Fantastic Five(s) – Forest Fantasies (And Bonus Undergods)

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I am a very smart, put together sort of man. That is often a lie but this Wyrd & Wonder, twas not. I plotted. I put books next to prompts, collected essay ideas and so on. Got a backlog of good review material in case I hit a slump. The plans were not perfect but there were there.

An area where they were not perfect was considering whether to do a top five for Enchanted Forests when there was a Fantastic Five for Forest Fantasies lurking just ahead. Want to tell me the differences between those two?

So I’m not going to lie. This mightn’t be my best list. But that’s why you’re getting a second list as well! Because two lists 1am on Monday morning is a great idea. I had to do the second one though, had to do something for Undergods as it’s such a great pun (i.e. I hate it and love it). And hell, fantasy is full of forests, how hard can it be?

Well, let’s get cracking…

1. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

Epic fantasy is always enrichened with a good trek through the forest, and few know that better than good old Ray, who jammed his first trilogy full of forests. There’s the forests around Crydee, home to our protagonists and some good old fashioned woodsy warfare. There’s the enchanted elven forests of Elvandar. There’s the big old forest in the north whose name I’ve forgotten in which they run away from the forces of evil. And probably a few more. Want to read a rollicking old read with those 80s epic fantasy vibes and more than a hint of D&D? With some forests? Step right up.

2. Sweetness Bled and Brindled by S.L. Dove Cooper

From the chonky books to a lovely little novella – with an edge. Part of it is set in the palace where the healer Jewel has to put up with his brother Prince Dickwad the Turd. But a lot of it is set in a nice nearby forest with plenty of ye not so merry outlaws, including one named Briar who’s taken an interest in Jewel… sweet and dark by turns, this is a lovely little read.

3. Darian’s Tale by Mercedes Lackey

I could pick a lot of Lackey’s books for this. One of the big features of her work are the Tayledras, a bunch of utopian hippies who clean the twisted magic away from the land and like to live in forests. So, you know, lots of forests. Darian’s Tale, a trilogy about a young Valdemaran adopted by them is probably the most forest-tastic, so I went for them. Recommended for people who like their epic fantasy with personal stakes and a lot of altruistic people.

4. Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh

Know what’s better than a forest? A creepy forest. It’s perfect for travelling in while pretty much everyone wants to kill you, and you’re travelling with some strange immortal that might be a demon. That’s a lot of what Gate of Ivrel is about. I know RJ Barker likes the atmosphere, that’s how creepy it is. Some good old school heroic fantasy vibes.

5. Dragonlance Trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

We started with epic fantasy, we end with epic fantasy, because nothing says epic like a motley crew of people with tragic backstories camping in the woods. I’ve only started re-reading this one recently after a long time, but I think there’s been at least three major forests in book one alone. That’s what I’m talking about!

Undergods

(minor deities, demi-gods and divine helpers)

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Obvious choice is obvious. Now a TV series, I think most people at least know the jist of what American Gods is about. If not, the clues are there in the name. It’s about gods, they’re in America, and they’re very much the undergods in this fight… or are they?

2. Dominions of the Fallen by Aliette de Bodard

Are Fallen Angels and Vietnamese Rong included in this category? I think the Fallen Angels should be in at least, and my gods there’s a lot of them in this series. Well, once again the clue is in the name, isn’t it?

3. The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone

D’ya like gods? D’ya like divine scheming? D’ya like divine scheming to run their big corporations, where prayer and souls are commodities? Well, Max Gladstone does, and he does it very well.

4. The Chronicles of Number Ten Ox and Master Li by Barry Hughart

Set in a mythic China that never was, these books contain many references to minor deities, demi-gods and the like, and the main characters often find themselves shanghaied as divine helpers.

5. Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett

Yup, reccing the whole damn series because it feels like almost the whole damn series is this. From the gods playing with mortal lives to the presence of those very hard working Tooth Fairies, from Death’s butler and daughter to the warring gods of Djelibeybi, from Time’s son to the world’s unlikeliest Joan of Arc, to the book named Small Gods… like a book that plays with divinity? Then come read some Discworld. Reader gratification 80% guaranteed.

9 thoughts on “Fantastic Five(s) – Forest Fantasies (And Bonus Undergods)

  1. Great picks! For Undergods, couldn’t agree more with Craft Sequence and Barry Hughart’s books. (I haven’t read/ watched American Gods, but I’m pretty sure I’d have second-ed that too.). Darian’s Tale looks interesting, though I wish I could say I find altruistic charcters very plausible…

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    1. The Lackey books are very idealistic in that sense, maybe some of the most idealistic I know, but I have to say that’s part of the charm. In this particular case – I think most of the charactes show at least an interesting mix of selfishness and altruism, even if they trend heavily one way at crunch time.

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    1. That’s my plans that weren’t perfect, not yours!

      And my rule of thumb these days is that on any given issue, you’ll only ever get 80% agreement at most.

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