Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fantasy Books That Aren't LOTR Rip-offs

  • His Majesty's Dragon (and sequels) by Naomi Novik. If the Napoleonic wars were fought with dragons for battleships...

  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. The end of the world is coming. But Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) have both become a bit attached to, like, their lives and all. Plus there's this little problem: the Antichrist--also known as Adam--has no idea he's evil incarnate, and is actually quite an ordinary nice young man. Round out the cast of characters with witch hunters, Satanic nuns, and the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse and you've got an indescribably hilarious book.

  • Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. To keep life balanced between chaos and law, the gods sometimes have to do very bad things. So does Elric.

  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. A fantasy unlike any other. No quest. No wizard. Just an endless castle, mired in ritual, populated by madness and stalked by raw ambitious evil.

  • The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans. On the run through a boggy marsh, a bad scout meets an equally bad wizard who, trying to help, gives him an enchanted sword that turns out to be a killer. This is the first novel in the Ethshar series - they're set in the same universe, but you can read them in any order.

  • The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. Arthurian characters and British legends intertwine with more contemporary characters in a classic clash between the Light and the Dark.

  • Corbenic by Catherine Fisher. This sets up as the standard fantasy - guy gets on train, gets off at wrong stop, nothing is as it seems, clearly he's in some fantasy world. But then, when Cal is asked to do a great deed instead of falling for it, he refuses. And gets back to the station, back on the train and back to his conventional life. Except what he saw and almost did has changed him. The question - wrapped around some Grail Myth and the Fisher King legend - is what would you do if you were asked to do something outside the realm of reality? And what would happen if you said "No." Awesome book from start to finish - simply awesome.

  • Swords & Deviltry/Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber. When you're done with Conan and before you hit Elric, this is the sword and sorcery series you need to read. Barbarian Fafhrd and thief the Gray Mouser are the Hope and Crosby of the fantasy set, their adventures as amusing as they are action-packed and bloody. In the relationship between these two unlikely partners, sword and sorcery was imbued with its first undercurrent of real humanity.

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