Tome of Geek: The ‘Must Read’ of Fantasy – Past and Present

Fantasy has been around a long time and has changed over the years, starting from epic ballads and tales, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, Odyssey, Beowulf and The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, to the works of Shakespeare and George MacDonald.  Then fantasy changed.

Fantasy has reached level 16!

It is Evolving!

Fantasy has become High Fantasy!

In the early 50s, with the writing of Tolkien and Lewis, fantasy sprouted a sub genre entitled high fantasy.  These stories take place in a fictional worlds (Faerun, Shannara, Azeroth), a second world crossed over from our world (Narnia, Wonderland, Xanth) or a distinct world within a world (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians).

The genre has been a popular one with several well written titles and must read books, but there are always different ‘must-read’ books for each generation.  So here begins the ‘Fantasy Must Reads: Past and Present”


Fantasy Past


The Wheel of Time

In the beginning the Creator created the Wheel of Time and let it spin all of our lives, he then imprisoned the antithesis in a prison and sealed him away, creating a prophesised Dragon Reborn encase he should ever escape. Rand al’Thor was born as the Dragon Reborn which means that the Dark One is returning.  This is a 14 book series, 14!! A long running series that follows the original eight characters as they fight and prepare for the final battle against the Dark One! 

1st Book: The Eye of the World

If you like read: Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett


A Song of Ice and Fire

This book taught millions of fantasy fans a strong lesson.  Do not love a fictional character, ever, because Martin will kill anybody.  This series, of seven promised book but four released, is told through the viewpoint of twenty-five various character, any of which could die at any moment.  Song of Ice and Fire, influenced heavily on medieval history, tells three principal storylines in the series: the chronicling of a dynastic civil war for control between several competing families; the rising threat of the Others who dwell beyond an immense wall of ice; and the exiled daughter of a passed king who wishes to claim her rightful throne. As the series progresses, all three storylines become increasingly interwoven and dependent on each other.

1st Book: Game of Thrones

If you like read: Mortallis by RA Salvatore


Apprentice Adept by Piers Anthony

I have long since thought the writing of Piers Anthony to be a drug, I find it addicting and once I start I find it very hard to stop.  Many would chooses his 32 book series Xanth to be the must read, or his fantastic ‘Incarnations of Immortality’ and while I don’t disagree I have chosen to talk about Apprentice Adept for its originality and its look on the future of reality programming and game shows.  The series takes place on Phaze and Proton, two worlds occupying the same space in two different dimensional planes. Phaze is a lush planet of magic, where Proton is a barren mining planet of science. As the series opens, each person born on Phaze and Proton has an alternate self living on the other world. But if a person on either world lacks a duplicate (for instance if a Proton citizen emigrated there from another planet, or a counterpart from the opposite frame died), he can cross to the other through an energy “curtain” that circumscribes each frame.

1st Book: Split Infinity

If you like read: On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony


Magic Kingdom of Landover by Terry Brooks

When burnt-out trial lawyer Ben Holiday finds an ad for a magical kingdom for sale, he purchases it as a lark.  He is shocked when he finds out that the kingdom is real and he is now its king.  He lives in the living castle Sterling Silver, has a wizard named Questor Thews at his command, and is under the watchful eye of the mysterious Paladin as he battles economic bankruptcy, boredom, a magical plague call ‘The Tarnish’ and the combined evil of the Nightshade and dragon Strabo, all within thirty days or his money back.

1st Book: Magic Kingdom For Sale – SOLD!

If you like read: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks


Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

He is Richard Cypher; he is the Seeker,a warrior for truth and justice and a champion for the people, and his show had just been cancelled.  Despite the lack-luster, but pleasantly Hercules reminiscent, show the books tells the tale of the continued adventure of the Seeker battles evil warlords, invading armies and even death itself.

1st Book: Wizard’s First Rule

If you like read: A Spell for Chamelon by Piers Anthony


The Elminster Series by Ed Greenwood

Books from shared worlds like Ebberon, Warcraft, Dragonlance and even Faerun rarely have the level of writing that well known series do, but Forgotten Realms creator, and main character Elminster look-alike, Ed Greenwood writes the classic series, with the latest book out this summer, The Elminster Saga.  The story, which tells the story of the worlds greats wizard, follows Elminster through his life as he takes up arms, learns magic, and face off against numerous evils.  The story plays like mythological tale with a blessed child questing for revenge and tested by the Goddess who admires him.  Elminster, who go through many trials from invading armies, being sent to hell, and even cursed as a woman for five years, feels like the trials of Jason and his Argonauts.  The quality of writing is higher then most Forgotten Realm books and is often on par with Tolkien.

