My Favourite Epic Fantasy Series, Part 2
Yesterday, because it seems to be the season for book lists and I didn’t want to be the only person not playing I decided to start making a few lists of my own—beginning with my favourite epic fantasy series.
Just to reiterate the list parameters from yesterday:
- the list is in alphabetical order by author, so there is no preference implied by the order in which they appear
- I will post on standalone books as a separate topic.
- I am not including children’s books: these are either adult or YA/Crossover
- I have only included finished series, for obvious reasons
OK! Now onto the second 5 of my Top 10:
I read Robin’s Assassin series and enjoyed it very much, but I still remember first picking up Ship of Magic and realising it was about sentient ships: delight! Firstly because I have always loved ships and tales of the sea, and secondly because sentient ships seems such an SF idea and I loved finding it morphed into Fantasy. I also fell in love with the world of the Bingtown traders and the Rain Wild River, as well as having the fun of ‘suspecting’ that I was encountering an Assassin character in the new series… Although in fact I always enjoy the full diversity of characters in these books, from ships to sea serpents, Rain Wild traders to pirates.
I resisted reading this series for a long time because I had been told it was a The Lord of the Rings (LoTR) “lookalike.” Once I started reading, I realised that a novel can be “in the style of” LoTR, and even clearly LoTR influenced, and still very much have its own voice. For me, this is very true of the Fionavar trilogy, which finds both its feet and a distinctive “voice” after the initial set up chapters (imho.) At any rate, I love the world inspired by Celtic mythology, the way the Arthurian cycle is woven into an otherworld Fantasy tale, and the poetry and power, magic and heroism, beauty and sorrow, of the story.
Daggerspell is another book that made a huge impression on first reading, partly because it’s a great story, again with lots of layers to the storytelling (are you noticing a trend from yesterday?) and four excellent main characters: Jill, Rhodry, Cullen, and Nevyn. I also loved Kerr’s creation of a Celtic world, not just in terms of Celtic mythology, but because the cultural and political fabric of the world is based on Celtic models and how they might have evolved. I really enjoyed the magic of dweomer and the concept of wyrd or fate, the interweaving of past and present lives, and the way Kerr puts a distinctive spin on elves and dwarves in her Deverry world.
I always think of this as The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy, since that is the name of the first book, which I read and adored—yes, that is absolutely the right word—because of everything about it: the characters, the wonderful world, the terror and mystery of the shapechangers, the backstories, the riddles, the names, and the sheer beauty of the writing. It ends on an amazing cliffhanger as well—and then I had to wait years—years, dear readers—to read the second and third books. (This was nothing to do with the author, but something to do with the NZ market.) They were well worth waiting for though, and fortunately I got to read 2 (Heir of Sea and Fire) and 3 (Harpist in the Wind) one after the other. I have since read and loved many other Patricia McKillip books, but this series is “still my favourite.”
And last but never, ever, least—yes, given the rest of the list I suspect you already knew it had to be The Lord of the Rings. I am a LoTR fan: I own up without reserve that I loved these stories when I first read them, that I have re-read them many times since, and I love them still. I love Tolkien’s worldbuilding, his descriptions (yes, I do!) which I feel are part of what makes the world building so rich, the sheer epic scope of the story (and backstory) and also its sadness: it isn’t an easy story, and as readers we are left with a profound sense of loss. I personally believe that is part of why the story endures: in addition to the adventure, the epic quest, and the bonds of friendship between the characters, the grief and loss speak to our humanity.
Even if I didn’t like though, I would probably still put it on this list, because when it comes to epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, more than other single book or series, defines the genre—even if part of that definition is measured in terms of those who seek to defy its influence.
And that’s it: my personal Top 10.
To see the first five picks on my list, click on My Favourite Epic Fantasy Series Part 1
But but, but…do I hear either cries of outrage or perturbed whispers to the effect that I have left out George RR Martin and the A Song of Ice and Fire series? The reason why is quite simple, dear readers: one of the list criteria was that the series had to be finished, and A Song of Ice and Fire is not. Because until a series is finished and every book read, one just cannot know what one’s final opinion will be—and so it really cannot be part of a “best series” list.
I duly note though, that I felt the need to explain ASOIAF’s absence!