Swords and sorcery, Tolkien derivatives, hard to categorise allegory, Urban fantasy...





The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings: Part 1)     1954

This one hardly needs an introduction…


The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings: Part 2) 1954

This one hardly needs an introduction…


The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings: Part 3) 1955

This one hardly needs an introduction…





The Great Divorce   1946

Brief, potent, inspiring speculative theological allegory


MARTIN, George R. R.

A Game of Thrones (Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire)      1997  

Majestic, unpredictable, engaging, striking


TOLKIEN, J.R.R.          

The Hobbit   1937   Fantasy/Juvenile

Enchanting story, rich world




ANDERSON, Poul & Karen    

Faith   1992

In ‘After the King: Stories in Honour of J.R.R. Tolkien’

Excellent mood, a worthy tribute


CLARKE, Susanna

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell     2004    Fantasy / Historical Fiction

      A triumph – plotting, pacing, characters, tone, faery, historical fiction, interplay, humour, tragedy – really enjoyable book.



Midnight Falcon (Rigante Series, Book 2)     1999   Fantasy

Thoroughly enjoyable, legendary characters with flesh, intelligent ideas, engaging morality, coherent plot


MARTIN, George R. R.

Steel & Snow (A Storm of Swords 1: Book 3, Part 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire)   2000

Structure still concerning, but some great moments and salient themes


LE GUIN, Ursula K.      

A Wizard of Earthsea   (Earthsea, Book 1)    1968   Fantasy

Real sense of magic, depth, legend



The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (Book 2 of the Narnia series)    1950

Fabulous Christian allegory



The Hollow Hills (Book 2 in the Merlin saga) 1973    Fantasy

Savouring patient expectation within a thoroughly engaging and consistent structure



The Silmarillion 1977   Fantasy

Potent, magical, epic



The Once and Future King     1958   Fantasy

      Best to relish 'The Sword in the Stone', and then close the book and move on


WOLFE, Gene         

The Knight (Book 1 of The Wizard Knight)     2004

A satisfying hero drawn from rich earlier traditions




GEMMELL, David   

The Legend of Deathwalker (Drenai Tales, Book 7)     1996

Solid, perfectly balanced heroic fantasy



Stardust  1999

Very satisfying mix of fairy tale and fantasy


KERR, Katharine    

Daggerspell (Volume 1 of the Deverry series)     1986   Fantasy

Original, capable karmic fantasy


LE GUIN, Ursula K.

Semley's Necklace (in ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’)   1964   Short Story/Fantasy/SF

Wonderful evocation of a fantasy legend somehow effectively incorporating SF elements



Prince Caspian (Book 4 of the Narnia series)      1951

‘The Return to Narnia’


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 5 of the Narnia series)    1952

Narnia’s Odyssey


The Silver Chair (Book 6 of the Narnia series)    1953

Slightly darker tale of rescue


The Magician’s Nephew (Book 1 of the Narnia series)  1955

Lion, Witch & Wardrobe prequel


The Last Battle (Book 7 of the Narnia series)      1956

Antichrist, eschatology and Armageddon for kids! Courageous undertaking



The Princess and Curdie 1882   Juvenile/Fantasy



RODDA, Emily        

The Forests of Silence (Deltora Quest 1)      2000   Fantasy/Juvenile

Enjoyable straight-ahead swords and sorcery for kids



The Crystal Cave (Book 1 in the Merlin saga)     1970   Fantasy

Young Merlin enchantingly evoked





BEAGLE, Peter S.

Tamsin    1999   Fantasy (Ghost)

Deft characterisation of a teenage girl, evocative writing, silly climax


BUJOLD, Lois McMaster

Paladin of Souls (World of the Five Gods 2)       2003    Fantasy

Strong character transformative finish outweighs common stylistic weaknesses


 CARD, Orson Scott    

Magic Street       2005   Urban Fantasy

Bravely/foolishly mixing faery with contemporary US black community


EDDINGS, David    

Pawn of Prophecy (Book One of the Belgariad) 1982

Oversimplified, definitively juvenile, pitch perfect for bookish young teens


Queen of Sorcery (Book Two of the Belgariad)   1982

Enjoyable adolescent fluff


FEIST, Raymond E.     

Magician  1982

Enjoyable ride and D&D characters, some originality in mixing European and Japanese medieval cultures



American Gods 2001   Fantasy (Urban)

Narrative strengths overcome plot weaknesses


GEMMELL, David  

Legend (Drenai Tales, Book 1) 1984

Cliché settings, stereotype mythical fighters and damsels, but he does it so well!


Quest for Lost Heroes (Drenai Tales, Book 3)   1990

Another solid effort


Druss the Legend (Drenai Tales, Book 6)     1993

Yep, he’s a Conan-style, dead-set legend


KERR, Katharine    

Darkspell (Volume 2 of the Deverry series)   1987 (Revised 1994)      Fantasy

Still coherent, and some nice moments


Dragonspell (Volume 4 of the Deverry series)     1991   Fantasy

OK plot and climax, poor romance, too many superswordspeople


LE GUIN, Ursula K.      

