JRR Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin
Like so many writers, my love affair with ‘adult’ fantasy began when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But I had been reading plenty of fantasy before then. Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy made a huge impression on me. Other authors I discovered at that time included Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, C S Lewis and Ann Spencer Parry.
Alas, this guy takes years to produce books, but every one is worth the wait. His books range from magic-laced fantasy to a kind of alternate-history with a little magic in them – but all are simply magic to read.
I’m a little behind on this writer’s work, having only read The Farseer Trilogy and The Liveship Traders Trilogy , but those three books set her high up in my list of top ten writers. Wonderful characters, strong writing and a gripping stories.
“Neil’s Sandman graphic novels are a long way from the ‘comic’ books I read as a child! The art is expressive, the stories dark and moving. Some are quite violent, and not recommended for the squeamish. But if you don’t mind a little gore, try them. They’re brilliant. Unfortunately, graphic novels are much more expensive than ordinary novels.”
Well, since I wrote the above Neil has produced many great books and stories, some that have been made into tv series and films. As I heard a fan once say: people have either heard of Neil Gaiman or they haven’t, but generally if they have they’re fans. So if you haven’t heard of him, give his work a try. And if you have, I probably don’t need to explain what I like about it!
I’ve found this writer’s style varies, and while I love some of her books I didn’t like others. Fortunately, she’s so prolific there’s plenty to choose from on the absolutely brilliant end of the scale. Here are some of my favourites:
Death’s Master, Delerium’s Mistress, Delusion’s Master, Night’s Master, Night’s Sorceries
The Black Unicorn, The Gold Unicorn, The Red Unicorn
Lycanthia, Sabella, Companions on the Road, East of Midnight, Kill the Dead, Volkhavaar, Prince on a White Horse, The Silver Metal Lover
I suspect most of these books are out of print, but you may find them in libraries or second-hand bookstores. Whenever I enter a second hand bookshop I head straight for the l’s in the sf/fantasy section.
I read the Time Master Trilogy many years ago, and it was one of those series that stayed with me and became a source of inspiration. Later I found the sequel trilogy, the Chaos Gate and then the prequel series, the Star Shadow trilogy. Grand, epic stories of the clashes between the gods of Order and Chaos.
So far I’ve only read the four book trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and I loved it. The writing is denser than the average fantasy, but I found it thoroughly satisfying. I have the Otherworld series in my Must Read pile.
As you can see from the list above, it’s been a while since I discovered an author who wowed me enough to get a place on my top ten list, though a few have come close. When I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I became utterly captivated by the richness of the world and the utterly compelling characters. The Broken Kingdoms does not suffer from middle book syndrome – if anything it is better, and The Kingdom of Gods was a completely satisfying finale. The Killing Moon, the first book of The Dreamblood is also a fabulous read.
My tastes in books aren’t always weighty or grand fantasy. I really enjoy shorter, lighter reads as well. But they have to be good quality. Gail effortlessly combines steampunk, romance and humour in these tales of vampires, werewolves, mechanical marvels, good fashion and manners. She is a master – or is that mistress – of voice and timing so essential for comedy and action.