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5 Great Fantasy Books That Break The Mold (Slideshow)

5 Great Fantasy Books That Break The Mold (Slideshow)
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I have a confession to make. I love the idea of fantasy fiction, but avid a genre reader as I am, I end up preferring science fiction to fantasy 4 times out of 5. This isn’t because there isn’t good fantasy out there – it’s because I can’t stand reading about elves. Or the cliched triumph of good over absolute evil. There’s a place for escapist fiction, but I like my genre fiction to reflect and comment on the world in which I actually live – science fiction usually does that by building on the present and extrapolating.

Good fantasy, in my opinion, does this by offering commentary on the past. Feudal societies were unpleasant places to live. The medieval era was sorely lacking in an understanding of hygiene, medicine, and science. Racism, sexism, and classism were normal parts of life. I prefer my fantasy to either comment on what these past societies were actually like (with all their flaws), or subvert the tropes that most fantasy fiction seems to accept as necessary. Now, not everyone is going to like all of these books, but I’m hoping there’s something on my list for everyone.

So, without further ado, I present 5 fantastic books that break the fantasy genre mold.

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141 comments

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4:38PM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

all written down! we are headed to the beach next week so tips are welcome

12:51AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

The "Discworld" series by Terry Pratchett (who has also written some great books with Neil Gaiman) is funny enough to seriously require a "do not eat or drink while reading this book" warning on every cover. It is also a very smart, delightful, sly, sometimes deeply moving "through the looking glass" portrayal of our own world's best and worst qualities. Re: Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Le Guin, I would buy any book by either of them without hesitation, sight unseen. Other insanely good favorite fantasy authors include Elizabeth A. Lynn, Mercedes Lackey, Kate Wilhelm, and Phillip Pullman. All of the authors I have mentioned here create characters you will never forget, including some of the strongest female characters you could hope to find. Go forth and read them! You will not be sorry.

9:27AM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

Loved Stardust! And anything by Neil Gaiman. Might I suggest another author who writes in the fantasy genre- Piers Anthony. His Xanth series of novels is my favorite fantasy series ever. Piers Anthony also wrote an amazing series called the Apprentice Adept series, which is a mix of fantasy and sci fi where two worlds are connected, one being ruled by magic, the other by science, and people have alter egos between the two worlds. All of his books that I have read (there are probably around a thousand! I've read maybe 60) are fascinating and entertaining.

4:29PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

I love Dragonlance. That's my favorite fantasy series, with some amazing characters.

On another note, one of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction (who also wrote fantasy) died. Ray Bradbury, has passed away, at the age of 91. Most people know him for Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, but he wrote an amazing number of short stories, as well as some highly-regarded fantasy stories and novels.

1:46PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

The Dragon Lance and Forgotten Realms series have some wonderful stories too.

1:00PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Jennifer S. The 5th book of Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons was published last summer. Though there are two more books planned. No ETA on the next one (Winds of Winter.) yet, though he's got it partially written. I just hope he finishes the last two by the time the HBO series catches up with the current books in 3 years. :-)

12:51PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Only warning with Game of Thrones. It's not all written yet. Been waiting on the 5th book of the set for about 2 years now.

But I got all 4 novles to date signed, and they're good.

Actually now that I think about it, wheel of Time is a good series too. It deals with sexisum, only in this case, it's more men who are repressed rather then women. And while yes, the main hero is a man, there's a strong female cast supporting him, not the 'Save me from the villan' type heroin that's all too common in Fantasy gendre.

11:04AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

"A Game of Thrones" will be the next book on my nightstand, I've been meaning to read it in the last two months. I've read so many favarable reviews, I'm certainly intrigued.

7:41AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

While they consist of collections of short stories rather than novels, the fantasy adventures of Fafrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Lieber are among my all-time favorites of the genre. The tales are set in an imaginary world called "Newhon" (Read the name backwards to understand the play on words. Lieber borrowed the idea from Samuel Butler's similarly named fantasy world in his 1872 novel, "Erewhon". As one might expect, considering the source, Lieber s version works better both logically and linquistically, as one can readily tell by pronouncing both in succession.) Distinguished by Lieber s deft command of language, vivid imagination, and charmingly ironic viewpoint, each story is a self-contained gem that can be appreciated on its own or as part of the overall saga. The characters themselves are finely drawn and appealling. Although not averse to occasional acts of generosity or even valor, if the risks are not excessive, Fafrd and the Mouser are basically self-serving rogues, whose primary objective in life is to survive Newhon s manifold dangers with as much pleasure and profit as circumstance permits. Fortunately, the entire series of seven collections is available in paperback from Amazon and other outlets. Try the first volume, Swords against Deviltry, and see what you think. If you are as charmed as I was, when as a youngster I first encountered these stories, you can enjoy the rest of them far more easily than I could. In those days they were available only in th

7:40AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

While they consist of collections of short stories rather than novels, the fantasy adventures of Fafrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Lieber are among my all-time favorites of the genre. The tales are set in an imaginary world called "Newhon" (Read the name backwards to understand the play on words. Lieber borrowed the idea from Samuel Butler's similarly named fantasy world in his 1872 novel, "Erewhon". As one might expect, considering the source, Lieber s version works better both logically and linquistically, as one can readily tell by pronouncing both in succession.) Distinguished by Lieber s deft command of language, vivid imagination, and charmingly ironic viewpoint, each story is a self-contained gem that can be appreciated on its own or as part of the overall saga. The characters themselves are finely drawn and appealling. Although not averse to occasional acts of generosity or even valor, if the risks are not excessive, Fafrd and the Mouser are basically self-serving rogues, whose primary objective in life is to survive Newhon s manifold dangers with as much pleasure and profit as circumstance permits. Fortunately, the entire series of seven collections is available in paperback from Amazon and other outlets. Try the first volume, Swords against Deviltry, and see what you think. If you are as charmed as I was, when as a youngster I first encountered these stories, you can enjoy the rest of them far more easily than I could. In those days they were available only in th

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