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August 27, 2015 2:53 PM   Subscribe

The 51 Best Fantasy Series Ever Written [Buzzfeed]
Whether you’re a Swords and Sorcery type of fantasy reader, a fan of battles and betrayal, or you just want a few more goddamn elves in your life, there’s something for you here. These are the truly great fantasy series written in the last 50 years.
posted by Fizz (157 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
Needs more women and persons of colour representation but a fairly solid list. I've read most of these series and there are some amazing authors and series listed above.

Rothfuss...hurry the fuck up!!!
posted by Fizz at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Rothfuss is on this list.

At number one.

I really don't understand the divide between myself and [apparently] most other fantasy lovers on the subject of Rothfuss. For me, The Name of the Wind is just this, over and over and over.
posted by gurple at 3:01 PM on August 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


There is no world in which the Sword of Truth series is on a best-of list. And if you don't believe me I'll carve a statue so beautiful that you can't help but believe what I say.

Or whatever the fuck.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:02 PM on August 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


Beards ahoy!
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn? Sigh, I don't know why it never seems to pop up on these lists, it's not super obscure or anything. It's my favorite fantasy series written in the last 50 years. I think it's arguably one of the best.

On the other hand, Gormenghast made an appearance yasssssss
posted by supercrayon at 3:03 PM on August 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


CTRL+F "Eddings"

Whew. I haven't been a regular fantasy reader for quite a while, but I'll never stop being pissed off about how The Malloreon series ended.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:03 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Book jacket/author photo level: Master.
posted by Fizz at 3:04 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also for that matter how do you ignore the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust? Human assassin in an inhuman world? C'mon!
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:04 PM on August 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


No Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn? Sigh

Agreed, Tad Williams is brilliant and so often under-rated but at least Guy Gavriel Kay made the list.
posted by Fizz at 3:05 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


God Sword of Truth? Really?


Also I hope these aren't ranked.
posted by Carillon at 3:06 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah this sure is a list of 51 Fantasy series, by golly.

You know, I read Salvatore's Dark Elf trilogy, and I enjoyed it, but I am gonna Be That proverbial Guy who really doesn't think it belongs on the same list with Le Guin's Earthsea books.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2015 [29 favorites]


I opened that list, saw Rothfuss at number one and closed the tab right away. Fuck that guy.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


There are a lot of books on this list that I haven't read. If, as the author claims, every one of them is at least as good as The Magicians, then I will happily read them all. But I have my doubts.

Spoiler: Not actually doubts. I have read the Dragonlance books.
posted by 256 at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I like about Brandon Sanderson is that he has written a couple of standalone fantasy novels. Elantris and Warbreaker were both fun, quick novels that didn't require 87 hours of my time.
posted by zzazazz at 3:13 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Weirdly overinclusive and undiscriminating; the only definition of "best" I can think of that could apply here is that somebody really likes each of these. I can't picture the person who likes all of them, but assuming that person exists I think they're hugely in the minority and for everyone else this list seems not very useful.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:15 PM on August 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Do the Dragonlance books (the first couple of trilogies, anyway) actually have critical cred? I was obsessed with them when I was in grade school, but that was a long time ago and revisiting books I loved at that age as an adult has been a largely melancholy experience.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2015


Seriously, Drizzt Do'Urden was Mister Manpain for the beginning fantasy reader of the '90s. And can this list really be recommending Shannara because it's like Lord of the Rings, and Lord of the Rings was good . . . ? I don't know what to think about anything else on this list I haven't already read.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:19 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Exactly. If the implication is that if you like Zelazny, Le Guin and Peake you'll also really like Brooks, Jordan and Donaldson. Which might actually be true for somebody but it doesn't exactly follow.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:21 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


A Song of Ice and Fire is higher than LOTR?

No Nope Sorry Not.

Martin seems like a neat guy and the books are fun for sure but no... just no.
posted by Cosine at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Definitely *extremely* pleased to see Laurie J. Marks on there!
posted by kyrademon at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2015


I knew I shouldn't have clicked.

Ctrl-F "Lankhmar" gets no results. It seems odd to include novels from the 1940's in a list of the best series from the last 50 years. A 'No Grimdark' rule would cull a quarter of the list.

...thematically similar to fantasy classics such as the Earthsea novels or the Wheel of Time books, but written to be accessible to modern kids and young adults.

When did the Earthsea books become inaccessible to modern kids and how much do I have to squint to see the similarities between Ged and Rand al'Thor?
posted by N-stoff at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm not certain it's an ordered list, rather more a collection.
posted by bonehead at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Things I am a bit surprised not to see on, Part I of what will probably end up being a few:

The Dying Earth/Cugel books by Jack Vance
posted by kyrademon at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Mists of Avalon should not be on this list or any lists for that matter given the atrocities committed by its writer.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I finally read Dragons of Autumn Twilight all the way through a couple years ago, having had a few false starts in middle school. If you wish to keep any fond memories of the Dragonlance series from your youth, I recommend not revisiting the books.

We used to have a cat named Raistlin, so believe me when I say I'm looking out for your best interests here.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yes, where's Fritz Leiber? But anyway, we all hate lists, it's true....

Never having heard of Rothfuss, someone tell me more....
posted by wilful at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Gene Wolfe.

*throws table into underground lake of fire*
posted by Fizz at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


No Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, M. John Harrison and certainly no Robert Holdstock, but all the pixie-shit you can eat. Makes you wonder what Gormenghast is doing on there, really.

On preview, what Fizz said.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:31 PM on August 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


I find Brandon Sanderson a very mechanistic writer, with extremely flat characters (for all that he seems a very friendly fellow I'd be delighted to have a cup of tea with). But even if you love his writing, the fact that his planned 10-book series is on here at #2, with only two books yet released, demonstrates how absurd this list is.

Goddamnit, Mistborn is on there too? And Goodkind? And the Fionavar Tapestry? Eragon and its successors? Eleven Weis & Hickman Dragonlance books? One of the Drizzt trilogies?

Let's ignore for the moment everything that should be on there but isn't. Might as well just fill all fifty-one slots with Lin Carter and call it a day.
posted by Palindromedary at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


There are a lot that I'd have liked to see here. I'm a big science fiction and fantasy fan, and I haven't heard of too many of these, which was surprising. Some I missed:

Anything by Eddings--The Belgariad, Elenium, Malloreon. I know they're not perfect, but they're a lot of fun.

The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King.

The Books of Swords, by Fred Saberhagen.

Patricia C Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series.
posted by Slinga at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also notably missing Dave Duncan. Dave Duncan. Dave Duncan.
posted by gurple at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you wish to keep any fond memories of the Dragonlance series from your youth, I recommend not revisiting the books.

One of my more embarrassing ninth-grade memories is of the time that our English teacher told us to bring in a sentence of prose we found perfect. I remember how pleased I was to recite, "The man marveled at how easily the slender dagger slipped through the folds in the older man's robe and then cut deeper into the wrinkled flesh."

