Last time in What to Read I covered some of my favourite authors across Fantasy and Science Fiction. This time, after taking a brief, informal poll, I will write about some Fantasy. As always, these are merely my opinions about things and not meant to approach anything comprehensive or objective.
Pillars of the Genre
I was going to start off discussing children’s fantasy but quickly realized that deserves its own section, so we’ll instead start with the pillars of the genre. These are heavily weighted toward classic sword and sorcery fantasy, mostly to make this entry more wieldy, since the term ‘fantasy’ now encompasses an enormous raft of books that would otherwise be difficult to categorize. (Note: This means I’m leaving out some awesome stuff like Neil Gaiman and many others, but I’ll come back to them soon.)
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (1954-55) – JRR Tolkein
Obv. The writing might feel a bit archaic and wordy at times, but Tolkein deserves at least partial credit for basically founding modern fantasy writing (and probably Dungeons and Dragons as well). I’ll spare you the additional superfluous detail here and send you to the Wikipedia page if you want to know more.
The Wizard of Earthsea(1968) – Ursula K. LeGuin
To me, this series and the Belgariad represent the perfect transition from childhood fantasy stories to more adult stuff (LeGuin won a number of awards for the series, including the Newberry and the Nebula). It starts with the usual coming of age trope, but moves on to some interesting morality discussions. Earthsea is quirky and easy to read, but touches on topics with some depth to them.
I actually think some of LeGuin’s science fiction work is some of the best the genre has ever seen, but Earthsea is excellent and a timeless classic.