Below you will find a list of the fantasy books published in 1980-1989 that we enjoyed most.
by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
"I've been meaning to read The Handmaid's Tale for a long time - it's probably one of the most famous dystopian novels alongside Brave New World and 1984, and maybe because it's so well regarded I hesitated to pick it up in case it didn't meet my expectations. I'm very glad I did eventually get round to reading it because it truly is both disturbing and beautifully written."
by Stephen King
Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, encounters three doors which open to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous, volatile Odetta Holmes. And confronts deadly serial killer Jack Mort. As the titanic forces gather, a savage struggle between underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower... Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter.
Series: The Dark Tower series: Book 2
by Roald Dahl
"A true genius ... Roald Dahl is my hero" David Walliams
"Terror, wonder, love of language and hints at a wide and fantastic world, The BFG has it all. I can only echo the BFG's words about his own favourite book, Nicholas Nickleby by Darlse Chickens: "I is reading it hundreds of times and I is still reading it and teaching new words to myself and how to write them. It's the most scrumdiddlyumptious story"." Fantasy Book Review
On a dark, silvery moonlit night, Sophie is snatched from her bed by a giant. Luckily it is the Big Friendly Giant, the BFG, who only eats snozzcumbers and glugs frobscottle. But there are other giants in Giant Country. Fifty foot brutes who gallop far and wide every night to find human beans to eat. Can Sophie and her friend the BFG stop them? Let's hope so - otherwise the next child a gruesome giant guzzles could be YOU.
by Robert Holdstock
Deep within the wildwood lies a place of myth and mystery, from which few return, and none remain unchanged. Ryhope Wood may look like a three-mile-square fenced-in wood in rural Herefordshire on the outside, but inside, it is a primeval, intricate labyrinth of trees, impossibly huge, unforgettable... and stronger than time itself. Stephen Huxley has already lost his father to the mysteries of Ryhope Wood. On his return from the Second World War, he finds his brother, Christopher, is also in thrall to the mysterious wood, wherein lies a realm where mythic archetypes grow flesh and blood, where love and beauty haunt your dreams, and in promises of freedom lies the sanctuary of insanity...
Robert Holdstock was a famed fantasist during his lifetime and created a whole cycle of stories around Ryhope Wood, with this being the first book. The book is well written and draws you in so that, although you may not always understand what is happening to Steven as he is drawn further into his quest, by the end of the book, for all its savagery, you are hoping that there is, somewhere in this world, a wood like this in existence.
"Mythago Wood is a fantasy masterpiece." Fantasy Book Review
Series: Ryhope Wood: Book 1
by Robert McCammon
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City – will fight for survival. In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth’s last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artefact in the destroyed Manhattan streets… Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station… And Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan’s gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself...
"In a book of over 850 pages I never once found myself bored, I progressed through the book at a steady pace, reading every day until it was finished. I looked forward to reading it each evening as I cared about the characters and was easily able to forgive the weaknesses (I think McCammon is being a little too hard on himself) as it was all just so damn enjoyable (I know that enjoyable may not be the right word to use when describing reading about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, maybe gripping would be more suitable). And the mention of Stephen King is also interesting as Swan Song reads very much like a novel he could of written himself and has certain parallels with The Stand." Fantasy Book Review
by Stephen King
In The Gunslinger, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer...
"The Dark Tower boasts some of the best characters in fantasy and the first instalment introduces to us the obsessive and lonely gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, and the innocent yet world-weary Jake of New York. And as we read they form a tender and loving relationship that is pivotal to all that follows. From the beginnings in the desert and through events and flashbacks we then visit the doomed town of Tull, visit Gilead, see the New York of Jake's when and finally travel through the mountains to the moment when Roland faces the most difficult decision of his life."
Series: The Dark Tower series: Book 1
by Tim Powers
Brendan Doyle is a twentieth-century English professor who travels back to 1810 London to attend a lecture given by English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a London filled with deformed clowns, organised beggar societies, insane homunculi and magic. When he is kidnapped by gypsies and consequently misses his return trip to 1983, the mild-mannered Doyle is forced to become a street-smart con man, escape artist, and swordsman in order to survive in the dark and treacherous London underworld. He defies bullets, black magic, murderous beggars, freezing waters, imprisonment in mutant-infested dungeons, poisoning, and even a plunge back to 1684. Coleridge himself and poet Lord Byron make appearances in the novel, which also features a poor tinkerer who creates genetic monsters and a werewolf that inhabits others' bodies when his latest becomes too hairy.
