The ABCs of Fantasy: Favourites by Letter

I got this idea from Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub. It’s a very simple one. A book by one author per letter.

In some cases, I couldn’t think of one. I will be leaving those blank with a few thoughts on possible fill-ins. I will also be using the name on the book rather than birth names. With that, let’s go.

A: The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson. It’s a wild, moody and brutal take on the old Norse sagas, all about a boy stolen away to the elves’ land and the changeling left in his place. There’s times when its age shows (it was published the same year as Fellowship of the Ring) but it’s still an utterly absorbing piece of adventure.

B: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. There’s about a half-dozen authors I could have put there – Bs bring it it seems. But Bujold’s fantasy classic is, well, a classic. The tale of a former noble and slave refinding his way in the world through loyalty, courage, and compassion, it’s full of wit and warmth without losing any of the glory that is high fantasy.

C: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. The book’s reputation for eroticism and open sexuality – the heroine Phedre is a masochistic courtesan – sometimes overshadows what a fine mix of bildungsroman and courtly intrigue this is. Not that the latter should overshadow the former either. It is the entirety of what Kushiel’s Dart is that makes it so good.

D: House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard. I put the same book in the Dominions of the Fallen series because that’s the book that made me a diehard De Bodard fan. The first book is good, the second book is outstanding. It’s all intrigue and personal growth and wonderful lucid prose detailing the voices of compelling characters. Third book in a row like that. It’s almost like I have a type.

E: The Diamond Throne by David Eddings. I had a lot less Es than I expected – just Eddings and Eddison. Despite the shadow Eddings’ crime casts on him, this is still one of my favourite books – fun and full of laughs. There’s not many books that make me feel “this is how me and my friends interact”.

F: Shadow of a Dark Queen by R.E. Feist. This underappreciated second series from Feist took us into the shoes of two boys from a small village thrown into a terrible war in a dirty dozen-esque scenario. It’s an interesting, endlessly readable mix of Epic Fantasy and something far more grounded.

G: Ravenheart by David Gemmell. I could have named about half a dozen books for Gemmell but this one always just about wins out for its knockout emotional power and utterly absorbing, page turning nature; this was the author at the absolute peak of his powers. It’s the tale of a boy in a not-1700s Scotland, coming of age at the moment history is about to turn for his clan.

H: The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad X. Hossein. This was very nearly Hughart’s Bridge of Birds, but I am still mesmerised by the wicked wit and huge vision of Hossein’s novella. I do not understand how much story fitted in there. A cyberpunk-esque imagining of a djinn and a driven soldier, each with their own motives… I struggle to explain it, just read it, it is small and mighty.

I: Blank. I have nothing. Didn’t get on with James Islington. Not making friends with Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant either. Open to suggestions.

J: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I don’t think I particularly need to tell you about this one. I think I might have to re-read it to see how it stands up, but the power of the ideas are burned on my mind.

K: Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr. A fantastic pseudo-Celtic story that I love first and foremost for its ability to make me feel like I’m reading about people with different social attitudes and who think about them naturally, while the author makes comment on them, all without preaching. That is sorcery and withcraft. The book itself is the tale of a group of people tied together through reincarnation after a horrible tragedy in the past and is overbrimming with action, intrigue, and magic.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Yeah, I’ve got to do two here. I’m not picking. Tigana is a gorgeously written, acutely observed, very dramatic story about a young singer who comes of age to find out that his entire culture was stolen from him by magic – and his subsequent quest to bring it back. I’ve read this one many times and will do so again.

L: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. Lyrical, thoughtful. The quiet limitations of Tenar’s actions shout louder than so many hyperactive rebels can. A book that all fantasy fans should consider reading.

M: Lud in the Mist by Hope Mirrlees. Dear gods I had a lot of options for M. Mirrlees’ tale of a forward thinking, rational town that confronts its faerie past and finds a new accommodation with its mad, dangerous neighbours won out for me because it’s wonderfully fun and connects with myth in a very powerful way.

N: Sabriel by Garth Nix. A very charming YA book by a budding Necromancer who finds she has to undertake a dangerous quest, that hits all the notes I’d hope to be hit by such a thing.

O: The Eagle’s Flight by Daniel E. Olesen. An epic with a strong medieval focus along the lines of Kurtz’s Deryni or Kay’s later works, this book started slow for me but soon sucked me into its web of intrigue. A self-pub book that’s definitely worth checking out.

P: Night Watch by Sir Terry Pratchett. Arguably the best fantasy book ever written.

Q: Blank. I can’t even think of a fantasy author who’d qualify.

R: The Antipope by Robert Rankin. A piece of comic urban fantasy that’s in love with tall tales, forgotten folklore, and silliness. And the pub. It’s about a pair of idlers in Brentford who finds themselves in the very reluctant role of the first line of defence against the return of the Antipope.

S: The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg. Not usually my sort of book but utterly compelling due to its mastery of voice and the concept. Four students find a manuscript detailing a cult that’s uncovered the secrets of immortality and set off to join – but the joining requisites are that four must apply. One must commit suicide. One must be murdered by the others. And only the other two will be admitted.

T: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Yeah, you’ve heard of this one.

U: Asterix by Alberto Uderzo (and others). Maybe the greatest fantastic comic for kids ever; it’s just a huge amount of fun about a pair of heroic Gauls spiking the Romans’ wheels at every possible turn.

V: Blank. Hopefully I’ll get along with Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth.

W: The Goddess Project by Bryan Wigmore. A wonderful mix of occult conspiracy theory and steampunk that hit a lot of sweet spots for me. Its the tale of a boy and a girl trying to find their lost memories, and what they endure and how far they’ll go.

X: Blank. I have nothing.

Y: Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen. A YA book about a boy seeking freedom by training a dragon to fight in a pit. I loved the sample of this as a kid but by the time I found it as an adult, I’d outgrown it. Fun, but not great. But hey, guess who has not other Ys?

Z: The Order of The Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho. I am not 100% Zen Cho is a Z as the surname-firstname ordering of Chinese culture is not universal and I can’t see a definitive answer as to which order the author is using. Casual googling seems to suggest it’s not Z but, well, it’s an excuse to talk about how good this novella is. Huge amount of fun. I love the way Zen Cho writes her.

A definite Z is Waters and the Wild by Jo Zebedee, a dark fairy tale about family and the edge of reality.

So that’s my A-Z. Took a while longer than I expected to do. Let me know if you’ve got any suggestions for blank spots, or any general comments.

9 thoughts on “The ABCs of Fantasy: Favourites by Letter

  1. I loved this ☺️ For I, have you ever read any Conn Iggulden? I haven’t myself, but I’ve had his Empire of Salt series recommended quite heavily as something I’d enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, depends what counts as ‘enough’ I suppose. As a proportion of most of his stuff, he’s not really a fantasy author per se, but he’s got a completed fantasy trilogy, which is more than some fantasy authors do 😄

        Liked by 1 person

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