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Phantom Dennis 07-25-2007 07:35 PM

Fantasy for people who don't like Fantasy
 
I've never considered myself a fantasy fan, but I'd like to give the genre another chance, considering how much I enjoyed the Harry Potter books. I guess I've always associated fantasy with negative connotations in my mind -- characters that are cardboard cutouts, emphasis on action over substance, and a general lack of psychological depth. I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

Problem is, I've tried on several occasions to read Lord of the Rings -- the quintessential fantasy series -- and I've never been able to last longer than a few hundred pages. (I liked the Hobbit though). So I guess I'd prefer something a bit lighter than LotR-- something without all the dense, long-winded arcana I associate with Tolkien's books.

Your recommendations would be appreciated.

TLDRIDKJKLOLFTW 07-25-2007 07:38 PM

China Mieville's Perdido Street Station; compelling story in a deliciously steampunky setting, fascinating creatures and monsters, and insane fantasy concepts. Characters are wonderfully-developed, the language and style is impeccable and nuanced, and the socioeconomics and politics of this fantasy city are incorporated in an impressive manner.

Thudlow Boink 07-25-2007 07:41 PM

You've told us what you don't want, but it might help if you told us what you do like.

RealityChuck 07-25-2007 07:42 PM

Look for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Suzanna Clarke. Very engaging read that, despite its length moves along rapidly. Great characters and situation.

There's also American Gods and Anansi Boys by Neal Gaiman.

Rysto 07-25-2007 07:42 PM

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, perhaps? It's like LotR in that magic is more of a subtle force. The characters are wonderful and not at all one-dimensional -- just don't get too attached to any of them.

EddyTeddyFreddy 07-25-2007 07:47 PM

Check out Robin Hobb's set of three trilogies: [1] The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin's Quest), [2] The Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny), and [3] The Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool's Errand, Golden Fool, Fool's Fate). It's really all one gigantic story, with fully fleshed out characters, intricate plotting that hangs together, and amazing originality. Well-written, too.

dangermom 07-25-2007 08:31 PM

I would second Neil Gaiman. I'd also recommend Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and To say nothing of the dog.

And my very favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. All of her books are different, but you might enjoy Hexwood and its little elements of satire on D&Desque fantasy, or Archer's Goon. Or any of them--you could also try the Chrestomanci stories.

Miller 07-25-2007 09:01 PM

Well, if you liked Britain's most popular fantasy novelist, you should check out it's second most popular fantasy novelist, Terry Pratchett. Or, "the good one," as I like to think of him. If I had to lay odds on wether Hogwarts or Discworld would be best remembered in five hundred years, my money's on the giant turtle. Small Gods is my recommendation: it's somewhere at the midpoint of the series, but it's a stand alone novel, so you don't have to have read any of the early books to follow the story. And, frankly, the first books in the series really weren't all that good.

You should also try out Tim Powers. The Anubis Gates and Declare are my two favorites. The first is about time travel, werewolves, and Victorian London. The second is about WWII, spies, the Cold War, and an arms race to control a colony of djinn on Mount Ararat.

Steven Brust's Jhereg series is a sort of mash-up between J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Marlowe. It follows the adventures of Vlad Taltos, a short-lived human living in elven society, trying to climb his way to the top of their criminal underworld. It's kind of hard to figure out where to start with this series, though: they were written out of chronological order, so the first published book makes heavy reference to events you haven't read about yet. It's really cool how it all slots together as you progress through the series, though. I'd start with the eponymous Jhereg and go from there. He's also got a related series in the same setting, but several hunderd years earlier, that's a brilliant pastiche of Dumas' The Three Musketeers.

Lastly, Lois McMaster Bujold has written a string of simply wonderful fantasy novels. Unlike the preceding recommendations, there's no "twist" to these books. They're straight forward, medieval European flavored fantasy stories, with a strong emphasis on character, and few of the fantasy stereotypes like elves and magic swords. Check out The Curse of Chalion or The Sharing Knife: they're each the start points for seperate series. The first is a series of stand alone novels in the same general setting, the other a more standard fantasy trilogy.

