Note: This was originally posted as an annotated book list as an assignment for a Readers Advisory Class. It did double duty as an assignment and practice reading list for my husband. View it as a practice run.
Are you looking for some new fantasy fiction to read? You’ve exhausted Tolkien, Jordan, Rothfuss, and Martin? Try some of these selections from the last within the last 20 years. Whether looking for the closure of a completed series or seeking the possible next genre-shaking to follow from its early books, readers will find something intriguing in this list. Enjoy!
Abercrombie, Joe. The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy #1), Gollancz, 2007. This series follows out-of-luck barbarian Logen Ninefingers, cynical and crippled inquisitor Glokta, and unpleasant wizard Bayaz, who may or may not be a fraud, all thrown into a character-driven mix of conspiracies and murders, told with both grit and Pratchett-esque droll wit.
Ahmad, Saladin. Throne of the Crescent Moon, DAW Books, 2012. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood just wants to retire quietly, but he and his friends (a warrior Dervish, a mage, an alchemist, and a shapeshifter) must deal with dark sorcerer in this swashbuckling tale, a 2013 Hugo-nominated Middle-Eastern-flavored fantasy inspired by The Arabian Nights.
Bear, Elizabeth. Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky Trilogy #1), Macmillan, 2012. Protagonist Temur has survived battle but must go into exile to avoid assassination while Samarkar, once a princess, seeks out the ways of the wizards; together they will uncover deceit at the heart of ruling power in this Eastern-flavored fantasy trilogy.
Erikson, Steven. Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1), Bantam Books, 1999. Various factions grapple for power in this epic fantasy told through many different grey-shaded viewpoints as assassins enforce Empress Laseen’s rule, con artists oppose the civic government, and even gods find themselves involved in events in the telling of this ambitious, sprawling tale.
Hurley, Kameron. God’s War (The Bel Dame Apocrypha #1), Nightshade Books, 2011. Holy war rages in the backdrop as protagonist Nyx’s past catches up to the bounty hunter in this science-fiction-flavored fantasy set in an Islamic-influenced yet matriarchal world where power is derived from insects.
Lawrence, Mark. Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1), Voyager, 2011. Protagonist Jorg was nine years old when his family was murdered in front of him, and he has revenge planned if the powers he’s up against don’t get to him first; readers will either love or hate this dark anti-hero.
Lynch, Scott. The Lies of Locke Lamora (The Gentleman Bastard #1), Del Ray, 2007. Con artist capers meet fantasy as orphaned protagonist Locke Lamora and his band of Gentlemen Bastards swindles and cons his way through a city resembling Renaissance Venice, until a plotted underworld coup threatens to destroy everything in this witty series beginning.
Morgan, Richard K. The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes #1), Del Ray, 2000. This gritty tale is set in the aftermath of war, where protagonist Ringil has come home a hero but is shunned by family for being gay, yet is called back by family to investigate a cousin’s disappearance and discovers a more serious prophesied plot.
Parker, K.J. Devices and Desires (The Engineer Trilogy #1), Orbit, 2006. Beware the wrath of a scorned engineer; when Ziani Vaatzes violates an engineer’s guild rules and is sentenced to death, he vows revenge, and driven by passions and skill, tries to instigate war in this tale of political fantasy.
Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1), (Tor, 2010). Following in the footsteps of Robert Jordan, Sanderson’s epic series is just beginning, following Kaladin in battle on the Shattered Plains and Shallin as she plots the theft of a talisman, all set against intricate worldbuilding and containing Sanderson’s signature original magic systems.
For further fantasy finds:
Best Fantasy Books is the website for fans of fantasy. With an extensive list of fantasy offerings by subgenre as well as best-of-the-best lists, this is a website to send to-read lists spiraling out of control.
Fantasy Cafe is a website dedicated to reviewing and discussing speculative fiction, with special emphasis on including female writers (even hosting an annual Women in SF&F month each April to draw attention to both female authors and women as readers of speculative fiction).
Fantasy Faction offers thoughtful reviews of speculative fiction along with discussion of fantasy in pop culture including HBO’s Game of Thrones discussion.
SF Reviews.net reviews science fiction and fantasy, both new titles and old, with a variety of ways to search for new reading material – by author name, by rating, or by year of release.
Tor.com, while part of a commercial enterprise, has a great blog with reviews, read-alongs, watch-alongs, drawings, and original fantasy and science fiction content. One particularly useful feature is a monthly preview of forthcoming titles in speculative fiction.