This was from R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. I expected praise, or at least interest in the book, but all I got was an unforgettable facial expression from the man, and at last, "How purple." If you're out there, Mr. Hochman, I'm so sorry.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2015 [27 favorites]


Last few weeks I've really become obsessed with "The Gate", as the anime of it rolls out. The English translation of the manga is up to chapter 48.

The hook is that a magical gate appeared in the middle of Ginza and a medieval army poured out of it and started slaughtering civilians. Eventually the JSDF was able to respond, and then the attacking army got slaughtered, with tens of thousands of dead and thousands of prisoners. But not until hundreds (or thousands) of civilians were killed.

After reasonable preparation (taking a few months), the JSDF moves through it to see what is on the other side. The main enemy is The Empire (its only name) which seems very similar to Imperial Rome, but it's a lot more complex than that.

Our hero is Itami Youji, a lieutenant in the JSDF. He is a slacker and an otaku, and happened to be in Ginza on that day because he was hoping to load up on doujin. But as the battle proceeded he made himself very useful, and eventually was decorated and promoted.

Anyway, on the other side of the gate we have lots of humans (not just The Empire) but we also have forest elves and dark elves and Bunny Warriors and Cat Persons and dragons and tritons and just a load of other stuff straight out of typical fantasy. On our side we have military equipment mainly dating from the 70's and 80's. For instance, after the JGSDF gets a base built, the engineers create an airfield and they move a bunch of helicopters (Hueys and Cobras and Chinooks) and eventually a handful of jets (Phantom II's). There are two major attempts by the locals to take back their side of the gate, both resulting in utter slaughter (of the other guys, by the JSDF).

But there's also politics involved (on our side of the gate and on their side) and the story is well conceived and well handled.

It has an interesting history: the original story was written by a veteran and posted online. It intrigued a publisher, who commissioned him to write six novels at greater depth, which got published. Then that spawned a manga based on the novels, and now this season we're getting an anime.

Nominally it looks like a harem show, but it isn't. Itami ends up with several local women but they aren't really romantic interests.

If you're a military otaku and a fantasy otaku, it's for you. If you're wondering, "What happens if a modern military is attacked by a Roman legion?" then it will show you. Major thumbs up!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:33 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fans used to concede that the great Dragonlance books are the Twins trilogy, which touched on alcoholism, weird co-dependant relationships and time travel paradoxes without falling flat on its face. Plus Raistlin didn't hiss so much. There may be other decent novels later in the series(es).

List wasn't too bad. I always feel that fantasy is terrible for being all about Things Of The Moment plus no more than N touchstones of days gone past. So much mid-to-top tier stuff from prior decades is quickly out of print and forgotten.

I always want to talk about certain books I love in these threads, but can't do them justice. Oh the pain!

Honourable mention for the (first two) Mythago Wood books, which were great, weird and unlike much else when I discovered them a few years back. Definitely tap into that Wild Wood vein that Susanna Clarke touches.
posted by comealongpole at 3:39 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Discworld is required reading for being human.

A Song of Ice and Fire is way, way higher on this list than it deserves to be. I'm about 200 pages away from being caught up, and my interest in the series is currently driven entirely by the sunk cost fallacy.

Glad to see His Dark Materials on there though. We need more YA fiction where the protagonists literally kill God.
posted by schmod at 3:39 PM on August 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


No Kate Elliott? Fail.

The list looks to me like it's a combo list from at 3 people: one person who reads beyond the Extruded Fantasy Product category, and that person submitted submitted McKillip, Jemisin, and Cooper. The other two guys submitted all the paint-by-numbers grim-dark fantasy by manly men with beards (and hats) (or swords).

Not sure about Leguin, Hobb and Rowling: any of them could have submitted those.
posted by suelac at 3:41 PM on August 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


No Diane Duane, Tanith Lee or Patricia Wrede.


This list is an intruder wearing a false fairy glamour, chain it in cold irons and leave it in the moonlight, tell the fair folk we will not be taken in by changelings or cuckoos
posted by The Whelk at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


Am I the only person who thought, after reading the entire thing sadly, that The Darkness that Comes Before was a complete waste of my time? Seriously, I kept reading because I had heard it was good from folks and lists like this one so I had to be just around the corner from the good part right? Right? RIGHT?

Nope.

Thanks for the list, a few of these might scratch that old itch that pops up now and again.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:47 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also a fair number of series that aren't actually finished yet, which makes one wonder how you can know that they are "the best" of anything.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2015


I do question why Gormenghast made a self-declared "swords and sorcery" list. No swords, no sorcery, and the single most boring fantasy series my 12-year-old self ever forced himself to finish reading in vain pursuit of a visceral payoff. Definitely well written if you're into intrigues and petty problems of boring characters, but high fantasy? Swords and sorcery? Nope, not even close. Knock it off this list, add it to the gothic romances or similar, add Eddings, Brust, maybe even Cherryh's Morgaine series.
posted by Blackanvil at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can anything that occurs, on average, once a year, actually be great?
posted by cromagnon at 3:50 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, chuck some William Morris and George MacDonald on the pile of Dead White Guys I enjoyed reading too. At least they're Public Domain. Morris's deliberately-stiff heroic prose prefigures The Tolkster (as JRR liked to be known).
posted by comealongpole at 3:52 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a really young list, last decade or so.
posted by bonehead at 3:52 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was from R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. I expected praise, or at least interest in the book, but all I got was an unforgettable facial expression from the man, and at last, "How purple." If you're out there, Mr. Hochman, I'm so sorry.
Guy sounds like an asshole. What did he expect from ninth graders?
posted by valrus at 3:53 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, there do seem to be a couple they left off, such as:

Lloyd Alexander, Chronicles of Prydain
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Chalion Books
Barbara Hambly, The Windrose Chronicles
Rachel Hartman, The Seraphina Duology
P. C. Hodgell, The Chronicles of the Kencyrath
Barry Hughart, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox
Diana Wynne Jones, The Chrestomanci Novels
Katharine Kerr, The Deverry Books
Katherine Kurtz, The Deryni Chronicles
Mercedes Lackey, The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy
Tanith Lee, Tales of the Flat Earth
Fritz Leiber, The Lankhmar Books
Charles de Lint, The Newford Stories
Sergei Lukyanenko, The Night Watch Books
R. A. MacAvoy, Black Dragon Duology
Andre Norton, Witch World Series
Meredith Ann Pierce, The Darkangle Trilogy
Tim Powers, Fault Lines Series
Jack Vance, The Dying Earth Books
Manly Wade Wellman, Silver John Books
Gene Wolfe, Soldier Series
posted by kyrademon at 3:57 PM on August 27, 2015 [38 favorites]


Buzzfeed: all the pixie-shit you can eat.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Guy sounds like an asshole. What did he expect from ninth graders?

