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Old 06-18-2016, 11:50 PM   #1
Abe Sargent
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Top Ten Fantasy Works of All Time

Hello Folks!

I was just unloading and putting my books on the shelves here in Mobile. Man do I have a lot of fantasy books. The first adult book I ever read was The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien in the summer of4th grade. It was hard, but I slogged through it, and ever since I was hooked on fantasy. Series fantasy like Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance mingled with older stuff like Michael Moorcock and Tolkien. Today I have fantasy from the earliest influence writers like Lord Dunsany, RE Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, all the way up to modern day writers, like Tad Williams or a certain Martin. I've read it all.

I was also a bit obsessive about reading foundational and influence works, by people like Poul Anderson or Ursula LeGuin, and others. I've obsessed over reading full series by major authors you've heard of, and some you probably haven't, like Lawrence Watt-Evans, Richard A Knaak and Joel Rosenberg and Louise Cooper. Worlds like Pern and Earthsea and more have unfurled in front of me.



Given my ongoing obsession with all things fantasy, and the extensive reading I've given it, I thought it would be useful to sort of give you my take on Fantasy as a genre, and then specially what I consider to be the top ten works of all time.




I'll give you my views on fantasy specifically in regards to it's most central conceit and concept. The central Ethos of the work. Who are the good and bad guys, and how is the world constructed?


There are four main figures who invested Fantasy with it's modern Ethos. Ever since the 70s, the genre has been fully codified in these ethical aspects of the worlds authors craft and share. So what are those authors and ethos?


RE Howard
- In his seminal works with Conan the Barbarian, Howard portrays a core conceit. He often wrote in his letters his view that he was born centuries past when he should have been. He didn;t have the sheer love of technology and civilization that others did, especially after WWI. So his works, and Conan in particular, have a noble savage liek Conan against the decadence of civilization. Civilization is portrayed as evil, corrupting, and decadent. And while Conan is no saint, and he's certainly not good, he's not evil either. He is his own, individual person, and only has loyalty to himself and his friends. He has his own code of ethics, and he really pushes against the decadence of slavery, civilizations, and more. Conan was not the first, and Howard not the first writer, but this is a core concept of Hyborea and the Age fo Conan. And you'll see the Howard influence on numerous others.



JRR Tolkien
- In his Lord of the Rings works, Tolkien takes the central conceit of evil and good and their conflict and weaves it into every interaction and aspect of Middle Earth. There are entire races of creatures that are evil by design. There are good races too, and thus the lines are really drawn between races that can go either way (like humans). But the good vs evil aspects of this world and author are the formulaic epic ethos that influences heroic fantasy to this day. And certainly good and evil were in works before Tolkien, but no one designed, codified, and created this central conflict and ethical underpinning like he did. I'd even argue its his greatest contribution to modern fantasy, beyond tall sylvan elves, the ranger archetype, and such. Nope, it's this good vs evil on a grand scale concept.


Michael Moorcock - Moorcock has written countless tales, and the great central conflict of his work is not savagery vs civilization or good vs evil. Nope! It's Law vs Chaos. And this central concept is the core central value of all of his many, many, many, many works. Law and chaos are the primordial forces of his worlds. And they aren;t inherently good oro bad. On planes that have a heavy law creation, they tend to be stagnant and such. chaostic ones are of course pure chaos. And again, there were a few books that had LvC as the major basis of their conflict, but they were few and far between, (and in those works, Law is good and Chaos is bad by defination, so they didn;t have the subtle aspects of Moorcock.) Moorcock was clearly the one to define it and put it out there.



Gary Gygax - As Moorcock's law vs Chaos Ethos was dominating the era of fantasy writers in the 60s and 70s, Gygax and friends sit down to crate a RPG where Gygax and Dave A and others create the central alignment system and ethic of one of law vs chaos. But as Gygax explored his world and game system, he realized that he needed to invest another level. So he published the AD&D handbook and changed alignment to have two axes. One is the Law vs Chaos, and the other Good vs Evil. He combined Tolkien and Moorcock, although inspired with Howard's characters and concept as well. The vast majority of fantasy since Gygax have been very cognizant of his alignment system, and countless characters an works have people that are talking about both good and evil as well as law and chaos. There was a real attempt by authors to create lawful evil protagonistic characters like Steel Brightblade and Artemis Entreri. Meanwhile good characters who fight against the system, raid towns and such, and as fully Chaotic Good began to pop up.

So the first three fathers of modern fantasy sort of codified three different ethical aspects and conflicts for their worlds, and Gygax came along and brought a lot of them together in major ways. And we're still there today!



Alright, next post I'll give you my own top ten Fantasy Works of All Time (not my own pet series) and then ask you to give your own choices, thoughts, and such!
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Old 06-19-2016, 12:29 AM   #2
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For this list, I will often include one series of works instead of a single book, short story, or novella. That's because many of these need to. So there you go.


I had 9 of my top ten figured out. No doubt about any of them. But who to do at #10? I really feel that there's a level of talent from 9 up that's clear, and then a drop off. A lot of folks have a shot at this level that are on my radar. Clark Ashton Smith is on my short list. Fred Saberhagen is too. Hell, he used to be my favorite fantasy writer growing up, and he hit the charts a lot, so I guess RA Salvatore is in the conversion (although not really). Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman? Piers Anthony? My issue with Anthony is that none of his works are really that great. Robert Jordon and the over-hyped and overemphasized Wheel of Time? Neil Gaiman? Raymond Feist? Honestly, I don;t know. And there are some folks "liked" that I don;t feel are good for a list list this (Terry Brooks, David Eddings, etc). This is Top Ten work of all time, come on now, Brook's Shannara or McCaffery;s pern aren;t really in the conversation for me, you know? (I like and have books by both!)

