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Book Recommendations for a Relative Genre Noob

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by fuqua, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. fuqua

    fuqua Acolyte

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    Hey guys.

    I'm not new to writing, but new to fantasy writing. The problem is I haven't really read a lot of fantasy lately. The bulk (okay, only) fantasy reading I've done in the last few years have been the Ice and Fire books by George RR Martin. I'm trying to remedy my lack of exposure by reading more, but there are a LOT of choices out there. I've picked up some indies (books in Kindle Unlimited, since I have a subscription) but honestly they haven't been very good.

    Any old standbys of GREAT fantasy writing you guys can recommend (preferably indie books in KU)? Like I said, I'm not a noob when it comes to writing, but I'm trying to immerse myself in fantasy tropes before I get cracking on my own tale.

    TIA guys.
     
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Hi fuqua!

    Welcome!

    A good place to start is to just google "Best fantasy novels ever written". There are many lists out there, and they cover a wide range of types of fantasy. Obviously The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is top. Harry Potter is on the list usually. Other names you might see are Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie… there is a very wide range of what constitutes 'fantasy'.

    Some writers here are big into High Fantasy, Lord of the Rings style.

    There are others who are into Urban fantasy, or low fantasy, or sword and sorcery, or epic… the list is crazy.

    What sort of story is your WIP and I might point you in a direction.
     
  3. fuqua

    fuqua Acolyte

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    Thanks for the recs. I hate to say this because it might get me virtually lynched, but I've tried reading the Lord of the Rings books multiple times and just couldn't get through them. The language is too thick and the whole thing is too dense for me. It might not have helped that I saw the movies first. I usually avoid YA like Harry Potter.

    I guess you'd call my WIP sci-fi/fantasy. It takes place in a future where society has returned to its medieval roots, and it's going to play very heavily on the fantasy elements. Kingdoms, fiefdoms, and magic have returned, that sort of thing. I'm hoping to absorb fantasy dialogue and vocabulary, all that good stuff.

    The books won't be very traditional, and I do plan on breaking rules of the genre, but as they say, you can't break the rules until you know what they are.
     
  4. teacup

    teacup Auror

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    You're not alone, I disliked The Hobbit and couldn't stand Fellowship Of The Ring and gave up halfway through :p

    My favourite fantasy books:

    The Worldbreaker Saga - Kameron Hurley (book 3 isn't out yet and won't be until 2017 I think, but I loved book 1 and 2.)

    Anything by Joe Abercrombie I recommend - The First Law series is adult but Shattered Sea is YA. I didn't notice anything about them being YA which made them any worse - they just weren't as explicitely gory or sexual, had teens as the main characters, and didn't use swear words as much. I'd still recommend them even if you're not looking for YA, but since you don't want YA you may as well go for The First Law if you want to read Abercrombie I guess. (Not read book 3 of Shattered Sea yet but it should be good.)
    I didn't think book 1 in The First Law was too great, but I absolutely loved it all book 2 onwards. It's well worth reading overall, so I do recommend it despite book 1 not being as good.
     
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
    Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman
    Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
    Mort by Terry Pratchett
    Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
    The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
    A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin
    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
    The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

    I think these should all be fairly easy for a genre newbie to read, but are also all masterpieces of fantasy. Some are standalone (Neverending Story, Stardust, The Last Unicorn) and some are the beginning of series (Emperor's Edge, Nine Princes in Amber) which you can continue reading if you like them, and some are books that can stand alone but are also part of a body of related books (the Pratchett books, Dying Earth, Earthsea). The Dying Earth is also set in a far future where society has regressed and the language can be a bit on the archaic side to show the regression, but I recommend it based on your WIP. The Pratchett books are part of the Discworld series which is 30+ books that are all set in the Discworld but are all stand alone stories. I recommended a few because they can be very different based on which group of characters they follow (Guards is about the struggles of the night watch in the big city, Lords and Ladies is about country witches fighting Elves, and Mort is about DEATH taking an apprentice) so even though they're related it's worth trying them all.
     
  6. fuqua

    fuqua Acolyte

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    Adding The First Law now, thanks. Yeah, I can't write YA. People always end up cussing and dying in gory ways.
     
  7. fuqua

    fuqua Acolyte

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    Thanks for these! Looks like I'll have to add The Dying Earth, if just to make sure I don't do anything too similar.
     
  8. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    I don't know--Vance language is significantly 'thicker' than Tolkien's, so you might not like it for that reason. Dying Earth is one of my favs. For myself, I place Lord of the Rings on the lighter side, language-wise--pretty standard, I'd say. Maybe it's just because I grew up with it.
     