Yep. If you'd chosen Proust or something he probably would have sneered at you for being a poser.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:01 PM on August 27, 2015


Points in the list's favor:

1. It does not appear to be ranked
2. The Black Company and The Magicians are on it

BuzzFeed, ye shall not taste my snark this day
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:15 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not certain it's an ordered list, rather more a collection.

So, you're saying it's curated?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:17 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ctrl-F 'Zelazny,' sees 'Amber' at 29, discounts article.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:21 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


God yes Diane Duane. For some reason, I always classify her stuff as sci-fi in my head.

This list is also missing Daniel Abraham, which is a sadness. I've read far too much of what's on that list, and it leaves a lot to be desired.
posted by mikurski at 4:22 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Guy sounds like an asshole. What did he expect from ninth graders?

When seriously learning to improve a creative pursuit, sometimes you need a real asshole to tell you the truth.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 4:24 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dude seems a little unclear on what "50 years" means.

Also surprised not to see any Neil Gaiman.
posted by zompist at 4:29 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


No C.J. Cherryh? Well phooey!
posted by Lynsey at 4:35 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also surprised not to see any Neil Gaiman.

I don't really think of Gaiman as a series writer (of novels).

They're missing Lawrence Watt-Evans, but at least there's no Piers Anthony (or maybe there was and my brain has finally learned to block out horrible things).
posted by Etrigan at 4:39 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Rothfuss is... fine, I guess, but I'm always surprised to see the Kingkiller series is so highly regarded. I read it and came away thinking it was a decent light read but to see it rank so highly on lists like this always is a bit of a shock.
posted by synecdoche at 4:39 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


They left off "The Deed of Paksennarion"?!

Bastards.
posted by mephron at 4:48 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Inclusion of The Sword Of Truth series kind of renders the rest of the list meaningless. There are some things on it the list that are just not my cup of tea but SOT is objectively terrible by any standard. It's like Ayn Rand wrote fantasy torture porn.

I would, however heartily second the Kingkiller Chronicles series. There aren't many books I've enjoyed more, ever. Waiting expectantly for third book. And waiting. And waiting...
posted by lordrunningclam at 4:48 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


i cant believe they left off the cones of dunshire
posted by poffin boffin at 5:12 PM on August 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Heh. I just found a grumpy rant I wrote about Rothfuss and The Name of the Wind after I gave up two-thirds of the way through. As the motto of the internet is "And Here's My Opinion," I hereby drop it upon your collective floors like a dead mouse. Enjoy. Or don't. It's the internet!

The Name of the Wind reminded me of Scaramouche by Sabatini, another tale of a young man on the make. Both went like this: “I was in a tough spot. So I had to learn this really difficult thing that takes normal people years of practice in very little time, and I was awesome at it. Then I went somewhere else and ended up in a tough spot. So I had to learn this really difficult thing... [Repeat cycle.]” For Scaramouche, it went like this: Political rhetoric? Instant master! Acting? Instant master! Playwriting? Instant master! Politics? Instant master! Swordfighting? Instant master! For Kvothe, not that different.

Not hard to see how this excites the nerd pleasure centers. (“I’m a master hero in disguise, living among the straights...I can do anything because I’m smarter than anyone else and would learn the Secrets of Everything so fast and I'm a badass waiting to happen...”)

Holy shit, pandering to the “grownup gifted children” set just a bit, aren’t we, Pat?

The fantastical setting -- your standard post-Tolkien Euro-hodgepodge -- was more modern than most, in that it had bookstores (!) and New World crops were common: tobacco, chocolate, etc. It felt lazy. He created a prefab fantasy world that’s easy for us to mentally construct because it’s three-quarters Shit We’ve Seen Before and one-quarter The World We Already Live In. Not a terminal flaw, but it pulled me out of it in spots. (Bookstores? Are you fucking kidding me?)

The Harry Potter-ness of the latter half of the book is undeniable. Our Hero is a student at a Magical University and has friends, girl trouble, mystical hoohar, and a Mean Boy who is from a powerful, wealthy family. While I’ve avoided the tales of Mr. Potter (tried the first, got stone bored because it’s a goddamn childrens’ book, and moved on), so I can’t say for certain, I can’t help but feel a lot of this book is “Harry Potter, Kickass American Style!”

Also, was it me or was the second half of book a giant fantasy version of grad school? Our Hero constantly under academic pressure to produce and also secure funding for the next semester? It's been a while, but wasn't "I gotta raise money for Magic School this term" a recurring problem?
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 5:12 PM on August 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


In case you're wondering, yes, I also hate kittens, rainbows, and joy.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 5:30 PM on August 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Read this when it came out; the bizarre mix of good, forgettable, and truly terrible made it feel like they just popped "fantasy series" into google and copied down the first fifty entries. There's no rhyme or reason to it at all.
posted by smoke at 5:30 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Read this when it came out; the bizarre mix of good, forgettable, and truly terrible made it feel like they just popped "fantasy series" into google and copied down the first fifty entries. There's no rhyme or reason to it at all.

Thank you, you've saved me the rant and summed up my feelings exactly. I mean, Rothfuss? Paolini? Terry Fucking Goodkind? To say nothing of the "I wrote stories about my AD&D campaign" authors.

It is nice to see Robin Hobb on there twice though.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:34 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I think of great fantasy series, the first people I think of are all women: Bujold, Elliott, Hobb. I noticed there were no women in the top ten, and Bujold and Elliott weren't even on the list. (Bujold's Curse of Chalion is just about one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read; for those fond of doorstop volumes of epic fantasy, Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars is much better structured than GoT).

Guy Gavriel Kay is also great, but his best tend to be his stand-alone novels, like Tigana. I don't think of him as a series writer.
posted by jb at 5:40 PM on August 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would definitely cross Scott Lynch's "Locke Lamora" series off this list. The first one was decent, the second mediocre and I haven't bothered with the third. Goodkind can go too, Star Wars meets meets Kink.com sounds like a promising premise but doesn't work in a fantasy setting. I will give an endorsement to Brian McClellan's Powder Mage trilogy which I stumbled across and enjoyed much more than I expected. I also have enjoyed the several volumes I have read of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. I guess I like the combination of gunpowder and magic/dragons.
posted by MikeMc at 5:42 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Bas-Lag books? WUT.

I mean, those books are basically the answer to so many other questionable series on the list, good and bad. They're aggressively post-Tolkien and even critique D&D-inspired fantasy, but with enough structure and nostalgia to come off as an affectionate intervention instead of simple snark.
posted by mobunited at 5:44 PM on August 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


God I fucking hate the Kingkiller Chronicles. Like, Rothfuss seems like a nice dude and he talks a good talk about inclusion but Kvothe the magic fae fucker and 'D-vowel the tricksy sly abused druggie he loves like a Nice Guy' was just irritating.

