Joshua S Hill profile

Place of birth: Melbourne, Australia
Now living: Melbourne, Australia

Joshua S Hill: My Top 8 Fantasy List

As an almost necessary attachment to being a fan of fantasy, is the love of lists. This coupling is additionally fun, because you can make a list of your favorite fantasy books, authors, series, words, languages, whatever! So as I have now attached myself to this wonderful website, I thought that it would be a good idea to explain myself. For you see, the ‘Top 10’ books for Lee, is definitely different to mine. In fact, I can’t even come up with a Top 10, but have to be contrary and create my “Top 8, with addendums.”

This list is, really, more for my enjoyment than yours. But I hope that this list will also do several things at FBR; a) I hope that it engenders conversation, while b) I hope that it also explains why books by Pratchett, Hobb and Tolkien will receive higher marks than others, compared to Lee’s ratings.

And now, without further ado, let us… begin!

Number 8 – The Wheel of Time, books 1-6, and New Spring, by Robert Jordan

I think that most of you will agree with me that the first six books of Jordan’s truly epic ‘The Wheel of Time’ series were brilliant. For myself, I was so hooked with book one that I think I read it within a few days. Naturally, as it was nearly my 21 st, I asked my father to purchase the entire set for me as a truly epic present.

And so I quietly and quickly read through the first 6 books in a little under 2 months (from a hazy recollection). He wrote with such epic detail, intrigue and still managed to write an interesting story; a combination that is hard to come by these days. I was captivated by what lay ahead for Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al’Vere and, later, Elayne Trakand. I fell instantly in love with Moiraine Damodred and Lan Mandragoran, not to mention Perrin’s wolfish tendancies.

However it all fell apart after book 6, and I am still attempting to struggle my way through book 8 (though I have a system, found here). Nevertheless, for those first 6 books, the number 8 spot goes to Robert Jordan.

Number 7 – Chronicles and Legends of the Raven, by James Barclay

Dawnthief by James Barclay book cover imageJames Barclay seems to be an author that nobody really knows about. That’s stretching the truth a bit, but I never see his name mentioned these days. But ever since I first picked up ‘Dawnthief’, I was captivated by his realistic disregard for human life (ie, a willingness to kill people off) and his depictions of mercenary life.

In all, he has written six books focusing on the Raven, with a seventh to be released in November of this year. Each of the six books are phenomenal, and until I wrote this list, I thought they were placed higher; that Barclay is this far down, I hope, speaks to the quality of the books that will follow it.

Within the first few chapters of his very first book, two characters you assumed would be involved for the entirety of at least the first book are dead. It continues in this vain, with children, women and men all meeting unhappy and untimely ends, due to the simple fact that that is what should bloody well happen when there are so many swords around!

I cannot say enough good things about these books, but since this is more just a place to explain why I love these books, not to provide a review of them, I’ll move on. But stay tuned for the reviews, I promise you will want to read them, and then the books!

Number 6 – Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

When you talk about debut performances, you can’t go past ‘The Name of the Wind’, the first book in a planned trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss, called the Kingkiller Chronicle. The book is so well written it jumped surprisingly high up the list as I wrote it. Not only is the plot brilliant, the characters immediately intriguing, but the method is sublime.

The lead character, Kvothe, is visited by a man who wants to write his life story. Subsequently, the book is told both at the time of the writing, as well as in Kvothe’s past, a past that is filled with mystery and adventure, and not a bit of unrequited love.

Due for release in April of 2009, ‘ The Wise Man's Fear’ is the second in the series, and is highly anticipated. Never have I longed for a book as much as I have for this one. If you are looking for a great story, judged both by content and style, then ‘The Name of the Wind’ is the book for you.

Number 5 – Song of Ice and Fire, by George Martin

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin book cover imageWritten by the award-winning George R. R. Martin, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is, by at least the end of book two, one of the best series of books I have ever read. That does not mean that they are only brilliant as a whole, each book itself is a fantastic read, but together, like more and more pavlova, it just gets better.

