Best Fantasy Books of the 70's

The Best of the Best Fantasy Written in the 1970's
Best Fantasy of the 70’s

The 70's saw us Afro hairstyle, the Me generation, the continuation of the Cold War, the end of the Vietnam war, and death of the hippy trail. 

It was also a golden decade for fantasy, with the invigorated genre taking everything great about the 60's -- complex heroes, grand worlds, interesting characters and making it better and bigger. 

However, more focus was given to complex characters, well-defined worlds, and an emphasis on strong, independent female characters mark fantasy in the 70's. 

We also see the rise of the anti-hero in fantasy, pioneered by books like The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and the Amber series -- a decidedly anti-Tolkien vision of fantasy.

Not all fantasy was complex or subversive though; the 70's also saw a rise to 'bestseller fantasy' -- highly derivative fantasy written specifically to address the tastes of the market place -- appetites singularly whetted and honed by Tolkien's grand fiction.

Thus we saw the launch of the Terry Brook's Shannara empire -- a highly inspired version of Lord of the Rings re-written for the modern market.  

Regardless of the quality of this kind of fantasy fiction, what remains undisputed is how well these types of books did in the marketplace, which is proving through strength of sales that readers were indeed eager for a Tolkien-like tale.

And because the selection of fantasy available was rather slim at the time (as compared to now), these bestseller fantasy books influenced generations of future writers.

This list is our selections for the best fantasy of the 70's: those standout fantasy books that made a real dent in the genre and proved highly influential (or at least, highly successful in the marketplace).

If you love the 70's, you'll want to check out our Best Fantasy Books of the 80's for arguably one of the best fantasy decades and the genesis of many of the best fantasy books ever written (and still highly regarded in 2000's). You'll also want to look at our Best Fantasy of the 60's to see the top books that in many ways inspired 70's fantasy.

Lord Foul's Bane begins the epic Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, a series in which a leprosy-stricken man in the real world is transported to a stereotypical fantasy world. However, what ensues isn't a cutesy Narnia-like adventure, but something far… less cutesy. To say the least. The darkness in this book isn't primarily in the world, or the action, but in what an utter son of a bitch the protagonist it. Thomas Covenant isn't like other anti-heroes in that he's a bastard with a heart of gold. He's a bastard through and through, and utterly unlikeable. Despite this, he's a well-drawn character grappling with the crippling disease of leprosy, refusing to believe that the fantasy world he's found himself in is even real. Covenant is so despicable at times, that on my first read of the book, I found myself doing something that I haven't done before or since; putting the book down because I was too appalled to continue. Offsetting this is the flowery, poetic, old-fashioned way in which the book is written. Lord Foul's Bane isn't fun to read, nor will it probably be your favourite book, but it's an experience important to fantasy as a genre. Read this book if: you like classic fantasy but hate goody-two-shoes protagonists. Or even protagonists that aren't complete assholes.

Books in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever Series (9)

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The Sequel Books

If you like his Donaldson's first trilogy, then you should read his Covenant trilogies listed above. His new trilogy (Last Chronicles ) is a riveting read that will please both old and new fans. Thomas' old lover, Linden, returns to The Land, only to find it changed beyond recognition... And Thomas the Unbeliever? Read the books to find out! 

Mordant's Need
Starts with Mirror of Her Dreams. Oh yes, read this. Not as anti-heroish as the Thomas Covenant, but some strong characterization and a well developed world. I'd say it's arguably his funnest read without all the sorrow and misery of his Covenant books. 

Gap Series

Donaldson also has a very interesting (and dark dark) Science Fiction saga (Gap) that you will like if you liked the anti-hero aspect of Covenant.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

If you like the characterization of Thomas Covenant, you may like Tad William's epic fantasy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga which really follows the transformation of the protagonist over the course of the series. 

The Farseer

Read Robin Hobb's The Farseer Trilogy for another story with magnificent characterization set in a fantasy landscape (though Farseer is not exactly epic fantasy). Donaldson is unique in fantasy because his character is whole an whole an anti-hero instead of a hero. You may like 

A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga; there are some detestable main characters (anti-hero types) that become more agreeable as the series progresses; You see a slow evolution of these characters. 

