As a long standing fantasy fan I definitely have a few series that I enjoy greatly, but my angle on reading is different from most people. