, but display an astonishing number of shades of grey. Many are haunted by past demons or hindered by weaknesses, but none of the characters can be called boring. The twists of his storyline are interesting, and his world-building does not need to fear any comparison.
Magic is quite limited in this series.
3: Alex Verus series, by Benedict Jacka : 9.3
Another urban fantasy series, that is still different from most others.
What makes Alex Verus interesting as a protagonist is that he is not able to hurl around fireballs or do any of the other flashy spells that normally make up the majority of the action happening in a fantasy book. No, he is a diviner, and his magical talent is that he can anticipate the outcome of decisions and judge the probability of their occurrence. And to make matters worse (for Verus) there are lots of other "elemental" mages who can do all the flashy magic and usually do not hesitate to (try to) burn him to ash, dismember him with force blades, shatter his bones with earth magic or freeze him. He, on the contrary, has to rely on his foresight and his wits, which very often makes for lots of suspense.
4: A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin : 9.25
I don't think this series needs further description, other than that reading it re-kindled my love for fantasy that had been more or less dormant for some decades (apart from the odd Harry Potter book now and then)
5: Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan : 9.22
This is a massive series, and I have to agree that it becomes sluggish in the middle and stays for some time. However, in my opinion the series is never boring and I would not want to miss any of the many protagonists that "bloat" the series from books 5 to about 10. Having just re-read the whole series another time, I definitely can endorse this again. I really do not know which of all these smaller background stories should/could have been missed out.
Different personalities, different points of view, and different philosophies of the various fractions work together to make this series interesting to me. Brandon Sandersons last books to end the series fit well into the series as a whole.
6: PC Grant ("Rivers of London") series, by Ben Aaronovitch : 9.2
Another urban fantasy series, this time set in England. It seems there are quite a number of humorous and capable English authors out there (many of who somehow end up or start out writing for the "Dr. Who" TV franchise). What is refreshing about this series is that it is set in a current time that is not a parallel universe where magic exists and is accepted by everybody, but rather that a "normal" person in the person of PC Peter Grant is thrown into a world of magic explained to co-exist with today's technology without too many logical problems.
7: Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham : 9.15
Features an unusual take on magic and excellent character characterizations. A joy to read, although the story in itself is not joyous.
8: Chronicles of the Black Company, by Glen Cook : 9.15
A "grandfather" of the story, this series likely did much to establish the "gritty" writing style today beloved by many. Another great idea IMO is that the story of the Black Company is written from the point of view of the Keeper of Archives, who changes a few time during the course of the series, always bringing with itself a change in the style of telling the story. While the main protagonists of the Black company may die or move on, the Company itself continues.
9: Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss : 9.12
10: Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb : 9.1
What I like about this story is that the hero, Fitzchivalry Farseer is not the usual "farmboy with a sword" who finds that he can somehow "naturally" rise up to his destiny, but that - while similarly starting out from very humble beginnings - he rather has to fight every inch of the way, against stronger and better equipped adversaries, despairing often but not giving up.
11: Night Watch Series, by Sergeij Lukyanenko : 9.1
A russian urban fantasy series about the ever ongoing fight between light and dark magic. Both light and dark magicians exist, and they are gridlocked in a chess game to incur tactical advantages while keeping the overall strategic status quo. The story is told from the point of view of a pawn, a not-very-powerful young light magician who is constantly misused by both his superiors and their dark antagonists and tries to keep up with the game as best as he can. That the story is set in a realistic contemporary Russia makes it even more interesting in comparison to more common series.
12: First Law Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie : 9
13: The Witcher, by Andrzej Sapkowski : 8.8
14: Liveship Traders, by Robin Hobb : 8.75
15: Mistborn: Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson : 8.7
16: Tales of Dunk and Egg , by George R. R. Martin : 8.7
This Spin-off of "A Song of Ice and Fire" stands well on its own. The first stories were included in some anthologies, and the first book collecting the first stories will be published soon.
17: Chalion Series, by Lois McMaster Bujold : 8.6
More or less a classic fantasy series, reminded me of Robin Hobb's "Farseer" series.
18: Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson : 8.5
19: Tawny Man Trilogy, by Robin Hobb : 8.5
20: Lightbringer Series, by Brent Weeks : 8.5
21: Princess Bride, by William Goldman : 8.5
If you have liked the movie, you might find yourself liking the book even more, as William Goldman writes some wonderful narrative passages of a disgruntled writer's search for the "original manuscript" of the classic tale and his problems when trying to abridge it to make it more readable for a wider readership - up to the point that some reviewers on goodreads claim that they like the book, but that Goldman as author seems to be a horrible person, how he keeps maligning the "original writer" in his book.
22: Night Angel, by Brent Weeks : 8.5
23: Broken Empire, by Mark Lawrence : 8.4
24: Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien : 8.25
25: The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien : 8.25
As said, I will hopefully soon find time to come back here and write further details....
Updated my top 25, added another work by Poul Anderson.
OK, so I guess I'll mention that I just added the series I've read since my original post back in May (page 4 from my phone). Powder Made, Shadow Campaigns, Cycle of Arawn, Faithful and the Fallen, Ravens Shadow, Legend of Eli Monpress.
One thing I noticed is that it's crazy to see the list evolve over time. I mean, I enjoyed ASOIF despite the last two books not being good IMO - Storm of Swords is still one of the best Fantasy books ever - so it is shocking to see it all the way down to number 19. Same thing with Farseer falling out of the Top 10, despite it being a must-read classic in my mind.
I think I've just been rather picky about the series I've selected and have been lucky that I've enjoyed them all (except Hunger Games). That puts a lot of pressure on the next series I select after finishing up the Monpress novels this month! I currently have the Heroes Die and Codex Alera series sitting on my shelf.
If people are bored I have two questions:
1. Should I tackle Heroes Die or Codex Alera next? Long term it doesn't matter since I'll be done with both by the end of the year, but just curious what people think ;-)
2. Any recommendations for me on what COMPLETED series to buy next based on my Top 25 (well, 29) list?
I can't pass up a chance to recommend Heroes Die!
Thanks! What is it that you like about the series?
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games)
Allegiant (Divergent Series)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Atlantis Gene
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Fellowship of the Ring
A Dance with Dragons
The Maze Runner (Book 1)
The Night Circus
The Queen of the Tearling
Thorn (Intisar Khanani)
Separate names with a comma.