If You Like the Anti-Hero Aspect of this book, check out our Best Anti-Hero Fantasy Books list.

In the 70s, this was considered the freshest kind of fantasy, and today's writers often point to it as one of their inspirations.Why it made the listThe world-building concept in The Chronicles of Amber is intriguing: There are multiple worlds, but each one is just a copy of one main world. The magic system, where characters with magic can influence the copied worlds is equally fascinating. That it's easy to understand these ideas is a testament to Zelazny's writing ability. In the hands of a lesser writer, these could be difficult to grasp.There's some great dialogue in this series – witty quips and retorts illustrate the conflict between the characters without detracting from the plot. There isn't an over abundance of wittiness either, which is a good thing considering how irritating snarky characters can be if they don't show some seriousness. (David Eddings, this means you.)If you're looking for good female characters, you'll need to manage your expectations a bit: Like many books written in the 70s, the need to create well-rounded women didn't exist the way it does today. You'd think this would detract from the readability of the series, but it doesn't. This is mostly because the plot moves along at a good pace – with a number of surprising twists that will keep you entertained.

Books in Chronicles Of Amber Series (13)

The Silmarillion is to The Lord of the Rings as the Old Testament is to Westboro Baptist Church. Minus the offensive stupidity. If you're a fervent Tolkien fan, you'll love The Silmarillion. If you're a casual reader or a post-Peter Jackson convert, you might find it heavy going. Actually, either way, it's a tough read. But if you're a fan, you'll appreciate the context it provides for the rest of the books.Why it made the listWhat The Silmarillion will do is increase your respect for Tolkien's genius. There is nothing in The Lord of the Rings series that doesn't have a back-story. His respect for the characters and places in the books is evident in the details of each piece of history he creates. There are elements of linguistics, of myth, and of legend woven through the narratives of The Silmarillion (this isn't a single tale) that do two things: Make it a dense work and increase your appreciation of The Hobbit and LOTR.If you ever wondered at how Saruman fell, where Sauron came from or how Middle-Earth was created, you'll find the answers in The Silmarillion. Once you get through it, re-read the other books and you'll discover things you never noticed before and see Middle-Earth in a whole new light. And when you do get through all of it, award yourself with a doughnut. Because, damn! That was hard work.
Before the comments section roasts this list, we know Elric appeared in a short story in the 60s. It was only in the 70s that the novel form would be published.Why it made the listElric is one of those characters that fantasy readers still single out as one of the best ever created. He has swagger. He's inclined to brooding. And he has enough self-doubt to keep him relatable. He's an intelligent character and Moorcock paid special attention to ensuring that the reader can discover this for themselves, without feeling like you're being beaten over the head with his cleverness. These characteristics work well as part of the pulp fiction feeling Moorcock has created in Elric of Melnibone.Other than it being a short and easy book to read, the first novel in the series also gives you just enough information to want to keep reading the series. That sounds obvious, but it's rare to find an author that can balance the detail of one story with hints and clues to the rest of the series – without telegraphing them or overdoing it the amount of information. Without giving too much away, you might find the ending of the first book frustrating – especially when you feel like you know Elric well – but it only makes you want to read the rest of the series.
Yes, we're talking about that book about bunnies. No, we haven't lost our minds. Take note: This isn't a children's book, despite it being about fluffy animals. If you've read Watership Down, you'll understand it's on the list. And if you haven't, you're wrong. It's impossible not to be moved by this tale – even if it is about rabbits.Why it made the listThe themes that underpin the plot of this book – of survival, of the influence of storytelling and of man's destructiveness – get deeper as the plot of Watership Down progresses. This is due to the personalities of the rabbits: As you get to know them, you'll not only identify with them, but feel for the things that happen to them. And, while they have some anthropomorphic elements, Adams hasn't erased their animalness in favor of human characteristics. That is to say, there are no bunnies in waistcoasts. Or squirrels smoking cigars. There's never a moment when you forget that you're reading about rabbits, but there's also never a time when you won't be able to identify with them.Adams has created a well balanced novel here: When it gets too dark, he throws in some humor. When the rabbits share their fables, it's because they're relevant to the action at that point in the plot. When the adventure becomes harrowing, there are moments of reflection. It's a rare writing skill, and if it's the only reason you pick up this book, you won't be disappointed.The action never stops moving, which – considering the intense emotions the book will inspire in you – is both a blessing and a relief. Watership Down may not be fantasy in the most obvious sense, but it's a classic and deserves to be on any ‘Best of…' lists.