Then there's the 'I'm just gonna dance around the idea that Kvothe was raped' because apparently that's too grimdark? Needs two books of dancing to get around to saying? Leave it plausibly deniable? I don't know what was going on there but so not interested in reading any other parts of the series.

Personally though, I'm just about ready to throw any fantasy novel that spends any amount of time telling me about women's tit size out the fucking window. It can be done interestingly, I would assume, but there's no faster way of saying "this is for the dudes hehehe" than soliloquies about breast tissue.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:58 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


No love for The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany/Edward Plunkett? I am sad.
posted by Dalby at 6:08 PM on August 27, 2015


This is just a list of stuff on the fantasy shelf at their local Barnes and Noble, right?
posted by gaspode at 6:13 PM on August 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


The magic academy story in "Name of the Wind" read a bit like Great Expectations to me, with the boy struggling with class setbacks as he makes his way through the curriculum. I hated the frame story and the adult Kvothe, just groaned through those bits.

This list isn't good. I'd rather see Glen Cook's "Black Company" and Richard K Morgans "Land Fit for Heroes" near the top. Moorcock's early Elric stuff deserves a higher place. No mention of Karl Edward Wagner's Kane books. But the worst omission is K.J. Parker. The Engineer trilogy and the Scavenger trilogy would fight for top spot on my list, and the Fencer trilogy would be somewhere on it as well.
posted by OrderOctopoda at 6:16 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


No love for "The Incompleat Enchanter" stories? They're some of the best ever.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:18 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was disappointed that Tad Williams didn't make the cut. I also liked some of Moorcock's crossovers, namely the Corum series.

Guess I have some more reading to do, though, as I haven't seen/read many of these series. So this list is as good as any, IMO.
posted by Chuffy at 6:18 PM on August 27, 2015


Neil Gaiman wrote graphic novels in series...The Sandman, which I guess don't qualify.

He also had some books that were tied together, Anansi Boys and American Gods, but not sure they qualified.
posted by Chuffy at 6:20 PM on August 27, 2015


If you wish to keep any fond memories of the Dragonlance series from your youth, I recommend not revisiting the books.

Yeah, this.

I think there's an interesting divide in fantasy literature for kids/young adults. It goes something like this: one the one side, there are books that are enhanced by having read them as a kid. This includes a lot of arguably great stuff, like The Hobbit, or The Chronicles of Prydain -- stuff that is still fun to read as an adult, but is perhaps a bit more magical if you first experienced them young. And then on the other side is the stuff that isn't just enhanced by youth, but in fact is only good if you read it as a kid. And that stuff is terrible if you revisit it.

And holy crap does basically every TSR-era D&D novel fall into that second category. Dragonlance? Dark Sun? Ravenloft? Anything RA Salvatore? ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.
posted by tocts at 6:21 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, I have to throw support behind Tad Williams as well. He always seems criminally underrated (or absent) in these kinds of lists. Otherland is pretty amazing, if flawed in that it feels like it probably went overlong near the end. Memory, Sorrow, Thorn is both highly unique and super engaging as well.
posted by tocts at 6:24 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I liked The Godless World by Brian Ruckley, but looking at Goodreads I see that reviews are mixed.
posted by quillbreaker at 6:28 PM on August 27, 2015


I also see Outlander on their list. I got talked into reading it for a book club and I still can't figure out which reason I hate it is most significant.
posted by quillbreaker at 6:34 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Star Wars meets meets Kink.com

The trash compactor scene will never look the same.

The list was ok -- a few authors I'd never heard of that looked good and some authors I have enjoyed, but also a lot of authors I have tried and disliked. There was definitely a jumbled quality to it, rather than a focused or curated approach.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 PM on August 27, 2015


ctrl F cj cherryh

shakes fist at uncaring heavens

(didn't actually do the first, just assumed she wasn't on it)
posted by Sebmojo at 6:51 PM on August 27, 2015


Actually while we're chatting: does anyone else think Gene Wolfe books are clearly demarcated into good/less good, around about the Long Sun series? Book of the New Sun was incredible, first two soldier books ditto, then it just sort of turned into characters sitting around discussing the plot with each other?
posted by Sebmojo at 6:55 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


So is this list "from the last fifty years" or "of all time"? Those aren't the same thing, Children of Buzzfeed.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:02 PM on August 27, 2015


I saw this on Buzzfeed a couple days ago and had to avoid punching my monitor. It's not just the omission of so many great writers (Abraham, Leiber, Hughart, etc.), it's the inclusion of authors that are generally considered to be outright gawdawful writers (Goodkind, Paolini), gawdawful people (MZ Bradley), or just way too derivative (Brooks, Paolini). An incredibly lazy list. Goodkind. Fucking Terry "The Yeard" Goodkind? He of the noble goat, evil incarnate chicken? You have to be fucking kidding me. And don't get me started on Paolini.
posted by Ber at 7:33 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


So as to contemplate such a plethora of obvious omissions, someone deserves the Spell of Forlorn Encystment.
posted by y2karl at 7:33 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


If nothing else this served to remind me to read Mary Stewart. Though I probably will start with something other than the Arthurian books, and probably skip the fantasy altogether to begin with.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:25 PM on August 27, 2015


Read the Mary Stewart Arthur books - they're brilliant! Actually, they aren't Arthur books - the first three are Merlin books, and the fourth is a Mordred book. But it's the best and most historically set Arthur I've ever read (and I've read many) - you really feel like you're in sixth century Romano-Britain, not some vague high middles ages place.

Add to that Stewart's intelligent writing and characters, and it's an all-round win. I really need to re-read (for the 30th time).
posted by jb at 8:44 PM on August 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


This list really fails at YA fantasy. Where is Tamora Pierce? Patricia Wrede? Diane Wynne Jones?
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:58 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, I read Salvatore's Dark Elf trilogy, and I enjoyed it, but I am gonna Be That proverbial Guy who really doesn't think it belongs on the same list with Le Guin's Earthsea books.

You will not be alone.

Gah! at the Goodkind books. A friend of mine put this up on his FB saying that it was giving him some good ideas for future reading; I left a comment saying that he should avoid the Goodkind and instead maybe look at Abraham's Dagger and the Coin series, which I've been enjoying (not saying it belongs on this list). He replied "Yeah. I read the first seven Goodkind books before it got too weird and I quit."

Which left me bemused about how different people react to books, because Goodkind got too weird for me 6.5 books earlier...
posted by nubs at 9:04 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


No "Days After the Dragon" series by Kristie Wright? Total bullshit.
posted by charred husk at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2015


There are so many "XXXX IS MISSING, THIS LIST SUCKS" in this thread that you'd virtually have to replace the entire list to satisfy everybody. And then people will yell about the ones that were removed.

