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Good Fantasy Reads

Decent Fantasy Books Worth Reading...

This section lists fantasy books that are definitely worth reading. While they aren't the best of the best, these books are still very enjoyable. If you've read all the books in the Top 25 Fantasy Books list and Top 100 Fantasy Books list, the Best of Fantasy Genre, Best Fantasy Books Since 2010, and the Best Fantasy Books of 2014 and Top 25 Best Stand Alone Fantasy Books, then you should check out the books on this list. 

This is sort of the 'catch all' list for books that slip through the other best lists. They are books that I consider good enough to recommend, but not over any of the better books in the genre. Keep in mind that I certainly can't list every single fantasy book/series ever punished so this list is NOT exhaustive. Just because you don't see a book on this list doesn't mean the book is bad -- it may perhaps be on another list on this site or maybe I've not yet read it yet. 

If you do read through this list, then be sure to check out some of the other specialist lists or best subgenre lists for some more specific recommendations based on certain themes or elements or fantasy subgenres.

The Way of Shadows holds no punches. This is the fantasy version of Jet Li: the pacing is fast, the action vicious, and the plot exciting. This is not philosophical fantasy in say the vein of Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before, mature fantasy like Abercrombie's First Law, or even the realism of Martin's A Game of Thrones. Yet, there is something that makes this series fun to read. Maybe the fact it's wildly entertaining in a pop-corn eating sort of way. Or maybe it's the fact that I've been bombarded for an entire year by people wanting to see this series make the top list. Or maybe it's even because I really enjoyed the trilogy for the most part. It was flawed, uneven, and the writing at times amateurish, but it delivers for the most part. Weeks sequel series, The Lightbringer, is better on every level and shows how much Weeks has grown. But if you want his debut series with all the raw passion that it is, read it.

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Keyes stunned the fantasy community with his phenomenal new high fantasy novel, The Briar King, a few years ago. This guy is a master of the English language. His writing is both witty and beautiful; sort of an Oscar Wild meets J.R.R. Tolkien synergy. His plot is thick, rich with interesting characters (and the dialogue is top notch and at times, hilarious), and the world fairly gritty, though less so than George R. Martin's. Keyes takes old fantasy cliches and creates something new. I can't recommend this fantasy series enough. Keyes continues his excellent standard throughout the series for the first couple, but the last book things fall to pieces. 

What a magnificent start and an equally magnificent failure of an ending. Had Keyes kept things up, this series would have been up there on the Great or Top 100 list, but now it's only Good enough. Shame.

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Picture a dark, apocalyptic world set in the near future. A world conquered by vampiric aliens, where humans are kept as nothing more than feeding and breeding stock. This is not your normal post-apocalyptic novel. Knight creates a rich milieu, almost reminiscent of an epic fantasy world. Make no mistake, this novel cannot be pigeon-holed into a single genre, it has elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. This is one hell of a thrill ride with a dark tension that keeps you pinned from the moment you open the cover to the second you wipe your eyes at 3 in the morning. 

Edit: That's how the series started. I was very much excited. But Knight let's things go to hell after a couple books and nothing ever really gets resolved. Very disappointed and I stopped reading after book 4-5 when it became a sort of monster of the week series.

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.

A fabulous trilogy that hasn't received the acclaim or popularity it deserves. Julian May has written a fantastic saga of love, treachery, war, and magic. Magic has a definite sense of mystery in this series but also retains a strong presence. In addition, the magic system is one of the most interesting ones I?e encounter. If you want a ripping good yarn, compelling characters, and lots of politics, adventure, and fighting, read this book. If you like Robert Jordan, but hate the pedantic pacing of his books, this series is for you.

Edit: The trilogy ends much worse than it started. Things look new and fresh at the start of it a fantasy in the vein of Jordan and Feist, but much faster paced with solid characters and better writing than both. But the plot threads come undone and the series really ends with a whimper and not a bang.

Books in Boreal Moon Tale Series (4)

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I do have a soft spot in my heart for these books  they are entertaining if you like fantasy with the standard archetypes (callow boy becomes most powerful person in the world and overthrows the exiting status quo  both magical and political). 