Books in Watership Down Series (1)

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Sybel is 16 years old, and alone in the world, orphaned by her princess mother and her wizard father. Her only goal in life is to maintain the magical animals left to her by her father and to extend the menagerie through her own magic. Without warning, her world is turned upside down when a baby is brought for her to raise, a child who causes Sybel to become entangled in the human world of revenge, war and love. Now, only her beasts can save her from ultimate destruction.Why it's on the listMcKillip manages to make the books' heroes seem like villains and its villains look almost heroic. In fact, every character in this book is perfectly human, and that's not a simple achievement in a genre so replete with well-worn cliches. You will be awestruck by the richness of this world and its' characters. The author is a master of her craft and if you enjoy fantasy or are intrigued by how metaphysical concepts show up in Fantasy this is a book worth reading. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a quick read, the story is captivating and it feels fresh and appropriate even though it was published nearly 40 years ago. Most refreshing is that the fate of the world is not what is really at stake, but rather the personal relationships of a sorceress, a nobleman, and a lost prince. This book is simply magical, unforgettable, and truly a delight to read.Read if you likeMagic, Intrigue, metaphysical concepts?

This trilogy offers another refreshing take on traditional coming of age stories. Often in fantasy, magic is seen as a way out for the protagonist. It lets them move away from their humble beginnings to a magic college where everything is better. In McKillip's world, that's not quite true. The wizards are all dead, and the only way to uncover their secrets is through riddles. Morgon is not a peasant boy, he's the ruler of a farming island called Hed. He's not happy with adventure, or the dangerous journey through magic. Unfortunately, he was born with three stars on his head, marking him for prophecy. However, this prophecy is not complete, and Morgon spends much of the novel reluctantly trying to figure out who he is and what he's supposed to be. The result is a hero with a real sense of vulnerability, both internally and in his ability to defend himself. His journey is a slow one, stretching out across the whole trilogy, tied together with elegant prose, unique magic and incredible attention to detail. Read if you like: Tolkien, high-fantasy, classic fantasy.

Books in Riddle-master Series (7)

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Lord of the Rings

J.R.R.Tolkien's A Lord of the Rings. I also recommend Ursula le Guin's classic The Earthsea trilogy (starts with A Wizard of Earthsea), which features the same lyrical writing style as McKillip, and the hauntingly beautiful tale of a young boy's journey from boy to wizard. 

The Swan's War

You might also try Sean Russell's Swan's War trilogy which features lyrical prose, a pervading sense of pathos and a world full of opportunity, were magic is as mysterious as it is dangerous.

The Wizard of Earthsea

Beautifully written, lyrical, and poignant, A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic coming of age story that evokes that same sort of feelings when you read The Riddle Master books. 

The Name of the Wind

A modern take on the classic High fantasy hero tale, but sharply written, lyrical, and exciting to read. Chances are if you like the Riddle Master books, you are going to love The Name of the Wind. I feel both books evoke the same sort of feelings when you read them, both are coming of age, both are lyrical, and both sometimes have a dreamlike quality (at times).


Jack Vance's brilliant High Fantasy trilogy. Some of the best written, best sounding stuff in the genre. Vance, like Patricia A. McKillip, has a mastery with words.