1st Book: Elmister: Making of a Mage

If you like read: Homeland by RA Salvatore


That was the past, the books and series we all love, but that was then, this is now.



Must Read Fantasy: The Present


Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

What do you get when you combine the wit, cunning and mischief of The Sting or Ocean’s 11 and the epic battles, wars, and magic of Lord of the Rings?  You get Mistborn, a dying world held within the grip of an immortal ruler.  This odd combination, pulled off flawlessly by Sanderson’s writing skill, follows Vin as she learns the original magic of Allomancy (the art of gaining magic from metals) and leads a rebel army with the charismatic Kelsier.  Once you have finished the final pages of the trilogy and closed the book you will feel like you have just awoken from a long and pleasant dream.

1st Book: Mistborn: The Final Empire

If you like read: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson


The Kingslayer Trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss

The story of Kvothe, the greatest hero, is chronicled in these pages beginning with “The Name of the Wind.”  We follow Kvothe from his shattering origins and deadly encounters to his difficult university days.  The story is very emotional and the reaction and mistakes very human.  This is the rookie book from an author that will soon be one of the genre’s best.

1st Book: Name of the Wind



Saga of the First King by R.A. Salvatore

Salvatore returns to his world of Corona, which is oddly shaped like eastern Canada, in his newest series.  The story tells the tale of the orphaned Stork, a child whose body is badly twisted and broken by poison, and the crumbling world around him.  With the aid of the only mementoes of his parents, a powered jewel, a masterly crafted sword, and a tome of mystical martial arts knowledge, he become the Highwayman, the masked swashbuckling vigilante whose martial arts mastery makes him unmasked.  With Salvatore exceptional skill for dictating fencing and combat, a skill perfected in his writing of the Drizzt series, we witness a vivid battle on every page.

1st Book: The Highwayman

If you like read: The Demon Awaken by RA Salvatore


The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

The story follows the life of Azoth as he struggles as a guild rat to become the ultimate wetboy (an assassin greater than others) and then tries to leave it all behind.  The trilogy, which released all three books within months of each other, is an politically story backed by a strong magic, combat and gritty tale of assassination, revenge, growing up and leaving one life behind to peruse another.  The series, which was a David Gemmell’s Legend Award Finalist, marks the solid entry for Brent Weeks and a focuses heavily on the choice between easy and right, and the consequences each carries.

1st Book: The Way of the Shadows

If you like read: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks


Princess Series by Jim C. Hines

When Cinderella’s husband, Prince Charming, is kidnapped by her evil step-sisters the queens calls her private Secret Service that contains Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.  Now the three girls are after Cinderella’s step-sisters deep into fairy territory while doing their best to avoid an international incident.  The Princess Series is a fairy tale fantasy that feels like Mother Goose presents Charlie Angels.  It is an action adventure that crosses over into the familiar territory of our childhood bedtime stories and knocks it to the floor with an action kick.  The series opener focuses on Cinderella joining the other two, while the third and fourth deal with Ariel and Red Riding Hood.

1st Book: The Stepsister Scheme

If you like read: Peter & Max: A Fable Novel by Bill Willingham

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2 Responses to Tome of Geek: The ‘Must Read’ of Fantasy – Past and Present

  1. Steven Till says:

    Good analysis / breakdown of the fantasy genre. I love Martin’s books. He is the best I’ve read in fantasy, and would still be fantasy present if he would ever finish the ASOIF series. The series by Brent Weeks looks interesting. I might have to look into that one. For fantasy present, have you read any of Steven Erikson’s books? A lot of people have suggested him to me, I just haven’t read his series yet. Also, and this would be fantasy past, have you read Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, also about an assassin?

    In your opinion, do authors of historical fantasy, such as Guy Gavriel Kay, fit into this analysis, or would you consider his type of books separate from the current trends in high fantasy?

    • Xanthor says:

      I see no reason why they couldn’t be put into this category.
      My choices came from my own choices of reading and historical fantasy is not a genera I have dived into yet myself.

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