01 January, 2012

Fantasy Overview: General Fantasy

Part three of my fantasy overview.

These authors differ more than the previous categories, but they weren't thrown together because they lacked another niche. What these books do is the very essence of the fantasy genre: imaginative stories in new worlds. If you're looking for something that feels different from fantasy you might have read before, these are writers to try.

Peter V Brett
His debut series features a world terrorized by the threat of demons every night. Somewhat smaller in geographic focus, but with the usual worldbuilding and high stakes that one might expect from high fantasy. Magic is relatively limited to a system of wards created to combat the demons.

Amanda Downum

She generally writes higher magic worlds with a dark edge: necromancy is the norm instead of a dark art. Strong characters and political plots. Anyone interested in non-traditional views of gender should take a look at her work. 

James Enge
Enge writes classic sword and sorcery, which truthfully should have its own category. But this subgenre has become less common in recent years, so I'm including him here. Though reminiscent of the Conan short stories, his work is distinct in that the main character does use magic and travels with his apprentice.

Neil Gaiman
Other than his graphic novel epic (Sandman), Gaiman generally writes standalone stories. The tone and focus vary widely, but the nature of his stories is one that proves popular with many. Almost of all of his stories take place in a world like our own with elements of the supernatural taken from myth and fable.

NK Jemisin
Unusual fantasy with a touch of politics and romance. As of this post she has only published a few books, but they're notable for approaching tropes of gods and empires from a fresh angle.

Mercedes Lackey
Many of her books cover traditional subjects (wars, succession, magic) from untraditional viewpoints (such as the healers in a military camp). If you want the feel of a broad world, many of those books also take place in the same world, though they are generally self-contained or trilogies.

Patricia McKillip
Author of numerous trilogies and standalone novels. Fans of lyrical prose should definitely consider her work, but they're often less ambitious than you might expect from the genre (which some find refreshing among so many Grand Quests).

Terry Pratchett
An excellent humor novelist in general and a brilliant fantasy satirist. But he doesn't need me to sing his praises considering how successful his Discworld series is, spanning over 40 standalone books. Though they will especially entertain fans of fantasy, his books are solid plots in their own right. Between all of them there's more worldbuilding than a lot of fantasy I could name (but won't).

Brandon Sanderson
The tone of his novels varies, but Sanderson has some obvious trademarks: elaborate plots with multiple twists and thoroughly explained magic systems. At the moment he has two standalone novels and a trilogy with quick pacing. He has written the first book in a multivolume series, which keeps his usual trademarks but has slower pacing.

Brent Weeks
Tends to write trilogies with physical varieties of magic. The world-building is more political than geographic and the characters don't always fall into the usual tropes. His completed trilogy is ninja-themed, if that interests you.

Gene Wolfe
Perhaps not as new as most authors on this list, but more people need to read him in general. His Book of the New Sun is a series of carefully crafted volumes that explain themselves only just enough for everything to be reasoned through. The fantastic elements are less clear with a scifi edge, and the story follows a single individual's journey over several years.

The other lists were ordered by theme, but in this case I just went alphabetically.

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