Miller 07-25-2007 09:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dangermom
I would second Neil Gaiman. I'd also recommend Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and To say nothing of the dog.

Nitpick: Doomsday Book is straight science fiction. But an excellent suggestion none the less.

DeadlyAccurate 07-25-2007 09:06 PM

Jonathon Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy. I think I've said this before, but if Bartimaeus were real, he'd be a Doper.

Qadgop the Mercotan 07-25-2007 09:26 PM

Given your description of what you have enjoyed, you might like some of David Eddings' stuff. Perhaps "The Elenium", which begins with the book "The Diamond Throne".

Great literature, or even great fantasy, this ain't. But this particular series of Eddings' is one of my guilty pleasures.

Just be warned. Eddings has a few good stories. But he uses them over and over again.

Or you could go with Mercedes Lackey's books about Valdemar (the books with the magical horsies and kitties who will be friends with and guardians to tragically alienated youths). Also lots of women with swords there too.

HardlySanguine 07-25-2007 09:32 PM

I'll agree with Thudlow, what exactly did you like in the Harry Potter series? There are many different kinds of fantasy and ways of telling a story (no, I'm not trying to be facetious).

-A young, mistreated hero discovering (s)he is really more?
-The magic? The magical world? The secret world?
-The mystery, puzzle-like aspect that each book had?
-Narrator treating the reader like an adult (maybe you've only encountered fantasy novels intended for children?) ?
-Good triumphing over evil (maybe ;) )?
-Weird little elves with big moon-eyes that do whatever you want?

Alternatively, you said you don't like the action-y stuff; Would you care to try novels that include:
-Philosophical discussions? (eg. Sword of Truth)
-Science fiction along with fantasy? (eg. Apprentice Adept)
-Humorous fantasy (eg. Diskworld)
-Personified rodents? (Redwall)


Meanwhile, I'll second the Robin Hobb books (not only are they good, but they have many of these aspects in common with the Harry Potter series)!

Fretful Porpentine 07-25-2007 09:33 PM

I second the recs for A Song of Ice and Fire and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. You might also want to check out Guy Gavriel Kay and (since it sounds like you're fine with kids' books), Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain and Westmark books.

ITR champion 07-25-2007 10:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phantom Dennis
I've never considered myself a fantasy fan, but I'd like to give the genre another chance, considering how much I enjoyed the Harry Potter books. I guess I've always associated fantasy with negative connotations in my mind -- characters that are cardboard cutouts, emphasis on action over substance, and a general lack of psychological depth. I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

Problem is, I've tried on several occasions to read Lord of the Rings -- the quintessential fantasy series -- and I've never been able to last longer than a few hundred pages. (I liked the Hobbit though). So I guess I'd prefer something a bit lighter than LotR-- something without all the dense, long-winded arcana I associate with Tolkien's books.

Your recommendations would be appreciated.

Neal Barrett, Jr. is a very interesting fellow who's been writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy for over thirty years. My favorites among his novels are The Prophecy Machine and The Treachery of Kings. These are comedies of a sort, set in a bizarre alternate reality vaguely reminiscent of Victorian England. But while the setting seems superficially quaint and 'cute', the underlying story is deeply cynical and dark. A very unique pair of books, one which I've never really seen anything remotely similar to.

Phantom Dennis 07-25-2007 10:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kysle
-A young, mistreated hero discovering (s)he is really more?
-The magic? The magical world? The secret world?
-The mystery, puzzle-like aspect that each book had?
-Narrator treating the reader like an adult (maybe you've only encountered fantasy novels intended for children?) ?
-Good triumphing over evil (maybe )?
-Weird little elves with big moon-eyes that do whatever you want?

I enjoyed all of those things, but the puzzle/mystery angle is probably what made me a fan. Plus I liked the fact that the main characters were drawn with enough depth for me to relate to them and care about their well-being. I enjoy some books with one-dimensional characters as long as the plot is good enough to compensate, but for the most part I like to feel as if I'm reading about real people.

Full Metal Lotus 07-25-2007 10:49 PM

wow you guys a waaay too serious!

