Best Feel Good Fantasy Books
Tired of grim dark stories where the nastiness of humanity is gleefully celebrated; where heroes and villains are often one and the same?
Want a fantasy where good things are celebrated, a world where heroes are heroic and villains are villainous, a world where the good always wins and the bad is justly punished? This style of fantasy, once ubiquitous, has fallen a bit out of fashion recently. You’re more likely to read about a band of marauding mercenaries celebrated as ‘heroes’ than about an actual hero who’s, well, a hero.
Well good news for you! If you want to read a different type of fantasy, a fantasy about good guys doing good things, beating bad guys, and saving the day, fantasy books that are decidedly optimistic and upbeat -- tales that bring a smile and grin to your face, not tears by the end of it -- then this is your list. A list compiling the best of the feel good fantasy in the genre.
So if you want to finish a book with a big smile on your face, these are the books for you. Think of these reads as a sort of ‘anti-grimdark’ fantasy.
Books in The Kingkiller Chronicle Series (1)
Without a doubt, The Blood Song, a recent remarkable debut by Anthony Ryan. This is about as close in style and form to The Name of the Wind. Instead of Kvothe apprentice wizard in training, we have Vaelin, a warrior monk in training. The format of both stories is very similar recounted in an after-the-fact manner by the protagonist. Both are coming of age stories about young men in a school setting. And both books had a (somewhat) disappointing sequel. If you like The Name of the Wind, then read The Blood Song.
If you like The Name of the Wind, the closest you get to a similar series in feeling is Robin Hobb's The Farseer. Though the authors have a different style and radically different plots, both authors really delve deep into the mind of the protagonist. And both series are coming-of-age stories in which the narrator is looking back at their youthful life. Through each series, you really get to know the hero. Both stories are about the rise of a no-name boy into something great.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Another tale constructed around the whole "kids go to magic school to become a wizard" conceit. There's a vast difference in the way the stories are told and the characters however. Grossman's tale is a (depressive) postmodern take on the fantasy genre with references to literature and pop culture while Rothfuss's is a celebration of the classic fantasy tale. Grossman's characters are all flawed and psychologically complex -- if not completely broken individuals devoid of heroism. And that's the beauty of the whole tale. The characters thing they are heroes but find they are not. And over the three books that make up the fabulous series, there's a reckoning and growing that takes place with the characters. One of my favorite fantasy series ever. It's series that some who love the more traditional fantasy might not get or like, but if you want a deeper sort of fantasy, this is some of the best out there.
I would also suggest you read Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. Like The Name of the Wind, Lies of Locke Lamora jumps back and forth between the present and the past of the main character. Both are also coming-of-age stories. This book is something special, and the protagonist (it's a story about a master thief) is an absolute blast to read about. Book two has been out for a while and the third book is coming out this year (2011).
Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet is another fantasy series that you might like -- there's some really good characterization going on in the series, though it's not really your standard "epic fantasy."
If you want a good adventure yarn, The The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick (book one of 5) delivers for part of the series. What's the plot about? There are two great empires clashing, crazy god kings set on world domination, and a medley of different characters sharing a ship (including talking rats, miniature people, evil mages, princesses, assassins, and ship boys) all fighting over a powerful talisman that could destroy the world. It's a complex, dramatic, and mostly wonderful new fantasy series. However, the series goes downhill after the third book, but I feel it's still worth a read.
You might also like Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man -- a book (part of a series, of course, with book three already out) that delivers on action. Brett does a good job creating the hero, from village boy to badass fighter/warder. A good book with an interesting hero character (especially following the whole coming-of-age conceit of a young boy growing into his destiny). This book gets my vote as one of the most exciting fantasy books I've read. Trust me, once you start the book, you are not going to want to stop reading it. However, book 2 and 3 really disappointed. Worth reading? On the strength of the first book, yes.
Want an action-packed story of a gifted orphan boy who goes to magic school (and martial school) to become a great wizard/warrior. Want a detailed magic system about colors? Want plenty of coming of age angst? Absolutely read The Lightbringer Series, Week's best work so far.