"After I was introduced to Tim Powers through his Cold War fantasy, Declare, I attempted to track down his earlier works at libraries and used bookstores. Several proved impossible to find. Among these was the novel that first made him famous: The Anubis Gates, so eventually I gave in and bought a new copy. Now, having read it, I understand the reason for its rarity: no one in their right mind would relinquish a copy of such a marvelous book!" Fantasy Book Review
by Robert Holdstock
In this, the second part of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Cycle, we are drawn into the world of Tallis Keeton, the sister of Harry Keeton, who disappeared in Mythago Wood. Tallis is on a quest to find and rescue her brother from the lost realm of Lavondyss and she has much to learn on the way while discovering the essential nature of the forests she enters. We follow Tallis from birth all the way through to death and rebirth.
"Lavondyss is a very interesting and complicated book that goes back to the earliest form of storytelling."
Series: Ryhope Wood: Book 2
by Susan Cooper
His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. What they do know are the tragedies that took their parents, then wrenched the two of them out of reality, into a strange and perilous world through which they must travel together, knowing only that they must reach the sea. Together West and Cally embark upon a strange and sometimes terrifying quest, learning to survive and to love and, at last, the real secret of their journey.
"Seaward is a book with no disappointment at all in its ending, and one of the finest executions of this genre you will find. Even the high points of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series cannot compare to Seaward. If I didn't make it a policy to never give decimal ratings I'd have given Seaward a 9.5, since while the plot surrounding Lugan is a little under-developed this is only a miner inconvenience. I'd therefore recommend Seaward to anyone, whether you love language, magic, character relations, exploration of fundamental issues or strange worlds you will find something here, all melded into a single whole that is simply wonderful!" Luke, Fantasy Book Review
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."
by Angela Carter
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.
"There are so many facets to Angela Carter’s stories that it is hard to find a place to start discussing them. This is a book written about the cusp of the 20th century, where so many things were promised and hoped for and so many changes happened. This story focuses on two people, bound together because of a newspaper story: Jack Walser, the journalist sent to write a story on Sophie Fevvers the “aerialiste extraordinaire”, to find out whether she is fact or fiction, as instead of being a typical trapeze artist she has wings that allow her to fly through the air. Angela Carter has written a fantastical microcosm of life in this book." Fantasy Book Review
by Glen Cook
There is nothing bad that I can say about Cook’s writing. He writes with the sense of purpose and conviction that you would expect from someone who has seen the worst of humanity, and he writes with the sense of hope of the same: out of the ashes, and all of that. Glen Cook is truly amazing and deserves all the praise that comes his way for the continued trust to reality his writing conveys.
Series: Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 3
by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Lt. Kitty McCulley, a young and inexperienced nurse tossed into a stressful and chaotic situation, is having a difficult time reconciling her duty to help and heal with the indifference and overt racism of some of her colleagues, and with the horrendously damaged soldiers and Vietnamese civilians she encounters during her service at the China Beach medical facilities. She is unexpectedly helped by the mysterious and inexplicable properties of an amulet, given to her by one of her patients, an elderly, dying Vietnamese holy man, which allows her to see other people’s “auras” and to understand more about them as a result. This eventually leads to a strange, almost surrealistic journey through the jungle, accompanied by a one-legged boy and a battle-seasoned but crazed soldier—as McCulley struggles to find herself and a way to survive through the madness and destruction.
"The Healer’s War is only very distantly a fantasy novel and yet it contains so many of the things that I personally love in fantasy. An alien and difficult setting, a flawed, human protagonist having to cope with a situation outside their control without the benefit of superpowers, even a very strange new way of looking at the world. Yet at the same time, it's still a damn good story, told with poise, humour and character. Despite a few issues with its final section and the way it handles its one fantasy element, it was a truly amazing story and one which definitely earned its Nebula award."
by Peter Straub
The terrors afflicting the sleepy town of Hampstead, Connecticut, were beyond imagination. Sparrows dropping dead from the trees like rotten fruit, disfiguring diseases spreading like wildfire, inexplicable murders and child drownings shattering the lives of the citizens - never can such a list of horrors have afflicted one town. But the evil madness had a long history. A catastrophe had struck Hampstead every thirty years since its foundation 300 years before - yet only Graham Williams, a writer and descendant of one of the original founders, had looked into the 'black summers' and their mysterious origins. When he discovers that descendants of the three other original settlers are back living in the town, he knows it will be the blackest summer yet!
