30 of the best fantasy novels of all time
January 31, 2024 3:33 PM   Subscribe

"Yet the value of returning to the fantasy genre in later life cannot be understated. Mystical novels filled with world-building brilliance at once allow us to explore both the trials and tribulations of otherworldly creatures and of very human characters with preternatural destinies. In both cases, nevertheless, magic and mystery boil down to very simple universal truths and lessons. Indeed, it was Lewis Carroll in his beloved Alice in Wonderland who wrote, “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it”."

Link found via Neil Gaiman on Bluesky, where there was discussion of the list's weaknesses.
posted by cupcakeninja (91 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
This post brought to you by the fact that I am currently reading Alice's Adventirs in Wonderlaand, and it is indeed a trip "doon da rabbit-hol."
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:39 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Although I know of or have ready quite a few of these, I'm surprised how many I'd never heard of. I've got some reading to do.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:49 PM on January 31


Interesting list; I would join the chorus of commenters on Bluesky* calling out the absence of Wizard of Earthsea, or indeed of any LeGuin. Being an old-timer, I also think Dunsany should be represented (though to be sure he's not really best known as a novelist), and as a quirky favorite of my own I would also add The Worm Ouroborous, although Eddison has certainly fallen off the radar in recent decades. (I will take it as given that we are aiming an ack-ptooooie! at Rowling.)

And The Once and Future King, as much as I love it, doesn't ... really ... seem to be a fantasy novel to me? TBH I think it's truly uncategorizable, one of those few works that merits the universally-misused adjective "unique."

*BTW I find that I have five Bluesky invites; hit me up in MeMail if you'd like one (first come first served).
posted by Kat Allison at 3:56 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


It’s a weird list. 3 Tolkien, including The Silmarillion? No LeGuin? Eragon? No Crowley? Gods of Jade and Shadow isn’t even the best fantasy by Silvia Moreno-Garcia…
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:58 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


Hey, I've read a lot of these! As ever, a few weird choices:

* Three Tolkiens in 30 books? A best-of list is wasting its time when it's filled with the one name everyone knows.
* García Márquez is fantasy? If so, why no Borges?
* I'd put Lem's Cyberiad on there.
* Seems low on early stuff: Edith Nesbit, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, Jonathan Swift.
* Echoing the calls of "no LeGuin?" And how about Diane Duane?
posted by zompist at 4:03 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]


If we’re limited to 30 novels, 3 by Pratchett and/or Gaiman seems a bit much, too. I thought A Discovery of Witches was a bit weak for an “of all time” list. A bunch of them are questionably Fantasy, depending on how you define it. I would have liked to see Alan Garner on the list, if only because his books Mr
Ean a lot to me when I was a kid.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:06 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


This list is fucking awful, but then such lists usually are. Seriously, any "List of the best X of all time" is going to be just ragey-clickbait. It's worth posting if only to ask ourselves why do we do this, why do we make these lists, why do we read these lists and allow ourselves that tickle of rage or smug vindication, while knowing that these lists are usually the work of one person, or at best, a committee of people, all of which are still just other human beings.

I blame the internet, of course.
posted by The otter lady at 4:07 PM on January 31 [15 favorites]


Wow, this is... a very bad list. I mean, even by standards of Internet "best of" lists.
posted by kyrademon at 4:13 PM on January 31 [15 favorites]


This list seems primarily to be affiliate-kickback purchase bait for The Standard. They even go so far as to offer alternate affiliate links for different retailers if you have negative feelings about one purveyor. It's full of safe choices and feels entirely created to generate sales by click-throughs to boost revenue of the outfit that published the list.
posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


These lists are if nothing else a perspective into a single mind, or less commonly, a community of a certain time and place. They have worth if the known touchpoints overlap with your own, and so those on the list you aren't familiar with become part of the to read pile, possibly.

The most boring lists are those wherein I've read all the books, the most useless those where the author clearly has the taste of a plebeian or a toff or is simply cribbing from what they think other people think. Not sure which of those is worse.