So I'm erring on the side of popularity. Meh, I think the series is overrated, but whatever.


10. Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time.
- You may now go and enjoy the rest of this list






9. Ursula K LeGuin, Earthsea Series - great stuff, and extremely influential. I don't need to belabor that here for you, But I do think LeGuin 's Earthsea concept is quality, but the influence outstrip the actual story. When I read it, it's not that high quality, you know? It's not a Top Five work by any stretch.



8. Robert E Howard, Conan the Barbarian
- All of Robert's Conan stories are found in three collections and you can read the whole lot of them. You might think it's odd to see Conan back here, but the stories can be a bit, uneven at times. While some of these are just pivotally awesome (My favorite is Beyond the Black River, but Red Nails is a seminal fantasy work bar none). But there's enough quality and power here to make reading solid, rewarding, and again, the impact cannot be forgotten. There's more Robert E Howard on the page of modern fantasy, or in modern fantasy movies, than most realize.



7. The Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny - Everything Roger touches is gold. He even wrote one of the best novellas in the Cthulhu Mythos you'll ever read ("50 views from Mt. Fuji"). I know there are some folks out there that find the 5 set of books in the first series to be a bit, um...action light. And the five that follow is surprisingly better than you'd think, btw. Anyways, Zelazny is a major name in fantasy, and Amber is clearly his seminal work.


6. A Sword of Ice and Fire - Martin was honing his craft for a long time, starting in the 70s with Hugo nominated work, so it's nice to see him get a ton of accolades now that he's earned it. Anyways, this is no surprise, and no one here reading this doesn't know him, so I'm moving along.



Top Five Time!



5. Lord Dunsany, The Gods of Pegana, and other Dream Cycle works - I had been told how influential Dunsany's Gods of Pegana was. But I don;t think I ever got how good and unique and avant garde it was until I freakin' read it. In it he creates an entire mythos, with gods, myths, legends, and more, all in small stories that read like they are out of a mythology textbook rather than a novel. His follows up in this pseudo-fantasy world were also solid, but nothing is as good as Gods. (Honorable mention to his The Elf-king's Daughter, which is not in this series, but is another major, pinnacle influence fantasy work).





4. Dying Earth, Jack Vance -
I thought about making this #3, because Vance is that good of a writer. In 1950 he published this book of short stories, set in the end times of earth when magic and technology have intermingled, and magic won. Vance is just a superb writer, arguably the best on the list, and this novel gave it's name to the sub-genre. There are a few follow ups in the Dying Earth set, like Rhialto the Marvelous and Eyes of the Overlord. And they are good reading too. And if Vance had spent more time in this genre, he could have easily clocked in at #2. But he preferred Sci-Fi and mysteries in other places. So he gets #4 for his heavy influences the genre and the quality of this quirky, out-of-left-field-at-times and subversive collection of stories.



3. The Gray Mouser and Fafhrd Series, Fritz Leiber - Starting in the 40s with a series of short stories and novellas that would see print for decades, Fritz Leiber describes the adventures of these two radically different thieves (one a heavily Conan-esque barbarian from the north and the other a small, mousey man) who are members of the Thieves Guild for the largest (and arguably most iconic city in fantasy fiction) Lankhmar. It creates a concept of thieves that we still have in fantasy, it's downright hilarious at times, and Leiber is a very, very good wordsmith. There's a four volume set that publishes everything in chronological order rather than published one.



2. The Elric Series, Michael Moorcock - Created specifically as an anti-Conan and an anti-fantasy cliche, Elric of Melnibone is born a small, physically weak person of a vastly evil race who has the vestige of a conscious, and is trying not to follow others. He uses magic to increase his prowess, and then finds a powerful sword that drains victim's swords to make him stronger in combat. And it's an evil sword, but he's not bothered. He'll eventually lead a fleet of humans to destroy his race and home. Elric is the real deal, massively influential, and Moorcock at his best.



1. Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien - Nothing else could be here. If it was, you''d seriously wonder what I was doing with my life. And you'd likely question my sanity and this list. So there you go.
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Old 06-19-2016, 12:31 AM   #3
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So what are your favorites? Where did I go wrong? Where did I go right?
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Old 06-19-2016, 12:33 AM   #4
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I'll also give you a few of my personal favorites that don't make normal tops lists, in case you are looking for something different:


Read D'Shai, by Joel Rosenberg. He creates an Asian inspired fantasy-world, a unique take on Magic, and more. But the prologue is enough. After I read that amazing prologue I was done. Oh, and all of his books are shorter, you can read D'Shai with little investment of time. And the sequel, The Hour of the Octopus is great too. It's also interesting as a political intrigue fantasy series written before a certain Martin popularized it.


Another recommendation is by Michael Moorcock called The War Hound and the World's Pain. Written in 1981, it's not really fantasy in a traditional sense. Basically, during the 30 years war, the main character discovers he's lost his soul, and has to undertake a quest for the Holy Grail for Lucifer to restore it. It's amazing and downright Dante-esque at times. Again, not sure if you'd call it a typical fantasy, but it's awesome.


A third I'd make is Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson. It's a good pre-Moorcock Law/Chaos book, and very influential on Gygaz and through him, us. (The paladin class is lifted,d almost whole cloth, from it - Gygax mentions it';s impact on teh game and himself in the DMG itself.) I'd join Gygax in his recommendation of it.
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Old 06-19-2016, 12:52 AM   #5
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I'll totally give your list a better look, because I totally need to be better read in terms of fantasy, but I have to say part of me misunderstood and was instantly disappointed when this wasn't just 10 awesome Frank Frazetta paintings.

