Summer returns! Days are long, evenings pleasant, The Outside a riot of green and sunshine that may tempt even the most reclusive bookworm out into it. And what better way to spend those extra hours of sunlight but reading awesome fantasy? (Reading on the porch totally counts as outside time. And if well-meaning relatives absolutely insist you move around, it’s always possible to level up your skill-level to the point of reading whilst on your walk. Just don’t read in the street. Please.)
Just to get you started, here’s a list; seven of my favorite fantasy books. I can’t pick a single favorite book to save my life, can’t even lay out a definitive list of favorites, but – seven of my favorites.
1. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld seems a good starting point. This book was my first blogged review, over a year ago! Not a beginner’s intro to fantasy, mind. The Forgotten Beasts starts off with a genealogy of sorts and doesn’t pick up pace for quite some pages further. However, sweet, solid prose and a strong magical setting provide the backdrop for Sybel’s growth and Coren’s love, for a dreamy atmosphere and hinted-metaphors.
2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. A middle-grade marketing doesn’t stop this from being a delightful book-length fairy tale – one of the best kinds of fantasy. There’s a kindly witch and a swamp monster and a Tiny Dragon; a Council of Elders and a tall stone tower and a little girl filled to the brim with magic; courage and cowardice and cruelty. The action can get a little vicious, as is often the case with older fairy tales, but there’s nothing too graphic. I found a number of surprisingly good insights about human character hiding in it, but there’s really very little preaching.
3. The Blue Sword. Robin McKinley’s writing is oh so hard to sum up in a handful of sentences, but I can try. Here’s one more coming-of-age story, set in a mountainous country peopled by near-nomads, a story driven by unpredictable magic and the age-old conflict of good and evil. The main character finds home in the last place she’d have looked, love where she’d never expected it (and I mean love, not YA passion), and steps up to the fight with almost no hope of winning. And always behind the scenes, moving things where it will without regard for human plans or feelings, the wild hill magic.
4. Cinder. Sci-fi futuristic fantasy! Cyborg Cinderella battles her step-mother, meets the prince, discovers her true heritage, and throws herself into saving the world (wait, what?) in fine Disney fashion. No, I’m just kidding, this isn’t Disney. There’s no helpful birds and worse, no helpful fairy godmother. This time, Cinderella can manage her own work just fine, and if she’s making it to the ball she’ll have to do it on her own. And, oh yeah, instead of sitting around waiting for the prince to find her again she’s going to be kind of busy saving the world.
5. Nice Dragons Finish Last. Let’s run with the futuristic theme. Here’s a post-apocalyptic urban-fantasy with sweet-but-spunky dragon Julius, Bob the Seer and his pigeon, and Marci, the college student with a degree in magic. Fairly fluffy? Yes. Detailed world building and a delightful cast of strong draconic personalities? Yes. Character development, magical explosions, and a suspicious cat? Yes, yes, and yes. Have fun.
6. Wolf by Wolf. And now, Back to the Past! Wolf by Wolf is speculative historical fantasy. Living in a world where Hitler won (and is winning), a Jewish skin-shifting girl sets out to take revenge for her family and past, and save the rest of the civilized world along the way. Yael has been training for years for this chance. She’s going to join a hugely-popular motorcycle race across the continent, impersonating a former racer, win the race, go to the Victor’s Ball, and shoot Hitler. Assuming that she can hide her real identity from the former racer’s brother, battle her own demons back to the ground, and survive the vicious, grueling race.
7. The Final Empire. Whelp, I saved the longest for last – hope you’re not worn out with all that awesome reading. The Final Empire is, in a way, classic Epic Fantasy at its best: spanning not only character after character after character, but the fate of a country and the length of millennium, the destiny of the world hangs on a band of thieves and rogues who plan to bring down the emperor. And in another way, it breaks from classic fantasy into a whole new world. The Chosen One failed. Heroes will die. The obvious choice is not always the right one. And the world? Looks like they’re making it worse.
So there you go! Seven summer reads, all sorts of fantasy sub-genres, and an alarming amount of coming-of-age. I hope you enjoy.