I have only had the opportunity to read the first two (don’t fret, books 3 and 4 are on their way), but I was once again delighted to find an author that understands that death actually occurs. It’s a novel concept, I realize, but one that I really enjoy. Why? Because it’s bloody realistic ya twits!

However despite my apparent morbid fascination with killing off characters (I’m an aspiring author, I’m trying to build myself up to be able to kill off my own characters), I have only one thing to ask Martin; please oh, please do not kill off Bran or Arya.

That being said, this series belongs towards the top of any fantasy lovers list. The sheer breadth of this story is almost unparalleled. I thought for sure that I would become immediately sick of Daenerys Targaryen’s storyline, given its separation from the others, but every time that the story strays from her, I immediately will it to come back. Of course, that desire is immediately lost as we jump to another character, but the point remains, I don’t get bored!

Number 4 – The Obernewtyn Chronicles, by Isobelle Carmody

I was delightfully surprised to find how high ‘The Obernewtyn Chronicles’ landed on my list. Reviews of these books will soon be appearing on FBR, as I quickly make my way through them. And that the author, Isobelle Carmody, is also an Australian only heightens my pleasure (and probably frustrated Lee).

I was introduced to these books by a friend, who bought me the first book for Christmas, and I immediately fell in love with the heroine, Elspeth Gordy. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that is very definitely a future Earth, the people of the Land are forced into simple lives, without any chance of advancement, in fear of mirroring the Beforetimers and another Great White.

Carmody cleverly bastardizes the English language and purposefully misinterprets modern-day Earth through the people of the Land, to add that extra touch of realism. Instead of just being a post-apocalyptic world where everyone has remembered everything, there are actual ramifications from the destruction; books are banned, learning is frowned upon, and those who have seen their evolutionary abilities – such as telepathy, precognition, healing – expand, are deemed Misfits and sentenced to death, or worse.

The writing is sublime. Taken from Elspeth’s perspective, you are immediately taken into the world that she lives in, and cherish her for it. Her friends are your friends, her frustrations yours, and her adventures yours. And by the time romance starts to flare, you definitely have your own conceptions as to who she should be with.

If you have not read these books, then please, do yourself a favor, and pick them up.

At this point in the list we must take a break to explain. Up until now, it has been relatively easy to corral books under a separate list number; 8 is the first half of a series, 6 is one book, 4 is a series of books. However, from here on in, it all goes pear-shaped. These next three authors have written a lot of stuff, and if I was to remain true to a Top 10 list it would expand out to be a top 15 list, and only contain books from these three authors. It would not do justice to the above authors – specifically Martin and Carmody – and would frustrate me in the process.

Up until now, books have received – in my own head – ratings no greater than 9 out of 10. The following primary books are rated 11 out of 10 – because they are that good. The secondary books attached to that author, in all cases bar one, are part of the primary books world, or “realm.”

So let us continue, with that out of the way, and please bear with me and understand my need to do this right.

Number 3 – Nightwatch, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett (+ the Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett)

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett book cover imageArguably the greatest living English writer, Terry Pratchett is nothing short of a writing machine. With 36 books attributed to the Discworld title, plus a few more scattered about for good measure, he is hard to ignore (impossible for me, as I have just explained).

Pratchett’s work, just like many other authors, grew as he kept writing. The first 10 books were not as good as the next 10, which were themselves not as good as the next 10. Of course, the lowest rating a Pratchett book has ever gotten from me is a 7, but that’s neither here nor there.

Of the Discworld series, there are several that have achieved 10 out of 10 status with me (and my father, a more avid Pratchett fan you will likely find); ‘The Fifth Elephant’, ‘The Truth’, ‘Thief of Time’, and ‘Making Money’, to name but a few.

However there are four books that, for me personally, are of such a quality that only one author currently writing, and only one past, will ever meet the quality of.