"Despite a ropy opening and a slight lack of context, you can be assured that once this dragon starts flying the ride will be a truly epic one."
by Isobelle Carmody
When you put your mind to considering some of the greatest writers of the English language, it is a source of continuing pity that Isobelle Carmody’s name is not up there along with some of the greats like Tolkien, Lewis and Hemmingway. Though some of her work has been criticized, writing science fiction, fantasy, children’s and young adult literature, Carmody is probably most well known and praised for her work on the Obernewtyn Chronicles.
Series: The Obernewtyn Chronicles: Book 1
by Katharine Kerr
Celtic Fantasy. In a world outside reality, a young girl's spirit hovers between incarnations, knowing neither her past nor her future. In the temporal world lives Nevyn, who long ago vanquished the maiden's hand in marriage and forged a terrible bond between three souls. Now he must atone the wrong of his youth.
"Published over the past two and a half decades, I was surprised to find no mention on FBR of this epic fantasy saga that has been so much a part of my life and that I hold in such high regard. From the first novel (which I must have read more than 10 years ago) I was hooked and my enthusiasm for this series carried me through to the very last and then moved me to tears." Fantasy Book Review
Series: The Deverry Cycle
by Raymond E Feist
Magician is an extremely powerful and memorable book. If you gain any enjoyment whatsoever from reading heroic fantasy then this is a novel that you simply cannot afford not to read. Understandably, this is one of the highest regarded fantasy books in the world.
The story begins in Crydee, a frontier outpost in the Kingdom of the Isles. An orphaned young boy named Pug becomes a master magician’s apprentice and two world’s destinies are forever changed. The peace that he has known all his short life disappears and is replaced by war in the shape of invaders from another world. A magically created rift in space brings together the two worlds, the world that Pug has always known and the world of the invading Tsuranuanni.
"Totally gripping. Epic scope... fast-moving action... vivid imagination." The Washington Post
"A fine yarn... vivid... suspenseful... and the action is non-stop." Booklist
Series: Riftwar Saga: Book 1
by David Gemmell
David Gemmell is unquestionably one of my favourite fantasy authors. For the past 25 years his books have been read and re-read and I am still not weary of them, and I hope that will always be the case. Some Gemmell books I read as a teenager and so I was interested in seeing whether my now older, more cynical self, could derive the same amount of pleasure experienced all those years ago.
Series: The Drenai Novels: Book 1
by David Gemmell
The King of the Drenai is dead and troops are invading the Drenai lands killing men, women and children. The hopes of the Drenai are with one man - Waylander - the traitor who killed the King. Waylander must travel deep into Nadir lands to recover the legendary Armour of Bronze with which he can turn the tide and save the land of the Drenai.
"Waylander, published in 1986, was David Gemmell's third book. Once again set in the land of the Drenai in which Gemmell brings us his best known anti-hero, Waylander."
Series: The Drenai Novels: Book 3
by Glen Cook
Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more...
"The Black Company by Glen Cook is the first book of the nine that make up The Black Company series. First published in 1984 this book was responsible for taking the fantasy genre and turning it on its head with his introduction of realistic characters and its complete disregard for fantasy stereotypes and the age-old battle of good versus evil."
Series: Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 1
by Terry Pratchett
Mort is a Discworld novel by fantasy author Terry Pratchett. The book is the fourth in the series and was first published in the UK by Victor Gollanz Ltd in association with Colin Smythe Ltd in 1987. The book is 315 pages in length and Corgi Books published the edition reviewed. Mort belongs in the comic fantasy sub-genre of fantasy.
Series: The Discworld Series: Book 3
by Glen Cook
When you read a second book of a series, it’s really the do-or-die book. It’ll either be great, draw you in and promise you that they’ll all be of a similar quality or higher, or it will be less than the original and suggest you shouldn’t pick up the third.
Series: Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 2
by Diana Wynne Jones
Think of a world, almost like our own but a little more genteel and old-fashioned, where magic and witchcraft is as common as mathematics - but just as dangerous in the wrong hands. In The Lives of Christopher Chant - the fourth book in her Worlds of Chrestomanci series - Diana Wynne Jones succeeds in creating a vision of England close to our expectations of what should be, but subtly different enough to excite our interest and draw us into a strange new world of incredible reality and possibilities. Christopher Chant is a dreamer, a boy who returns home each night with strange gifts from his nocturnal travels and leaves sand in his bed as proof. He's happy to play cricket and wander the world in secret - so having nine lives and being the next Chrestomanci is not part of his plans for the future. It's only when an evil smuggler known as The Wraith threatens his existence that the young Christopher truly takes hold of his destiny. He must try to halt his loss of lives and defeat evil before times runs out. Set at least 20 years before the events as told in the first Chrestmanci novel, Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant is a detailed fantasy and wild adventure with dollops of humour that will challenge and intrigue every fan of this sequence of otherworldly novels.