You either love him or hate him (and if you do hate him, it's probably because every second sentence is a ridiculous metaphor), but there's no denying that Stephen King deserves a spot on this list. Even if it's only because he's the Stephen King. Something to keep in mind before you pick this up: There are two versions of The Stand. One set in the 80s and one in the 90s. King rewrote the 80s version to reflect 90s pop culture and add things that he'd left out of the initial publication. It probably depends on when you grew up as to which of the two you'll find most horrifying, but if you do read the original version, remember that it was written post-Vietnam and during the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Why it made the list While there are many comments sections devoted to arguing over which of his books is the best, The Stand is almost always listed near the top. This is because, of all of them, this is the most quintessentially KING. There's no one better at making the reader feel so uncomfortable. This doesn't happen as a result of the horror genre aspect of his books, it happens because he takes the real world and then distorts it so that the world we're familiar with becomes one of horror. There are elements of this book that are simplistic to the point of immaturity (the obvious delineation of good and evil is a good example), but – as always – the strength of the book is in the way King uses a (very) large canvas to allow the characters to grow. Every one serves a purpose, whether it's to move the action along or to provide an extra shade to the greyness of human morality. It's a long read. But it's one of the greatest examples of dystopian fantasy. And the length King goes to in order to show the breakdown of civilization after most of humanity is killed puts The Walking Dead to shame.

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The Talisman is my other King recommendation. A novel about a small boy, Jack, who will travel into parallel worlds to save his dying mother. The Shining is another classic King novel; and how can I possibly leave out The Dark Tower series. All of those books share the same universe (a place of parallel universes). 

If you are a King fan, you should give Dean Koontz a read too. Both authors put a lot of time into characterization. If you try Koontz, give Odd Thomas a go. I feel it's his best work.

It wasn't until the 90s that really gritty fantasy became the norm for the genre, which is why The Morgaine Stories were so different to the standard epic fantasies of the 70s. Unlike later grimdark works, there's a definite sense of good and evil. And Morgaine, Cerryh's heroine, is an example of a character that is unequivocally good, without being boring. (This means YOU, Rand al'Thor.)Why it made the listMorgaine is one of the most well written female characters to come out of the genre – an impressive achievement considering when this series was written. There's a tendency for heroes to feel unreachable – it's difficult to relate to beings that are perfect – but Morgaine has weaknesses and flaws that make her easy to relate to.The plot follows an obvious path, but it's the relationship between the two primary characters – Morgaine and Vanye – that's the true strength of the series. This is character-driven fiction at its finest. There's some subversion here: Rather than the female lead needing rescuing, Morgaine often has to come to the aid of her male counterpart. This doesn't feel contrived though, because both their relationship and their story feel natural.Cerryh hasn't written characters at the expense of creating a rich world. The world they inhabit is well realised and it's clear that Cerryh spent time thinking about the world she created. This is important because this series takes place on four different worlds. Each world is well defined and provides excellent backdrops for the development of the most rewarding aspect of The Morgaine Stories: The relationship between Morgaine and Vanye.
In blending A Thousand And One Nights with fantasy elements, Lee created an original world by departing from the Euro-centric mythology that Tolkien had drawn upon in The Lord of the Rings. This is probably what Aladdin would look like if George R.R. Martin wrote it. And it's a work that's huge in scope: It spans several centuries and was published over a period of ten years.Why it made the listIf you're the kind of reader who needs a character driven plot or at least one character to identify with, you might want to give this one a miss. But if this is something you can live without, then you'll love the rich, enchanting prose and the depth that Lee has imbued these pages with.There is darkness in these tales, as well as a sensuality that was likely shocking in the time it was published, but only adds to the depth of the book. And, while there is no central character, the tales are linked by the Prince of Darkness – whose influence impacts the life of each character you meet.The Flat Earth is vivid and full of life: No character feels like a waste. They all serve a purpose – even if it's just to indicate the effects of a magic-wielding manipulator. Even for those of us who have been exposed to the violence of modern fantasies (poor Sansa), it's surprising how limitless Lee's imagination is.It's also one of the few fantasies where the ending lives up to its promise.
If you've never said, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”, you're about as rare as a swear word at Hogwarts. Part of the reason the movie is so quotable is because the author of the book – William Goldman – is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter.Why it made the listWhat you don't get a sense of in the movie is the genius of the structure of The Princess Bride. There's a deceit involved in how it's told: It's supposedly an abridged version of a (longer, more boring) book by S. Morgenstern. This book doesn't exist. Why is this genius? Because it allows Goldman the opportunity to comment on his own work – as if he's Goldman commenting on Morgenstern, when it's actually Goldman commenting on Goldman pretending to be Morgenstern.This isn't only an excellent way to overcome any inconsistencies in his own narrative; it's also how we get into the heads of the characters and learn about their histories – without sacrificing any of the pace of an action driven plot.There's something for everyone here: Swordplay and romance, action and banter. And, while it's always snappy, there's still depth to it. The theme that's interwoven with the witticisms and quick dialogue is how the journey from youthful naiveté to loss of innocence changes a person. The book also warns of something even more intrinsic: Sometimes (and often) life does not play fairly.