Modesitt's style of fantasy may just be a breathe of fresh air for those of you who are tired of all the complex, morally ambiguous grimdark where the heroes all seem to have a strong streak of evil. The Recluse series is all about good and bad, and very little in between. If this is what you want, then you'll be delighted...for about 6-7 books before the honeymoon ends.

My biggest complaint with this series is that the author basically retells the exact same tale with each and every book. It gets so bad that some of the later books are almost unbearable to read. It's the same tale told over and over in every single book. In fact, Modesitt tells the same damn tale in every single one of his fantasy series -- his Imager Portfiolo and his Corean Chronicles for example.

Of his Recluse books, the best of the bunch are:

The Magic of Recluse the first published and still on of the best. This is the prototypical Recluse story. If you like it, you'll probably enjoy the rest of them as every single other book follows the same template.

The Fall of Angles  chronologically, the first book and explains how everything came to be the way it was. Entertaining.

Magi'i of Cyador  a good tale about the rise of a talented young solider through the unforgiving ranks of an army unit on the edge of the wilderness where survival rates are 50 percent. Great if you like heroic military fantasy where the underdog must stay alive and ascend the ranks. A different sort of Recluce tale than the usual. If you like this tale, check out his Imager Portfolio series which I consider a better series.

Natural Ordermage  one of the best Recluce books in a decade. Modesitt finally changes up the worn constructs he's been recycling for over a dozen books. The hero is by far the most interesting he's had  a selfish bastard who's not opposed to using his substantial magical powers for his own pleasures (including seducing women).

Books in The Recluce Saga Series (18)

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Award Nominations:1997 NEBULA

Complex politics, well thought out magic system, clash between religious and secular powers, an ineluctable catastrophe looming, long lost creatures walking the lands once again, GREAT characterization. What more can you ask for in a fantasy saga. Plot? Good enough to taste. My only complaint is that the series, which clocks in at 7 books long, is several books too long. Still, the series is one of the better epic fantasy sagas out there and well worth the read. 

Edit: The series completely disappoints by the end. Its ambitious and the first couple books in the series hint at great things, but Elliot gets lost in her world and things just dont end up moving along. Whats 7 books should have been 3. By the end of things, I didnt much care about the characters or plot, I was so bored.

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It is 600 AD and Rome has never fallen. The Roman Empire of the East will join the Roman Empire of the West to invade the inimical Persians who threaten the very gates of Constantinople itself. Featuring epic battles, beautiful babes, and powerful magic, Oath of Empires is an epic story so full of energy that your hair will sizzle. It features the epic scope of a Steven Erikson novel, a Robert Jordan Wheel of Time like struggle, and the George Martin propensity for axing main characters. Yummy! Similar recommendations: Steven Erickson? ? Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga, which is as epic as they come, and features an array of massive battles like Oath of Empires. The dazzling magic battles are also very similar is scope and size. Harlan? work focuses more closely on individual characters, however, while Erickson zooms out. You might also try Michelle West? Sun Sword saga which features a similar type scenario as in Oath of Empires (two culturally different empires clashing, while an ancient evil stirs behind the scenes orchestrating a conquest of the mortal world?. Also give James Barclay's Ascendants of Astoria saga a shot. Great battle scenes and epic. 

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I'm not a fan of Piers Anthony in general (on a personal level I find the man utterly distasteful just read his blog for example and you'll find he's a racist, sexist, and has a disturbing fascination of young girls). But, his Incarnations of Immortality is his best series. And it's a pretty damn good read to boot. Definitely worth reading.

Books in Incarnations of ... Series (8)

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Very well written fantasy series. Expect the usual grey characterization endemic to all of John Marco's books. Read the other two sequels "Devil's Armor" and "Sword of Angels." Disappointed with the ending of it, but still a good read. Hes come out with a new book with the same character in 2013.