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Old 06-19-2016, 01:04 AM   #6
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I love this idea. I've recently read a lot of very good fantasy, I'm going to need some time to digest before I figure out where they slot in for my overall top ten. Recent finds that I love:

The Gentleman Bastards, Scott Lynch - there is nothing new or groundbreaking here, but extremely well crafted story and characters made these books same-day reads for me. I enjoyed the first one (The Lies of Locke Lamora) so much that I bought three more copies and sent them to friends.

Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson - Strong female protagonist, interesting, non-cookie-cutter system of magic, and a very strong ending make this one of my new favorites. I've been really enjoying the spin-off series he has created as well, which is an interesting take since it takes the world the author created and actually applies the passage of time/technological advancement to the world.

The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay - Excellent historical fiction, based on Moorish Spain. Stand-alone book.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:14 AM   #7
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I'll totally give your list a better look, because I totally need to be better read in terms of fantasy, but I have to say part of me misunderstood and was instantly disappointed when this wasn't just 10 awesome Joe Jusko paintings.



FIXED!


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Old 06-19-2016, 07:03 AM   #8
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Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series needs to go in here. Prose is a touch purple at times, but excellent worldbuilding and writing overall (many fantasy writers completely fail at the latter - GRRM - I'm looking at you), with memorable characters and an epic story.
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Old 06-19-2016, 07:04 AM   #9
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I'd also put Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance core series here (Chronicles & Legends).
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Old 06-19-2016, 07:05 AM   #10
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trola,

Agree that Tolkien is #1. Zero question about that.
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Old 06-19-2016, 08:54 AM   #11
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Any top 10 that does not contain Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern is a travesty It fueled my interest in reading, fantasy/scifi then D&D more than any other series. Sad to see her die and her legacy given to her son, who clearly is not living up to his mother's work.

I do not know your #5 author-is he a "modern" writer?

I will second the Guy Gavriel Kay recommendation, but for his first work The Fionavar Tapestry, which would be in my top 10 as well. I would actually move Jordan up on the list, despite the frustrations that come from his books. Most of us had read at least some, if not all of his books (still working on it here). If you take away the persomality quirks (stop pulling on your hair Nynaeve!), and the detailed description of clothing, it is a massively epic series with hopefully a good ending.

Sanderson's Stormborn Archive (rumored to be 10 books) certainly merits a mention here, and I will second the Dragonlance mention. How many books, lore, D&D books have come from that series now? A guilty pleasure of mine, but probably would not include it on any top 10 list is Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli. Each book (I think there are 7) details the next generation of the Cheysuli as they fight against an ancient prophecy/curse. Really enjoyed them.
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:28 AM   #12
Abe Sargent
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Originally Posted by Izulde View Post
Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series needs to go in here. Prose is a touch purple at times, but excellent worldbuilding and writing overall (many fantasy writers completely fail at the latter - GRRM - I'm looking at you), with memorable characters and an epic story.

If you think GRRM isn't the best writer out there, in terms of like prose and such, then I'm not sure why you have Weis and Hickman on the next post I think Dragons of Autumn-Spring is fine, and you can include the Twins trilogy as well. Both good stuff. I also like the Darksword Trilogy they did outside of TSR. The giant seven book Death Gate cycle is solid stuff too, although it gets weaker at the end, inmho. But still, Weis and Hickman aren't exactly the world's greatest word crafters, you know?


But that's the fun of a list here! You can be like, holy crap Abe, that guy sucks. And then you can be like, this tandem is awesome, you should toss them in.


Now for pure use of language, I'd have Dunsany and Vance as my top two for you to look at.



But to be fair, part of what a writer does is idea based. Take Brian Aldiss Hothouse, which is a sci-fi, fantasy blend. In the post-apocalyptic wasteland, where vegetables survived the last war and evoked in many directions, you have huge, skyscraper sized vegetable spiders building mammoths webs over the world, and the flying off to head to the moon, where they built a web bridge to it. Giant vegetable spiders that built a web bridge to the moon. Now that's just an awesome idea. And imaginative literature like fantasy thrives on ideas. Hothouse won a Hugo Award in the early 60s, despite the stories not always having the best prose available to English writers.


So ideas are an important part of a writer's craft. Moorcock is my favorite on the list, and his ideas are still dark and fresh. Even one of his earlier novels, The Eternal Champion, may not be his best work, but
Spoiler
And sure, that's not his best prose, but holy crap that's different fantasy. That's a great, and dark idea.



But for top prose, you should do yourself a favor and Vance away my friend, Vance away.

A lot of older fantasy books are pretty light. 159 pages here, 200 there. It's like the prologue of a Robert Jordan novel.
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:48 AM   #13
Abe Sargent
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Any top 10 that does not contain Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern is a travesty It fueled my interest in reading, fantasy/scifi then D&D more than any other series. Sad to see her die and her legacy given to her son, who clearly is not living up to his mother's work.

I do not know your #5 author-is he a "modern" writer?

I will second the Guy Gavriel Kay recommendation, but for his first work The Fionavar Tapestry, which would be in my top 10 as well. I would actually move Jordan up on the list, despite the frustrations that come from his books. Most of us had read at least some, if not all of his books (still working on it here). If you take away the persomality quirks (stop pulling on your hair Nynaeve!), and the detailed description of clothing, it is a massively epic series with hopefully a good ending.

Sanderson's Stormborn Archive (rumored to be 10 books) certainly merits a mention here, and I will second the Dragonlance mention. How many books, lore, D&D books have come from that series now? A guilty pleasure of mine, but probably would not include it on any top 10 list is Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli. Each book (I think there are 7) details the next generation of the Cheysuli as they fight against an ancient prophecy/curse. Really enjoyed them.


