Almost no-one reads these days. Everywhere I look I see faces glued to their tablets and iPads, or their phones. I guess the Kindle and e-books are gaining popularity, but generally, reading as a hobby is lost on most.
We see so many novel to big screen adaptations that are box office sucesses, but many-a-time I meet people who’ve never read the book, or even worse, never knew there WAS a book.
The first I really noticed this was when Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were released. It seemed to be the ‘cool’ thing to go and watch it and almost everyone I knew was doing it. I remember attending a gathering – I think it was a birthday party – and this girl was going on and on about how great the movie was how she was a big fan and wanted to buy all the books when they were out and yada-yada-yada.
So innocently I mentioned, “It’s been a long time since I read the books…. I might just re-read them.”
And she replied, with a totally dumbfounded expression, “I thought the books just came out?”
‘Nuff said…. so here’s a list of books/series that have been around for a while that you can use as a stepping stone to launch you into the epic fantasy genre.
1. The Belgariad by David Eddings
A great introduction into the fantasy genre. Eddings’ is quite an easy an enjoyable read. I do feel that he’s kinda at a loss for ideas with his newer series, but this is where it begins. His thoughts and ideas werer fresh and his band of adventurers first set out on their grand adventure.
Eddings’ introduces his flagship characters Belgarath the Sorceror, his fiesty daughter Polgara and ‘brother’ Beldin who together with a band of highly skilled individuals that all lend to the telling of the story with their unique personality and banter.
The cast is truly likeable and the world colourful and grand with its different people with unique characteristics and cultures.
The Belgariad series unfolds across five books, beggining with the ‘Pawn of Prophecy’. The series carries on its tale in the equally encapsulating ‘Mallorean’ series (another 5 books). A definite read for any fan… and if you’re not, this might just turn you into one.
2. Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
This is truly my favourite series of all time. The Dragonlance world bring to fore everything I love about Dungeons and Dragons – Magic and Dragons – lots of it!
Another series that follows a band of adventurers lookign to overthrow a dark overlord. However, the series is a little darker than the ‘Belgariad’ with themes of betrayal and self-preservation running through; the exploration of the dynamics of a sibling rivalry as well as lightly venturing into cultural divides.
Soar on the wings of Dragons through six novels and immerse yourself in Ansalon. Look through the hourglass eyes of Raistlin Majere and explore the psyche of someone who finds himself elevated from his position as the weakest member of the party to the most powerful – and the price he is willing to pay to achieve that power.
In Caramon you find the doting twin brother, hulking and strong, that needs his frail twin as an emotional crutch more than a physical one. The characterizations are done perfectly and they’re very well thought out.
Although with the original release, there were a couple of plot holes, they’ve since been patched with new novels that fit right between the original 6 books.
While the themes are just a little more mature, it’s a fantastic series for anyone in high school and above.
3. The Drenai Series by David Gemmell
British author, David Gemmell’s Legend is truly legendary. The first book in his Drenai series sets the tone for the rest of his books. Expect warfare where individuals shine and realize their true potential. Gemmell’s series tend to revolve around the individual character. Even if there IS a party, one of them stands out as the lead or centra focus.
A very typical Gemmell storyline would take a well known story, such as ‘Robin Hood’ and put his own twist on it. The Drenai series is unique in the sense that it’s not told in a linier sequence. From book to book, you jump timelines and go into prequels and then maybe a sequel.
While it might sound messy, it actually happens quite seemlessly and sets the stage for some very well placed revelations on character origins and fills in the gaps of the previous books.
A great read for anyone…. who can read.
4. A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
Almost everyone’s heard of the ‘Game of Thrones’ HBO series by now, and chances are this series needs little introduction.
Still in the realm of fantasy with a dash of magic, dark sorcery, undead and dragons thrown in, the books largely focus on politics of the court with wheeling and dealing and back-stabbing liars. Martin has no qualms in killing of his characters – sometimes in very brutal and graphic ways – to push the story forward.
Ned Stark was a great guy, but Robb would never be the person he was if he wasn’t thrust into battle. Hence, the elder Stark’s death was necessary in advancing the story.
Martin moves the story through chapters written in the points-of-view of his main characters. Each chapter has a focus character that we see through the eyes of. And Marting pulls it off pretty well. A big gripe was that Martin just stopped writing after a bit…. but I guess the success of the TV series got his pen moving again.
With its very graphic violence and strong sexual themes, a series for a more mature audience for sure.
5. The Malazan Books by Steven Erikson
At time I feel that Steven Erikson’s world makes LOTR and Middle Earth look like child’s play. A vast vast world filled with races and concepts that wrap and twist your mind around.
Erikson is truly a wordsmith that can capture ‘THE moment’. This series has everything….. except romance (just a smidge). The action is enthralling, the characters rich, full and so unique from one another that there is a genuine realism to them.
A series that really captured me and I can’t speak highly enough of. But one with concepts and relationships so complicated, I can never see it making it to the screen. Not unless a book is taken as a standalone – it might make a trilogy of its own. Each book is as huge as the LOTR series… and there are 10 books beginning with Gardens of the moon.
The real issue is getting a copy. Gardens of the Moon is notoriously hard to find, but there’s always Amazon.
A series not to be missed, but something you really need to concentrate and read.
6. The Drizzt Do’urden Books by R. A. Salvatore
Now I would normally stop at 5 tips or suggestions but there is no way I can leave out the Drizzt books. Salvatore’s Drizzt is a legend in his own right appearing in PC and PS3 games and comic adaptations.
A whole epic series of books where a dark elf fights against the stigma attached to his heritage, and the colour of his skin, to establish himself as a truly respectable and accepted member of society.
His flair and talend with the scimitars are literally unmatched and with a very strong supporting cast the series has everything (including romance). The series explores many many themes and issues without delving too deep to stifle.
Salvatore’s style shines through and truly an excellent read for anyone and a great entry point into the fantasy genre.