FANTASY

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

 

 A++

 

TOLKIEN, J.R.R.    

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…

       

   A+

 

LEWIS, C.S.

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

 

 A

 

ANDERSON, Poul & Karen    

Faith   1992

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

Excellent mood, a worthy tribute

 

GEMMELL, David

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

 

LEWIS, C.S.

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

Fabulous Christian allegory

 

STEWART, Mary

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

Savouring patient expectation within a thoroughly engaging and consistent structure

 

TOLKIEN, J.R.R.

The Silmarillion  1977    Fantasy

Potent, magical, epic

 

WHITE, T.H.

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

 

 A-

 

GEMMELL, David   

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

Solid, perfectly balanced heroic fantasy

 

GAIMAN, Neil

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

 

LEWIS, C.S.

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

 

MACDONALD, George

The Princess and Curdie   1882    Juvenile/Fantasy

Enchanting

 

RODDA, Emily        

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

Enjoyable straight-ahead swords and sorcery for kids

 

STEWART, Mary

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

Young Merlin enchantingly evoked

 

 

 B+

 

BEAGLE, Peter S.

Tamsin     1999    Fantasy (Ghost)

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

 

 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

 

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)     ???      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

 

MACDONALD, George

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

 

PRATCHETT, Terry    

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

 

ROWLING, J.K.

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

Enjoyable

 

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

 

STEWART, Mary

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

Continues to capably weave around the Arthurian legend

 

SABERHAGEN, Fred

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

 

 

 B

 

ANONYMOUS

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

 

CHERRYH, C. J.

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

 

CROGGON, Alison

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

 

MACDONALD, George

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

 

McCAFFREY, Anne

Dragonflight       1968

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

 

MIÉVILLE, China

King Rat 1998    Action/(Urban) Fantasy

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

 

MOORCOCK, Michael

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

 

PRATCHETT, Terry    

Small Gods   1992

Solid humour as ever but a bit dodgily preachy

 

VANCE, Jack     

The Dying Earth 1950    SF/Fantasy

      Future magic more than spaceships

 

WILLIAMS, Tad

Tailchaser's Song         1992    Fantasy / Juvenile (Adolescent)

Pleasant enough fare with poor resolution

 

 B-

 

CHERRYH, C.J.

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

 

SABERHAGEN, Fred

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

Disappointing both as episode & continuation

 

 

C+

 

 

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

 

 

                                               

 C

 

 

MOORCOCK, Michael

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

Bleak, offensive background, cliché characters, LAZY random plotting

 

 

 C-

 

GOODKIND, Terry

Wizard's First Rule  1994

Sloppy. Gratuitous. Self-contradictory. Lazy

 

 

 D

 

BROOKS, Terry

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.

 

 

 D-

 

McGIRT, Dan

Royal Chaos 1990    Fantasy/Humour

Tryhard predictable comedy