Broadening my fantasy horizons

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I’m mindful that I’ve done a lot of talking about my book just lately, so I thought I should maybe talk about something else. It gets a bit tiresome saying, “Hello, buy my book,” and “Did you know my book is available here,” and “Hey, my book got a review,” and “Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear your pig passed away, did you buy my book yet or—?”

So, instead of all that, I thought I might do a post suggesting you buy books other than mine.

I just finished reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (a nice, short YA book) and decided that I wanted to find some good, new (to me) fantasy to read next, as I’ve not read a great deal in the genre recently. I also decided that my reading in this genre has always been somewhat narrow (usually Gemmell, Donaldson, Iggulden, or Martin) – and by ‘narrow’ I mean ‘white and in possession of a penis’.

Generally, I like a lot of diversity in my books and authors, but for some reason, fantasy has been my blind spot. Time to change that. So, I popped over to Reddit’s ‘Fantasy’ sub – for my money, the best fantasy-genre forum on the internet. (That is, hands-down, the geekiest sentence I’ve ever written.) I put up a post asking for some diverse fantasy author/book recommendations – preferably where the author is a woman or PoC – and the users over there came back with what I believe is technically known as a shit-ton (or a fuck-load) of responses.

You can see the thread in its entirety here, or you can simply look at the handy list I’ve created below of the 20 most recommended in that thread, complete with buy links.

1. The Riddlemaster of Hed – Patricia McKillip

RiddlemasterIn truth, it was McKillip herself, rather than this book, that got most of the recommendations. In fact, she was the most recommended author in that whole thread. The Riddlemaster of Hed got a couple of mentions, though, so for that reason it’s the one that makes this list. I’ve read a few books by McKillip and I can confirm that she’s a really brilliant fantasy writer.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes

2. Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed

TotCMThe most frequently-recommended book in that reddit post, described as a ‘rollocking sword and sorcery adventure’ with a distinct world and a diverse cast.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

3. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – Nora K. Jemisin

Hundred Thousand KingdomsBook 1 of The Inheritance Trilogy. There seems to be a lot of love for Jemisin’s work, and it seems that this trilogy is the one most people rave about. That said, Jemisin’s Dreamblood Duology (The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun) also have great reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Looks like it’s well worth checking out either of these series.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

4. The Mirror Empire – Kameron Hurley

TheMirrorEmpire-144dpiHurley has, rightly, been getting a lot of praise lately, for her excellent books and for her no-punches-pulled approach to blogging and tweeting. Mirror Empire is described as wildly imaginative worldbuilding with an extremely ‘grimdark’ approach to characters, delivering a gigantic epic fantasy plot while challenging the tropes of the genre.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
NOOK
Kobo

5. Servant of the Underworld – Aliette de Bodard

ServantUnderworld_front_coverThe debut novel by Aliette de Bodard. Described thusly by Elizabeth Bear: “Amid the mud and maize of the Mexica empire, Aliette de Bodard has composed a riveting story of murder, magic and sibling rivalry.”

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo

And speaking of Elizabeth Bear…

6. Range of Ghosts – Elizabeth Bear

range of ghostsElizabeth Bear was the recipient of the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer and has since won two Hugo awards for her short fiction. In other words, she can bloody write.

“You should read this book; you should read it because the entire thing—from beginning to end—pushes sense-of-wonder buttons so hard you almost want to hit the pause button, forget about the plot, and look. Bear holds nothing back, and everything that she pulls into her story just gleams with that special wonder of discovery. I could not put this down.” – The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

7. The Earthsea Cycle – Ursula K. Le Guin

EarthseaLe Guin’s Earthsea books – once called The Earthsea Quartet, then the Earthsea Quintet, and now… well, now I think it’s six books and called The Earthsea Cycle – kicks off with A Wizard of Earthsea. The story follows the education and growth of a young man who joins a school of wizardry. And we all like stories that begin like that, right?

“The magic of Earthsea is primal; the lessons of Earthsea remain as potent, as wise, and as necessary as anyone could dream.” – Neil Gaiman

Buy it from:
Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke

Jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_coverTwo wizards go to war in early-1800s London against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, in Susanna Clarke’s fantasy tome.

“Clarke’s imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty.” – Gregory Maguire, The New York Times Book Review.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

9. The Ghost Bride – Yangzee Choo

the-ghost-brideA Malaysian-Chinese girl in the 1800s discovers that she is betrothed to a dead man so that her father can pay his debts. After meeting her dead husband-to-be, she is drawn into the Chinese afterlife – a world of ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, monstrous bureaucracy and vengeful spirits. Honestly, if that isn’t enough for you, I don’t know what to say.