I am a hard core "hard" science fiction" fan... but I simply love:

Disc world (Terry Pratchett)
Hitchhikers' Guide to the Glaxay trilogy in five parts



Both series are full of humour, insight and actively make fun of the so called "Fantasy" style...

check them out

FML

Der Trihs 07-25-2007 11:00 PM

If you like kids with magic, there's Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. Power in wizardry is inverse to age,so the younger kids are strongest of all. And the fight they Lone Power, the literal creator of death and entropy. Very powerful stuff, on a literally cosmic level.

I like the Garret novels by Glen Cook; a private eye in a world filled with magic and fantasy creatures.

If you can find them, the Lord Darcy books by Randall Garrett. They are set in a world where the laws of magic are known and used like we use technology, but their technology is still at the horse and buggy level. The main character, Lord Darcy, is basically Sherlock Holmes, with a "Watson" who's a forensic sorcerer.

Larry Borgia 07-25-2007 11:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VCO3
China Mieville's Perdido Street Station; compelling story in a deliciously steampunky setting, fascinating creatures and monsters, and insane fantasy concepts. Characters are wonderfully-developed, the language and style is impeccable and nuanced, and the socioeconomics and politics of this fantasy city are incorporated in an impressive manner.

I'll second this. I'm about seventy pages int The Scar right now; A sort of nautical version of PSS. Mieville is an incredibly talented writer, as a pure literary stylist he is leagues ahead of Rowling or Tolkein. He throws off ideas in a page that other writers would base whole novels on.

Also, check out Mieville's forerunners: M John Harrison and Mervyn Peake.

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is on the border of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's brilliant but very obscure, as you see things through the eyes of a somewhat untrustworthy storyteller.

Tim Powers tells exciting ripping yarns.

Greg Bear is mostly an SF writer, but wrote a fantasy duology, Songs of Earth and Power.

All of the above are pretty dense and rich, which on re-reading your OP is I guess something you're not looking for. But I've already written this post, so I'm posting it anyway.

Evil Captor 07-25-2007 11:49 PM

If you like your stories fast moving and your prose lean and mean, try Roger Zelazny -- everything except the stuff written with others, or written after his death. The Amber series, beginning with Nine Princes in Amber, are a particular favorite of mine.

Also, Declare, although a favorite of mine, is about the densest, most slow-moving book Tim Powers has written. Try "On Stranger Tides" -- it's "Pirates of the Caribbean" for grown-ups. "Anubis Gates" is great, too.

Hunter Hawk 07-26-2007 12:05 AM

Some other possibilities:

Tim Powers: The Stress of Her Regard or The Drawing of the Dark
James Branch Cabell: Jurgen
Jack Vance: Tales of the Dying Earth (look for the Fantasy Masterworks edition)
James P. Blaylock: The Paper Grail
Thorne Smith: Topper
L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt: The Complete Enchanter stories
Fritz Leiber: The Swords stories (start with Swords and Deviltry)
Keith Laumer: The Time Bender

Yookeroo 07-26-2007 12:19 AM

I'll go along with the Tim Powers suggestions. He's great. My favorite is "Last Call".

Einmon 07-26-2007 04:47 AM

If you don't mind the "kids' book" angle, I would recommend The Dark is Rising. Loosely based on the Arthurian myth, set in Cornwall, and has similar themes (young hero discovers he is something more than meets the eye). It also has magic, mystery, and as an added bonus, it's being currently made into a movie with Ian McShane of Deadwood fame and also Christopher Eccleston. Fantastic!

don't ask 07-26-2007 05:12 AM

Johnathan Carroll writes his own kind of weird fantasy. I have loved all his books and I truly do not like Fantasy, any authors mentioned so far that I have tried to read I gave up. I note though that Neil Gaiman wrote the intro to Carroll's website so I may try him.

From the site:

The Land of Laughs

"The Land of Laughs was lit by eyes that saw the lights that no one's seen." To Thomas Abbey, lonely child of a famous movie actor, grown into a restive prep school teacher, this is one of the most memorable lines ever written. It is by Marshall France, the legendary author of children's books who wrote The Land of Laughs, Pool of Stars, Green Dog's Sorrow, and other haunting classics, hid himself away in tiny Galen, Missouri, and died of a heart attack at age 44.