So let's talk good ol' Anne.


Now here's a confession, my first post-Tolkien author was McCaffery. We had Dragonsong in our school library. I finished Lord of the Ring, and that day I went to the library to see what they had. Stuff like Jane Yolen, Lloyd Alexander, and LeGuin was there. No Hobbit, oddly enough. And there was Dragonsong. So I grabbed DS and read it very quickly, as I had just done LOTR and DS is written for younger folk like me.

I had been exposed to fantasy much of my life, looking back. My dad read the entire Narnia Chronicles to me as bedtime stories. (I never really liked them that much as a kid, but never knew why. When I went back to them later, after I had matured, I realized - wow, that's horrible writing. I'm not sure how that stuff got published in that condition at times.)

So MccAffrey was my first post-Tolkien author. My dad is a huge and avid reader of all things sci fi and fantasy. I had read his LOTR and Hobbit. So after DS, I finished that trilogy with my dad's books, and then read more of her stuff, the adult stuff. Then I'd move on to other authors.

Now I do think she's good. And Pern is certainly a very realistic fantasy world (although one could argue it;s not really fantasy)

But still, I'd put McCaffrey in my next te works, and again, this is for works, not for author. I'd have McCaffrey Pern series, Salvatore's Drizzt series (although The Crystal Shard is horrible reading when I go back to it. ), Smith's Xothique series (or perhaps his Hyperborea one - and in fact, he might make both entries) stuff like that.





Anyways, I would move quickly to stuff like RA Salvatore, Douglas Niles, Weis and Hickman, and stuff in the TSR ouvre as I devroued those novels while playing D&D. In fact, I picked up teh first realms novel, Darkwalker on Moonshae, and I was done. I grabbed countless Realms novels, and read them all for years. I still have almost as many Realms novels as any other shared universe. (Battletech might have more, because I own every one ever published, when I moved to just cherry picking the realms stuff I wanted).
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:35 AM   #14
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Vance should be #2 if you included the LYONESSE trilogy, which you inexplicably left off. Pure, Medieval fantasy which I preferred to the great Dying Earth works--and they are brilliant.

If you haven't read these, grab them where you can, likely a used book store.

And a big thumbs-up to Scott Lynch and the next volume which is coming out this year. Also a don't-miss.
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:36 AM   #15
Abe Sargent
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Oh, and Thomkal wanted to know more about Lord Dunsany. He wrote in the early 1900s, and his seminal work, The Gods of Pegana, was 1905. Then he has a bunch of highly influential follow up fantasy stuff. He is canonical in the English Canon, with collections by places like Penguin Classics.

Anyways, take a look at his Wikipedia, and this is a good example of the various influences he had:



Quote:
H. P. Lovecraft was greatly impressed by Dunsany after seeing him on a speaking tour of the United States, and Lovecraft's "Dream Cycle" stories, his dark pseudo-history of how the universe came to be, and his god Azathoth all clearly show Dunsany's influence. Lovecraft once wrote, "There are my 'Poe' pieces and my 'Dunsany' pieces—but alas—where are my Lovecraft pieces?"[17]
Robert E. Howard included Dunsany in a list of his favourite poets in a 1932 letter to Lovecraft.[18]
Clark Ashton Smith was familiar with Dunsany's work, and it had some influence on his own fantasy stories.[19]
J.R.R.Tolkien, according to John D. Rateliff's report,[20] presented Clyde S. Kilby with a copy of The Book of Wonder as kind of a preparation to his auxiliary role in the compilation and development of The Silmarillion during the Sixties.[21] Tolkien's letters and divulged notes made allusions to two of the stories found in this volume, "Chu-Bu and Sheemish" and "The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller."[22] Dale J. Nelson has argued persuasively in Tolkien Studies 01 that Tolkien may have been inspired by another of The Book of Wonder's tales, "The Hoard of the Gibbelins," while writing one of his poems, "The Mewlips," included in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.[23]
Guillermo Del Toro, the filmmaker, has cited Dunsany as an influence.
Neil Gaiman has expressed admiration for Dunsany and has written an introduction to a collection of his stories. Some commentators have posited links between The King of Elfland's Daughter and Gaiman's Stardust (book and film), a connection seemingly supported by a comment of Gaiman's quoted in The Neil Gaiman Reader.
Jorge Luis Borges included Dunsany's short story "The Idle City" in Antología de la Literatura Fantástica (1940, revised 1976), a collection of short works Borges selected and provided forewords for. Borges also, in his essay "Kafka and His Precursors," included Dunsany's story "Carcassonne" as one of the texts that presaged, or paralleled, Kafka's themes.[24]
Donald Wandrei, in a 7 February 1927 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, listed Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter among his collection of "weird books" that Wandrei had read.[25]
Talbot Mundy greatly admired Dunsany's "plays and fantasy", according to Mundy biographer Brian Taves.[26]
C. M. Kornbluth was an avid reader of Dunsany as a young man, and mentions Dunsany in his short fantasy story "Mr. Packer Goes to Hell" (1941).[27]
Arthur C. Clarke enjoyed Dunsany's work and corresponded with him between 1944 and 1956. Those letters are collected in the book Arthur C. Clarke & Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence. Clarke also edited and allowed the use of an early essay as an introduction to one volume of The Collected Jorkens and that essay acknowledges the link between Jorkens and Tales from the White Hart. Clarke states, humorously, that any reader who sees a link between the two works will *not* be hearing from his solicitors.
Manly Wade Wellman esteemed Dunsany's fiction.[28]
Margaret St. Clair was an admirer of Dunsany's work, and her story "The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles" (1951) is a sequel to Dunsany's "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles".[29]
Evangeline Walton stated in an interview that Dunsany inspired her to write fantasy.[30]
Jack Vance was a keen reader of Dunsany's work as a child.[31]
Michael Moorcock often cites Dunsany as a strong influence.[citation needed]
Peter S. Beagle also cites Dunsany as an influence, and wrote an introduction for one of the recent reprint editions.
David Eddings once named Lord Dunsany as his personal favourite fantasy writer, and recommended aspiring authors to sample him.[32]
Gene Wolfe used one of Dunsany's poems to open his bestselling 2004 work The Knight.
Fletcher Pratt's 1948 novel The Well of the Unicorn was written as a sequel to Dunsany's play King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior.
Ursula K. Le Guin, in her essay on style in fantasy "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", wryly referred to Lord Dunsany as the "First Terrible Fate that Awaiteth Unwary Beginners in Fantasy", alluding to the (at the time) very common practice of young writers attempting to write in Lord Dunsany's style.[33]
M. J. Engh has acknowledged Lord Dunsany as an influence on her work.[34]
Welleran Poltarnees, an author of numerous non-fantasy "blessing books" employing turn-of-the-century artwork, is a pen name based on two of Lord Dunsany's most famous stories.[citation needed]
Gary Myers's 1975 short story collection The House of the Worm is a double pastiche of Dunsany and Lovecraft.[citation needed]
Álvaro Cunqueiro openly admitted the influence of Lord Dunsany on his work, and wrote him an epitaph which is included in "Herba de aquí e de acolá".
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:37 AM   #16
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Vance should be #2 if you included the LYONESSE trilogy, which you inexplicably left off. Pure, Medieval fantasy which I preferred to the great Dying Earth works--and they are brilliant.

