Fantasy 101

Fantasy 101

Nick Dianatkhah, PhD in Being Attractive.
Steve Diamond, PhD in Being Awesome.

Office hours:
By appointment only.

Course Info:
What you can expect from this course is a selection of recommendations from your instructors to give you a doorway into the fantasy genre.

In a departure from our normal structure,to answer the request of a number of our readers for some more entry level recommendations, we decided to give a crash-course in the Fantasy genre. After all there is definitely not a shortage of entries, both good and bad, to be read. For someone just looking to broaden their horizons and breach the unknown of the Fantasy genre it can be daunting to say the least. We are here to offer one or two, of many, paths into the fantasy genre and your future enjoyment of some of the best fiction available. Your instructors will each choose three books that they recommend for beginner-level fantasy readers. These books will be door openers, if you choose to continue, to the more advanced books and authors that we have been reviewing up til now.

Steve’s Picks:

The Sword of Shannara
You know what this book is? It is Lord of the Rings, the simpler version. I’m not kidding. This book is your classic example of the “epic quest to thwart the evil lord” storyline. The best thing about this novel (and all of the novels in this list) is the accessibility of it. Anyone can read it. THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (Amazon) is a gateway-novel suitable for anyone 12 and up (or even younger if your kid is a really advanced reader…like I was). There is no questionable content here, and hints of the themes that make our advanced readings so enjoyable. Also, if you really dig this novel, you have 19 sequels you can read (the first, immediate sequel is my favorite book that Brooks has written).

Pawn of Prophecy
I wasn’t sure if I should choose this novel, or REDEMPTION OF ALTHALUS. However, PAWN OF PROPHECY (Amazon) is the beginning of a series, and that is the theme I am going for. Series, in my opinion, tend to give readers a feeling of excitement, and David Eddings does just that with his novels. Nick and I have discussed how Eddings manages to take one characteristic and make it the defining characteristic of a given person. Often times you know who is speaking without even looking at the dialogue tags. This is one of the essential building-blocks of great fantasy. I just recommended this series to my 15 year-old cousin, and he loved them. No questionable content. Great for all readers 12 and up. Oh yeah, and Eddings wrote over 20 novels… they should keep you busy.

Magician: Apprentice
I am cheating, in a sense, here. Raymond E. Feist wrote a novel titled MAGICIAN, a classic coming-of-age story about a boy who goes from a “nothing” to the greatest magician in history (well, the history of this created world anyway). The book was later split into two novels, MAGICIAN: APPRENTICE (Amazon) and MAGICIAN: MASTER (Amazon). Honestly, you should pick them both up to start out with. Feist has been writing for a VERY long time, and puts out a novel a year. This series is broken up into pieces, and will keep you entertained for ages. I think this series is at 30+ novels now.

Nick’s Picks:

The Redemption of Althalus
David Eddings is a great way to enter the fantasy genre. He has strong, albeit simple, characters that are entertaining to read about. I vacillated back and forth on this choice, but ultimately included it, a fantasy stand-alone, because it really took his experience with two sextets and two trilogies and boiled it all down to a single volume. THE REDEMPTION OF ALTHALUS (Amazon) is entertaining, light, easy to read, and gives plenty of introduction to a lot of the characteristics of fantasy. It’s not the most amazing book you will ever pick up, but in a genre bloated with multi-volume series it is refreshing to have a story contained in a single volume, that stretches multiple nations, plot lines, and dozens of characters (which is the draw of the larger series).

The Hobbit
I’m not the biggest Tolkien fan, I admit that right from the start. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider myself a fan of his writing. I am a fan, however, of what he did for the genre. So I am including THE HOBBIT (Amazon) here as my number two pick for a couple reasons. It a stand-alone, which in my opinion is important for newcomers to the genre. It is easy to read, lacking most of what makes The Lord of the Rings so ridiculously unbearable, but including what makes it fun. Grandpa Tolkien set an example that fantasy authors, years later, evolved from and imitated. Even though he isn’t my favorite, by any means, he deserves to be included in a beginner’s fantasy reading list.

Dragon Wing
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have established themselves as a staple of fantasy, for better or worse. There has been a lot of criticism levied towards them about their writing, but the fact remains they are hugely successful and know what fantasy is, at it’s core. The series this book begins (THE DEATHGATE CYCLE) shows the depth of world-building, and the exotic, foreign qualities that can only be shown by the fantasy genre. My only qualm about including this book is that it is the beginning of a seven book series, not quite as easily accessed for newcomers. Despite that, DRAGON WING (Amazon) obviously made it here because it is that outstanding of a depiction of what to expect.

Parent page: Elitist University


  • Pseudonymous says:

    What I have found interesting about Eddings is that his story lines are nearly identical across all his series. For example, the Belgariad and the Mallorean are essentially the same story arc, just with different characters. Even the Sparhawk trilogy follows a similar story line.

    It was the characters that made the stories, which is how I was able to get through all the Sparhawk novels while essentially reading the Belgariad.

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