This brilliantly imaginative and frightening novel is set in motion when Tom Abbey and his spirited girlfriend, Saxony Gardner, determine to write France's biography. They arrive in Galen on a slow, cloud-still summer day, both of them expectant and delighted and also a little scared of what they will find. France's enigmatic and reclusive shadow lingers on, and his lovely and mysterious daughter Anna is known to act as a fiercely protective keeper of the flame.

But to their deep surprise, Anna and Galen had been waiting for them--almost too eagerly. Slowly they begin to apprehend not only that this idyllic small Midwestern town and its inhabitants, human and animal, are not what they seem, but that the magic of Marshall France had extended far beyond the printed page.

Chilling possibilities begin to dawn on Tom and Saxony, and on the reader, who will at once revel in the grand tradition of horror stories and in the discovery of a wholly new talent.

Bones of the Moon

Cullen James' first dream was to find the perfect man--and it happened. Then she dreamed of being able to live with her man in Europe, while they were both still young and full of wonder: and that happened too. First in Greece, and then in Italy, she had hold of the kind of life of which we all dream. Better yet, she became pregnant and looked forward to the day when the child would come and she could love it: make it part of her idyllic life. But then the dreams began.

The dreams of a fantastical land named Rondua where the sea is full of fish with mysterious names--Mudrake, Cornsweat, Yasmuda. Where enormous animals, the size of hot air balloons, escort Cullen and an enigmatical child companion across places like the Plain of Forgotten Machines. And with the dreams of Rondua came powers that cross over into her everyday world--changing everything.

Suddenly Cullen's worlds are filled with a hallucinatory array of characters and situations that prove dreams are as real as the cup of coffee she drinks in the morning, or the moment when it is impossible to tell whether life or death will win.

Jayn_Newell 07-26-2007 06:34 AM

There's a book named The Fairy Godmother, which I think is by Mercedes Lackey but I can't remember, which I'd suggest. It's far more light-hearted than LotR (I'm a huge fantasy fan and I couldn't get through that) and it makes light of a lot of the fairy tales you probably heard as a kid.

Der Trihs 07-26-2007 07:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jayn_Newell
There's a book named The Fairy Godmother, which I think is by Mercedes Lackey but I can't remember, which I'd suggest. It's far more light-hearted than LotR (I'm a huge fantasy fan and I couldn't get through that) and it makes light of a lot of the fairy tales you probably heard as a kid.

Yes; she wrote it, and two sequels so far.

CalMeacham 07-26-2007 07:48 AM

Christopher Moore's off-beat and veery weird books come to mind. They're as far from the regimented, scholarly Tolkien as you can get. At least one quotable weird sentence per two pages.

Practical Demonkeeping

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

The Stupidest Angel

Bloodsucking Fiends


and others.



T.H. White's The Once and Future King is superb King Arthur. Read The Sword in the Stone, if you can -- the independent publication is VERY different from the chapter that appears in TOaFK, and worlds away from the Disney version supposed o be based on it. Also read The Book of Merlin, the last book in the series that was excised from TOaFK.




A lot of Fredric Brown's short stories. And Robert Sheckley's


And J. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Tales from Gavagan's Bar


I believe de Camp's Compleat Enchanter has been mentioned. Christopher Stashieff has added to the saga, and Stashieff's own stuff is worth reading, too.


Esther Friesner's many fantasies.

Lightray 07-26-2007 08:23 AM

Gah! The OP says he didn't like the "dense, long-winded arcana" of JRRT, and people are recommending Eddings, GRR Martin, Mieville, Gene Wolfe, and Suzanna Clarke? They're all good, but they're all chock full of dense, long-winded arcana. (part of the reason they're good)

Neil Gaiman is a good recommendation. I'd also add Roger Zelazny, who's books are very accessible and well-written.

Khadaji 07-26-2007 09:16 AM

Prince Ombra is a great read.

Einmon 07-26-2007 10:06 AM

That sounds excellent, Khadaji. From what I read of the plot, it reminded me of the Keys of the Kingdom series by Garth Nix, which I can also recommend. Hey, what can I say, I like Arthurian references...