If you haven't read these, grab them where you can, likely a used book store.

And a big thumbs-up to Scott Lynch and the next volume which is coming out this year. Also a don't-miss.

Lyonesse is great too, but better than Dying Earth? OMG!


EDIT - If I were going to recommend that every fantasy fan pick up just one book and read it, irrespective of sequels, trilogies, and what not, it's likely be Dying Earth.
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:50 AM   #17
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I'd probably include Steven Erikson's Malazan series.
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:52 AM   #18
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I enjoy the Drenai Saga by David Gemmell, but I also haven't read a bunch of the ones mentioned.
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Old 06-19-2016, 11:03 AM   #19
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I'd also put Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance core series here (Chronicles & Legends).

I actually found the Death Gate Cycle by those two to be superior.

Seconding Mistborn being missing from the list, along with a very underrated Coldfire Trilogy by CS Friedman (I know I've pimped that one here before).

And for my Nerd Heresy moment...Tolkien is INCREDIBLY overrated in my mind. Incredibly dry, unnecessarily verbose writing style. I'll give him credit - he absolutely set the stage for fantasy novels for decades to come. That said, he's superseded by countless other authors.
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Old 06-19-2016, 11:05 AM   #20
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And Coffee Warlord exits stage right, never to be heard from again.
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Old 06-19-2016, 11:12 AM   #21
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If you think GRRM isn't the best writer out there, in terms of like prose and such, then I'm not sure why you have Weis and Hickman on the next post I think Dragons of Autumn-Spring is fine, and you can include the Twins trilogy as well. Both good stuff. I also like the Darksword Trilogy they did outside of TSR. The giant seven book Death Gate cycle is solid stuff too, although it gets weaker at the end, inmho. But still, Weis and Hickman aren't exactly the world's greatest word crafters, you know?

There's a huge difference, though - Weis and Hickman nail the 3 Cs - Crisp, Clean, Clear - in their prose style, which gives it a pleasant mouthfeel. GRRM is total sludge and leaves a horrible taste. In terms of the actual ideas and worldbuilding, it's great, but the style is so damn putrid I keep wishing a competent stylist had written it. Which is also why the TV series and Telltale Games are so much better than the source novels - the shittiness of GRRM's prose goes away (Cue ISiqquidi jumping in to disagree with me )

I loved the Darksword Trilogy. Simpkin is one of my favorite characters ever.

The Moonshae Trilogy is one I also really enjoyed In fact, everything I've read by Douglas Niles I've at least liked. See, when I read fantasy novels, I'm looking for 1) good story, 2) memorable characters, and 3) the 3 Cs in prose style, which is an indicator of competence, as I don't expect great writing in the genre. If I *do* come across it, so much the better.
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Old 06-19-2016, 11:15 AM   #22
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And for my Nerd Heresy moment...Tolkien is INCREDIBLY overrated in my mind. Incredibly dry, unnecessarily verbose writing style. I'll give him credit - he absolutely set the stage for fantasy novels for decades to come. That said, he's superseded by countless other authors.

I used to hold this exact opinion, actually. But the more I studied him, the more I did a complete 180. Yes, it's dry, yes it's verbose. But the tone is that of a chronicle detailing a world's history and monumental events. It lends LotR a gravitas that would be lacking a lighter, more vivid prose.
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Old 06-19-2016, 05:10 PM   #23
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It's so hard (really impossible) for me to rank this kind of thing - beyond Lord of the Rings as #1 anyway.

Just some I would add to a list that haven't already been mentioned.

The Black Company by Glen Cook. I am a huge fan of Cook in anything (his Garrett PI books, which are comedic fantasy, are a lot of fun) but the Black Company series is amazing and the idea of following a mercenary unit is a pretty unique one as far as I know.

Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz - pretty much my favorite books as a teenager, also the first I read where the author would kill off main characters fairly frequently. Based on medieval England but with some characters the Deryni who have psionic powers. Lots of plotting and scheming.

Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander - young adult series from the 60s based on Welsh mythology. Ignore the movie the Black Cauldron they made about this and just read the books.
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Old 07-09-2016, 10:59 AM   #24
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Today at a used bookstore her eon campus I picked up:

Books 17, 18, `19, and 20 in the Lone Wolf Series
Tehanu, which I had read previously, but never owned
Deryni Rising, I've always wondered how much I would like Kurtz
Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster
I lost my copy of Dragon Wing by Weis and Hickman, so I grabbed another copy
The Worn Ouroboros by ER Eddison, one of the foundation books in the field form 1922
Phillip Jose Farm's Riverworld
Volum II Sic Fi-s Great Years - faturig stories by AE Van Vogt and Heinlein.

So I have 11 books that cost me 2.85 after tax. I gave them a full 5 bucks, as it was a used book store under the library here on campus that helps to fund the expansion of new books and stuff for the library.

Five minute walk there and back again


I just checked a bunch of these on Amazon. River, Tehanu, Ice, and Dragon Wing are at that level of purchase. The Worm Orroboros is about 5 bucks by itself for this printing used, so there's my money back right there, DR is 3,50 used, the sci fi collection is a buck used, but the real winners, as I knew they would be, are the Lone Wolf stuff. Even used, those are mega hits. I only picked up the ones I was missing. Although if I wanted, I could grab a bunch more and flip them for money online. Although the early stuf was so jeavily mass marketed and the books tend to be very well used and worn, so there's not much of amarket for used books from the early stuff But later? But 17 alone is 14 used minimum.
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Old 07-09-2016, 01:32 PM   #25
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Yesterday I picked up:

The Complete Chronicles of Amber
An Elric compilation
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantasic

I naturally thought of this thread.
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Old 07-09-2016, 02:29 PM   #26
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Here's some of my favorites.

Anne McCaffrey: Talked about above, But her Pern series was my soul food series growing up

Piers Anthony Xanth: It's faded a bit, as some of the subtext in Piers Anthony's novels became clearer, but it was a fantasy world with puns, and it was great to me growing up.

David Weber (Safehold and War God's series): Safehold is a weird combo of fantasy (set in a world deliberately restricted in technology to avoid extermination by aliens) and science fiction (A member of the original Federation is brought to life in a mechanical shell to bring them out) War God's series, is more classic fantasy, but I love the fact that it deals with issues that have real world parallels. Plus it has it's moments of funny too.

Lord of the Rings: What more can be said.

Dragonlance Original Chronicles (I read a bunch of their stuff, but the original trilogy is what stayed with me. "We do not mourn the loss of those who die fufilling their destinies". (about Sturm Brightblade) still gives me the chills)
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Old 07-09-2016, 02:44 PM   #27
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Jack Chalker Well World series. To my mind, it's much more fantasy than sci-fi.

Hands down the most engaging thing in the niche I ever read. I can see arguments for other writers, but none of them - not even the classics - ever hooked me the way this series did.
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Old 07-09-2016, 03:15 PM   #28
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And that's certainly fine. Fantasy is abig tent.

Warhammer, I;d be interested in your Zelazny excursion. Or Elric for that matter. And what you think. Z is easier to get into, and Moorcock just will dominate my senses after a while.
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Old 07-09-2016, 03:18 PM   #29
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And that's certainly fine. Fantasy is abig tent.

Just for clarity, I ain't kickin' no dirt on anybody's picks. I just needed some way to establish why I was throwing that one in here since the thread got necromanced & caught my eye.

The whole fantasy vs sci-fi thing, I referenced that just because I was actually surprised to see that series labeled solely as sci-fi on Wiki. I've never really thought of it that way, despite the presence of computers in the story. The creatures were simply too fantastical.
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Old 07-09-2016, 05:57 PM   #30
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Just for clarity, I ain't kickin' no dirt on anybody's picks. I just needed some way to establish why I was throwing that one in here since the thread got necromanced & caught my eye.

The whole fantasy vs sci-fi thing, I referenced that just because I was actually surprised to see that series labeled solely as sci-fi on Wiki. I've never really thought of it that way, despite the presence of computers in the story. The creatures were simply too fantastical.

I hear ya. And I'm not rubbing folks for genre play. For example, Dragonriders of Pern is arguably a sci fi, not a fantasy. It's a colony by people on a planet that wanted a lower tech lifestyle, thenaa rogue planet in the system that cycles by every few hundred years had this fungus like thread growth that grew towards, and rained on the planet like meteorites. And then you have the defenders use genetics and ibreeding to breed dragons from fire lizards that can be fed special rocks for their second stomach to ignite a gas they breathe for a while, and then they fly, and warp between on command as well to dodge the falling thread. And major plotlines are about remaking old ways to fight htreafd, like flamethrowers, or discovering lost technology that changes everything. That's sci-fi, not fantasy.

But there are still people flying on dragons, breathing fire, fighting against this weird growth from another world, and teleporting around while communicating with them telepathically. It's hard not to see that as fantasy.

Now I personally feel it's more sci fi than fantasy. The pre-threadfall stories certainly are, that are prologues written about it;s founding and such. Anbd everything is explained in a sci fi context. So I personally feel sci fi, but you never heard me mention, unitl now, that I felt that way. Because it certainly has teh accoutrements of fantasy. And I'm sure it feels fansy to a lot of folks.