The Darkness Box (in ‘The Wind’s Twelve Quarters’)    1964   Short Story/Fantasy

Clever realisation of an evocative idea


The Word of Unbinding           1964   Fantasy/Short Stories

Great key elements already in place in early Earthsea musings


Tales from Earthsea          2001   Fantasy/Short Stories

Five tales, one great, three good, and one disappointing



The Princess and the Goblin 1872   Juvenile/Fantasy

Inspiring or elitist? Higher rating for originality rather than ride


NIVEN, Larry

What Good is a Glass Dagger?   1972   Fantasy/Short Story

(in ‘The Flight of the Horse’)

Great little mix of fantasy, action and humour


ORWELL, George

Animal Farm 1945   Fantasy: Political Allegory

Bleak fable of Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky



Mort   1987   Fantasy/Humour

Some wonderful ideas and descriptions excuse a dumb climax


Pyramids  1989    Fantasy/Humour

Relished the charmingly silly first half, then it seemed to want us care about the absurd plot


Moving Pictures 1990   Fantasy/Humour

Yeah, another Pratchett. Some amusing bits - a workmanlike effort


Soul Music   1994   Fantasy/Humour

Competent. Discworld, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll


Jingo  1997   Fantasy/Humour

Competent – Pratchett’s spin on nationalism


The Last Continent 1998   Fantasy/Humour

Standard Discworld novel, with a few Aussie ‘in’ jokes


The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents 2001   Fantasy/Humour

Funny, workmanlike plot, some charming characters, odd anti-Christian allegories



Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 1997    Fantasy/Juvenile



Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets   1998    Fantasy/Juvenile

Still enjoyable


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 1999    Fantasy/Juvenile

OK ride. Morally dubious. Good series structure


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2000   Fantasy/Juvenile

Fine. Dumb twist. Enticing hints of future developments


Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix      2003   Fantasy/Juvenile

Strengths just about outweigh the weaknesses



The Last Enchantment (Book 3 in the Merlin saga) 1979   Fantasy

Continues to capably weave around the Arthurian legend



The First Book of Swords       1983

Good idea well executed


The Second Book of Swords       1983    Fantasy

Characters and settings a bit 2D (or classic), but originality with Gods and swords, and cracker chaotic finish


The Third Book of Swords     1984

Consistent series


Woundhealer’s Story (The First Book of Lost Swords)       1986

Consistent series. Clever interaction between differing magical god-forged swords


Stonecutter’s Story (The Third Book of Lost Swords)   1988

Consistent series. Clever interaction between differing magical god-forged swords


Farslayer’s Story (The Fourth Book of Lost Swords)     1989

Consistent series. Clever interaction between differing magical god-forged swords






The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night      1300s?     Fantasy/Short Stories

Constant blood, magic and sex. Diverting but very repetitive


ALDRIDGE, Alan    

The Gnole          1991

Inconsistent Pastoral/Supernatural/Conspiracy fantasy


BUJOLD, Lois McMaster

The Sharing Knife (Vol. 1: Beguilement)       2006   Fantasy / Romance

 Teen fantasy/romance, half-decent world building, some OK ideas, some cliché



Fortress in the Eye of Time    1994

Initially slow and meandering, but stronger latter half


COOK, Hugh

The Wizards and the Warlords (Chronicles of an Age of Darkness: Volume 1)        1986

Some original ideas, lots of unoriginal ones, fairly sloppy, some plot surprises


The Wordsmiths & The Warguild (Chronicles of an Age of Darkness: Volume 2)          1987

Smug, crass, 2D characters and settings, but original subversion of perspective



The Gift (The First Book of Pellinor – The Treesong Trilogy)     2002   Fantasy/Juvenile

Competent enough cliché, teen girl daydream, two-dimensional


EDDINGS, David    

Magician’s Gambit (Book Three of the Belgariad)    1983?

Some of the tricks are wearing a bit thin


Castle of Wizardry (Book Four of the Belgariad) 1984

Series starting to irritate a bit now – very lazy writing (no editing), repetitive dialogue


The Diamond Throne (Book One of the Elenium)    1989

Satisfactory fare, no surprises


The Ruby Knight (Book Two of the Elenium) 1990

OK, but I don’t recall ever bothering to finish the series


GEMMELL, David  

Wolf in Shadow 1996   Fantasy/SF

Too close to Stephen King's 'The Gunslinger'


JORDAN, Robert    

The Eye of the World (Book 1 of The Wheel of Time)   1990

OK standard ride for a while, a bit tedious towards the finish


KAY, Guy Gavriel

Tigana           1990

Coherent world, OK plot, but cliché characters, windy exposition and sentimental adolescent perspective


KERR, Katharine

Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood (Volume 3 of the Deverry series)      1989