So a good list can be challenging to find.
posted by bonehead at 4:17 PM on January 31


I don't know from "best of" or whatever (I always figure the cool kids are off sharing the really good stuff at parties I'm not invited to) but Katherine Addison's novels in the Goblin Emperor world - so that one and the Cemeteries of Amalo pair - have kept me loving fantasy as a thing of late. Inventive without being gimmicky and deeply empathetic without being sappy. Never feel like they're giving the characters an easy out, but still emotionally rewarding. I think Mefites would dig those.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 4:26 PM on January 31 [15 favorites]


Wizard of Earthsea

Re-read this again for the first time in ages as I’m following along with Shelved by Genre and fucking hell it’s good. Far better than I appreciated as a kid even.

Not one for “this has to be on the list or it’s invalid” but if you have not read it I would certainly suggest doing so.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on January 31 [14 favorites]


Too much emphasis on modern bestsellers that probably won't be read much another few years from now (Leigh Bardugo), not enough on classics and influence. The omission of LeGuin and inclusion of things like Outlander (which is usually classified as a time-travel romance, and not even the best of them) is kind of a bummer. The emphasis on this list seems to be more "things with fantastical elements that have had popular adaptations in recent years." There's no Guy Gavriel Kay, a poor choice of Pratchett (it's no one's favorite Discworld book), few of the big names of contemporary fantasy (no Malazan, no Brandy Sandy, no Joe Abercrombie, etc), little that is influential other than Tolkien and Martin (and not even the best book from A Song of Ice and Fire, which most people feel is the third book), etc. It's not really a "fantasy reader's" list.

I do think The Once and Future King belongs there because of the fantastical elements of Arthurian legend (I mean, Elaine in a boiling bath, the Lady of the Lake, etc.) but I can also see why someone would question it; you could as easily market it in the general fiction section or in literary classics.
posted by verbminx at 4:30 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


The Silmarillion? Fuck off.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on January 31 [24 favorites]


Weird list is weird.

Like, Watership Down is one of my all-time favorite favorite favorite books ever ever. I love it with all of my heart, but it never once occurred to me to think of it as fantasy. I Mean I get it but it doesn't really conform to any of the standards of fantasy literature. And yeah, not including Le Guin is just crazy.
posted by supermedusa at 4:34 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


Katherine Addison's novels in the Goblin Emperor world - so that one and the Cemeteries of Amalo pair - have kept me loving fantasy as a thing of late.

Seconding this rec.

Also Traitor Baru Cormorant because I’m on my Seth Dickinson shit again at the moment, Gideon the Ninth and the Locked Tomb books if they count (they should), and… I dunno, maybe some Rebecca Roanhorse?
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this is a terrible list. I got three down and was like, wait, the Silmarillion is not a novel. It's a lot of things but a novel is not one. And then I got all rage baited to the depths of my archivist's soul because if you are going to include entire series as one (Hello, Narnia) then you cannot give individual books from a series each their own awards. It is inconsistent. GRRRRR. Also, Outlander does not belong on here, neither does Garcia-Marquez really, Ishiguro's inclusion should irritate the hell out of him, given that IIRC he has stated he does not consider the Buried Giant a fantasy book and also, half of these are YA and half are adult and they are just not the same AND, perhaps most damning after the absence of LeGuin, A Discovery of Witches is terrible.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:53 PM on January 31 [20 favorites]


I am fine with the inclusion of bunny book.
posted by Artw at 4:54 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


Nthing Baru Cormorant
posted by supermedusa at 5:11 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Where is Night Circus?
posted by skyscraper at 5:18 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Why doesn’t Narnia have seven slots, and Wrinkle In Time three? And Game of Thrones should be, what, at least five, possibly six or however many volumes GRRM thinks it’ll take for him to figure out an ending, if Tolkien can take three slots, one of which is “all the backstory and research notes for the Ring”, then surely all these other books get slots too? And should there be three more slots for Six of Crows since it’s in the same world as a previous trilogy from the same author? Possibly more if it’s got upcoming sequels. Four slots for Eragon and it’s sequels. Three for His Dark Materials. Five for Harry Potter (read it despite THE CONTROVERSY!). And forty-one for Discworld.