Some might also like Brent Week's Night Angel Trilogy which is a sort of gutter-rat to badass assassin story. Weeks' Lightbringer series is better on all regards. However, you still might want to read this one as well if you like The Name of the Wind. The story really follows the main character closely; there are a lot of over-the-top heroics and magic (especially the main character who becomes super-powerful) combined with an interesting hero character which makes the book somewhat reminiscent of The Name of the Wind. Name of the Wind is better written, and the magic is more mysterious and toned down with complex characterization (Weeks falls really short here as his characters are pretty simplistic I feel), but the over-the-top heroic antics of the main character/s does bring to mind some of Kvothe's exploits.
A character-driven epic fantasy would be Tad Williams' classic Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Though I warn you, it can take a while before the plot gets rolling in a Tad Williams novel!
A good old-school fantasy tale that's managed to age very well is A Wizard of Earthsea. A pretty compelling hero character.
For a gushy heroic old school fantasy that kind of channels the heroic aspect and lyrical prose of The Name of the Wind, read the Riddle Master of Hed series.
And probably the best fantasy novel I've read about a "hero" would be Michael Stackpole's Talion: Revenant. It's one of the best books I've read, period.
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Science Fantasy, but there are some similarities. Both are wonderfully written, lyrical works where to emphasis is just not on what is said but how it is said. Words are not just functional entities, but creatures of beauty and both Rothfuss and Wolfe are master wordsmiths. Both tales are recounted by an now world-weary protagonist (in first person) and the tale told by the narrator may not be completely reliable and just might be embellished in the recounting.
If you liked the whole "coming of age talented young nobody who goes to magic school" conceit, you will probably like these:
- American Gods by Neil Gaimen
- Mythago Wood
- The Anubis Gates by Tim Power
- Ysabel by Guy Gaverial Kay
- American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson
- The Night Circus
- The Stolen Child
- The Wizard Knight
- Rise of Moontide and Magic
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
- Perdido Street Station
Books in Riyria Revelations Series (5)
Books in Raven's Shadow Series (2)
Books in Chronicles Of Narnia Series (3)
Books in The Lord Of The Rings Series (6)
Books in Amber Chronicles Series (12)
Books in Howl’s Moving Castle Series (2)
Books in The Mists Of Avalon Series (2)
Books in Time Quintet Series (4)
possibly recommend for faerie-related novels. Quite frankly,there's a zillion fantasy books about fairies, from romantic ones to dark horror ones, to sappy Twilight teeny-bopper series. I'll recommend the best I've stumbled across.
I've read that's similar to War for the Oaks, give Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale a good read. It's an edgy, intensely gritty modern faerie tale that should satisfy Emma Bull fans who those who want a darker sort of story. Ostensibly, it's a YA book (the protagonist is 16), but it's so dark and jaded, I don't see how that's the case.
girl-versus-urban-faeries-and-finds-self-empowerment tale, you can give the Wicked Lovely series a read. This one is less dark than Holly Black's Tithe and it's several books long. Women who love romance will especially like the series.
that deal with individuals getting caught up in Faery court wars, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files feature a wizard who keeps getting mixed up with Faerie politics (especially the fourth book in the series, Summer Knight, which is only about Faerie politics and intrigue).
take on the whole Faerie mythos (about a boy who is stolen away from his parents and forced to live with Faeries) read Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child.
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 naivetÃ© to loss of innocence changes a person. The book also warns of something even more intrinsic: Sometimes (and often) life does not play fairly.
Read "Paladin of Souls" which is a follow up book set in the same world as The Curse of Chalion.
You might also want to check out her Miles Vorkosigan Science Fiction series.
Starts with Daughter of the Forest. Julian Marillier writes a very good romantic fantasy set in Celtic times. Read if you like the romance and character-driven narrative of The Curse of Chalion.
Kushiel's Dart is another romantic fantasy -- one of the more unique ones in the genre. You might like the books if you like Lois's handling of romantic relationships.
Books in The Chronicles Of Master Li And Number Ten Ox Series (2)
Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)
Books in Discworld Series (72)
Good Omens is a brilliance of the combined mental powers of Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. If you love Discworld, then this should be your next read.
Myth Adventures series by Robert Aspirin. Funny and clever, but mostly funny. Do read if you love to laugh at self-aware, bumbling fantasy tropes doing absurd thing.
Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy. The famously funny parody of science fiction, life, and the universe itself. The equal to Pratchett in the science fiction world and a book that's transcended into pop culture itself.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. 'Funny' alone does not describe this. It's a masterpiece of character driven comedy set in an alternative Chinese landscape that won't disappoint.