Books in Lukien Saga Series (4)

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A fantasy series set in an elaborately detailed medieval Asian landscape. The book has two very well drawn female protagonists. These are some great fantasy books that don't get enough recognition. It's flawed work but worth reading. Wooding's Jetty Kay tales are much better I feel.

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Tad Williams is an amazing writer. His Memory, Sorrow, Thorn books made the Top 25 list. War of the Flowers is an adult fairy tale. Strong writing and a great plot made this novel hard to put down. It's a standalone novel (rare these days in fantasy).

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This High Fantasy series has gone under the radar for some reason. It's fantasy in the classic epic tradition. A band of heroes strives against an all-powerful sorceress. The most prominent feature in this four-book saga is its graphic violence. These books are full of blood--too much in fact. After a while, the constant fighting becomes wearisome. Still, if you are looking for some epic fantasy that's heavy on the action, and has above-average characterization, give this saga a shot. I found this series much better than average and perhaps underrated.

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“On the shores of despair, there was a maiden, she was my quarry and my redemption.”

Marishka Grayson’s novel Bloodreign I: Regnum Ignis is a new breed of adult neo-gothic fantasy—a cross-genre novel that defies easy categorization but makes for a scintillating and highly enthralling read.

Magdalena’s encounter with the vicious but fascinating creatures of light, the Nuria, push her to the brink of sanity. Dark and brooding, the story reveals a hidden world of beings who possess magic, and a lore whose thread is hidden in the haze of history. Battling against their own violent, lustful nature and seeking atonement, the Nuria pursue their goals in the constant shadow of powerful foes—magi who have sworn to destroy them. Allegiances shift, alliances form and shatter. But through all the madness, there may be one immutable constant—Arik Kuno, grandson of the Sovereign and heir to the title of Luminary, whose obsession with Magda seems to have no bounds and time itself cannot wane.

Click here to buy Bloodreign on Amazon. For more information about the book and author, check out her blog.

An alternate colonial America where magic works. This book wins the unique fantasy award -- I really haven't seen anything else out there like this series. Most Fantasy worlds are based (somewhat) on Tolkien's world. Keyes' combination of a colonial America with fantasy elements makes this series very interesting. Those looking for some unique fantasy books, give this series a gander.

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Award Nominations:2007 HUGO
Book one started really strong  I recommend you read it for one of the more interesting takes on dragons in fantasy. It's a fast-paced, exciting military fantasy in an alternate Napoleonic war period where talking dragons are used in place of ships. The first 3 books are quite strong and definitely worth reading I'd even say they belong on the Great Fantasy Books list) but then, sadly, the series crumbles to pieces.

Books in Temeraire Series (10)

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Rich and complex high fantasy, set in an alternate Venice. Somewhat slow, especially at the beginning, but a nice long read for that rainy day. Book gets very good if you stick with it. I'm generally not a fan of Lackey's books (I feel they are clich and not very well written). Of all her fantasy books, this one is, I feel, is her best.

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Great read, though inferior to her latest saga: Sword of Shadows. A merge between epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, and sword & sorcery. An obscure baker's apprentice finds he has the extremely rare gift of sorcery. Sounds like your standard "epic fantasy clone" but Jones draws her characters more clearly than most sword & sorcery novels and the story, at its core, sucks in your interest. The books are well paced with a heavy impetus of action. An addictive series that's very much worth the read -- just as long as you know you are getting the standard fantasy epic.

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This saga is a nice change from standard fantasy. It's set in a Mediterranean milieu -- rich, complex, and full of exotic mystery. Overall, a great read. British author McKenna, already known for her Tales of Einarinn series, is bound to earn plenty of new fans with her U.S. hardcover debut. Although the folk of the vast Aldabreshin Archipelago live by portents and auguries, they fear magic, to the point of executing those felt to be tainted by it. After brutal magical attacks from the south push the Archipelago's citizens to near panic, fair-minded warlord Daish Kheda strives to forge an alliance with his fellow warlords, but petty squabbles stand in the way. When another warlord attempts to murder Kheda and his family in their sleep, Kheda disappears, letting his enemies as well as allies assume he's dead. An original and intriguing setting, impressive world-building and compelling writing set McKenna's work apart from a field thick with far less ambitious fantasy works. Fans of Rosemary Kirstein and Robin Hobb will enjoy this book.

