Jeff’s Fantasy Reading List

As you breathlessly await the release of my novels, you may find yourself searching for ways to pass the time. So, I thought I’d provide you with a list of a few of my favorite books with convenient affiliate links to Amazon.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you haven’t heard of these… Well, you have heard of these. I know you have.

Even though I feel like these have been mostly surpassed by better fiction, they are still worthy reads, and important for building a contextual understanding of the genre. The trilogy has almost become classic literature, and it’s worthy of respect. Also, Peter Jackson turned them into the best movies in the fantasy genre to date. Where the books are written in a meandering style, lulling here and there, the movies are packed with enchantment and non-stop action. So that’s pretty awesome. (If you go the movie route, I really recommend the extended editions.)

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
(and later, Brandon Sanderson)

I was introduced to this series at a fairly young age, soon after I’d devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Shannara books. Incidentally, the Shannara books were awesome to me when I was ten or so, after just having read the Lord of the Rings. But, I feel they’ve since been surpassed.

The Wheel of Time is sometimes a bit self-indulgent, but makes up for it in the sheer depth and breadth of the world Jordan created. At age twelve or so, this series had everything I could have asked for in a fantasy series, including the stereotypical farm-boy to hero development and a unique and fascinating system of magic. My single frustration with the series is its portrayal of differences in gender. It seems that all women think men are daft, and all men think women are… insane? But this is minor, and usually comes across in a funny, playful way.

When Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, I felt a huge loss, and a bit of panic. The series was so close to its conclusion. But, although I was skeptical of Sanderson, and his style differs quite a bit from Jordan’s, I do feel that he’s done the series justice so far.

The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind

The Sword of Truth series might be my favorite, though I can’t say for sure. It definitely was in my younger days.

The series officially ended with Confessor. He’s since written a novel featuring some of the main characters of the series, The Omen Machine, and another prequel(ish) novel called The First Confessor. I can’t offer any insight on these two yet, however.

The majority of the criticism directed at this series is about how preachy Goodkind can come across at times. He has very strong philosophical beliefs, and they really do take up some space in his novels. However, it would be silly to let that keep you from enjoying such a rich fantasy story. The world is full of interesting places, artifacts, and creatures. The magic is very prevalent, and always interesting. The two protagonists of the saga are really very likable, though a little too perfectly noble for my tastes.

The interesting thing is that while the scope of the conflict is nearly as huge as in The Wheel of Time, the stories manage to seem very personal to the characters. That’s something I like a lot about it.

The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

This is perhaps the first series I started reading since becoming an adult that I really loved. Rothfuss tells the story of his protagonist telling the story. Er, to put it another way, the one character is telling another character the story of his life. This life story makes up the body of the books, but there are some interesting scenes in between.

A pattern for me, it seems, is to really appreciate a creatively devised magic system. These books have that, and much more. Unlike The Wheel of Time or the Sword of Truth books, The Kingkiller Chronicles tell a very personal story, from childhood all the way through.

I don’t want say more because I don’t want to give anything away. So, I’ll just say that the next book in this series is the one I’m most looking forward to (even with the final book in the Wheel of Time series being released shortly).

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

There are three books in the “main” series.

Abercrombie has also written other works taking place in the same world, like The Heroes.

These books are a recent discovery of mine, and I’ve yet to finish the series. But the reason I’ve listed them among my favorites is because of the author’s writing style. I just really, really like it. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the series at a later date, but until then, I can comfortably recommend them based on what I’ve read so far.

Go Forth and Read

I think I’ll stop there for now, even though there are many others I could include on this list. Choosing even one of these series will provide you with hours and hours of masterfully written fantasy fiction.