That said, it's absurd to put STORMLIGHT at #2. I'm not saying it won't end up on the list somewhere but the thing isn't even a quarter finished, is less than a decade old, and... aww fuck it.

I opened that list, saw Rothfuss at number one and closed the tab right away. Fuck that guy.

Did... did he hurt your cat?

Holy shit, pandering to the “grownup gifted children” set just a bit, aren’t we, Pat?

I think you missed the GIANT CLUE BY FOURS that Kvothe is the opposite of a reliable narrator. He's lying to the reader.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm becoming increasingly agitated about Stormlight's inclusion at #2. I think I need a drink.
posted by Justinian at 9:31 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it were a ranked list, wouldn't they have counted down to #1?
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think you missed the GIANT CLUE BY FOURS that Kvothe is the opposite of a reliable narrator. He's lying to the reader.

Waiting over two books to spring that little gotcha on the reader is a bit of a ludicrously long game, isn't it?
posted by lumensimus at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just very glad to see some proper "Name of the Wind" hate on mefi. I haven't enjoyed disliking a book as much as that one for a while.

I couldn't finish The Mistborn books either but it was a more amicable parting of ways.
posted by of strange foe at 10:42 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Actually while we're chatting: does anyone else think Gene Wolfe books are clearly demarcated into good/less good, around about the Long Sun series?

I think Wolfe's writing style took a dramatic shift between the first 4 books of The Book of the New Sun and the 1987 coda The Urth of the New Sun, and he largely hewed to this looser style in later works. I'm a huge Wolfe fan, but all my favorite works and short stories tend to fall before this shift.

He addresses this in a 2014 interview in MIT Technology Review:

Your writing changed when you became a professional writer. When you stole time to write, your prose style was denser and more literary. Peace and The Fifth Head of Cerberus are very worked-over books, with echoes of Proust and other writers you admired. Since you became a full-time writer, your prose has become looser: the paragraphs are shorter, you rely more on dialogue, and the entire tone is less poetic.

Wolfe: It’s not that, really. It’s that I’ve gotten so much criticism for being unreadable and overcomplex and hard to get into and all this stuff. And I thought, “Well, I’ll loosen up.”
posted by Auden at 10:52 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Waiting over two books to spring that little gotcha on the reader is a bit of a ludicrously long game, isn't it?

It's been clear from virtually the beginning that Kvothe is an extremely unreliable narrator.
posted by Justinian at 11:20 PM on August 27, 2015


Does it matter that Kvothe is unreliable? You still have to read an inordinate amount of text on the subject of a dude sexing up his magical fae girlfriend. Plus, if you read it as Kvothe making stuff up, then that sucks any remaining drama out of the magical adventures, doesn't it?

(So glad to hear other people have issues with that series as well, btw)
posted by buriednexttoyou at 11:29 PM on August 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are so many "XXXX IS MISSING, THIS LIST SUCKS" in this thread that you'd virtually have to replace the entire list to satisfy everybody. And then people will yell about the ones that were removed.

The problem is that the list can't satisfy anybody. There's no discernment at all here. Who in the world actually thinks these are the 51 best fantasy series? What's the point?
posted by howfar at 11:30 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Also, was it me or was the second half of book a giant fantasy version of grad school? Our Hero constantly under academic pressure to produce and also secure funding for the next semester?

I laughed out loud. I picked up Name of the Wind because its rating is insanely high on Goodreads, and while it was an entertaining story, I definitely don't feel the OMG-undying-love-amazing feelings lots of other people seem to have for it. Unreliable narrator stories are tricky to pull off, and maybe there's a good payoff somewhere in the second or third books but I just...meh. It's a lot of pages without a lot of depth into what the story is for, and the Kvothe/Kote identity, until the very end. And even then you're still reading a Gary Stu (he's so amazing that even this crazy demon is obsessed with him! Look how amazing he is at everything he tries in his youth!). The part that bugged me the most was probably Denna--she's #notlikeothergirls, but he can tell her hardened personality is just armor and she gets so much abuse that he can't bear to act on any of his feelings, even though he's painfully blind to her obvious longing for him so he's totally ignoring her actual agency.

Anyway, I enjoy discussion of lists like this because it always comes with a flood of good things to read, as people chime in to champion their favorite that got left off the list. I have Jemisin loaded up on my Kindle and a vacation starting tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that. I'll be sure to come back and process TFA as well as all the comments, bracing myself for a flood of new books to add to the Goodreads queue.
posted by j.r at 11:31 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Kate Elliot, no justice.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:36 PM on August 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, far too many recent shitty to decent white bloke cookie cutter grim 'n gritty epic fantasy with nothing outstanding to recommend them on this.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:38 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just attempted to read Name of the Wind and zoned out really fast on it. Eh, not for me. But the descriptions of it here are making me feel better about that.

I nth that there's no way to come up with a list that makes all the geeks happy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:41 PM on August 27, 2015


It has an interesting history: the original story was written by a veteran and posted online. It intrigued a publisher, who commissioned him to write six novels at greater depth, which got published. Then that spawned a manga based on the novels, and now this season we're getting an anime.

From the rumblings on anime boards, this bloke is also somewhat of a rightwinger and Japanese empire apologist. Do those politics make it through in the anime?

Me, I liked Outbreak Company, a series about a hikkamori being recruited by the Japanese government for his extensive knowledge of all things otaku to help it wage soft imperialism on the fantasyland found on the other side of a warp gate. Less fighting, more dwarf vs elf soccer matches with Nausica shoutouts.)
posted by MartinWisse at 11:44 PM on August 27, 2015


It's like Ayn Rand wrote fantasy torture porn.

While ripping off Robert Jordan.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:47 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I nth that there's no way to come up with a list that makes all the geeks happy.

To be fair, there's a huge difference between creating a list you can quibble with, which is any list, and making an actively bad list. This one is the latter for various reasons: 1) an over reliance on mediocre but recent series, 2) no good idea of what makes a series (duologies and trilogies should not apply), 3) confusion about whether this is an all time best or last fifty years best; in the latter case Gormenghast should not have been in there as it came out before the cut off point and finally 4) it's either too long or too short -- why fiftyone series?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 AM on August 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


If it isn't ranked, there's no reason whatever to number the entries, other than to demonstrate that he delivered the promised 51. Even then, you'd have to pay close attention to be sure he didn't have two of #5.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:51 AM on August 28, 2015


It's clearly ranked. The odds of both Martin and Tolkien ending up in the top 4 by random chance in an unordered list are not high. Yes, a lot of people on Metafilter will have their jimmies rustled by the idea that Martin is a shoe-in for the top 5 but that doesn't change that it is probably generally accepted as true by this point. Even if the last two books make me want to eat my own eyeballs.
posted by Justinian at 1:59 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip

I mean it was okay (and yeah, better than Sword of Damned Truth) but is it Top 50 good?
I express scepticism.

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Welp, something worse on the list than SoT, at least.

