*Friday’s Five Books is a bi-weekly post on Between the Covers that highlights book recommendations from the reading community.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’m a bookaholic. It started with just a few books read to me here and there when I was little, and has since spiraled into a full-blown addiction. Suffice it to say I enjoy reading books. A lot. When other people have free time, they watch TV or movies; I read at night, on the way to school, on the bus, and during my study breaks. I’m not sure what the cure is. I’m not sure if I want to know. Come join in my obsession on my book blog (Ristea’s Reads) and on Twitter (@ristea).
I love immersing myself in new worlds and discovering characters who feel so real it’s as if I’ve known them my whole life. You know that emotional reaction at the end of a book where you have to leave everything behind? That’s a chronic problem for me. Let me show you some of my favourite fantasy series that have become so much more than just a pastime or idle distraction. If you have any sort of stigma against the genre, I encourage you to try out one of these books and see what you’re missing.
The Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling
Now, I enjoy my epic fantasy as much as the next guy, but every now and then I need a break from appendices of characters and large-scale maps. Nightrunner provides the perfect fix. Some have complained that the pace is too slow, but I thought that brought the characters alive. Following Seregil and Alec almost exclusively through five books, even as they do mundane tasks such as set up camp or settle in to their mansion in Rhiminee, shows how the characters are truly organic, whose actions spring from the story and are plausible. The author didn’t just think of a few key traits and blow through a massive plot-line, changing it to “work” with what she had in mind. Seregil and Alec are loosed upon the world, and actively engage with the story and other characters, resulting in slightly flawed partners that anyone can relate to in some way.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
A gritty, realistic world where the typical ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys are replaced with characters that have their own motivations and desires, resulting in a maelstrom of intrigue and emotion. Martin is such a master of bringing the medieval-like world of knights and castles to life that I’m pretty sure he has a time machine hidden away in his garage. Add plots within plots and an author that isn’t pulling any punches, and you get one of the most outstandingly written fantasy series of all time.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Erikson is a true genius of world-building; dare I say that he approaches Tolkien-esque levels? He drops you right into the action, without any cheesy info dumps, and you are left scrambling to figure out exactly what’s going on. A fair warning that this is not a light read, but the rewards are well worth the effort. I think I could devour this series over and over again and learn something new every time. When was the last time you were in the middle of a book and immediately knew that you wanted to re-read it right away?
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
This novel is told entirely from the first-person perspective, but Hobb’s talent shines through here as you fall in love with Fitz, his life, and the other characters that interact with him. By the time I finished this trilogy, I was so feverishly engrossed in the novel, that I could hardly put it down for friends, food, or fodder. It’s simply amazing how you end up living and breathing as if you were actually Fitz, and start feeling emotions in real life to match his. This book had me giddy with delight at Fitz’s exploits, crying at his hardships, laughing with him and his friends, and finding in him a parallel to my own life. Honest and original, despite having many of the stereotypical traits of the fantasy genre, this is a true story of a boy’s travels through life and everything it entails.
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss doesn’t try to re-invent the fantasy genre wheel, he sticks with a classic form to tell the extraordinary tale of Kvothe. I don’t usually fall for the fluff written on the back cover, but this one had me hooked:
My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
I do not recommend The Name of the Wind if you have any deadlines coming up, plan on getting a good night’s rest, or have any friends that would get mad if you dropped off the radar for a week or so.
Thank you for the recommendations, Alex! I’m reading the Kingkiller Chronicle books right now and I’m really enjoying them. I’m definitely going to look into the rest of these the next time I’m in the mood for a good fantasy series.
**If you choose to purchase any of these titles using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).