Khadaji 07-26-2007 10:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Einmon
That sounds excellent, Khadaji. From what I read of the plot, it reminded me of the Keys of the Kingdom series by Garth Nix, which I can also recommend. Hey, what can I say, I like Arthurian references...

I may have to try it. I have enjoyed some of Nix's stuff. (I didn't like the Rag Witch, but some of his other stuff was very good.)

nevermore 07-26-2007 10:28 AM

I don't really like fantasy either... besides the one-dimensional characters, I get bored of the same mythologies repeated ad nauseum from book to book. I like it when people invent something new. I already know what elves, halflings, goblins, dragons, trolls, and sorcerors do; I like worlds in which these things don't exist or are markedly different from the kind I've been exposed to.

I recently started the His Dark Materials trilogy (beginning with The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman, and I adore it. Its protagonist is a 10 or 11-year-old girl, grown up as a bit of a heathen, whose life begins to change drastically when she hears of something called Dust and children start disappearing. She slowly begins to find out that she's going to play a significant part in a world-changing series of events, with the help of a golden compass, but she doesn't know what exactly that part is. The fantasy elements are unfamiliar and fascinating, but not overwhelming; the book is just full of the wonderment and uncertainty of a child on the brink of something enormous... and I think it's technically for "young adults", but to me it really doesn't seem watered down. My only regret is that I don't have more time to read it.

MrDibble 07-26-2007 10:47 AM

I heartily recommend Stewart and Riddell's Edge Chronicles. It's YA stuff, but very inventive,with cool B&W illustrations and a dark tone. They're quick reads, too.

Poysyn 07-26-2007 10:54 AM

I am not a big Fantasy reader - but I enjoyed Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist

Poysyn 07-26-2007 10:57 AM

You should also try "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub - not fantasy per se, but a good book and somewhat along the lines of a "boy with a powerful secret and abilities".

HazelNutCoffee 07-26-2007 11:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phantom Dennis
Problem is, I've tried on several occasions to read Lord of the Rings -- the quintessential fantasy series -- and I've never been able to last longer than a few hundred pages. (I liked the Hobbit though). So I guess I'd prefer something a bit lighter than LotR-- something without all the dense, long-winded arcana I associate with Tolkien's books.

Your recommendations would be appreciated.

I'm with you on LotR, and I'm an avid fantasy fiction reader. I third the A Song of Ice and Fire recommendation - the books are long and somewhat dense, but the plot moves pretty quickly and it seems closer to historical fiction than it does to fantasy.

Neil Gaiman is also a good recommendation.

I also liked Diane Wynne Jones - her stories are short and fanciful, without the intricate details that drag a lot of fantasy novels down. Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite.

Windwalker 07-26-2007 11:00 AM

Robert Asprin's Myth series is fun, light fantasy set in an anachronistic universe, with quirky characters and situations that often kept me grinning for chapters at a time. I read these while I was in high school, but I think I would still find them enjoyable today (I still favorable opinions on most of the books I liked in high school).

Thudlow Boink 07-26-2007 11:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phantom Dennis
I enjoyed all of those things, but the puzzle/mystery angle is probably what made me a fan.

Ah, well, I don't know of any other fantasy that does this like Harry Potter does, and I think that's one big reason for its enormous popularity. I'd like to know where I can get more of that sort of thing myself: fantasy with the clever plotting and the keep-you-guessing mysteries that HP has. (Perhaps the biggest Harry Potter fan I know personally is a person who "doesn't read fantasy" and whose favorite genre of recreational reading is mysteries.)

I'm thinking there might be some of this sort of thing in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, but it's been too long since I've read them for me to say for sure. And maybe some of Diana Wynne Jones's books.

And Dan Brown's books, which I find easier to swallow if I think of it as a fantasy, set in an alternate world in which some of the ludicrous liberties he takes are actually reality. :)

And Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday has mystery aspects, but it does not have the reality or depth of characterization you're looking for.
Quote:

Plus I liked the fact that the main characters were drawn with enough depth for me to relate to them and care about their well-being. I enjoy some books with one-dimensional characters as long as the plot is good enough to compensate, but for the most part I like to feel as if I'm reading about real people.
I'd say there's plenty of fantasy that does this (though also plenty that doesn't).