For anyone who wants to revisit Dragonlance without reading the books, and wants to have their cherished memories destroyed, there's Tor.com, which is also re-reading Elfstones of Shannara.

(I'm not going to lie, I still read Brooks... he's like the McDonalds of fantasy - great for planes).
posted by Mezentian at 2:15 AM on August 28, 2015


> "The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip ... is it Top 50 good?"

Yes.
posted by kyrademon at 2:49 AM on August 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some general comments on the Buzzfeed list:

1) Including unfinished series is silly (although including ongoing series which have no presumed stopping point seems legit.)

2) If they're including children's book series (like the The Chronicles of Narnia) at all, there are quite a few super-obvious ones they left off.

3) Ditto with YA.

4) They appear to have frequently confused "rather popular" with "best". This is not to say that no popular works should be on there; many absolutely should be. Some ... should not.

5) Roughly half of the choices on the list make reasonable sense.
posted by kyrademon at 3:07 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least it's not the NPR list from a few years back.
posted by Mezentian at 3:10 AM on August 28, 2015


Oh man Brandon Sanderson looks so much like Garth Marenghi in that picture.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:05 AM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, you took that to a dark place.
posted by Mezentian at 4:12 AM on August 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Glad that there are a few other Tad fans out there. I too was disappointed not to see Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn make the list.
posted by tentacle at 4:41 AM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I nth that there's no way to come up with a list that makes all the geeks happy.

Making a list that everyone can complain about and correct to their own preferences seems like the way to go.
posted by jeather at 5:25 AM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unreliable narrator stories are tricky to pull off, and maybe there's a good payoff somewhere in the second or third books but I just...meh.

The second book is out, but the third is not, so this could change. But, so far, that payoff has not presented itself.

To be clear, I'm someone who actually really enjoyed the first book (and to get all hipster, I liked it way before it exploded in popularity). Not a perfect book, but I thought it had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the second book was a pretty big letdown. It basically spirals out of control into even more absurd Adventures Of Kvothe, The Awesomest Awesome Who Ever Awesomed, including a pretty lengthy section all about him being the only person to ever meet a famed immortal sex demon (known for screwing men to death) and live -- because he's just so good at the sexing, you see.

To top it all off, despite Rothfuss' claims that this is a 3-book series, he opens up so many new subplots and advances the main plot so little that I think there's about a 95% chance he's on a path to be the next GRRM or Jordan, as far as "no no, I swear, just one more book!" goes.
posted by tocts at 5:36 AM on August 28, 2015


Despite its rocky first volume, the Inda series by Sherwood Smith is totally amazing (and also actually finished, unlike many of the entries on this list).
posted by esker at 7:16 AM on August 28, 2015


I can't get it to load, so someone please reassure me that the words "Piers Anthony" and "Xanth" do not appear anywhere. Pleaaaaaase.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2015


Good news everybody, t the words "Piers Anthony" and "Xanth" do not appear anywhere.
Sadly The Avalon Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley does.
posted by Mezentian at 7:43 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


What about the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley?
posted by RobHoi at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2015


What about the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley?

Rape, Abuse, and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

She's not so great a person. Or was.
posted by Mezentian at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2015


What about the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley?

I'm trying to forget how much I loved it, and to forget how some tropes she uses (and probably invented) read very differently knowing what we do now about her.
posted by asperity at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2015


I was going to say, if we were going to pick MZB books at all, Darkover over Mists, but yeah, I can't go back and read a lot of that now, never mind recommending it. I can't imagine reading the stuff about Dyan Ardais and the cadets without all the background stuff in mind, for instance.
posted by immlass at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I find Brandon Sanderson a very mechanistic writer, with extremely flat characters.

Yah seeing Sanderson at 2 was a surprise. I read both the Stormlight books, and while I thought the world was interesting I really didn't like a few of his characters, especially the scholarly young girl who's name I'm forgetting. It got on my nerves how often he had a character remark on or tell the girl how smart or clever she was, and how seldom he actually wrote her being that clever. I kept feeling like he couldn't think of ways for her to be clever but wanted the reader to think she was clever, so he just kept finding a lazy way to remind us.

I did think the storm magic and army stuff was kinda neat though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2015


There is no world in which the Sword of Truth series is on a best-of list. And if you don't believe me I'll carve a statue so beautiful that you can't help but believe what I say.

Or whatever the fuck.


There are not enough favorites in the world......


Also, "The Inheritance Cycle" is Star Wars with Dragons. He even uses his evil father's sword that he gets from his father's former friend and mentor after the evil empire killed his family.
posted by VTX at 8:55 AM on August 28, 2015


I posted this list on the ASOIAF forum, got a fair amount of sputtering and outrage.

Also, "The Inheritance Cycle" is Star Wars with Dragons. He even uses his evil father's sword that he gets from his father's former friend and mentor after the evil empire killed his family.

It is my hope, nay, my dream that being the Mouse now owns Star Wars, some day Paolini gets a knock on the door and there's a battalion of Mouse lawyers. The Mouse doesn't fuck around with infringement and plagiarism. No it doesn't. The Mouse has an army of lawyers that track this shit down and make even the slightest user of their properties pay. I was at a art festival in rural Sweden. There was a wood carver who had several nice wood carvings. One was of Donald Duck and it's price was astronomical. I asked why the huge price and the carver said, the Mouse found him. Sleep well, little Paolini, your teenage act of plagiarism is going to cost you someday.
posted by Ber at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2015


Sleep well, little Paolini, your teenage act of plagiarism is going to cost you someday.

He was a teen. The difference between him and fan-ficcers is he got published.

I don't feel strongly about defending him, because I have just seen the movie, but also, Star Wars ain't that original, and even Lucas admits that.

(Pours out a 40 for all the John Carter movies we won't get because of that).
posted by Mezentian at 9:34 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find Brandon Sanderson a very mechanistic writer

That's an excellent way to describe him. I think his books have occasionally brilliant bits; the whole sequence with Taravangian in STORMLIGHT is superb in a way that I can't actually describe without major spoilers and going into too much background for this comment. But every time Sanderson starts the magic system wankery I want to reach through the page and shake him. I think its great that he has worked out the magics in his books in detail. Describing how it works in absolute detail once or twice so that we trust him is fine.

But I don't need to know that Szeth lashed to a door and then changed his lash 10 degrees to the right followed by 15 degrees to the left and then increased its strength by 150 newtons.
posted by Justinian at 9:39 AM on August 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


OK, so I love me some sword and sorcery fiction. I have read so much of it that you could probably measure my consumption in significant fractions of a ton. I don't even care so much about quality, just give me a shitload of characters and some dark magics and a mysterious prophecy and I'm in. But increasingly, I'm realizing there are some common and troubling elements in the genre that I can't ignore any more. Like, folks, I'mma need some women in these stories -- that's women, plural -- with names and motivations and internal monologues and everything. I gave up entirely on Robert Silverberg after I read a short story of his in which all the characters were men and the only women even present in the narrative were those from the local alien species, who were anatomically compatible enough to fuck but who had no real higher cognitive function capacities. Whom the Manly Men in the story called "wives."