Series: The Chrestomanci Series: Book 4
by Diana Wynne Jones
When the note, written in ordinary ballpoint, turns up in the homework books Mr Crossley is marking, he is very upset. For this is Larwood House, a school for witch-orphans, where witchcraft is utterly forbidden. And yet magic keeps breaking out all over the place - like measles! The last thing they need is a visit from the Divisional Inquisitor. If only Chrestomanci could come and sort out all the trouble.
Series: The Chrestomanci Series: Book 3
by Stephen Lawhead
It is a novel where, as you read the author's next books, you later come to understand he is both learning and developing in his creative writing. Lawhead is naturally gifted at portraying the romantic, spinning enthusiasm, adding hyperbole to what is already legend. He does it well. Yet, it is done at the pacy exasperation of the mundane action and narrative that is necessary in any novel. The book begins well, ends well. The middle seems, at times, to be a necessary bridge between the former and the latter. If the start and the end are each a golden city, then the bridge is plain, lacklustre... necessary. The language of the author reflects this haste to cross from one to the other which is why Taliesin is not a perfect offering. At its heart, it is a novel about new beginnings, of legends come to life, of the romance between two people of different nations. It is a prologue to the next six novels and, as one of many versions of the Arthurian legends, worth reading by anyone who adores the fantasy genre.
Series: The Pendragon Cycle #1
by Stephen King
It is the children who see - and feel - what makes the town so horribly different. In the storm drains and sewers "It" lurks, taking the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. As the children grow up and move away, the horror of "It" is buried deep - until they are called back.
"As an exploration of childhood, growing up, friendship and facing both real and supernatural fears I still hold It up as a great book. But the ending, and the book’s length in general, will be unpalatable to many readers."
One of the greatest storytellers of our time - The Guardian
A writer of excellence... King is one of the most fertile storytellers of the modern novel - The Sunday Times
by Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!
"Whether you’re a vintage Wynne Jones fan or are discovering her books for the first time as I was, whether you’re an eight year old more interested in reading than socializing, or indeed a thirty four year old still more interested in reading than socializing, Time City is absolutely worth a visit."
by Stephen King
Twelve-year-old Jack spends his days alone in a deserted coastal town, his father gone, his mother dying. Then he meets a stranger - and embarks on a terrifying journey. For Jack must find the Talisman, the only thing that can save his mother.
His quest takes him into the menacing Territories, a parallel world where violence, surprise and the titanic struggle between good and evil reach across a mythic landscape.
"Despite a few dated references to homosexuality, a slow start and a slightly damselly best friend, the Talisman was a truly epic journey. Many reviewers describe it as a kid’s book for adults, a conclusion with which I wholeheartedly agree, indeed if you spent your childhood entranced by authors like C. S. Lewis (who even gets a wonderfully offbeat acknowledgement), Susan Cooper or Alan Garner, books where children must journey off alone into mysterious other worlds upon epic adventures, then you should be pleased to know the Talisman provides just the same sort of experience, but with the added punch of being a little darker, a little more poetic, and far less safe."
by Meredith Ann Pierce
The Darkangel, a vampire of astounding beauty and youth, can only summon his full power when he finds his 14th and final bride. But for Aeriel, whom he kidnaps to serve his brides, there is something about him - something beyond his obvious evil - that makes her want to save him rather than destroy him.
"The Dark Angel is written like a fairy tale with all the intrigue and excellent pacing of an adult novel. There is always something happening in it, whether it is Aeriel standing up to the vampire, or her feeding the wraiths and gaining their eventual confidence. Her friendship with the Vampire is the key to the entire plot as without him she would not be able to solve all the riddles, and help save her own life. The vampire is beautifully wicked and flamboyant, vain and sensual; he has an agenda of his own wanting Aeriel there with him, but doesn't tell her his true feelings until later on. As a fantasy novel, one of a trilogy, it is a gripping read, but the only unbelievable part of the entire plot is of Aeriel's open heart surgery scene she performs on one of the characters. Not only is it vague, but it would be entirely impossible for the girl in question to remove her heart and replace it with another one in a medieval setting such as this." Sandra Scholes, Fantasy Book Review