Thudlow Boink 07-26-2007 11:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nevermore
I don't really like fantasy either... besides the one-dimensional characters, I get bored of the same mythologies repeated ad nauseum from book to book. I like it when people invent something new. I already know what elves, halflings, goblins, dragons, trolls, and sorcerors do; I like worlds in which these things don't exist or are markedly different from the kind I've been exposed to.

Yeah, there is an awful lot of derivative fantasy out there (Sturgeon's Law, I guess). In a genre where the imagination is free to run wild, too many authors are content to write third-rate copies of Tolkien.
Quote:

I recently started the His Dark Materials trilogy (beginning with The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman, and I adore it. Its protagonist is a 10 or 11-year-old girl, grown up as a bit of a heathen, whose life begins to change drastically when she hears of something called Dust and children start disappearing. She slowly begins to find out that she's going to play a significant part in a world-changing series of events, with the help of a golden compass, but she doesn't know what exactly that part is. The fantasy elements are unfamiliar and fascinating, but not overwhelming; the book is just full of the wonderment and uncertainty of a child on the brink of something enormous... and I think it's technically for "young adults", but to me it really doesn't seem watered down. My only regret is that I don't have more time to read it.
I also highly recommend this, but the third book in the trilogy is a major letdown—in my opinion, which is shared by many but far from all other readers. If the ending had lived up to the promise of the first two books, this would be one of the great fantasy series. As it is, it's still original and well worth reading.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Poysyn
You should also try "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub - not fantasy per se.

I'd call it fantasy! (Except that you're more likely to find it with the rest of the Stephen King books than in the fantasy section of the bookstore.) (I wouldn't call Black House, the sequel of sorts, a fantasy though; it's more purely horror.) King's The Eyes of the Dragon is also fantasy.

Windwalker 07-26-2007 11:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phantom Dennis
I enjoyed all of those things, but the puzzle/mystery angle is probably what made me a fan. Plus I liked the fact that the main characters were drawn with enough depth for me to relate to them and care about their well-being. I enjoy some books with one-dimensional characters as long as the plot is good enough to compensate, but for the most part I like to feel as if I'm reading about real people.

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but I'll second George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire & Ice series as a good one if you're looking for compelling multi-faceted characters. The author does strive to create a fully-realized world, which means world lore will be thrust upon you from time to time, but I find Martin's prose much more readable (and less rambling) than Tolkein's. It's not a mystery filled with puzzles, but the political maneuverings satisfy my itch for cleverness and analysis, and characters do often find themselves in difficult situations that could be solved with a (often political) puzzle-like solution (they often don't hit upon the correct one, though!).

Alessan 07-26-2007 12:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Windwalker
It's not exactly what you're looking for, but I'll second George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire & Ice series as a good one if you're looking for compelling multi-faceted characters. The author does strive to create a fully-realized world, which means world lore will be thrust upon you from time to time, but I find Martin's prose much more readable (and less rambling) than Tolkein's. It's not a mystery filled with puzzles, but the political maneuverings satisfy my itch for cleverness and analysis, and characters do often find themselves in difficult situations that could be solved with a (often political) puzzle-like solution (they often don't hit upon the correct one, though!).

But there are major puzzles in the series. It's just that they're historical puzzles.

For instance, some 15-20 years before the story begins, a complex, gruesome series of events occured that began with a tournament and ended with a woman's death (not to mention thousands more who died along the way, including a king). Learning the exact nature of these events is crucial to understanding the various characters and their motivations. However, the book never explicitly tells us what happens - the reader has to piece the story together from snippets of conversation, throwaway remarks, random musings and in one case, a bedtime story, all tainted by the various characters' perspectives and preconceptions. Martin never gives an inch, never delivers any exposition he doesn't absolutely have to, but rather makes the reader work. It's exhilerating.

And there's more than one such mystery.

As to other writers: I strongly reccomend Guy Gavriel Kay, but you should start with Tigana or A Song for Arbonne. Do not - I repeat, do not - start with the Fionavar Tapestry series. It's very well written, but it's so insanely derivative that it reads like an explosion at the fantasy factory. Definitely not for those who "don't like" the genre.