Also as mentioned above, P.C. Hodgell's Kencyrath series is a under-known treat.
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


the whole sequence with Taravangian in STORMLIGHT is superb

And if you've only read the first book you have no idea what I'm talking about here.
posted by Justinian at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2015


What about the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley?

It's science fiction.
posted by jb at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2015


I'm pretty sure I saw it on Metafilter somewhere, but I'd just like to remind you all that the first book of the Inheritance Cycle is Eragon, which is just--it's dragon with an E. IT'S DRAGON. WITH. AN. E. And listen, I read that first book as an undiscerning teenager, and didn't necessarily dislike it. It was too boring and generic to have strong feelings about. But even as a teenager I thought, "I've read better fanfiction that this. Like, a lot of fanfiction that is better than this."

Anyway, I read through this list with a constant mental soundtrack of uuuuuughhhhhhhhh, except for the few brief bright spots (Jemisin! JKR! Discworld!). I read plenty of sword and sorcery books in my youth, but there was a certain point where I hit a wall and thought, "no more. I can read NO MORE of these, unless something actually interesting is going on, and by interesting I mean a setting that is not generic medieval fantasy Europe, a hero who is not a Chosen White Dude, or a conflict that is more interesting than NEBULOUS EVIL versus UNCOMPLICATED GOOD.

And I'll drop a couple recommendations while I'm here, YA fantasy because I frankly think the more interesting fantasy stuff is happening in that genre. Melina Marchetta's Chronicles of Lumatere series has a setting that's basically fantasy Europe, but the series is exceptional for its attention to character relationships, and an uncompromising portrayal of just what happens to a people who have been conquered and/or exiled, without getting grimdark. This series tackles a lot of the usual grimdark fantasy topics of rape, murder, violence, etc, but it does so in a way that I think is responsible and nuanced.

And I always recommend Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series, which starts off with the fun and seemingly light middle grade read The Thief, set in a fantasy Greece analogue, and then continues with The Queen of Attolia, where shit very abruptly gets real. It's all clever political machinations and loaded dialogue and character interactions and a terrific romance, and basically if you like Dorothy Dunnett's brand of historical fiction, you've got to read this series. (Don't read the blurbs or back covers after the The Thief, they're all horribly spoilery!)
posted by yasaman at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to forget how much I loved it, and to forget how some tropes she uses (and probably invented) read very differently knowing what we do now about her.

Those books were so important to me as a teenager. It hurts to know the truth about her own life, but I can't help but still love the books (especially Thendara House, which is thankfully free of excused child abuse).
posted by jb at 10:10 AM on August 28, 2015


Also as mentioned above, P.C. Hodgell's Kencyrath series is a under-known treat.


My hopes are fading that we will ever see a satisfying ending, let alone a return to Tai-Tastigon. So many loose ends it will take another 6 books to get anywhere at this rate. Gah, after 30 years I need resolution.
posted by N-stoff at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2015


Guy Gavriel Kay is also great, but his best tend to be his stand-alone novels, like Tigana. I don't think of him as a series writer.

I haven't read his Fionavar series yet. Loved the others I've read - and I think actually Lions of al-Rassan, and the two books of The Sarantine Mosaic refer to each others' places and religions, so they could be thought of as inhabiting the same world and thus sort of a "series."
posted by dnash at 10:46 AM on August 28, 2015


But I don't need to know that Szeth lashed to a door and then changed his lash 10 degrees to the right followed by 15 degrees to the left and then increased its strength by 150 newtons.

Ha, everyone's different I guess. Sanderson's detailed descriptions about his various worlds' (really interesting and unique, imo) magic systems are one of my favourite things about him. Most fantasy authors just handwave it away like "oh it's magic, no more explanation needed" but for me it adds a lot when the magic system is an intrinsic element of the plot rather than just being one more character trait. It's the scientist in me, I guess.

I also really like the way he writes his characters - they're flawed in different ways that actually give them personality (i.e. not the incredibly common "my only flaw is that I'm an asshole and/or from a rough background" which is barely one step above "I'm just awesome" characters). It also seems like his female characters have as much depth as the male characters, which is refreshing especially for a male author (though I think his main characters do skew male).

Of the 51 series I've read at least 1 book for maybe 30-40. Some are my most treasured favourites, reread many times (Farseer, Mistborn, Stormlight so far though yes, it's premature for this list). A few were completely unreadable for me (Donaldson's poor misunderstood rapist main character?? Terry Goodkind's weird political ranting? Fionavar was just awful even though Kay's Under Heaven/River of Stars are among my favourite books ever. And Terry Pratchett I found incredibly tedious to read, though I understand why he's here, many love him). Most of the rest ranged between "inoffensive but boring" and "great at the time but not really memorable" for me. I can see why most were included on the list, though, even if I didn't like them that much myself.
posted by randomnity at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, am I the only person who hated Lev Grossman's Magician novels (full disclosure, haven't read the last one because I hated the first two so much)? There are a lot of reasons, but the main one is that Quentin Coldwater is the most thoroughly unlikable protagonist in just about any book I've read. I trudged through two books of him being a complete a-hole to everyone around him and just got tired of it.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2015


ctr + f "prose edda" 0 of 0

what is story, does buzzfeed even know?
posted by Tevin at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, am I the only person who hated Lev Grossman's Magician novels

No, I completely agree - I only made it through the first book, and have no desire to read the second or third. I really don't get what the fuss is about over these books. I can handle a "flawed" protagonist or antihero, but loathsome characters with few to zero redeeming qualities are not my idea of a good read.
posted by Roommate at 11:35 AM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed all three of The Magicians.

I see so much Quentin's dickishness in myself without even trying. So much it kind of hurts to read.

So it's relatable.
posted by Tevin at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2015


There was some redemption for Quentin in book three, a hard-won maturity. Of course, everyone's mileage is varied but I thought Grossman stuck the landing pretty well.
posted by Ber at 11:56 AM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, am I the only person who hated Lev Grossman's Magician novels (full disclosure, haven't read the last one because I hated the first two so much)?

No, I found much company in this thread.
posted by gladly at 12:09 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "My hopes are fading that we will ever see a satisfying ending, let alone a return to Tai-Tastigon. So many loose ends it will take another 6 books to get anywhere at this rate."

