Getting into fantasy

Science fiction has always been my favorite genre. I enjoy imagining possible futures and I’ve never stopped wondering what changes may happen in my lifetime.

The mysterious worlds of the future always held such potential that I rarely strayed from the genre. I started reading simple novels by Isaac Asimov and grew into reading hard sci-fi like Alastair Reynolds where the thick story and technology are enrapturing.

Fantasy is similar, but different. Instead of imagining the future, you’re compelled to imagine something potentially in parallel. It could be our past, our future, or another world entirely, with any kind of supernatural circumstances.

Earlier this year I was introduced to fantasy by David: his careful but persistent prodding toward reading Name of the Wind was eventually successful beyond his wildest imaginations.

Below are a few of the unforgettable series I have read since then and recommend without hesitation. The links point to the Kindle editions on Amazon, and feature an affiliate marker.

Fantasy is an amazing genre: much of the books are not only available digitally, but also DRM-free, negating previous hacks I’ve had to use. I am incredibly happy about that.

The Kingkiller Chronicle (1, 2)

This series by Patrick Rothfuss is still my favorite, and displays an incredibly powerful piece of storytelling. The depth of the characters and plots combine with the history and lore of the world to produce what I have come to expect in many fantasy novels.

The first novel is Name of the Wind. I was initially put off by the name–of all things!–but I’ve come to realize just how wrong was that assumption. The second novel follows a similar model in which the protagonist walks us through a long series of flashbacks.

It was impossible to put down.

I entered expecting something interesting, and I exited fully in love with the idea of the genre and the execution of the novels.

I strongly recommend picking up Name of the Wind and starting from there. You will not be disappointed.

Mistborn (1, 2, 3, 3.5) & other Brandon Sanderson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

If Patrick Rothfuss was a great introduction to fantasy, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy was a wonderful bit of bliss to keep me coming back for more. From his blog entries on the novels, I’ve since learned he had all three written before final publication and he was able to form an amazingly cohesive universe.

Mistborn starts us in a tyrannical world ruled by a single god-king full of brown and dying plants and an entire race of people subjugated by nobility.

Sanderson coined Sanderson’s Laws, a set of idealized goals for fantasy novels wherein the magic system is concretely defined, additive and the novels don’t require last-second, unexpected uses of magic to bring about victory.

Logic, as you may guess from being in software development, is something I eagerly enjoy.

It turns out this is really important to making fantasy novels engaging. Since reading Mistborn I’ve used it as a metric in defining what I do or do not like, and nothing by Sanderson has disappointed.

He is an impossibly prolific writer. I have nearly read everything the man has written and everything has been amazing and worth every minute. He has very easily become my favorite author.

The Gentleman Bastard (1, 2, 3)

This series by Scott Lynch was a first for me as it didn’t feature a strong magic component.

It’s an interesting approach: it’s a world of rich history, of which we see mostly the grimy bits. It’s a world of magic, in which we see but a glimmer.

Contained within is a truly interesting premise: what if thievery wasn’t for personal gain, but for the art of it? What happens when skill of the game becomes more important than even living in luxury?

The long con, and really thorough introspection by characters makes this series a really different place to visit.

Codex Alera (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

When I was in college, I loved the show The Dresden Files. When I came across The Furies of Calederon, I grabbed the sample on name recognition alone, but didn’t follow up for some time.

What a mistake! It’s an excellent series, and the writing is really easy to absorb. I read the entire series in about two weeks, and I would loved to have continued on forever.

I really enjoyed the many races and cultures featured in the novels. I think Jim Butcher did a wonderful job bringing to life the history and superstitions each.

Ad infinitum

At the time of writing this, I’ve read 50 fantasy novels totalling more than 26,000 pages since Name of the Wind, and there’s no end in sight. Here are a few other amazing pieces of literature that I can’t help but identify:

  • Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan (1-2, 3-4, 5-6)
  • Abhorsen by Garth Nix (1, 2, 3)
  • The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett (1, 2, 3)
  • Imager by L.E. Modesitt (1, 2, 3)
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) and Brandon Sanderson (12, 13, 14)
  • Farseer by Robin Hobb (1, 2, 3)

My Goodreads profile is a good place to find more novels I’ve enjoyed. I hope this list is helpful to at least someone out there! I cannot believe I went so long without indulging in fantasy.