Still nothing wrong, but without the novelty not as compelling


LAWHEAD, Stephen    

Taliesin (Book 1 of the Pendragon Cycle)      1987

Another version of the Arthur myth incorporating Atlantis and Christianity


LEE, Tanith  

Delusion’s Master   1981

Grand scope, discomforting, Clive Barker-ish


LEIBER, Fritz    

Swords Against Wizardry (Book 4 in the Swords series)   1968

Classic sword and sorcery heroes (plus wisecracks and wenches)


The Swords of Lankhmar (Book 5 in the Swords series)    1968

Classic sword and sorcery heroes (plus wisecracks and wenches)


      The Knight and Knave of Swords (Book 7 in the ‘Swords’ series)      1990

Original ideas, good mood and lead characters undermined by frequent voyeurism


LE GUIN, Ursula K.

The Other Wind (Earthsea, Book 5)    2001

Evocative skills, but this story hinged on some weak plot devices and characters



Phantastes   1858   Fantasy/Allegory

Sustained dreamlike mood, little else


At the back of the North Wind     1870   Juvenile/Fantasy

Too long since I read it – I’m not sure I finished


Lilith   1895   Fantasy/Allegory

Haunting, dreamlike, insightful, confusing, enigmatic


MARTIN, George R. R.

A Clash Of Kings (Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire)    1998

Loses direction, often gratuitous, too many world shaking characters


Blood and Gold (A Storm of Swords 2: Book 3, Part 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire)     2000

Alas: Grand epic bloats to Soap Opera



Dragonflight       1968

Solid and original enough world creation but McCaffrey always feels elitist to me



King Rat 1998   Action/(Urban) Fantasy

Cool, dark X-men action and mood, bit pretentious, really silly climax



The Jewel in the Skull (Volume 1 of the Runestaff) 1967

Somewhat darker Lieberish swords and sorcery OK pulp


The Sword of the Dawn (Volume 3 of the Runestaff)    1969

Somewhat darker Leiberish swords and sorcery OK pulp


The Secret of the Runestaff (Volume 4 of the Runestaff)   1969

Somewhat darker Leiberish swords and sorcery OK pulp


PAOLINI, Christopher

Eragon          2002   Fantasy/Juvenile

OK if you haven’t read much fantasy before, derivative, some weaknesses


PEAKE, Mervyn

Titus Groan (Book 1 of the Gormenghast trilogy)      1946   Fantasy

Constant discomforting, lurid images, oppressive mood, grotesque population, crawling pace … but strangely compelling



Small Gods  1992

Solid humour as ever but a bit dodgily preachy


Nation       2008    Fantasy

Some good moments undermined by gratuitous preaching


VANCE, Jack    

The Dying Earth 1950   SF/Fantasy

      Future magic more than spaceships



Tailchaser's Song        1992   Fantasy / Juvenile (Adolescent)

Pleasant enough fare with poor resolution


WOLFE, Gene         

The Wizard (Book 2 of The Wizard Knight)    2004   Fantasy

Too much of the same: still impressive, but less novel and gripping





Faery in Shadow     1993

Yet another outcast suffers tortured indecision, disappointing


DONALDSON, Stephen    

Lord Foul’s Bane          1977

Some absorbing world/culture creation, but grandiose language doesn’t cover confused unsatisfying themes and action


The Wounded Land      1980

Great imagination but lead characters and basic plot not engaging enough for series length


EDDINGS, David    

Enchanters’ End Game (Book Five of the Belgariad)    1984

The (yawn) climax. No suspense – every second goodie casually granted godlike powers


JORDAN, Robert    

The Great Hunt (Book 2 of The Wheel of Time) 1990

Odd sequel (the baddie executed in Book 1 inexplicably reappears)


KING, Steven          

The Gunslinger 1982/2003(Revised)       SF/Fantasy

Impressive façade



Sightblinder's Story (The Second Book of Lost Swords)    1987

Disappointing both as episode & continuation






FEIST, Raymond E.     

Flight of the Nighthawks   2004  

Lazy, indulgent, formulaic     


TAYLER, K. J.           

The Dark Griffin      2009  

Slightest variation on a massively over-travelled route. Juvenile. 2D.


WEEKS, Brent         

The Way of Shadows   2008

Another failed attempt to mix realism with fantasy; naïve








The Mad God’s Amulet (Volume 2 of the Runestaff)     1968

Bleak, offensive background, cliché characters, LAZY random plotting


PULLMAN, Phillip 

His Dark Materials 2003 (BBC Audiobook Edition) Fantasy / Juvenile

Probably some original ideas, but I just couldn’t get past the cliché characters, scenarios, and bad writing and dialogue. Bailed early.






Wizard's First Rule 1994

Sloppy. Gratuitous. Self-contradictory. Lazy






The Sword of Shannara    1977

Entranced in my early teens, I lost faith in sequels as an older reader. Rereading in 2007: Bad LOTR cover version.






Royal Chaos 1990    Fantasy/Humour

Tryhard predictable comedy