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Award Nominations:2004 LocusF, 2004 WFA
Set in the Age of Industry in a bleak and gritty England, the wealth that comes from magic is both revered and reviled. Here, an ambitious young man is haunted by his childhood love--a woman determined to be a part of the world he despises. This is steampunk fantasy where technology and magic are woven together. I found this was a fascinating novel about a humble man's quest to change the world. The world is an alternate gritty London during the industrial revolution (but with magic instead of electricity). Those who like books in the vein of Neil Gaiman and China Mieville will be entertained by this novel.

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Epic in the tradition of Robert Jordan. The characters are well drawn, at the cost of the story's pacing. You will either love West or hate her style. If you are the type of person who likes characterization over fast pacing, you will probably like West's epic saga. Her books are unique and worth reading (if you can stomach her ponderous writing style).

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Outstanding characterization. Resnick really knows how to write realistic characters. Most of the characters are painted in shades of grey. Her plot is enticing, and after the first few chapters, moves along with the speed and intensity of a freight train. I would hesitate to call this romance fantasy, although it does contain trace elements of the epic clich. This series is unique enough to stand apart from the epic fantasy clone crowd and the characterization is some of the best you will find in fantasy literature. If you are in the mood for an action-packed thrill ride, full of deep characterization, you can't go wrong with this trilogy.

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Not a bad tale that's entertaining enough, especially if you like the whole 'super-talented protagonist goes to magic school and becomes important to the world' thats found in the likes of the Harry Potter books, the Wizard of Earthsea, the Name of the Wind, The Magicians, and so on.The books actually get pretty dark later in in the series. There are better series out there, but if you are looking for something to read and this series is within reach, it's definitely worth the time. Lots of romantic angst in this one, so if you want that sort of thing, the series delivers there. You'll especially like this if you want to read about a headstrong female protagonist.

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Benjamin does something unique: he creates an epic fantasy based in an Asian (Chinese mythological) setting. Very good series -- sort of like a Robert Jordan (not as big though!) type of story in ancient China. It's a trilogy.

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One for the kiddos but pretty entertaining all around. This series has been around for ages and many of us have grown up reading these books as kids. Some of the books are better than others.

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A classic among dragon-loving fantasy fans. I don't feel the stories or characters are particularly memorable, especially with a raft of better dragon fantasy fiction out there, but still worth reading.

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An interesting premise to this story though the execution is flawed. The style and setting is pretty reminiscent of Peake and Mievilles works with the bizarre settings and cast of weird characters; however, Campell lacks the wordsmithing abilities of those two authors. The story itself is quite interesting; worth a read if you want a dark mysterious tale set in a strange landscape.

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A pretty decent urban fantasy read. You'll find a lot to like about it; I don't feel its close to the best the genre has to offer, but for a good read -- you won't regret it.

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Female-centric epic fantasy that borrows quite freely from Tolkien. It's not a bad read at all, though it's not that good of one either, mainly due to the flat characters and the predictable plot. But I'll say it's worth reading if you are looking for some epic fantasy fodder with a female lead.

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The original tale thats given us the vampire crazy thats never entirely gone away. While I think there are version of the tale now, written by better writers, the original tale still stands tall as a testament to the imaginative power of Stoker. One of the more influential works in the fantasy genre.

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Cornelea Funk has written some outstanding stuff. Her Inkheart trilogy is an imaginative work that's quite fun to read. Nothing complex, but it's entertaining.

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This series has hit a cultural never and is uber popular. I don't think much of them though in terms of being of any sort of quality. There is nothing bad about the books per say  they are YA fiction  but there is nothing outstanding about them either, nothing that sets them apart from the pack other than the serialization of the ancient Greek Myths tossed into modern times with a bunch of outcast magically gifted youngsters who don't it in normal society going to a magic school of sorts.

Entertaining, yes maybe. But nothing special. You may disagree of course.