That’s… 54 books before I count all the Discworld. 94 after. 94 of the best fantasy books, if the counting was consistent with “Tolkien gets three slots for Middle Earth”.
posted by egypturnash at 5:20 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


I take it I should not even bother to look at the list to evaluate DEI balance, huh.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:20 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Oh wait actually 96 if we expand just “the first third of LOTR” to “all three volumes of LOTR”.
posted by egypturnash at 5:26 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I'm too busy being annoyed at the straight-faced reading of Carroll, who spends a lot of Alice mocking didactic poetry and fiction (including in that dialogue exchange, as it happens). On a positive note, the list has inspired people to come up with additional recommendations?

(Speaking of the Victorians and the history of fantasy, one would have expected George MacDonald to have a look-in.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:26 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


For all of J.K Rowling’s controversies, the Harry Potter series remains the bestselling set of fantasy books of all time. We’re not sure we have to remind you of the plot – which follows a young boy who discovers that he is a wizard – but take this as a sign to finally pick up a physical copy of your favourite magical series.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a good time reading at least the early Potter books to the kids just because Rowling is a shitass transphobe now, but this is a spectacularly weak write up. Also frankly they are mashups of a dozen or earlier better books which would do better on the list.
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


I will say that I know multiple Classicists (as in people who have degrees in Classics and now teach Latin or Greek or write professionally about Classics) and every single one of them

completely

utterly

genuinely

loathes

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller specifically because of the characterization. The rendering of Patroclus into a woobie healer cleric Tumblr cinnamon roll makes one particular Classicist friend spit blood.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:47 PM on January 31 [13 favorites]


How are they on Hades?
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on January 31


Four slots for Eragon and it’s sequels. Three for His Dark Materials. Five for Harry Potter
One for the dark lord on his dark throne
posted by mbrubeck at 5:50 PM on January 31 [42 favorites]


I think the list maker may actually be a Solnit reader (“Getting it wrong is a great way to engage them more deeply.“).
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:52 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


Man, you think you're maturing as a person and can just breeze past these clickbait lists and avoid nitpicking about one to add and two to remove, then you stumble on this one and you realize you're the same petty internet commenter you've always been.

Why am I bothered? I think it honestly feels to me that the author's description of fantasy as something you read as a kid and then revisit as adult describes their approach--"adult" literary books and older classics, and then stuff that is in fact marketed as genre that heavily overrepresents YA books. I really think it's quite possible that the reason you get things like Eragon and not Earthsea is that they never read the Earthsea books. Which is, like, fine, there are lots of famous fantasy novels I haven't read (and I read a lot of genre stuff) but if so that's a tough headline to live up to.

I haven't read all of Harry Potter, nor Discworld, but if you want to make a case for their greatness it doesn't rely on the series' initial entries (Sorceror's Stone or Colour of Magic.)

AFAICT entire genres like urban fantasy and sword-and-sorcery are missing to make space for three Tolkiens, a Tolkien imitator, and a deconstructed Tolkien.

wait, the Silmarillion is not a novel

If you want to be petty (and I obviously do), I would also add that The Fellowship of the Ring is not a novel, it is the first volume of the novel Lord of the Rings. And Colour of Magic is not a novel, it is a collection of stories.
posted by mark k at 5:53 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


The older I get, the far more difficult it becomes to indulge in fantasy. If it takes four pages to spell out the Givernikin, living in the world of Bambershnickle, beholden to their code of Enautsiphancy, communicating in a dialect of Vinterldash, yeah, I'm noping the fuck right out.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 6:02 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


No Elric, no Amber, no Grey Mouser, no Redwall, no Riddlemasters, no Drizzt and no tugging of braids? (And I clearly agree with the lack of LeGuin)
posted by Thrakburzug at 6:05 PM on January 31 [17 favorites]


Three Books for the Fellowship off to Mount Doom
Seven for Martin, or whatever it takes,
Six for Arrakis, also known as Dune,
One for old Poe, always raising the stakes,
Drinking too much, alone in a room.
  One book to rule them all, one book to find them,
  One book to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them
Although Pym of Nantucket was a bit of a letdown to be honest.
posted by phooky at 6:07 PM on January 31 [24 favorites]


As an X-ennial or whatever my supposed micro-generation is called, if I really wanted to revisit the fantasy books of my middle school years I would need to read, lessee, in alphabetical order by last name....

