What do glamourists, dragon naturalists, and faerie private investigators all have in common?
They (and more besides) scored themselves a place on this list of my top ten fantasy series!
As always, compiling this list involved much indecision, and a lot of frustrated dithering over which cover images to include. And no doubt I will end up changing my mind about five minutes after I post this. But! All of these are worthy of a mention, and a recommendation if there are any you haven’t read yet. So here they are: my ten favourite fantasy series (for the moment)!
The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Let’s start with a series that will probably always be on a list like this around here, shall we? So far we’ve seen Toby deal with figures out of faerie myth and legend, as well as those who are not so much mythical but very real and every bit as dangerous, all while trying to sort out her disaster of a mortal life and gradually putting together a found family that’s always got her back. There’s nothing about this series I don’t love.
Kushiel’s Legacy/Phèdre’s trilogy, by Jacqueline Carey
I love a good epic fantasy trilogy. I especially love an epic fantasy trilogy where the main character is a powerful woman who doesn’t have to rely on physical strengths to achieve her goals or survive various dangerous situations. This trilogy went to some very dark places before the end (content warning for sexual abuse in Kushiel’s Avatar, for one thing), but the journey is nothing short of … well, epic. And the worldbuilding is spectacular, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I absolutely am.)
The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan
Speaking of spectacular worldbuilding, I fell absolutely head over heels for this fantasy-meets-scientific-exploration … pentalogy? Quintology? Eh, take your pick. If you’re after a series with a career-driven adventurous lady protagonist (memoirist!) who goes on a lifelong quest that takes her all over the world DISCOVERING HISTORIC EVIDENCE OF THE EXISTENCE OF DRAGONS, this is the series for you. Too bad it’s all fictional…
Swords of Riverside, by Ellen Kushner
One of my fondest memories from my earlier days as a blogger was group-reading these books and breaking them down for weekly reviews, a few chapters at a time. In terms of fantasy, they’re maybe on the very edge of fitting the definition – but I shall not let that stop me and nor should you, because if ‘fantasy of manners’ or ‘family saga’ are terms that rev your bookish engine, then check them out.
The Deverry Cycle, by Katharine Kerr
I’ve got one more book to read in the first collection of these books (and it hints at dragons? Yay!), but already I am deeply fascinated by this historical(ish) fantasy world, its people, and the role magic plays in the world and in their lives. Although it’s not without some problematic elements, that fascination is definitely carrying me through it, and I can’t wait to keep reading, and to get more stories in this world.
The Winnowing Flame trilogy, by Jen Williams
On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing I don’t love about this trilogy. The sophomore effort from Jen Williams thoroughly outdid her debut, the Copper Cat trilogy, and even that one knocked my socks off. This epic tale of adventure, of heroes and monsters and the (sometimes very fine) line between the two bounced me around between wonder, joy, horror and heartbreak like dice in a cup. If you’re prepared for a storm of emotions (you are not prepared), you should not miss out on this.
The Glamourist Histories, by Mary Robinette Kowal
And now, for an about-face! This series has a lovely Regency-era romance flavour, and while it’s ‘softer’ and has more manners baked in than most of my other choices, it still doesn’t shy away from tackling important social issues as well as alt-historical events of importance. Goodness, even my vocabulary is growing ‘proper’ just talking about it! La.
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
While most bookwyrms were up to their eyes in Harry Potter’s adventures, I was reading this trilogy instead. (I still haven’t read the HP books, and no, I don’t plan to.) But these books. If young-adult adventures spanning multiple fantastic worlds (some closely resembling our own), with awesome creatures and witches and magical artifacts galore is your cup of tea, then join me on the fan couch for this trilogy. Keep your fancy wands; I’d rather have a daemon.
Discworld, by Terry Pratchett
Look, there’s just no conceivable way in this world or any other I am going to leave the Discworld novels off of a list like this. No way in hell, I tell you. They are foundational, they carry enough weight of socio-political commentary to slap one sideways, and they are often freaking hilarious. Are they problem-free? No. I’d freely forgive you for cringing at some of what Sir Terry counts as humour, throughout this series. It can be … very British, not to mention inevitably dated. BUT. I dare you not to read of Death, or Sam Vimes, or a certain trio of witches, and not find something to adore. And that’s just for starters.
Shades of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
Let’s bring this to a close by bringing it back to my group-reading past adventures, because I. Love. These. Books. Victoria Schwab surprised me a little by becoming one of my favourite authors; I am not typically a fan of what often passes for YA, though to be fair that categorisation can be applied in ways that ‘disguise’ books you might not put in that box once you’ve read them. I am certainly not disparaging YA! This is merely to explain that I almost, almost, overlooked this gem of a trilogy because I thought it wouldn’t appeal to me. Oh god, I was wrong and I’m eternally grateful that I gave it a chance.
Take me to Red London.