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Despite Goodkind's ever increasing descent into the lowest tiers of quality, his first book is pretty good in a simple sort of way -- if you can live with the author's almost juvenile writing skills. 

Regrettably, Goodkind has a disturbing fascination with rape and the torture of women--which he practically shoves down your throat every few pages; though to be fair, it's within the context of the greater story in the first book. Not recommended for the kiddies! His first couple books are probably worth reading; after that, you will have more fun mowing the lawn.

I would actually classify Goodkind's first (and best) book as mediocre, not necessary good, especially in the light of all the outstanding fantasy that's been written the past decade. 

Note: I've added his entire series, The Sword of Truth, to the worst fantasy books list. Despite the fact that the later books are pure drivel, the first book has some decent worldbuilding and shows a glimpse of potential. That potential is soon lost in the next few books, however. And since his first book, Richard Rhaul, I mean Terry Goodkind, has never grown as a writer. Shame.

As of 2014, Wizard's First Rule does NOT stand the test of time very well. Expect a simple writing, basic plot, terrible characterization, and a strident message the whole way through. The first book is a decent, if uncomplicated read, but I don't recommend continuing on with any of the other books -- they get worse and worse.

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An interesting concept. A dark gritty hidden part of London that functions as a sort of universal septic tank -- home to gods, demons, angles, humans, misfits and every sort of creature every imagined in the present, past, and future. Throw into this strange reality a down and out detective with a knack for finding things opening shop and you have probably the strangest detective novels in existence.But great reads dark, action packed, and with a lot of zing. Its not as sophisticated as some of the other detective urban fantasy though it partially makes up for that with the interesting world building.

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One of the more interesting series. The author takes the classic young prodigy destined to change the world conceit and plays around with it in some new ways. For one, he makes the world a pretty dark and brutal place with the early parts of the story detailing the hell on earth that is the protagonist's life. The characters are interesting as are some of the relationships. Some good potential with this series. One of the more interesting pseudo alternate history fantasy books. Definitely worth reading if you like your fantasy dark and you enjoy reading about the boy with a destiny type of fantasy, but one that's been remade into something new.

Books in The Left Hand Of... Series (3)

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This series has evolved as one of the more entertaining and complex epic fantasy series out there. Theres a cast of eclectic characters, politics, magic, and war and an epic world ending plot to tie it all together. Mad god kings, evil sorcerers, miniature warriors, humans, and sentient animals battle for control of a powerful artifact that in the wrong hands marks the destruction of the world. The setting a giant and mysterious ship where the conflict takes place makes for a unique setting. All in all, a fantastic and fascinating world that you just want to get swept up in.

Edit: Until you get to some of the later books in the series, then things just all apart. When I first started the series I thought I found a new, novel voice in fantasy. But things kept on getting worse and worse with each new book released. I actually gave up by book five on it. Along with Peter V. Brett, one of the best debuts and one of the most disappointing set of sequels.

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George R.R. Martin, take heed, you have a new challenger for the throne of kingdoms! David Anthony Durham. The new kid on the fantasy block has some new moves that may even impress the old timers. Durham, a well known historical fiction author, brings his writing prowess to the fantasy genre. And what an effort it is! Acacia has all the elements that make A Song of Ice and Fire so compelling. Unpredictability? Check. Mysterious magic? Check. Fantastic world building and myth? Check. Political maneuvering? Check. Massive Battles. Check. Great characterization. Check. Fantastic writing? Check. A plot that grips and won't let go? Check. Should you read it? Double Check.

The series is not completed and the ending was a bit of a disappointed. Overall, the author writes the characters in such a way that it is hard to get emotionally involved with them.  I found them somewhat flat. The world building and the plot are pretty grand though. The series has some similarities to Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, though it's less epic and the characters are far less complex. A better fantasy than many epics out there and the series will appeal to those who like grand battles, exotic landscapes, and powerful heroes. And yet, my major complaint was that something was missing from the characters -- they did not resonate with me for some reason, especially near the end of the series. The start was better than the finish. It all felt flat to me by the end. You may appreciate this series much more than I, but I felt cheated by the end. Fantastic start, disappointing ending. Good but could have been great.