Piers Anthony (Incarnations of Immortality and Xanth)

Terry Brooks (Sword of Shannara)

Guy Gavriel Kay (Fionavar Tapestry)

Katherine Kurtz (Deryni)

Anne McCaffrey (Pern) I know I know it's science fiction but telepathic dragons come on.

And I have tried to reread these authors (in my 20s/30s) and only my love for Menolly has stood the test of time. I can still bawl like a 12 year old when her hand gets infected and she can't play guitar (or whatever the string instrument is called). I remain a devoted reader of Guy Gavriel Kay books, just not that particular series.
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:14 PM on January 31 [10 favorites]


yep, crap list and I agree with everybody above about the missing items but.....

....no Conan the Barbarian?
posted by ashbury at 6:26 PM on January 31


Was this item generated by AI?
posted by jjderooy at 7:03 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure Martin only gets one slot because only the first book was recommended (same with Discworld). A Game of Thrones is not the name of the series; it's A Song of Ice and Fire.

I regret that I am familiar enough with this to be pedantic about it. Mefi doesn't do emojis that often, but just... :/ at my life, my choices.
posted by verbminx at 7:21 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I maintain that “Eragon” is book 2 in the Inheritance Cycle, set between book 1 (“Dragon”) and book 3 (“Fragon”).
posted by mbrubeck at 7:34 PM on January 31 [15 favorites]


Hazel was not Fiver’s -sister- I mean, that the Warren on water ship down have no does in the group is a primary driver of the plot.

(Please continue).
posted by janell at 7:51 PM on January 31 [13 favorites]


Needs more Alanna, Tamara Pierce is amazing and doesn't get enough representation on these lists.
posted by Carillon at 7:55 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


Wizard of Earthsea

Re-read this again for the first time in ages as I’m following along with Shelved by Genre and fucking hell it’s good. Far better than I appreciated as a kid even.


Really the proof that Earthsea is an enduring classic of literature (and not just of genre) is how it affects you differently as you read it at different ages. It matures and changes along with the reader.

Gideon the Ninth and the Locked Tomb books if they count (they should)

Ehhhhhh . . . any series that is clearly set in a multi-planetary empire right from the start would, to me, be clearly on the "SF" side of "SF/F", no matter how weird or semi-magical or gothy it might present as. (And I say that as a huge fan of the series.)

If there's a genre-bending SF/F series missing from this list it would be Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.

no Conan the Barbarian?

To be pedantic about it, Howard never wrote any Conan novels. They were all short stories & novelettes, with (I think) only two of his last (Beyond the Black River and Red Nails) being long enough to be considered novellas. The stories weren't even collected in book form until long after Howard's death.

And even as a fan of Howard, I wouldn't call his work "best" fantasy. Massively influential, absolutely, but being first with a thing doesn't make you the best at it, necessarily.

Although the restored original versions of Howard's Conan stories published in the 3-volume Wandering Star/Del Rey collections are noticeably better than the books that most people would know as "Conan" books, which were collections heavily revised and edited by L. Sprague de Camp.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:12 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


Pretty sure The Hour of the Dragon was Howard’s one Conan novel.
posted by house-goblin at 9:22 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


If there's a genre-bending SF/F series missing from this list it would be Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.

Objection this is just fancy Warhammer 40k.
posted by Artw at 9:46 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Also covered by Shelved by Genre!

(It’s real good, you should totally check out all Ranged Touched podcasts)
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I saw a couple of comments about not liking the Silmarillion because it's "like the Old Testament", but this is wrong. The Silmarilliion is more interesting than Genesis. Also, for me, the beginning is the most interesting part of the Silmarillion.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:24 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


The Silmarillion? Fuck off.

Yeah, I personally love the Silmarrillion but would not put it on a best of list myself. But then again I would put most Discworld books on any such list :-)
posted by Pendragon at 1:23 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm not the first to suggest Robert Jordan desperately needed a good editor, but The Wheel of Time is still one of my favourite fantasy series.
posted by Pendragon at 1:29 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I am glad he was included, but The Colour of Magic is a wild choice for Pratchett.

