100 recommended fantasy books / series: #21 - #30

The Fantasy Book Review list of 100 recommended fantasy books / series. Listing entries 21 - 30

The Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood
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Duncton Wood is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. This book is about moles and unlike anything you have ever read before. The animal kingdom is savage and survival of the fittest is a fact of life (or death). This is a book for adults and is at times as dark as it is uplifting. The book was first published in 1980 and has since become a best-selling novel. A story of courage, loyalty and the power of love... inspired by the shadows and light of England's most beautiful countryside.

"An absolute spell-binder, by Lord of the Rings out of Watership Down. I found it enchanting, compulsive reading... I am still haunted by its beauty." Magnus Magnusson

"Duncton Wood is a truly breathtaking and enchanting read that reminds us how savage yet full of love the animal kingdom truly is." Fantasy Book Review

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The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin
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Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably.

"A story that manages to be both fantastically grand and very personal. Definitely recommended." Waterstones Books Quarterly

"N.K. Jemisin has written a book that is at times smart, at times funny, and at times downright heartbreaking, all wrapped up in one of the most original stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading." Fantasy Book Review

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Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence
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Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse. From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

"A dark debut with a lot of clout, Prince of Thorns is fantastic tale of one boy’s fight for control in a world threatening to engulf him." Fantasy Book Review

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The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding
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A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free . . .

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up . . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. All they have to do now is steal it. . .

Designed to return to classic fantasy adventures and values, from a modern perspective, this is a fast-moving coming-of-age trilogy featuring a strong cast of diverse characters, brilliant set-pieces and a powerful character and plot driven story.

"When it comes to the mechanics of the writing and plot, the author has it down pat. It’s clever and challenging, but also funny. Scenes switch between intimacy and humour and horror and back again with an unsettling rapidity that feels like anything can happen. Nobody is safe. Especially when the Dreadknights turn up. The second half is somewhat slower, as more perspectives are added, and the action-packed journey sequences switch to a greater focus on themes and character development. But the explosive finale has more than enough bang for anyone. The rousing ending has the greatest appeal to classic epic fantasy- a group forged in blood and betrayal, bonded by their oaths to do what needs to be done against any and all odds. I, for one, stand with them. This is the fantasy book we’ve all been waiting for."

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The Tawny Man by Robin Hobb
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"Robin Hobb writes achingly well" SFX

"Robin Hobb's books are diamonds in a sea of zircons." George R. R. Martin

"In this hard-to-put-down follow-up to the Farseer trilogy, Hobb maintains the high standards of her earlier fantasy series... A stay-up-until-2:00-a.m.-to-finish type of book." Publishers Weekly

"Three wonderful books, three wonderful series, three cheers for Robin Hobb!" Fantasy Book Review

Years have passed since Fitz was tortured by Prince Regal. Now he lives in self-imposed exile far from the court. Even his beloved Molly believes him dead. It is safer that way. But safety remains an illusion. Even though war is over dangerous undercurrents still swirl around the Six Duchies and suddenly young Prince Dutiful disappears just before his crucial diplomatic wedding to shore up the peace. The Fools brings Fitz a secret mission. He and his bonded companion, the wolf Nighteyes, must find Dutiful and bring him back to be wed. For if the Outislanders are snubbed, war will surely resume. But what if the prince does not wish to be found?

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Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson
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"Something entirely out of the ordinary... you'll want to go straight through Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War and The Power that Preserves at one sitting." The Times

"A very complex piece of work that can not be read without full attention and concentration. The effort is extremely rewarding." Fantasy Book Review

He called himself Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, because he dared not believe in the strange alternative world on which he suddenly found himself - the Land. But the Land tempted him. As a leper, in his own world he had been an outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a saviour, the reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero - Berek Halfhand. Only the mystic powers of the white gold he carried could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of the Despiser, Lord Foul. Yet Thomas Covenant had no idea how those powers could be tapped...

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Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
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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...

"With the Black Company series, Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy - something a lot of people didn't notice, and maybe still don't. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliche archetypes of princes, kings and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff is like reading Vietnam fiction on Peyote" Steven Erikson

"There are no larger than life characters to be found in The Black Company, all contain frailties and failings that are found in all humans. This book is beautifully amoral and contains no two-dimensional characters. As I've already mentioned, The Black Company is a wonderfully amoral book, often dark and containing violent battles and fantastic characters. Glen Cook changed the face of the fantasy genre forever - and for the better." Fantasy Book Review

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman
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"One of the most laconic, tightly-plotted tales of mythical morality you'll ever read, an anti-establishment satire disguised as a love story, more of a scary tale than a fairy tale" Uncut

"There's nothing fluffy about The Princess Bride. The rocket-powered narrative tricks you without being merely tricksy, and is both modern and timeless" Neon

"A funny thriller for readers who are about ten years of age or wish they were ... Readers of a nervous disposition should be prepared to skim rapidly over the Zoo of Death episode or stick to fiction meant for grown-ups" Spectator

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts - who never leaves survivors - her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairytale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
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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

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy, Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone. A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction - if they don't kill each other first.

"Six of Crows is a fantastic book, one of the best fantasy heist books going around. It is funny, tragic, witty, silly, murderous, thoughtful and more all in one package. If there is a criticism, it might be that Bardugo tries to cram too much into a single story, but it's not much of a criticism given how adeptly she pulled this story off. YA readers probably had this book on their radar long ago and have probably re-read it a couple of times, so for those people who steer clear of YA for whatever reason, I would highly encourage you to put your prejudices aside and give this book a shot."

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