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If you've never said, â??My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to dieâ??, you're about as rare as a swear word at Hogwarts. Part of the reason the movie is so quotable is because the author of the book â?? William Goldman â?? is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter.

Why it made the list

What you don't get a sense of in the movie is the genius of the structure of The Princess Bride. There's a deceit involved in how it's told: It's supposedly an abridged version of a (longer, more boring) book by S. Morgenstern. This book doesn't exist. Why is this genius? Because it allows Goldman the opportunity to comment on his own work â?? as if he's Goldman commenting on Morgenstern, when it's actually Goldman commenting on Goldman pretending to be Morgenstern.

This isn't only an excellent way to overcome any inconsistencies in his own narrative; it's also how we get into the heads of the characters and learn about their histories â?? without sacrificing any of the pace of an action driven plot.

There's something for everyone here: Swordplay and romance, action and banter. And, while it's always snappy, there's still depth to it. The theme that's interwoven with the witticisms and quick dialogue is how the journey from youthful naiveté to loss of innocence changes a person. The book also warns of something even more intrinsic: Sometimes (and often) life does not play fairly.

The Neverending Story is a perfect example of how badly a film version of a beloved book can go. For people who hadn't read the book, the film was probably enchanting. For everyone else, it's confusing. (Can we please talk about the luck dragon that was less dragon and more a flying puppy?) But the book is a complex exploration of power and how it corrupts even those with the best intentions. Why it made the list It's not often that you'll read a book where the integrity of the character you root the most for is as annihilated as it is in The Neverending Story. You'll have read about characters that fall from grace, but more often than not, it's a result of an external force. In this book, it's Bastians' good intentions that drag him down. And that's what will get you. Because we assume that, should we be given the power to change things, we'd do it for the better. But when you have that power and can have anything, how do you keep your moral compass intact? It's translated from a German Text, so the language isn't always the smoothest, but the creatures you encounter as you're reading are full of life. Ende has an imagination that could rival Green Lantern's, and it's clear on every page.

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If you are

a fan of The Neverending Story (you know, those sort of magical books you loved as a "kid" that were full of adventures where heroes always win and the boy always saves the girl and the unfairness of life is eventually balanced out by the end of the novel; that is,until you grew up and got a job and realized that never really happens), The Princess Bride would appeal to you. The Chronicles of Narnia, though not a standalone, are another set of books that delight the inner child. Shall I also mention the obvious Harry Potter series? And let's throw out The Hobbit while we're at it.