I do not know that most fans would include it in a list of the top 30 books by Terry Pratchett.
posted by St. Sorryass at 3:58 AM on February 1 [15 favorites]


I mean the Colour of Magic really was a new thing when it appeared. It felt like, yes, everybody works with the fantasy machine but this book plays with it! It was such a joy the first time I read it. But a lot of Discworld has happened since then.
posted by Ashenmote at 4:27 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]


If you read the Narnia books as a child and loved them DO NOT READ THEM AS AN ADULT. I had a 12-hour layover and the omnibus volume called to my past from the airport bookstore (it was that or James Patterson) and holy cow they're terrible trash.

Like, Harry Potter suuucks from the POV of prose style (though it's a phenomenal example of an allegory where the surface story is so seamless you can read it several times and not even pick up on the fact that it's an allegory), but it's light-years better than Narnia, which flows well but bangs you over the head with the second-worst version of Christianity.

The Earthsea books, on the other hand, absolutely hold up.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 6:33 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


I thought "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia" by Laura Miller was a great reappraisal of Narnia. It doesn't try to sanitize the flaws and prejudices, but points out the virtues too. Excerpt.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:04 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Needs more Tanith Lee. And James Thurber. And Moorcock. And Diane Duane.

Harry Potter really isn't good, apart from Rowling's moral failings. And I personally can't stand Pratchett's writing, despite him seeming a good fellow.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 7:07 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


If you read the Narnia books as a child and loved them DO NOT READ THEM AS AN ADULT. I had a 12-hour layover and the omnibus volume called to my past from the airport bookstore (it was that or James Patterson) and holy cow they're terrible trash.

The weird dead city and very tall woman of The Magicians Nephew will always have a place in my heart.
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on February 1 [16 favorites]


Your favorite band [of unlikely companions brought together by forces they do not understand to undertake a perilous quest on which rides the fate of the land] sucks
posted by kerf at 7:41 AM on February 1 [13 favorites]


I would need to read, lessee, in alphabetical order by last name....

Piers Anthony (Incarnations of Immortality and Xanth)


Absolutely do not reread Anthony. I had a similar arc as a kid, read a heap of Xanth and then checked out his other stuff. Xanth starts off lighthearted but with a heap of creep/regressive stuff baked in that one doesn't realize until they're older.. and then you check out his other books and find that he writes full-on child pornography. I had written him a fan letter when I was ten or so, and then a few years later wrote a fan letter RETRACTION to him to express how awful his other writing was.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:43 AM on February 1 [14 favorites]


LeGuin's Annals of the Western Shore trilogy is also pretty good. Patricia Mckillip is severely underrated, but The alphabet of thorn is spectacular. And also the Elemental Logic Series by Laurie J. Marks (I only came across this by a link of MeFi somewhere). Mefites should come together and make the One True List.
posted by dhruva at 7:49 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


If there's a One True List, please include Hope Mirrlees' "Lud-in-the-Mist"!
posted by of strange foe at 8:41 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


This list comes across as being written by an intern that only knows these books by watching reaction shorts to video books reviews on YouTube.
posted by my-username at 8:49 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


Much as I love The Silmarillion it's useful to remember that it was assembled from JRRT's stack of notes by Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay and almost certainly does not represent what JRRT would have wanted to be published - for one thing The Silmarillion as published makes the Valar into the most selfishly incompetent magical royal family in all of fantasy (and yes, I include the royal family of Amber in this assessment).
A different, and perhaps better, Silmarillion could be assembled from the vast amount of extra material that's been published over the last few decades (please do not do this).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:57 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


A few that haven’t been mentioned yet:

William Morris’ The Well at the World’s End (currently re-reading, desperately wish someone would print a facsimile of the original Kelmscott edition)

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Book of Three / Prydain Chronicles, but I don’t know if they’d make a top 30 list.
posted by Ishbadiddle at 9:18 AM on February 1 [7 favorites]


These kind of posts are fun. Lots of ideas when I'm looking for something new to read. I get stuck starting new books and end up re-reading the ones I love, too, too many times.

