Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s theme is:
Top Ten All Time Favourite Books in The Fantasy Genre
Fantasy is probably my all-time favourite genre but it was difficult narrowing down my favourite books to just ten! I ended up listed the series rather than just a singular book as there are so many fantasy series I love and I don’t just have one favourite in the bunch!
In no particular order:
1. Sarah Monette – Doctrine of Labyrinths
The Doctrine of Labyrinth series is incredibly under-rated and utterly brilliant. It really is a shame it is not more well-known. It follows two brothers Felix Harrowgate (a wizard) and Mildmay the Fox (an assassin/thief).
This series is notable for turning most fantasy tropes on right their head and is a fantastic character study into two extremely messed-up individuals who are nothing at all like the usual heroes found in fantasy novels (and believe me, that is a very good thing).
2. Melina Marchetta – Lumatere Chronicles
It took me awhile to finally get round to reading this series but once I did I was completely hooked. The first book Finnikin of the Rock was a solid fantasy novel but I felt the series really shone in Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn.
I wasn’t sure how much I would like the second book given how it was mainly focused on Froi, a character who really did not endear himself to me at all in book one, but he managed to redeem himself and became one of my favourite characters.
3. Robin Hobb – Realm of the Elderlings
I love this series. Every single entry (even the later books set in the Rain Wilds). My favourites though are the Farseer trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy because they have Fitz and my beloved Fool. I have already posted about the Fool, but Fitz is an equally fascinating character.
A royal bastard who ends up saving his kingdom, Fitz starts off as an assassin but becomes so much more than that. Their bond drives the narrative for me, White Prophet and Catalyst – changing history with every step they take. Definitely my favourite series in the fantasy genre.
4. Juliet Marillier – Sevewaters series
A thoroughly engrossing and captivatingly beautiful series. Daughter of the Forest was the first book I had ever read by Juliet Marillier and it is still my favourite (even though her other books are just as brilliant). Marillier’s lyrical prose combined with the historical setting and fairytale origin (it is loosely based on The Six Swans – a German fairytale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm) made this series one of my all-time favourites.
5. George R. R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire
I have been a fan of ASOIAF for years, before the Game of Thrones series came out but not quite as far back as the initial release. Think I would have gone a bit stir-crazy if I had still been waiting for the resolution to this series after following it right from the beginning! The is fantasy at its grittiest. Favourite characters are killed off all the time and the good guys seem to have the worst possible luck in the world. Nothing ever seems to go right for the Starks whilst many of their enemies seem to thrive.
You never quite know who to root for in this series. The good guys act fairly idiotically at times so it sometimes seems as if they deserve their (often dire) fate. Likewise, some of the so-called bad guys are not quite so bad as you are first led to believe. It is full of twists and at times is incredibly brutal but it is always compelling.
6. Jacqueline Carey – Phèdre’s Trilogy
This series is a rare gem. It would normally not have appealed very much to me but after reading many glowing reviews I decided to give this rather erotic fantasy a chance. I am glad that I did as it is a truly stunning series with flawed but incredibly real characters. It is set in a medieval world which relates to our own world. It is based in France (or Terre d’Ange as it is called in the book) and is a nation filled by the progeny of angels.
The main character Phèdre is a courtesan, one who is addicted to pain. If this sounds unappealing do not worry – it is nowhere near as bad as it sounds. Phèdre is actually a wonderfully complex character who somehow manages to be relatable. A genre favourite.
7. Lynn Flewelling – Tamír Triad
I very much enjoyed Lynn Flewelling’s earlier Nightrunner series but this series is even better. It is about a Prince called Tobin who is actually a girl but doesn’t know it (not a spoiler – this is made very clear right at the outset). Tobin was born a girl but was changed by a dark magic. Tobin has no idea that he was born a girl yet there are signs that something is different about him which only becomes more noticeable with the onset of puberty.
It is a fascinating tale of gender roles and identity set in a fantasy setting (the world in which the events take place is also a fascinating one and very well-crafted and Tobin’s struggle with his identity somehow never feels contrived or out-of-place in this setting).
8. Katharine Kerr – Deverry series
This is one of the first fantasy series I read (well after Tolkien of course!) and it still remains a favourite of mine to this day. With its vaguely Celtic setting and the themes of reincarnation and magic, this series really is a standout. I have always been fascinated by the idea that we live many different lives meeting the same people over and over again (not saying I believe it mind you – just that it is interesting to me).
It is a tale about forbidden love and redemption. The idea that a person must sometimes make amends for the mistakes they made in a previous life. Such a character is Nevyn – a man who failed his love and seeks her out life after life to atone for this grave error in judgement. A firm favourite of mine and one of my first fantasy genre reads.
9. Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts – The Empire Trilogy
This is a spin-off from the Riftwar series. It takes place on the world of Kelewan, running almost parallel to the events of Magician and the following books in Raymond E. Feist’s epic saga. It tells the story of Mara of the Acoma, a young girl who is pulled from her life’s calling as a priestess when her father and brother are brutally killed by an enemy of their house.
As the last living survivor of the ruling family, she must take up the mantle of leader and play the deadly Game of the Council, and somehow survive against truly terrible odds. As much as I enjoyed Magician, I feel that this series is much stronger (perhaps due to Janny Wurts’ influence).
Mara is a fantastic main character who is every bit as clever and conniving as her male counterparts. She is a strong woman in a very male-dominated society who really shows her mettle when she goes up against those with more power and yet she somehow manages to come out on top (though not in a contrived way).
10. J. R. R. Tolkien – Middle-Earth Universe
It goes without saying that Tolkien would be on this list. I have always loved these books and the world of Middle-Earth. It is one that I have revisited many times over and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. It was my first real foray into fantasy. The Lord of the Rings remains my number one book of all time irregardless of genre.