Top 100 fantasy books: #41 - #50

The Fantasy Book Review list of the top 100 fantasy books/series. This page lists entries 41 - 50.

41 Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

The gathering forces of the Dark Powers threaten the world of man. The legions of Faery, aided by trolls, demons and the Wild Hunt itself, are poised to overthrow the Realms of Light. Holger Carlsen, a bemused and puzzled twentieth-century man mysteriously snatched out of time, finds himself the key figure in the conflict. Arrayed against him are the dragons, giants and elven warriors of the armies of Chaos, and the beautiful sorceress Morgan le Fay. On his side is a vague prophecy, a quarrelsome dwarf and a beautiful woman who can turn herself into a swan, not to mention Papillon, the magnificent battle-horse, and a full set of perfectly fitting armour, both of which were waiting for him when he entered the magical realm. The shield bears three hearts and three lions - the only clue to Holger Carlsen's true identity. Could Carlsen really be a legendary hero, the only man who can save the world?

Our reviewer Ross Kitson says: "This is a classic of the genre by an excellent writer, a major influence for the half a century since it was created. It would be a great book to shove under the noses of those who think fantasy is all Tolkien-derivatives. It was a book out of its time in many ways."

42 The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Master and Margarita cover image

Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print. English-speaking audiences may fully enjoy Bulgakov's masterpiece.

"The book shows how easy it is to become greedy and cynical, to be unable to see what is happening around you... and if you see it not being able to believe it. The citizens of Moscow are a contrast between what they see and what they want, with Margarita, who in her own way, is a pure soul." Fantasy Book Review

43 Deathless by Catherynne M Valente

Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya's fate.Koschei leads Marya to his kingdom, where she becomes a warrior in his tireless battle against his own brother, the Tsar of Death.Years pass. Battle-hardened, scarred by love, and longing for respite, Marya returns to St Petersburg - only to discover a place as pitiful as the land she has just fled: a starveling city, haunted by death.

"Full of unique and fascinating characters, Valente weaves fairy-tale storytelling with a far more adult world of war, sex, love and will. The metaphor can get a bit overmuch now and again, slowing down the flow of the story in places, but Deathless is a really unusual and interesting book that was a joy to read." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

44 Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

"Forming the first part of Guy Gavriel Kay’s duology The Sarantine Mosaic and inspired by ancient Byzantium, Sailing to Sarantium tells a magnificent, sweeping story of empire, conspiracies and journeys, both physical and spiritual. First published in 1998 it was followed by Lord of Emperors in 2000." Fantasy Book Review

"Kay at his finest. Sarantium itself is vast, sumptuous, and dangerous … Beneath the shining authorial handiwork lies something closer to Yeatsian miracle..." Locus

Rumored to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius the Trakesian has himself now risen to the Golden Throne of the vast empire ruled by the fabled city, Sarantium. Valerius has a vision to match his ambition: a glittering dome that will proclaim his magnificence down through the ages. And so, in a ruined western city on the far distant edge of civilization, a not-so-humble artisan receives a call that will change his life forever. Crispin is a mosaicist, a layer of bright tiles. Still grieving for the family he lost to the plague, he lives only for his arcane craft, and cares little for ambition, less for money, and for intrigue not at all. But an imperial summons to the most magnificent city in the world is a difficult call to resist.

45 The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan

The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his country burns and fuels a new order where all can be treated equally. Sometimes to build new you must burn the old. Legends long hidden may rue the day when Old Gods return and Field Marshal Tamas’s coup against a failing, rotten and self-indulgent royalty balances on a knife edge. Tamas must rely on his friends and alienated son Taniel if his people and the Nine Nations are to survive.

"The use of gunpowder, the abilities the Powder Mage’s have, and the way that they conflict with other magic users, makes this story even more captivating. The overall concept of magic in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world is one that I cannot wait to return to, hopefully again and again. Add to that the overarching plot that has been set up, and my own tendency towards disliking monarchies, and Promise of Blood is a book I can easily recommend to anyone."

46 Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world. No one expected them to be heroes.

"Today’s generation of teenagers would say you do not understand magic if you have not read Harry Potter. Yet, every generation should understand that they are not the first to tread in dreams of magic and if you love Harry, then you will love Dragonlance."

47 The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

"When I finished the last page of The Bear and the Nightingale, I was exhausted. Not in a bad way, but it really is an emotionally draining novel. So much of the story is very personal and Ms. Arden does an excellent job of making you emotionally invested in the characters. It is truly a testament to Ms. Arden’s skill in her craft that she can create such a wonderful reading experience."

48 Beren and Luthien by JRR Tolkien

Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year. Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril. In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father's own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

"I recommend this book to those that have read many of Tolkien’s works. If you enjoyed Tolkien’s poetry editions, such as Beowulf a Translation and a Commentary and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, along with the books set in middle-earth then this will undoubtedly be for you. However, readers who are expecting to just enjoy a prose story will, ultimately, be disappointed with the content here."

49 Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

50 Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast. Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she's trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify. Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?  As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.” Hugh and Elara may do both.

"This book isn’t just for Hugh fans, there’s enough here to reveal another side to him, to offer reasons, and not simply empty justifications, for his past actions, as well as suggesting a future in which him and Kate might even, one day, be on the same side. Unthinkable, right?? Wrong. The climax certainly provides such tantalising possibilities for Magic Triumphs, out in August, as well as setting up dramatic and thrilling things for the next two Iron Covenant books. Yes, this could technically be read as a standalone trilogy, but why would you deny yourself the experience of two great linked series? Once again, Ilona and Gordon Andrews prove they are at the very top of the UF game, writing stories that you’ll want to read again and again."

Top 100 fantasy books: 1 - 10 | 11 - 20 | 21 - 30 | 31 - 40 | 41 -50 | 51 - 60 | 61 - 70 | 71 - 80 | 81 - 90 | 91 - 100

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