I recently heard someone use the phrase "a bit marmite", which could apply to a lot of these.

Yep, The Colour of Magic is a bit WTF? So many better options.

More that haven't been mentioned yet:
* Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold
* The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
* Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
* Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card
posted by and for no one at 9:32 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


If we're calling "Song of Achilles" Fantasy, they should have probably included, like, you know, Homer

Any fantasy list that somehow includes Outlander but not Little, Big is not one I have any more time to engage with.

In semi-related news, I've already pre-ordered the new Kelly Link novel and I am so very psyched, gang.
posted by thivaia at 9:51 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


The weird dead city and very tall woman of The Magicians Nephew will always have a place in my heart

ArtW the very tall woman is Jadis Queen of Charn, who goes on to Narnia to make it always winter and never christmas in her role as the White Witch. she is very near and dear to my heart too.
posted by supermedusa at 9:52 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a good time reading at least the early Potter books to the kids just because Rowling is a shitass transphobe now, but this is a spectacularly weak write up. Also frankly they are mashups of a dozen or earlier better books which would do better on the list.

And the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik takes the wizarding school trope and mashes it up into something glorious that's far better than anything Rowling has ever written as well.
posted by Gadarene at 10:14 AM on February 1 [8 favorites]


ArtW the very tall woman is Jadis Queen of Charn, who goes on to Narnia to make it always winter and never christmas in her role as the White Witch. she is very near and dear to my heart too.

She’s very strong.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Any fantasy list that somehow includes Outlander but not Little, Big is not one I have any more time to engage with.

This reminds me that I really need to reread Little, Big as an adult. It made such an impression on me in college, and I wonder how different I'll find it today.
posted by Gadarene at 10:35 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]




The Chronicles of Tornor
Oh yes. Not a book series I would have expected to win a 'Fantasy most suited to teach me important real life lessons' price, and then it did. I was amazed how the atmosphere changed from book to book, matching the different eras. I need to reread them.
posted by Ashenmote at 11:09 AM on February 1


I do want to thank everyone here for larding up my Libby queue.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 11:45 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Can anyone confirm the list's claim that if I recently enjoyed Piranesi then I'll enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?

If The Poppy War was challenging for me, am I likely to enjoy Babel?
posted by jermsplan at 1:13 PM on February 1


Just started it so I may to an extent find out, though I never read Poppy War.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on February 1


Piranesi is much shorter and simpler than Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. I'd say read JS&MN for a while as see whether you're having fun. No promises.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:31 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


The TV show is pretty decent, don’t how it holds up to the book.
posted by Artw at 1:36 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Can anyone confirm the list's claim that if I recently enjoyed Piranesi then I'll enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?

Eh, quite likely not? I liked both, but they're very different sorts of stories. I think Piranesi shows a much more mature writing style in its taut efficiency. JS&MN is very well written, but it's also extremely discursive and it's only because it's well written that its level of bloat is acceptable.
posted by jackbishop at 2:05 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Maybe consider "The Ladies of Grace Adieu" if JS&MN is too imposing but more Susanna Clarke is demanded? I quite like the treatment of a faerie queen and her magic in one of the stories.

For myself, the best thing about the list is that this thread informed me there are more Goblin Emperor stories.
posted by house-goblin at 2:52 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Piranesi but really felt like Strange & Norrell outstayed its welcome very quickly. The narrator doesn’t like the main characters much and it goes on and on and on about armchair magicians actively avoiding ever doing any magic. I’m sure there is a metaphorical point being made about religion or belief or Britain that I was missing or something but I found it all immensely tedious. Shit actually *happens* in Piranesi.
posted by egypturnash at 3:35 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


No Charlotte's Web. Fail.
posted by SPrintF at 3:38 PM on February 1


Oh and for those wondering: Prydian (Book Of Three, etc) holds up to adult re-reading. It’s a lot shorter than I remember it being and I wish Eilonwy got half the narrative focus I remember being in the third book, but it’s a *great* take on all those heroic tales of kids looking for glory and only finding the horror of war, and grappling with what it means to “grow up” and figure out what’s actually heroic and noble. Alexander cuts all that “go off and be a noble knight” bullshit off at the knees with such amazing grace, succinctness, and a seeming complete lack of effort. I think I last read it in my forties and found it still pretty solid, though less relevant to my personal life than when I was a pre-teen and a twenty-something.
posted by egypturnash at 3:45 PM on February 1 [12 favorites]


