As any of you who have read my blogs or short stories have probably gathered, I am a massive fan of fantasy and sci-fi novels! In this post I want to suggest some of my favorites to anyone who is thinking of buying a book for a fantasy lover close to their hearts this Christmas 😉 Or, maybe you’re a fantasy lover yourself – in which case you should seriously consider spending a couple of the book tokens you might get for Christmas on these too!
Anyway, these are my 5 current favorite fantasy/sci-fi series:
1. A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
I don’t think anyone would scoff at the claim that A Song of Ice and Fire is simply one of the absolute best – if not the best! – fantasy series ever written. It’s low fantasy, which means there’s almost no magic or outlandish creatures etc. I believe Martin was inspired by the War of the Roses from English history when writing these books; they’re certainly jam-packed with political turmoil and intrigue. Martin creates a realistic world whose characters are a powerful driving force in the narrative. Many people will be familiar with this series through the recent TV adaption of the first novel A Game of Thrones (which is also top class) – but why wait years for them to film and release every book on TV when there are 5 of them (or 6 if you get the third one in two parts) just sitting there waiting to be read right now?! Go get them! You will love every minute you spend reading them.
2. Troy, David Gemmell (completed by Stella Gemmell)
David Gemmell’s Troy series is an astonishingly good retelling of the familiar Ancient Greek classic The Illiad. Gemmell’s twist on this familiar formula is to tell the story as if it were historically and scientifically accurate. There are no magic spells or monsters here: Odysseus, for example, is an ugly old pirate-turned-trader who is a renowned storyteller (thus, many elements from The Odyssey, such as the cyclops, are included by means of Odysseus’ stories). The characters you know and love, from Achilles to Hector, all appear as well, and each is similarly portrayed in a realistic manner. The war for Troy is not fought because Helen is beautiful – it’s fought for political reasons. This is a world where warfare is common, so there are plenty of brilliantly told action sequences to feast your imagination on. Most importantly though, this series is excellently written. (You’ll almost come to believe that it is real history by the end of it!) A must-read for fans of adventure, history and historical-fantasy.
3. The Void Trilogy, Peter F. Hamilton
The Void Trilogy is a sci-fi series with a unique twist – it’s half sci-fi and half fantasy! Hamilton achieves this innovation by means of the Void; a universe within a universe. Inside the Void there is an “artificial” fantasy universe, and outside there’s the “real” sci-fi universe. The basic premise of the series is that the Void is starting to expand, threatening to consume and destroy the entire real universe with its growth. Yet while many factions seek to oppose the Void, a religious group called ‘The Living Dream’ seeks to enter it, and its reasons for doing so are slowly revealed through the story of Edeard (which comprises about half of the trilogy), a young man who lives inside the seemingly idyllic (and very mysterious) world of the Void. The sci-fi elements are amazing too; Hamilton has an imagination for futuristic technology and culture that is pretty much unrivaled. Humanity here is incredibly advanced, and is experimenting with now-reachable ideals of transcendence and immortality, using techniques such as shared emotions in the “gaiafield”. Expect a lot of moral questions to be raised! The story is told through the eyes of both hyper-augmented humans and ordinary people, and I found Edeard’s story particularly enjoyable. All in all, this is my favorite sci-fi series of all time; it does everything a sci-fi novel needs to do, and then some. Read it!
4. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan (completed by Brandon Sanderson)
The Wheel of Time is the definitive series when it comes to epic fantasy. This is very much a Tolkien-inspired story of good vs. evil. At a whopping 14 books in length, it’s one that will definitely take you a long time to read. The story centers around Rand, the Dragon Reborn, whose destiny is to fight the Dark One at the impending Last Battle. Getting there alive, however, does not end up being half so simple as you might think. Rand is a fantastic protagonist: he’s totally badass (seriously, every single book ends with Rand doing something incredibly awesome – it will blow your mind every time!). Rand also has to go through a desperate struggle to remain sane, which is a fascinating theme that emerges more and more as the story progresses. The Dark One also has an elite cohort of followers called the Forsaken, who rival Rand in Power – they’re fantastic villains, as each is an individual, complex and interesting. The Wheel of Time also has the best magic system I’ve ever read in a fantasy series: it’s basically split into Saidin and Saidar, which are used by males and females respectively. As a result of the original Dragon’s Battle with the Dark One the male half, Saidin, has become tainted, and all men who use it end up going insane (obviously a big problem for Rand!). While the series suffers some pacing issues from book 5 to book 10, it’s still a brilliant read. You can’t consider yourself a true fan of fantasy unless you’ve tried it!
5. Codex Alera, Jim Butcher
The simplest way I can think of to describe the Codex Alera series is “Pokemon meets Ancient Rome”! The Aleran Empire – where most of the action takes place – is heavily based on Rome, and its armies on the Roman Legions. The magic system here is a lot of fun: Citizens of Alera can harness the power of “Furies” – elemental creatures – to enhance their physical prowess or perform magical feats. For example, earth furies allow the user to become much stronger than a normal person; water furies can be used to magically heal injured persons. This is a very action-oriented series – perhaps somewhat in contrast with the other books on this list which might be considered more “epic” – and the writing is fast-paced and very engaging. It’s a page turner! The series follows the story of a young man named Tavi, who unlike all his peers is unable to harness the Furies. Yet, despite this disability, Tavi succeeds in doing countless heroic deeds by means of ingenuity and smart-thinking alone. These are books to read when you want something fun and flashy! Highly recommended.