One of the biggest passion in our home is reading. Everything from recipes to the latest EU treaty adorns our bookshelves. Both my Girlfriend and I are avid book collectors, and neither of us can walk by a book sale without having to browse the shelves.
To give you an impression of how serious we are about this collection mania, when we visit London, we have about 500£ reserved for buying new books.
Personally, I mostly read Sci-fi, thrillers and fantasy. Among these genres, none is as near and dear to me as the fantasy genre. Frodo’s travels across middle earth, have kept me entertained through countless stays at the hospital and the Insanity that is the Discworld have helped me spend many a rainy day far from the humdrum of the everyday life.
However, what makes a great fantasy story come to life, is it the characters? The description of the epic battles? Maybe it the description of the world itself? Or maybe it’s all of the above or none at all? I really don’t have the answer, but looking down my list of 12 great fantasy authors, I find myself commenting on this authors grasp of the characters, and that authors blow by blow description of a battle, so maybe it’s not important what the focus of the author is. Maybe the only truly important thing is that you as a reader is able to identify with the “hero” and sympathize with his or her struggles.
The fantasy genre is usually a hard sell, usually when I recommend a book I’m greeted with the classic isn’t that a little geeky? Or the equally classic isn’t that a little farfetched? Well maybe the fantasy genre is farfetched and maybe I am a geek, but for my money, the fantasy genre is so much more, than just something for kids and geeks. In my opinion the force of the fantasy genre is its ability to help you come to terms with who you are, and maybe to help you becoming the hero of your own story. Where else other than in the wonderful world of fantasy, can an AD/HD boy with dyslexia become the hero of Greek mythology? And have his AD/HD explained with battle reflexes and his dyslexia explained by an ability to read and write Greek hardwired into his brain?
My fondest wish for my kids is that they will have the same love of a good story as me.
With this preamble out of the way, I’ll leave you to enjoy my list of my personal heroes. The twelve greatest fantasy authors of all time.
1: J.R.R. Tolkien.
The godfather of the fantasy genre, and the only author on my list, I’m sure that everybody have heard of. Both The Hobbit and his Lord of the rings trilogy are modern classics, and I seriously doubt that you can find anybody in the western hemisphere who haven’t heard about hobbits. I will admit that Tolkien is an acquired taste, and that his Lord of the rings trilogy isn’t for everybody, however I must say that The Hobbit is a great tale to read aloud to your kids.
Another of the godfathers of fantasy, most people won’t recognize his name, but most people have at least heard of Conan the Barbarian. This is pulp fiction in its purest form. Howard’s stories about his sword-wielding barbarian were newer published in book form during his lifetime, but instead published in the pulp magazine weird tales.
3 + 4: Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman.
If Tolkien and Howard were the godfathers of fantasy, then Weis and Hickman must be the midwives. Their world of Krynn is the first complete fantasy world I ever visited, following in the footsteps of the tormented half elf Tanis and the sinister mage Raistlin. Weis and Hickman’s dragonlance series is as great a read today as it were when I first opened Dragons of autumn twilight. This book series have everything; power-hungry gods, evil and good dragons, epic battles, the hopeless love story and stuck in the middle of all of this, an unlikely group of heroes and you the reader. Please please please give these books a chance; I’ll even lend you my own copy.
Greenwood is another world-creator, if Krynn were the original destination of all roleplayers, the the forgotten realms quickly became the favorite “holiday” destination, for aspiring adventures, myself among them, I love the world of the forgotten realms, no other place is as diverse as Faerûn, and no place is home to as many great mages as the forgotten realms. I have spend many hours listening to the ramblings of Elminster of Shadowdale, following the plots of Kelben the blackstaff and learning how to take over the world from Manshoon the evil ruler of Zhentil keep.
6: R. A. Salvatore.
Salvatore is a contributor to the world of the forgotten realms. He is the creator of the underdark, Icewind dale and the area of ten towns. Salvatore’s main hero is a dark elf or drow by the name of Drizzt Do’Urden, a ranger of no small fame in Fearûn. Normally the Drow are an evil and coldblooded race, but Drizzt is the exception. The book series about Drizzt’s adventures spans a lot of books, but they a definitely worth a read. Salvatore is a master of the fight, and his way of describing the swordsmanship of Drizzt makes you feel that you are in the fight, and that you to can become a master swordsman.
7: David Eddings.
Eddings is a classic saga novelist, both his Belgarion/Mallorean saga and his Elenium/Tamuli Saga, are complete works of both world and character creation. I love his dry sense of humor and his ability to make contemporary fantasy feel like the classic sagas of yore. Eddings does suffer a little from repetition, he has found some characters he’s fond of and he does have a tendency to reuse them repeatedly, under different names.
Riordan is one of the new guys in the world of fantasy. His demigod series is more teen fantasy, than classic fantasy, but seeing as my local library considers all fantasy teen literature, I can’t see a problem with me including him on this list. If you’re looking for something to read to your kids, then look no further, these books will teach your kids a lot about Greek mythology, and teach your kids that it’s okay to be different. Riordan writes with wit, tempo and a biting sarcasm that makes for a great read.
9: Ben Aaronovitch.
And now for something completely different, a black police constable with magic powers. Aaronovitch’s book series is set in and around London, and you can sense the city around you when you read about rooftop chases, and magicians looping fireballs while quoting Tolkien. These books are great fun and you can’t help yourself laughing out loud as you visit London in the great company of the officers of the folly.
No fantasy list would be complete without Rowling, she have singlehandedly thought a new generation about the love of good literature. Everybody knows her young hero and his struggles with He who must not be named.
How to describe Gaimann, his book stardust, is fantasy pure and simple, but on the other hand, American Gods is a tour de force in the art of character creation. Gaiman is one of those authors that you can’t help loving, and when you read his books you will be lost to the world.
Sir Pratchett is a genius no more no less. His world, called Discworld, is a world and a mirror of worlds; he is one of those authors, who comes by once in a generation, his books defies simple descriptions. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, everything comes together, the character creation, the description of the world and the great narrative. Whether it’s his long suffering commander of the night watch Sir Samuel Vimes, his cowardly Wizard Rincewind or one of his other wonderful characters you can’t help yourself falling in love with the world and it’s inhabitants.
This is my list of my favorite fantasy authors; I hope that it might inspire you to visit some of their wonderful worlds, and maybe invite your kids along for the ride. I know I will.
Love from me to you Internet