Patricia A. McKillip, Riddle-Master trilogy
Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet
Edward Gorey, The West Wing
John Crowley, The Solitudes
Rikki Ducornet, The Fountains of Neptune
M. John Harrison, The Course of the Heart
Terry Brooks, The Druid of Shannara
posted by Gerald Bostock at 4:01 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Rosemary Kirstein, The Steerswoman
posted by threecheesetrees at 5:05 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet

x1000

This is one of my favorite books of all time. No joke.
posted by thivaia at 5:28 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm not bold enough to put anything on a " . . .OF ALL TIME" list but I sure did love The Changeling.
posted by thivaia at 5:29 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


The Steerswoman

...

... ...
posted by away for regrooving at 7:21 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I really love The Steerswoman and its sequels, but there's an argument to be made that this is not the list for it.

that said, I would make an argument for Ursula LeGuin, Frances Hardinge, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Tanith Lee, CJ Cherryh, Diane Duane, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, Ursula Vernon, Gillian Bradshaw, Sherwood Smith, Lois McMaster Bujold, Barbara Hambly, Megan Whalen Turner, Greer Gilman, PC Hodgell, Katherine Addison, Mary Gentle, NK Jemisin, Emma Newman, Marta Randall, Naomi Novik...
posted by suelac at 9:29 PM on February 1 [8 favorites]


Mod note: We've added this post to list of great things in the Sidebar and Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 2:20 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I’m taking a cold hard look at my formerly-considered-well-read self, sighing heavily, and wondering how I became so disconnected from the genre that kept me functional through my early years. Thank you sincerely, Metafilter, for the update to my to-read list! There are some titles I don’t know on the Evening Standard’s list, and I’m excited to at least sample them. There are even more in the Metafilter comments, and I’m even more excited by those.

My contribution to the Metafilter’s Own Best Of List:
Yes to most of the authors and titles listed by others (although I don’t know that Crowley book and was going to suggest Little, Big). It’s hard to know which NK Jemison to include; she makes my mind stretch and I’m humbled by her skill. If we’re considering Narnia as one work, then let’s include all of Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, please. Such a progression of the writer’s voice over the years between the first and final books! I’m an advocate for the Tad Williams series that Martin cites as an influence: Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End is such a masterclass in how to retell an old story and is just so lovely.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 12:04 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


I really love The Steerswoman and its sequels, but there's an argument to be made that this is not the list for it.

The argument that they're science fiction and not fantasy, right? I think that's pretty well established.
posted by Justinian at 12:57 AM on February 3


Maybe more that they had such a sporadic publication history that they were near impossible to find for years, thus a little too unknown for this kind of list?
posted by soundguy99 at 6:03 AM on February 3


My favorite fantasy series at the moment is the Tales of Verania by T. J. Klune. You may know him from his charming New York Times bestselling fantasy The House On The Cerulean Sea or his violent small town werewolf family series Green Creek, but he's also been building a brilliant, touching, heartfelt, sexy, and ludicrously funny fantasy world with Verania.

It's very, very gay. Marvelously, strikingly, hilariously, unapologetically, irreverently, lustily queer. It's a fantasy world that doesn't have any problem with gay people, and that ends up being more fantastic than magic and dragons and unicorns and half-giants. It's a big, goofy, dramatic universe where none of the conflict stems from being queer, and the queer protagonists have just as much chance at happy endings and fulfilling relationships and heel turns and redemption arcs as anyone else. It's silly and fun and heartfelt and brave, and it makes me ridiculously happy.
posted by MrVisible at 1:02 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


The Blacktongue Thief (2021) is the best fantasy novel I've read in years. Great flawed characters, deep world, and scrumptious language. I joined MeFi to post this.
posted by jamiemccarthy at 10:13 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Ctrl-F > "Malazan" nothing found...

Yeah, any best-of-fantasy list without Malazan is suspect.
posted by schyler523 at 6:20 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


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