The Thieves' World Series is the literary equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or maybe it's closer to the DC Extended Universe in that sometimes Ben Affleck ruins things. The idea behind the series was to create a world that could be shared by multiple authors – each of whom could use the characters and settings in that world in works of their own.Before you read it, take a moment to appreciate that this was done in the 70s – long before Tinder Skype. This entire world was created via paper mail and over the phone.Why it made the listFirstly, for its ambitious concept. Aspirin created the initial world and then left it up to contributing authors to grow the characters and plots. Part of the reason why this was such a great idea is that, with a new author for every installment, the storyline and characters would always feel fresh.Secondly, sometimes you need to escape the lengthy reads that dominate today's fantasy. This is a great way to do that because each book is like a new episode in the series. Each one is different from the next one – thanks to different styles and perspectives that each writer brought to it.At a time when the genre was concerned with magic, Legolas and Gimli stand-ins and MacGuffins, these stories about assassins, rebels and thieves were something new. While we may be more accustomed to reading about these kinds of characters now, it's clear that the contributors were excited to be writing about them – and it's palpable, especially when reading the early works.
There are some problematic things about this series, but it's an interesting concept and the action scenes are some of the most fun to come out of the 70s. The world Farmer created will intrigue and disgust you, but that's part of the draw.You'll have to wade through some lengthy descriptions (which are often unnecessary) and you can expect to feel disappointed by Farmer's depictions of women, but if you can put those aside, you'll find a tight narrative with some interesting philosophical ideas.Why it made the listConcept: After death, everyone comes back to life on the banks of a river. The key word here is everyone. Historical figures, including Mozart, Jack London, King John of England and the Nazi commander Hermann Göring, interact in this world.Even today, this is a novel concept that is fascinating to imagine. It provided Farmer with the opportunity to play with how these people would act and relate to one another. To get an idea of how intriguing this idea is, imagine a scenario where Nelson Mandela meets Marilyn Monroe.The most interesting thing about the series is how these resurrected people fall into familiar patterns – the same ones from when they were alive. There's no assumption that after death people become better versions of themselves or that they go to a place that's better than where they were. They wake up as the same people they were in life – selfish, manipulative and desperate for power.It's worth noting that this series would inspire Alan Moore to write The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and result in numerous spin offs including a TV pilot and movie.
This rendition of the classic fairytale inspired the Disney cartoon of the 90's, and the live action film in 2017. The fairytale I grew up with featured the typical ugly, selfish, mean-spirited sisters, and the beautiful, kind and good youngest sister, who was enviably Daddy's favorite. McKinley re-envisions the story with heart, making it a story of a loving family, torn apart by circumstance. We get loads of character development about Beauty herself, who is actually quite plain, but loves books and learning. Her sisters are actually quite lovely (inside and out), filled with affection for one another, including their youngest sister. Beauty's intelligence, resourcefulness, and courage drive the story forward here, slowly drawing the beast into something resembling civility. It's become the new standard framework for the story, and many younger readers don't realize Beauty was never bookish, strong-minded, or let's face it, all that interesting, before McKinley wrote Beauty.
Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern is one of the most well-known – and well realized – worlds in the genre. Dragonsong is a quick read that's perfect for anyone looking for a few hours of pure escapism. It's also one of those books that was probably written for a younger audience, but can entertain anyone of any age. Why it made the list If you read this book and don't wish you could own a firelizard, you're probably one of those weird people who don't like pizza. It's a great introduction to Pern because it's simple, beautifully written and full of life. It also occurs outside the normal Pern series, so you don't need to know anything about the world before read it. McCaffrey is especially good at writing great characters that feel like familiar friends. There's nothing complicated about the storyline and the focus is on the journey of a single character, which – next to McCaffrey's prose – is why it's so readable. She doesn't go out of her way to create something original – this is a great example of a well written, easy to enjoy fantasy book. Readers of modern fantasy might actually find this refreshing. The themes of friendship, acceptance and the power of music and poetry are ones that any reader can identify with, but you'll never feel like you're being lectured. Sometimes there's nothing better than a simple, well-told tale. Especially if there are dragons in it.