Just FYI, P. C. Hodgell has said there will be three more books in the series, and there will be a return to Tai-Tastigon.
posted by kyrademon at 12:12 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, am I the only person who hated Lev Grossman's Magician novels

Not so much hate it, as annoyed at the hype surrounding him, like with Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss or Scott Lynch where a decently written but ultimately mediocre fantasy series written by a bloke is over praised while much better work by female writers is overlooked.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:33 PM on August 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can read NO MORE of these, unless something actually interesting is going on, and by interesting I mean a setting that is not generic medieval fantasy Europe, a hero who is not a Chosen White Dude, or a conflict that is more interesting than NEBULOUS EVIL versus UNCOMPLICATED GOOD.

Can it be that you have read none of the Dying Earth books?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It got on my nerves how often he had a character remark on or tell the girl how smart or clever she was, and how seldom he actually wrote her being that clever.

I had to start imagining that everybody was actually incredibly annoyed by Shallan, and just barely restraining themselves from calling her out on being so obnoxious. Like, she makes some stupid pun, and people just roll their eyes and takes a deep breath and say, "Oh, Shallan, you are so... ugh... erm... clever."
posted by buriednexttoyou at 3:38 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be fair, there's a huge difference between creating a list you can quibble with, which is any list, and making an actively bad list. This one is the latter for various reasons: 1) ...

... no mention of cj goddam cherryh goddammit
posted by Sebmojo at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where, I ask the collective, is Jacqueline Carey? "Truly great fantasy series of the last 50 years," and you leave out the one where a woman goes and finds the *name of God* to save her friend? Psh.
posted by epj at 7:45 AM on August 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where, I ask the collective, is Jacqueline Carey?

I'd say off "writing bondage porn", but my snark would be obliterated by Tewwy Goodkind.
posted by Mezentian at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2015


What is the worst science fiction novel that you’ve ever read?

Just posted on io9.
posted by Mezentian at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2015


The fact that this list is so bad along the axes of both quality and white-maleness strongly suggests this is in reality a list of 51 Fantasy Series That These Dudes Read Growing Up in the Nineties Plus Some Recent Similar Stuff. (I mean seriously, no Jo Walton or Catherynne Valente or Kate Elliott or Michelle West/Sagara? No Susan Cooper, Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones?)
posted by unsub at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Susan Cooper doesn't stand up super well on a re-read, imo; the plot coupon nature is a bit teeth-gritting: "Follow the prophetic instructions in bad rhyme to collect the cup, the sword, the crystal, the six (6) elementally themed icons and the other stuff and send away for the ending! Satisfaction guaranteed!"

She's still a really good writer and it's great YA stuff, mind.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:04 PM on August 29, 2015


*cough*
46. The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

And:
Susan Cooper doesn't stand up super well on a re-read, imo;

Personally, I re-read the series a few years back to cleanse my brain after that film which was vaguely based on it, and I loved it.
posted by Mezentian at 2:41 AM on August 30, 2015


I haven't read his Fionavar series yet. Loved the others I've read - and I think actually Lions of al-Rassan, and the two books of The Sarantine Mosaic refer to each others' places and religions, so they could be thought of as inhabiting the same world and thus sort of a "series."

They do, and history gets referenced in Last Light of the Sun, too. Fionavar is an ur-world; everything after Arbonne seems to take place in a shared history. KathrynT, Kay might be right for you. And Feist/Wurtz did a trilogy set on the other side of the rift, main character is a woman. Much lighter, kinda heavy on the Oh My Let's All Bow Because We're In Japachina.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:28 AM on September 1, 2015


Feist/Wurtz did a trilogy set on the other side of the rift, main character is a woman

And, there's also Kevin. Kelvin.
Shogun.
Whatever.
posted by Mezentian at 5:28 AM on September 1, 2015


Where, I ask the collective, is Jacqueline Carey?

I hang on to the first Kushiel series to reread (often at considerable speed) when I am sick or in a deep funk. They are like ridiculous chocolate truffles -- so lushly emotional that I suspect I will have an upset stomach later but delicious in the short run.

I don't think they are for everyone -- the heroine is a divinely inspired submissive masochistic prostitute after all (and a bit of a Mary Sue), but she also has courage and agency. The plots are ridiculously elaborate and emotional, but there's nothing wrong with that. I also like the fact that, while the series focused heavily on BDSM sex, Carey only writes extended sex scenes when the plot or characterization call for them rather than scattering them apparently randomly through the books (I am looking at you, Laurel Hamilton). She also does a pretty good job of dividing consensual sexual activities from abuse, a distinction that Fantasy as a whole often fails to make clear.

So I don't think everyone should run out and read Carey, but her books are at least as solid as many on this list and considerably better than many.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:39 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can understand that the first Carey trilogy in particular isn't for everyone. The second trilogy, however, contains what I would call "normal" BDSM, which is to say safe words are used between lovers, there aren't the extremes of pleasure/pain that only Phedre could enjoy, etc. In the third trilogy, there's no BDSM at all, though there continues to be explicit sexuality.

I take these nine books as a series as a whole, as the narrators are Phedre, Imriel, and Moirin, a distant relation of Alais (the third series is some 200 years later than the first two). I understand that explicit sexuality isn't for everyone, but I hardly think that a list including "A Song of Ice and Fire" needs to shy away from Jacqueline Carey for fear of upsetting readers on grounds of content. There's also so much more to the books than sex--tremendous world-building, including fascinating religious content which sucked me, a religion nerd, right in; epic quests; plots that unfold over the length of a trilogy. The books make me think when I read, and I love that.
posted by epj at 9:51 AM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can understand that the first Carey trilogy in particular isn't for everyone.

I think every series on the list (and many of those left off) aren't for everyone; the reason why these lists get mocked and picked to pieces is because everyone has things that "work" for them and others that don't, and you will never get universal agreement. I don't mind the Carey stuff, but they aren't my particular cup of tea either. She could certainly appear on a list like this and I wouldn't bat an eye either (because with writers like Martin and Goodkind also on these lists, I don't think that sexual content needs to be anything that becomes part of the consideration).

I really think they could avoid a lot of grar/frustration if they would just stop using words like "best", "top", etc (but clickbait gotta clickbait I guess) unless you are using some type of quantitative metric - "best selling fantasy series of all time" works (provided you are clear about how you are counting sales and which countries you are including) but this "best fantasy series evar!" list stuff just gets stupid because it comes down to taste. What would work with these lists would be if they called them "recommendations" and included some details about some of the content. To my mind, not including the fact that several of these series include explicit sex and sexual violence undermines the value of the list incredibly; I've learned it's important to mention those kinds of things when recommending books/media to friends because sometimes it is triggering (I don't know everyone's personal history) or repels them to discover it unexpectedly (which really knocked me out of the Fionavar Tapestry the first time I read it, because I wasn't expecting it at all) or it just isn't what they want in a fantasy novel/whatever piece of entertainment.

Blah. That's a lot of verbiage to say that when we make recommendations, we should include some description of the content as well (and beyond "dark" or "gritty" as those words have different meaning for everyone).
posted by nubs at 10:39 AM on September 3, 2015


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