‘Nightwatch’ was my first favorite, and was gifted to me by my father for a present one year (no greater mortal gift is there). The story is brilliantly told, focusing almost entirely on Mister Sam Vimes, a feat that very few other authors are able to pull off. From the beginning, you are drawn into a story that hardly ever slows down and never bores you.

The other three fall under the heading of the ‘Tiffany Aching Stories’, and focuses on the life of young Tiffany Aching, a young girl, training to become a witch. But she is different than the other witches in the Discworld, as she was born on salt, not loam, and has a strength in her that is almost unparalleled, as is shown a number of times.

Tiffany is easily my favorite character in the Discworld, and along with the Wee Free Men, especially Rob Anybody, you will either cry or laugh, but I guarantee you, that you will love these books.

Number 2 – The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (+ Tolkien’s entire Middle-Earth works)

A list of fantasy is simply not right without including Mr. Tolkien. I’m going to be short on this one, because all that has been said about him has been said. His work was his love, his life, and he didn’t really care what other people thought. It was written for him first, his family second, his friends third. In fact, it is almost as an afterthought that he decided to publish this work (as can be seen by the multiple volumes published by his son after his death).

Lord of the Rings was brilliant, and I read it fully in seven days. What else can you say but that? The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales are almost as good, but fall more into the history of the Lord of the Rings, rather than as stories that stand on their own. And everything else he wrote? Yeah, I love that too!

Number 1 – The Liveship Traders, by Robin Hobb (+ the rest of The Realm of the Elderlings)

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb book cover imageI find myself quietly pleased that I have read enough, and have found my own way enough, to have labeled Robin Hobb as my favorite author, over the likes of Pratchett and Tolkien. But from the moment that I picked up ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’, I was hooked.

She writes with such skill that it simply blows me away, so much so that as I sit here, trying to tell you how much I love her, I am lost for words. Never, not for a second, did she ever lose my interest as I read the books of The Realm of the Elderlings. FitzChivalry Farseer was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect character. I felt for him, I got annoyed at him, I understood him and; Hobb’s writing had me spellbound from moment one.

But never more was I in love with her writing than when I was reading the Liveship Traders. These three books equate to the greatest three books I have ever read. Everything was so real I felt myself looking at my world map, trying to place where Bingtown had once rested. But no, that doesn’t do it justice, because Hobb didn’t simply have an insight into something that had existed, but she perfectly created a place that could have existed, and for so many of us, actually did exist.

I fell in love with Althea, and felt like a big brother to Malta and Selden. I rejoiced as Keffria finally took hold of her life, and besieged by emotions for young Wintrow. I felt like Brashen Trell and Etta were my best friends, and looked up to Captain Kennit with the same naïve awe that Wintrow did. I was mystified by Amber, and hated Kyle Haven with a vengeance.

I could go on, but if I could push the ratings higher still, the Liveship Traders would go with them. There is not enough good that can be said about these books. Robin Hobb is, simply, the best living English author, in my opinion (two things; I loved Shaman’s Crossing, so no, I don’t think she’s lost her talent, and secondly, she’s apparently writing a standalone novel set in the Rain Wilds, tentatively called ‘Dragon Keeper’).

So there we have it, a miasma of books, cobbled together in a most unordinary way, to create what I like to call, “My Top 8 Fantasy”! But please, I want to hear what you think; whether you agree wholeheartedly, or think I’ve lost my lid, let me know in the comments below.

3 favourite authors

  • JRR Tolkien
  • Steven Erikson
  • Brandon Sanderson

3 favourite books

  • Lord of the Rings (by JRR Tolkien)
  • The Way of the King (by Brandon Sanderson)
  • Night Watch (by Terry Pratchett)

3 favourite films

  • Casino Royale
  • Scott Pilgrim
  • Endless Summer 2

Joshua S Hill's 302 reviews