And frankly ,fantasy is a big ol' tent. Room for everyone. Your stuff too!
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Old 07-09-2016, 06:03 PM   #31
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After that recap of DRPern I'm once again stuck trying to remember another series -- lower profile, from a writer that was probably a couple tiers below the biggies -- that had some similar elements. Somebody I read from a different genre maybe, that did this set as a sideline.

Gah, bothered me earlier today because I couldn't quite summon the details, now it's gonna bug me again. There was a "reclaiming old tech" aspect to the story I'm trying to remember, but with dragons & magic & other fantasy element in the mix too.

It's one of those deals where I can almost come up with the likely author -- can even sorta see a couple of their covers from another series -- but can't quiiiiite get it clear enough to come up with the name.

#InsufficientMemory
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Old 07-09-2016, 07:37 PM   #32
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I just bought a bunch of books recently but I'm gonna have to come back to this thread when I'm running low again. I love getting into good series and fantasy writers.
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Old 07-12-2016, 09:03 PM   #33
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After that recap of DRPern I'm once again stuck trying to remember another series -- lower profile, from a writer that was probably a couple tiers below the biggies -- that had some similar elements. Somebody I read from a different genre maybe, that did this set as a sideline.

Gah, bothered me earlier today because I couldn't quite summon the details, now it's gonna bug me again. There was a "reclaiming old tech" aspect to the story I'm trying to remember, but with dragons & magic & other fantasy element in the mix too.

It's one of those deals where I can almost come up with the likely author -- can even sorta see a couple of their covers from another series -- but can't quiiiiite get it clear enough to come up with the name.

#InsufficientMemory

Fred Saberhagen? Empire of the East?
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Old 01-30-2018, 08:02 AM   #34
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Bump for the post-Ursula LeGuin passage to discuss her stuff again in the context of great fantasy authors and works if you like!
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:07 PM   #35
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Great thread! Personally I prefer the works of Joe Abercrombie (The blade itself) and Patrick Rothfuss (The name of the wind) over the Dragonlance books or the Wheel of time series. Robin Hobb is also worthy of a honorable mention.
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:17 PM   #36
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I like Rothfuss and Hobb also. The first Farseer series was great but Soldier Son was just weird.

I like Abercrombie also but don't quite put him up there.
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:39 PM   #37
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My list in no particular order
  1. Song of Ice and Fire - GRRM
  2. Gentlemen Bastards - Scott Lynch
  3. Farseer series - Robin Hobb
  4. Kingkiller Chronicle - Patrick Rothfuss
  5. Harry Potter - JK Rowling
  6. Inda series - Sherwood Smith
  7. Raven's Shadow series - Anthony Ryan
  8. Demon Cycle - Peter Brett

Possibly more Sci-Fi than Fantasy
  1. Island in the Sea of Time series - SM Stirling
  2. Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson

Even if he doesn't finish it, ASOIAF is one of the best (and most anguishing) reads for me. I think GRRM is a fantastic writer.

Robin Hobb is great but her non-Farseer series are hit and miss for me. She has the deepest character development, sometimes too much.

I think Patrick Rothfuss wants everything to be perfect but seems to be distracted recently, the GRRM trap.

Anthony Ryan's first book is in the series was just fantastic. The other 2 were just so-so for me.

Peter Brett's first book, The Warded Man was fantastic. His later books in the series got weird. I struggled to list him here but decided to.

SM Stirling first trilogy captured my imagination. Then he got away from those characters and started the storyline in NA which didn't do it for me.

Sanderson's Mistborn magic is just so original, loved it.

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Old 01-30-2018, 04:23 PM   #38
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wow didn't figure anyone would mention the Sherwood Smith series. I've only read the first book, and someday will read the second. Not sure I would recommend it for a top 10 list. Borders on child abuse/sex abuse with how the noble families in the main part of the story treat their heirs/future wives. I do like that there are some homosexual characters in it though including the king.
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Old 01-30-2018, 07:08 PM   #39
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I don't remember that it was explicit but do remember the undertones.

Robin Hobb's recent series have more explicitness. It was a surprise to me as she had not gotten into it her first 3 (I think) series.
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Old 01-30-2018, 07:30 PM   #40
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I don't remember that it was explicit but do remember the undertones.

Robin Hobb's recent series have more explicitness. It was a surprise to me as she had not gotten into it her first 3 (I think) series.

Yeah it was pretty much expected for older brothers (and fathers?) to beat up their younger brothers to prepare them for war. When Inda was in "boot camp", they were always getting beat up by the older boys there.

The only Robin Hobb I've read in the series where the kids find and train dragons. They were all kind of outcasts from what I remember, so not treated the best.
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Old 01-30-2018, 08:18 PM   #41
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I just finished reading the Patrick Rothfuss books, and I truly believe that his prose is the best (that I've read in fantasy). The first book is one of the best fantasy books I've ever read, it was like the fantasy version of Harry Potter, for an adult audience. I thought he went off the rails a bit in his 2nd book, I still gave it 4* but I felt there wasn't a true storyline to the book and it just ended. There was still plenty that happened, but I just felt there wasn't much point to it.

I'd give the main spot to the Song of Fire and Ice of course, that big moment in book 1 where you realize that everything in fantasy has changed, I threw the book across the room. My wife didn't understand, but she always remembered the book throwing moment. Many many years later when we watched the TV show, as soon as that head went rolling, I just did a book throwing motion and she understood exactly what I was talking about.

I also give Robert Jordan a lot of credit for creating one of the deepest worlds around. I only finished the first 8 books in the series, I felt it really lost quality after the first 5 excellent books. It was finished well by Brandon Sanderson, which is the next author that I will be reading now that I have finished the Rothfuss books.

