I have long since accepted the twist of fate that brought me to the world of romance and Jane Austen, and learned to laugh at the irony that this life-long reader of fantasy and sci-fi is now writing sappy stories of happily-ever-after! Vague twinges of guilt remain when folks mention popular romance authors with an awed respect that I could only honestly muster if suddenly face-to-face with JRR Tolkien or Isaac Asimov, but gradually I am being educated. Still, I can’t deny that when I curl up with a good book, I grab for something more in the sword-and-sorcery genre. To honor my first love this post is to pay homage to my favorite fantasy writers.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The grandfather and master of all modern fantasy. No debate. I read The Hobbit when I was 12 and never looked back. I fell in love with fantasy while trekking through Middle Earth with Bilbo and those dwarves, and have read everything Tolkien wrote more times than I can count. And don’t even get me started on my obsession with the movies! Truly scary stuff and my basement eerily resembles an LOTR shrine. Tolkien created the most amazing fantasy world with history, poetry, characters, and mythology that is beyond compare.
David Eddings: After the good Professor, Eddings’ world and characters are the best around, IMHO. The ten novels that comprise The Belgariad and The Mallorean are a sumptuous treat. The world is wildly diverse, the magic unique, the wealth of characters phenomenal, the mythology complex, the quests exciting, and the reigning sorcerer (Belgarath) one of the best ever created. Yes, he gives Gandalf a run for his money! Eddings’ stories are serious but also extremely humorous and entertaining. A must-read for anyone who loves fantasy.
Anne McCaffrey: The Pern series appears to be never-ending, and McCaffrey’s created dragons are the very best. The later novels gradually mix in larger and larger doses of sci-fi to the pure fantasy of the original books, but everything written is great. Start with Dragonflight, then Dragonquest, and then The White Dragon. Plus, there are tinges of romance in these books with more than a few folks gettin’ lucky!
Mary Stewart: Immediately after I read The Hobbit Mary Stewart’s King Arthur novels inspired a long passionate affair with all things Arthurian. Over time I would read dozens of novels about those chivalrous knights of merry old England with Merlin the Wizard pulling the strings, including Geoffrey of Monmouth and Sir Thomas Mallory. But, Stewart’s version – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment – remain my favorites.
Raymond Feist: Begin with The Riftwar Saga trilogy and move on from there. All of them are fabulous and it is a huge saga that is still ongoing. Another terrific wizard, Pug/Milambar, and a well-developed world. In fact, two worlds as we are dealing with rifts between universes here. Honorable mention to Feist’s only non-Midkemia novel, Faerie Tale – you will never think of fairies in the same way!
Terry Brooks: Between the Shannara books (including the Word & Void series) and the Landover series, Brooks will keep one busy for years. The Landover novels are my favorites, but all are truly excellent, even if the first Shannara (The Sword of…) treads a bit close to Tolkien’s heels.
Barbara Hambly: Way too many novels to mention, but some of the best time-travel/multi-universe stuff out there. Tends to be very dark, but really great. Along with the requisite wizards and warriors, she also writes vampires and dragons. Frequently blends sci-fi and modern technology in with her fantasy in unique ways, and has even contributed to the Star Wars and Star Trek mythos.
Terry Pratchett: Insane! His Discworld is the oddest place ever envisioned and inhabited with the most bizarre collection of misfits created. I challenge you not to laugh, and to not fall in love with Death. Can’t happen.
More-than-honorable mentions: Terry Goodkind, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King (the Gunslinger series), Robin Hobb, Katherine Kurtz, and Fred Saberhagen. Anybody else read fantasy or sci-fi? Who are your favorite writers?