I bought this off the strength of that first sentence alone.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

10. A Stranger in Olondria – Sofia Samatar

OlondriaSofia Samatar won the World Fantasy Award in 2014 for A Stranger in Olondria, the story of a pepper merchant’s son, haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

All the comments I’ve seen thus far about this book claim simply that it is beautifully written and that Samatar may have created one of the great First Novels, here.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

11. Miserere: An Autumn Tale – Teresa Frohock

??????????????????????Frohock’s dark fantasy is about an exiled exorcist who may have inadvertently helped his sister to – literally – unleash hell on earth. If you like your fantasy bordering on horror, this sounds like it could be right up your street.

Miserere is about redemption, and the triumph of our best impulses over our worst. It’s also about swords, monsters, chases, ghosts, magic, court intrigues and battles to the death. It’s also (and this is the important part) really, really good.” – Alex Bledsoe, author of Dark Jenny

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
Kobo

12. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti – Genevieve Valentine

MechaniqueValentine’s Mechanique is a creepy, gorgeously-written, post-apocalypse, circus steampunk novel. That’s a lot of Things To Be, but apparently it’s brilliantly executed. It sounds a little like Angela Carter’s brilliant Nights At The Circus – which would be no bad thing (I heartily recommend that book) – but, perhaps, more fantastical. One to look out for, certainly.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo

13. Transformation – Carol Berg

TransformationWhen you look at Transformation – and, indeed, the whole Rai-Kirah series, of which this is book one – you are advised not to allow the covers to put you off, as they’re somewhat deceiving. Berg’s books usually involve a lot of political intrigue and diverse and interesting characters.

“This well-written fantasy grabs the reader by the throat on page one and doesn’t let go… Wonderful.” – Starburst Magazine, May 2001

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes

14. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

Assassin ApprenticeIt was never likely that Robin Hobb wouldn’t feature somewhere on this list. An exceptional and prolific writer with several popular series to her name. Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book in her Farseer Trilogy and tells the story of a royal bastard as he begins training to be an assassin.

If you want to read fantasy, you can’t go far wrong with Robin Hobb, and the Farseer Trilogy (being her first under this particular pen name) is the right place to start.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

15. Cold Magic – Kate Elliott

cold magicMagic, airships, the industrial revolution. Together at last. If you like steampunk, with a science vs magic slant, that features a good example of friendship between women, then this is well worth checking out.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

16. A Darker Shade of Magic – Victoria E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneThis is another one that I bought on the strength of the recommendations over at Reddit. It’s about travelers – magicians with the strange ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London.

I bloody love that cover.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

17. The Whitefire Crossing – Courtney Schafer

whitefirecrossing_FINALCOVER.inddThis is the first book of Schafer’s Shattered Sigil series, continued in The Tainted City and the upcoming Labyrinth of Flame. The series is about an exceptional smuggler who’s been given his most challenging item to smuggle; a person. More specifically, a mage, to be smuggled into a place where magery is a crime.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk

18. Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears DeathThe 2011 winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, Who Fears Death is a novel with science-fiction and fantasy elements. A magical realist story of genocide in the far future and a woman who reshapes her world.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

19. The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

Invisible libraryI couldn’t just not buy this one. It’s about a professional spy – Irene, working for the mysterious Library – whose job is to harvest fiction from different realities. Dispactched to an alternative London (the third book in this list to have Alternate London as it’s setting) to retrieve a dangerous book. The problem is, the book’s already been half-inched. (That’s London speak for pinched.)

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

20. Redemption in Indigo – Karen Lord

Redemption in IndigoKaren Lord’s debut novel. Humorous fantasy in which a young woman is gifted The Chaos Stick by the undying ones, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, one of the undying ones wants it back.

‘A clever, exuberant mix of Caribbean and Senegalese influences … Lord manages to compress her story while balancing the cosmic and the personal – all with a verve that would be the envy of many veteran novelists’ – New York Times Book Review.

Buy it from:

Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
iTunes
NOOK
Kobo
Google Play

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4 thoughts on “Broadening my fantasy horizons

  1. Michelle Mees

    Little, Big by John Crowley. Alice Drinkwater and her sister Sophie are remarkable characters. And the Lilacs, the real and not. I’m going to give A Darker Shade a try. Thanks!

  2. Wonderful list! I’m working on the Saladin Ahmed right now, and N.K. Jemisin is up soon. Another great one to check out from Elizabeth Bear is “Karen Memory” – it’s steampunk set in a bordello in Seattle and features a diverse cast of characters.

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