Books in Acacia Series (3)

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A very interesting epic fantasy tale, sort of a cross between A Song of Ice and Fire and Lions of Al-rassan. The series proves to come off the rails a bit after a few books the world building is interesting, the concepts are grand and expansive, but the characters fall very flat. There was potential here, but things didnt take off the way I thought they would early on in the series. Worth reading, but doesnt rise to the potential it could have been.

Keyes stunned the fantasy community with his phenomenal new high fantasy novel, The Briar King, a few years ago. This guy is a master of the English language. His writing is both witty and beautiful; sort of an Oscar Wild meets J.R.R. Tolkien synergy. His plot is thick, rich with interesting characters (and the dialogue is top notch and at times, hilarious), and the world fairly gritty, though less so than George R. Martin's. Keyes takes old fantasy cliches and creates something new. I can't recommend this fantasy series enough. Keyes continues his excellent standard throughout the series.

Books in Psalms of Isaak Series (5)

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An interesting tale with some good mythology woven in, but I found it hard to get into. Some compare it to A Song of Ice and Fire (are not all books linked to that work now?), but I would say it's not so fitting a description. The whole tale is very much medieval and you do feel like you are in this fantasy version of the middle ages, but the characters don't really stand out and the plot was a bit muddled. Still a good read and I hazard a guess that some people love it. I found it good, but not great.

Books in The Faithful and... Series (1)

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The Iron Druid Chronicles is one of those series you either really like or you are completely ambivalent about. I fall into the later category; for the most part, Hearne pretty much takes the whole Dresden formula and changes the character names and backgrounds. Yes, as the series progresses, it does get much better and Hearne comes into his own, but I feel Butcher's Dresden books are better in every regard. However, if you love The Dresden Files and you want something VERY similar, The Iron Druid Chronicles are about as close as you are going to get.

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A gritty fantasy that tries to break some of the standard rules and succeeds to a point. There's some good world building in this one and the setting itself is interesting -- a harsh, ice-filled milieu that's desolate and harsh. You usually don't see this sort of environment in fantasy.The author puts quite a few view points in the novel -- 13 when I counted. Personally, I don't like jumping back and forth between so many characters and it distracts from the story.Overall, a pretty good grimdark fantasy tale that holds true to the expected conversions. If you like grimdark, you'll enjoy this one.

Books in Seven Forges Series (2)

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The author has quite a pedigree, having won two previous HUGO awards. Her new fantasy saga has generally been highly regarded as one of the best epic fantasy releases in 2014; however views are a bit mixed regarding her work with quite a few people who felt the book had problems.I found the book a very good read --  an excellent read even, if you can overlook some of the flaws. Perhaps with the sequel book, the series will be recommended as one of the better epic fantasies with the likes of The Shadow Campaign and The Chronicles of the Skewed Throne, but for now, I feel there's not enough here to put on on the same level with those other series.The magic system is interesting, fresh even, and the geography, peoples, cultures, landscapes are all well done and interesting -- you really do want to find out more about this strange and mysterious world. There's a shit load of blood and violence as well and the body count is very high -- the main characters are savage about killing people, lots and lots of people.The characterization is so so -- the major weak part of the novel I feel. The characters do not evolve or change and you feel little empathy for them. We'll see how things pan out with the next book in the series.You'll like this book if you like reading about the brutality of war. If you don't, you won't!

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A series that's been round for a while now. It's good enough to read if you are clamoring for some fantasy with a lot of politics and scheming and slowly building conspiracies. It's a slower paced series and it can take you a few books to get the big picture. Frankly, I found myself bored after a few books in. If you want a more modern idea of fantasy with lots of action and suspense blending in with political drama (i.e. a Sanderson novel say), you won't find that here.There's too much attention given to the whole political angle in the five books -- so much that the story is often stalled. However, this series is a decent read and if you want a slower paced political fantasy with good world building and conspiracies, pick it up.

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