If you've ever paid real attention to fairy tales, you'll have noticed that they're not at all friendly. It's kind of like what happens when you watch roadrunner cartoons and realize that it's a story about two characters that hate each other so much that they try to kill each other. Gruesomely. (Or did you think that being crushed by an anvil would be a peaceful way to die?) Fairy tales are full of latent adult themes and The Bloody Chamber makes them overt. Why it made the list College courses are structured around this book because, even 30+ years later, it's equal parts shocking and fascinating. Carter has a vivid imagination and has the writing skill to communicate it to readers. To be clear, these are tales of sex and violence. There's a dark sensuality in every story. If you're a) offended by graphic scenes or b) not ready to ruin your favorite childhood fairy tale, this is not the book for you. If you enjoy multi-layered stories, exploring symbolism or broadening how you (and society) define gender and sexuality, then you'll love The Bloody Chamber. For short story lovers, you'll find that Carter is a master of this format – always in control, always well paced and always enthralling. There are many opportunities for intellectual discussion and disagreement in these stories, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality, and they're a good reason why you should read it, but there's a much simpler reason why you should: Because there's nothing else like it.
That this series remains unknown by today's fantasy readers is a pity, because it's a great series – especially for fans of political fantasy or fantasy that occurs in worlds similar to our own. There's not much action, but the characters and their relationships are more than enough to counter this. Why it made the list Deryni Rising is another one of those books where you need to keep in mind that it was written many years ago. It hasn't aged badly since realpolitik fantasy is so popular today. There are, however, some stock characters that people who have read extensively in the genre might find uninspired. The reason this is a memorable series is thanks to the characters of Kelson and Morgan. They're well written and will hold your attention throughout what is a tight, short read. Kurtz is an author that knows how to communicate ideas through concise descriptions rather than long information dumps. Sound like an obvious skill? You'd think. But there are few fantasy authors today that can condense their thoughts into less than 4 billion pages. It's a great series to give newcomers to the genre, especially if they're only interested in fantasy because of Jon Snow.
Need a break from lengthy, dense and heavy-handed epic fantasy? Pick this series up – it's lighthearted and easy to read. As with most 70s fantasy, don't expect great female characters. This shouldn't be too much of a problem, since the series doesn't expect you to take it seriously.Why it made the listThe misadventures that the main character – Skeeve – gets up to are hilarious and entertaining. The humor isn't satirical or snarky and the creatures encountered are fun to read about. It's perfect for lazy afternoons where – rather than watch another Big Bang Theory rerun – you'd rather choose the literary equivalent.Considering how short the book is, Aspirin has done a great job building this world. This is because the main idea is that there are multiple dimensions for these characters to visit. It sets the action up for many surprises and allows Aspirin the chance to throw ideas together without focusing too much on the minutiae of a single world.
When this came out, there was nothing like it. The consensus is that you'll either love the Xanth books or hate them. If you fell into the latter category it would be because it's clear that Anthony doesn't hold women in the highest regard and, if you were to focus on this, you'd find A Spell for Chameloen a painful example of rampant sexism. Despite this, it is possible for you to enjoy this book.Why it made the listThis is the Kubla Khan of 80s fantasy. It's bizarre, random and sometimes doesn't make much sense. But this is part of its appeal – at no point do you need to take anything that happens seriously. You should apply this state of mind to the character of Chameleon most especially.His writing isn't that good - he struggles with descriptions and often resorts to vague redundancies like, “absolutely beautiful,” and his characters are as three dimensional as a pavement, but he is a good storyteller. He knows how to pace the action of a book so that all loose ends are tied up in a tight narrative. You can't help but be impressed by the number of ideas that he manages to cram into each book. Sometimes they're ludicrous, but they're always original.