  9. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I did mention that Vance uses archaic language as part of his style for those books, but I would say that in general his prose is much more straightforward than Tolkien's. Less descriptive and flowery.
     
  10. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Wow. Maybe I've lost perspective on Tolkien's writing because its so familiar to me. Description and straight-forwardness might be neck-and-neck, but I'd say Vance is far more 'flowery' than Tolkien. He uses way more vocabulary words. Maybe a little less so in the original 'Dying Earth' book, but the other three... Have you read 'Eyes of the Overworld' yet? Probably one the most flowery books I've ever read.
     
  11. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Well, "The Dying Earth" is the name of the first book of stories and I was specifically recommending that one, not referring to the "Dying Earth series" as a whole. That may not have been clear.
     
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Sorry, fuqua, for the side-discussion. In general, my recommendation is to jump in with both feet. Read old and new, popular and strange, good and bad. I think it's a very good idea to start off on a nice reading binge.

    @Mytho--I think I have a wierd sort of reading bias, especially when it comes to Tolkien. LoTR was the first book I ever picked up and read on my own. I was twelve years old and it was 1979 (needless to say, it blew my mind). For good or ill, it has become the base-line standard by which I compare pretty much all writing to. It didn't happen by choice, it just sort of... worked out that way. I can't exactly undo it. That experience has a lot to do with why I am like I am.
     
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    That does explain a lot. I'm not sure what I think of as "base-line" prose. Maybe Isaac Asimov?
     
  14. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    My opinion is that women gravitate slightly toward female authors.

    Not always, just slightly.

    I tried several times to read the Worldbreaker Saga, finally tossed it out of my kindle as unreadable.

    I find Tolkien to be ordinary prose. Not sure what's flowery about it.

    I'm trying to read the Wheel of Time, but it starts with amateur mistakes. I'm not far in, but I feel like it's copying the Silmarillian style.

    Most of what I read lately is not up to the standards the members of this site work hard to adhere to.

    Showing not telling, repetitive paragraphs, sentences in need of condensing, clichés, etc, etc.

    Apparently there are no rules for the traditionally published. It's like the wild west.
     
  15. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    A fantastic choice. I LOVE Asimov. Hands down my favorite sci-fi writer. Crystal clear. The thoughts flow effortlessly, deceptively so. He makes it look so easy.
     
  16. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    Yeah. Lots of amateur prose in fantasy, unfortunately. That's what makes the rare, special books so extra-special.

    It's why I can't read stuff like Paolini, Salvatore, Weis/Hickman. Nowhere near up to snuff. WoT just gets worse and worse, though I don't see anything of The Silmarillion in it.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I liked the Worldbreaker books.

    Others that I like include Peake (of course), Steven Erikson, Gene Wolfe, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, CJ Cherryh, Joe Abercrombie, Guy Gavriel Kay, Glen Cook, Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Samuel R. Delaney, and Ellen Kushner.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  18. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    OH my gosh I started a Salvatore... The Dragon King? So bad! So unbelievably bad!
     
  19. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    Has anyone said Neil Gaiman yet? Because he's my number two, after Tolkien.
    (Two great examples of totally different types of fantasy).

    And did I read someone say they stay away from YA like Harry Potter? For real, dude? I mean, I can understand YA like Twilight, but Harry Potter?

    It's a fantastic series for so many reasons, but if I was going to point out just one, it would be that it begins as a lighter, more-for-children type of series, and progressively matures along with the characters. Very serious stuff by the end.

    And anyway, why discount a book only because it was intended for a younger audience? C.S. Lewis said something along the lines of (paraphrase) "I wanted to write a book for you to enjoy as a child, but you grew up too fast. Maybe someday you'll be old enough to really enjoy it." I can't recall exactly what it was, but it's the dedication for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe if you want to look it up.

    I mean, let's face it: fantasy as a genre is often stereotyped as a children's genre. You can act like you're too mature for it all you want, but it's important to realize that this may be the case because some of the best examples ever written were meant for younger people.

    ...

    I also really like A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. I haven't read the rest of the series, but I'll stand by that first one. It really took my idea of a typical fantasy novel and turned it on its head, while somehow maintaining all the best tropes I've come to love and expect from my fantasy stories. Also (supposed to be) YA though, so heads up.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  20. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Glen Cook's "Black Company" series. Fast pace, Clear writing, simple but understandable characters, all in all it is a very nice series to read. The series is not pretentious and is very entertaining.
     
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