I also read the first book in the Malazan series and it was quite daunting. They say his prose isn't easy to get into and that is right. He doesn't hold your hand a tiny bit, you need to read it with focus and concentration. Even the poems have meaning and pay off later. I couldn't bring myself to continue the series yet, but I intend on it one day.
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Old 01-30-2018, 08:42 PM   #42
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Yeah it was pretty much expected for older brothers (and fathers?) to beat up their younger brothers to prepare them for war. When Inda was in "boot camp", they were always getting beat up by the older boys there.

The only Robin Hobb I've read in the series where the kids find and train dragons. They were all kind of outcasts from what I remember, so not treated the best.

If you liked it somewhat, try the first Farseer trilogy. That's the best one IMO.
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Old 01-30-2018, 08:45 PM   #43
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I also give Robert Jordan a lot of credit for creating one of the deepest worlds around. I only finished the first 8 books in the series, I felt it really lost quality after the first 5 excellent books. It was finished well by Brandon Sanderson, which is the next author that I will be reading now that I have finished the Rothfuss books.

I also read the first book in the Malazan series and it was quite daunting. They say his prose isn't easy to get into and that is right. He doesn't hold your hand a tiny bit, you need to read it with focus and concentration. Even the poems have meaning and pay off later. I couldn't bring myself to continue the series yet, but I intend on it one day.

I know its sacrilegious but I've never been able to get into Jordan. I read the first book and never got to the second.

I feel the same way you do about Malazan, never finished the first book.
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Old 01-30-2018, 09:18 PM   #44
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And that's certainly fine. Fantasy is abig tent.

Warhammer, I;d be interested in your Zelazny excursion. Or Elric for that matter. And what you think. Z is easier to get into, and Moorcock just will dominate my senses after a while.

I never saw this post, better late than never I guess.

I I loved Elric, it I was travelling a ton at the time and so was not able to get into a good rhythm, but I loved it. The visuals were great.

Zelazny I couldn't put down the first set of novels. The second set of Amber left me a bit cold. It seemed like everything turned into a shopping list. Whereas the first set of books I was trying to figure out how everything fit together, etc.
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Old 01-27-2019, 07:48 PM   #45
Abe Sargent
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Top Ten Fantasy Works of All Time - YouTube



a few moved around, but my list today...
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Old 01-28-2019, 12:20 AM   #46
Edward64
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Originally Posted by Abe Sargent View Post
Top Ten Fantasy Works of All Time - YouTube



a few moved around, but my list today...

Nice.

Never really got interested in Moorcock or Howard so can't really comment there. But com'on, GRRM at #10? He's way up there IMHO
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Old 01-28-2019, 05:44 AM   #47
Mota
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Lord of the Rings. Absolute game changer, it essentially created the genre that we love today. Without it, things would have been much different.

In my teenage years, it was the Dragonlance Chronicles and LOTR.

Then in my early adult years, it was Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.

Now that I have been an adult for a much longer time, today's writers that inspire me are Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles, which I consider to have the best fantasy prose I have ever read. Several times I had to read some of the quotes to my wife, who gave me an odd luck and then a blank smile every time. But I had to share it.
The other modern writer which has inspired me is Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. I have completed the first 2.5 books, and it is my favorite fantasy series I have started in over 10 years. I LOVE the beginning of the series, how everybody starts on a good note, and they instantly tear everybody down. It is shocking and a great tool to get to know the characters.
There's also GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire which was a game changer for me, but I really feel the series lost it's way. The first 3 books were among my favorites, then books 4 and 5 I just feel ... disconnected. Killing off main characters is what made the series so different, but at the same time, these characters were replaced with less memorable and likeable characters (and many many more of them), and I feel like I just don't care as much.
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Old 01-29-2019, 09:49 PM   #48
Edward64
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Originally Posted by Mota View Post
Now that I have been an adult for a much longer time, today's writers that inspire me are Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles, which I consider to have the best fantasy prose I have ever read. Several times I had to read some of the quotes to my wife, who gave me an odd luck and then a blank smile every time. But I had to share it.

The other modern writer which has inspired me is Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. I have completed the first 2.5 books, and it is my favorite fantasy series I have started in over 10 years. I LOVE the beginning of the series, how everybody starts on a good note, and they instantly tear everybody down. It is shocking and a great tool to get to know the characters.

There's also GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire which was a game changer for me, but I really feel the series lost it's way. The first 3 books were among my favorites, then books 4 and 5 I just feel ... disconnected. Killing off main characters is what made the series so different, but at the same time, these characters were replaced with less memorable and likeable characters (and many many more of them), and I feel like I just don't care as much.

Rothfuss and GRRM are easily in my top 5. However, both of them are really pissing me off by not finishing their series. I've given up on GRRM as I've got HBO to depend on but Rothfuss is a major disappointment.

I like Sanderson. His writing style is not as good as the above two (but still very good) but he is dependable and cranks out the books.
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Old 01-30-2019, 08:07 AM   #49
QuikSand
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I'm no expert in the genre, but was coerced into reading Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson back in the late 1980s, and absolutely loved it. It became a trilogy, then a second trilogy, and then apparently more after that all in the same setting. I've heard it mentioned among fans as a hidden gem in the genre, and without being able to contrast it with others mentioned here, I'd recommend it pretty heartily.

(Additional note: I read the first six and give them all a thumbs up. Apparently Scott brick has recorded an audio version of at least the first three, but for some reason it's not available on Audible... if it were, I think I'd take the plunge and do them all again)

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Old 01-30-2019, 08:55 AM   #50
Vince, Pt. II
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Damn. I love me some Scott Brick. Bummer that it's not on Audible.
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