For some reason, it seems that people enjoy lists that rank order things, whether they be movies, television series, books, or characters. So, of course, why not make a list of my own. The following is a list of my Top 5 fantasy books I consider to be must-reads. Please keep in mind, these are my opinions only, and I have the feeling anyone invested in the fantasy genre might have some objections to some of my picks. If so, please provide comments below. I would love to read agreements and disagreements alike.
Number Five – The Magicians
I have a feeling this is going to be a controversial pick. First, please keep in mind I am picking the book, not the television series produced by SyFy. Many will criticize this book, and rightfully so, as derivative of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, but for some reason the story and characters resonated with me. I also believe one can embrace the derivative nature of the book as it appears its author, Lev Grossman, quite purposefully blended elements from Lewis and Rowlings’ worlds. He also transforms many of those ideas for an older and more mature audience. The book has all the fantastical and magical elements one would expect in a fantasy novel, but there is also an element of young-adulthood angst while still clinging to childhood dreams. A unique magic system mixed with a fantasy world within a fantasy world. I highly recommend the book and the trilogy as a whole.
Number Four – Mistborn (The Final Empire)
There may be some recency bias here, as I just recently finished reading this trilogy, but that does not change the fact that it was superb. Brandon Sanderson does a fantastic job at world building and creating a unique and interesting magic system. The book is packed with action, thrills, and even throws some romance in for good measure. The story follows Vin, a teenage girl who grew up in underground thieving crews scrounging to survive within an oppressive empire. She meets the capable and dashing, Kelsier, who introduces her to powers she never knew she had and an inconceivable plan to overthrow The Final Empire. Not only does Vin have to learn to harness her powers, she also has to learn how to trust and love. The book and trilogy are both fantastic, and if you end up reading the entire trilogy, I bet the ultimate ending will shock you.
Number Three – The Eye of the World
The Eye of the World is the first book in the epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. The following quote is the beginning of Chapter 1 and sets the stage for the marvelous world that unfolds: “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.” An old evil is rising, and it is coming for the ones who may threaten that rise to power, a group of protagonists in the small village of Edmond’s Field, each of whom has to find his/her place in a vast world of which they know little outside their village. Robert Jordan weaves a brilliant tapestry of characters, magic, politics, romance, lore, myth, and legends. If you read the first book, you will feel compelled to read all fourteen.
Number Two – Wizard’s First Rule
I can already hear the screams of fury from many for even putting this book on my list, and I am sure some are just besides themselves for this book being at number two ahead of The Eye of the World. However, I cannot help that I love this book and the entire series. Wizard’s First Rule is the first book in Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series. The book is a fun-filled adventure of magic, wizards, monsters, sorceresses, witches, and romance. I am a sucker for romance, even if cheesy, and it is the romance at the heart of this novel and series that puts it toward the top of this list. The main character, Richard Cypher, a woods guide, encounters a mysterious and enchanting woman, Kahlan, from beyond a magical boundary, who introduces him to a deadly threat to the entire world. Richard is thrust into a world of magic and adventure he never knew existed and faces a forbidden love more terrible than the cruelest torture. I know many accuse Terry Goodkind of stealing ideas from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, but I happened to read The Sword of Truth series before The Wheel of Time, so I will admit my bias.
Number One – The Lord of the Rings
What else could be at the number one spot, except for the book that started it all. J.R.R. Tolkien created the most expansive and detailed fantasy world there is, with its own genesis, history, cultures, races, and languages. Reading the Appendices alone is an experience in itself. The Lord of the Rings takes place in the Third Age of Middle Earth after The Dark Lord Sauron created the Rings of Power giving them to the three great races of Middle Earth, humans, elves, and dwarves. But The Dark Lord also created One Ring to rule them all. After being thought defeated in the Second Age, Sauron has returned looking for the One Ring to bring all of Middle Earth under his control. However, an unlikely hobbit obtains possession of the One Ring, and he must team up with humans, elves, and dwarves to keep the ring from Sauron and hopefully destroy it before it is too late. The Lord of the Rings is a work of pure genius, and it is the main pillar of the fantasy genre as a whole.