Books in Xanth Series (38)

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who want to burn The Sword of Shannara and those who say they want to burn The Sword of Shannara but secretly love it. It's the height of uncool to say you liked this book. It's the broccoli of the fantasy world: Dry, tasteless and hated, but vastly improved if you're happy with adding a ton of cheese.Why it made the listA formula for fantasy writers by J.R.R Tolkien: (Reluctant hero) x (annoying (but loyal) companions) x (all-knowing old guy) + magic jewellery ÷ Satan-like bad guy = BestsellerIt's often been noted that Terry Brooks, using this formula, created a lesser version of the Lord of the Rings. But in the 70s, this was the norm. Literary classic this book ain't. But it was one of the first to be a runaway bestseller.Most readers who are fans of the series will only admit to it being a guilty pleasure. Especially because it's technically painful: Brooks's writing style is clumsy and his characters mundane.If you did read it and enjoy it, it was probably when you were younger and were just discovering fantasy. You may return to it and discover that it was enjoyable at the time, but doesn't live up to your memory. Here's the catch: It doesn't matter. If you can find enjoyment in a book – any book – then whether it's well written or not isn't important. Because that's the whole point of the genre: Enjoyment through escapism.
Other than a good cup of coffee (or tea), a beach or a fresh doughnut, there's nothing that relaxes many people than a cold beer. Beer lovers will talk metaphorically about it being a magical substance. In The Drawing of the Dark, it's literally a magical liquid. Sound ridiculous? Probably. But it makes sense in the book, which is an interesting and easy read.Why it made the listAll the standard Capital E Epic fantasy elements are here: Powerful magic, an enigmatic sorcerer and destiny fulfillment. Unlike other similar fantasies from the 70s, there's enough to separate it from the rest. The protagonist, Brian Duffy, is easy to like and the atmosphere jumps of the page. The only real problem with this book is that the romance between Duffy and Epiphany feels stilted and forced. But it's not terrible enough to overwhelm the (many) positives.The most enjoyable thing about this book is that it feels like something that could have happened in the past – even though there are fantastic elements that don't exist. In this case, it's Vienna during the siege by the Ottoman Empire. That the Middle East threat is relevant over 40 years later is a coincidence, but it does add a level of believability to the narrative.Powers is also skilled at writing realistic and vivid accounts of sword fighting with none of the flailing and over dramatic gestures of writers with lesser talent. (ahem… Terry Brooks.)
Sometimes it feels like the Arthurian legend has been done to death. Because it has. But there are some retellings of the tale that are worth reading – if only to give you another perspective on a tale that – despite being over exposed – is captivating.Why it made the listThe difference in Stewart's Arthurian Saga is that it's written from Merlin's perspective. And, while Arthur is the hero of the legend, Merlin was always the most fascinating of the characters. There's no doubt that Stewart did her research before writing the series because it feels more like historical fiction than a strict fantasy. This is due to her ability to write settings that feel real – as if they exist.There are issues in the series: Stewart's Merlin isn't a great character and it's difficult to identify with him. It would've worked better if she'd written in third person instead of as first person. Fortunately, Stewart's fluid prose and talent for creating realistic environments redeem the book.
The premise for this series – of a humanized demon and his struggle for freedom – isn't one you'll come across often. It's the kind of idea that could go horribly wrong, but Eisenstein is a talented writer, which is why this is a great read.Why it made the listIf you're looking for a well-defined magic system, you won't find it here. But it's not that much of a problem, because the best thing about The Sorcerer's Son - other than the unique (and wonderfully bizzare) plot – are the characters. The lead protagonist – Cray is easy to like and his quest to find his lost father is much more believable than, say, a quest for a magic sword. And that's the greatest strength of this book: The characters' personalities and motivations are very real and very human.If you examined the book a bit harder, you'll find some interesting ideas about love, gender and the path to adulthood, but they never overwhelm the story. And, while it's a coming of age story, there are enough twists that it doesn't feel stereotypical. After reading the first book, you'll want to find out more about where these character will go.
Disclaimer: Avoid King books if you're sensitive to the overuse of adverbs. Second disclaimer: The movie and the book are quite different, but neither will ruin you for the other since they're both excellent.King has spoken about how Jack Torrance, The Shining's main protagonist, is an extreme representation of himself. It's not as conceited as it sounds though, because Torrance is written with a rage that borders on self-hatred.Why it made the listFirstly, King's influence on speculative fiction is undeniable. The Shining is an excellent example of the things that make his books so popular: An intense energy that drives the plot along, characters that grow (not always in the right direction) and an atmosphere that's both threatening and thrilling.The Overlook Hotel is given such life that it becomes one of the characters in the book. And it's creepier than a bald Donald Trump. It's also one of the things the movie doesn't depict – it's a supernatural force in the book. As with all of his books, the plot is filled with intelligent ideas and solid writing.You might struggle to read this if you've watched the movie, but if you do give it a shot, you'll find it as much of a classic as the film.