Zelazny's Amber books are good - and short - but they're cursed with an overabundance of 70's slang. Non-groovy readers beware.

AuntiePam 07-26-2007 01:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Khadaji
Prince Ombra is a great read.

Gosh yes. I've had two copies and lost them both. Just went to Amazon and bought another. I rarely re-read, but I love this book.

sturmhauke 07-26-2007 01:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alessan
For instance, some 15-20 years before the story begins, a complex, gruesome series of events occured that began with a tournament and ended with a woman's death (not to mention thousands more who died along the way, including a king). Learning the exact nature of these events is crucial to understanding the various characters and their motivations. However, the book never explicitly tells us what happens - the reader has to piece the story together from snippets of conversation, throwaway remarks, random musings and in one case, a bedtime story, all tainted by the various characters' perspectives and preconceptions. Martin never gives an inch, never delivers any exposition he doesn't absolutely have to, but rather makes the reader work. It's exhilerating.

And when something crazy goes down, you can always look back and see the prior events leading up to it, but when you first read them they didn't seem to add up to anything more than interesting backstory.

Merijeek 07-26-2007 03:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sturmhauke
And when something crazy goes down, you can always look back and see the prior events leading up to it, but when you first read them they didn't seem to add up to anything more than interesting backstory.

[old hag]

There's going to be a wedding.

[/old hag]

-Joeld Hag

Alessan 07-26-2007 03:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merijeek
[old hag]

There's going to be a wedding.

[/old hag]

-Joeld Hag

.

Yeah. And the bride's twelve years old. And her father was brutally murdered. And she's being married against her will to a much older man for strictly political reasons.

wonderlust 07-26-2007 03:35 PM

I've been reading fantasy and sf all my life, but I also disliked Lord of the Rings, so you've got company.

I agree with a many of the suggestions here and would also recommend The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman. It's technically set on another planet, but is otherwise basically fantasy, with a fascinating take on magic. The characters are complex, and compelling.

Also you might enjoy the mystery aspects of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books, as well as the real life/magic concept.

For real people, I'd suggest Charles de Lint's Newford books. I always suggest starting with Dreams Underfoot and Someplace To Be Flying. These are set in the real world, where sometimes the mythic world intersects. You get to know and love several "regular" characters over the course of the subsequent books.

If you don't like "dense, long-winded arcana", then you'll probably want to stay away from Jonathan Strange.

Manduck 07-26-2007 03:47 PM

You might like the Gormenghast novels, by Mervyn Peake.

Eleanor of Aquitaine 07-26-2007 03:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wonderlust
Also you might enjoy the mystery aspects of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books, as well as the real life/magic concept.

There's the whole "Urban Fantasy" genre, which depicts witches/wizards/vampires/werewolves, etc., in a modern-day setting, like the Dresden Files books. If you're interested in those, I can recommend some authors. They're usually light reading. I tend to like these better than swords-and-horses type fantasy, although I do like Tolkien and George R. R. Martin.

Merijeek 07-26-2007 07:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wonderlust
I've been reading fantasy and sf all my life, but I also disliked Lord of the Rings, so you've got company.

And not just you. The problem with LOTR (IMO, of course) is that Tolkien was writing a travelogue, not a story.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alessan
.

Yeah. And the bride's twelve years old. And her father was brutally murdered. And she's being married against her will to a much older man for strictly political reasons.

Actually, mine was an (attempted) direct quote from the seer hag on the hill to Beric and Lem.

A much worse wedding than the one you're talking about. :mad:

-Joe

Hunter Hawk 07-27-2007 12:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Manduck
You might like the Gormenghast novels, by Mervyn Peake.

I dunno about this recommendation--those books are pretty much the definition of dense and long-winded.

Alessan 07-27-2007 02:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merijeek
Actually, mine was an (attempted) direct quote from the seer hag on the hill to Beric and Lem.

A much worse wedding than the one you're talking about. :mad:

-Joe

Damn. Missed that.

Of course, you missed the fact that I was referring to two seperate weddings.


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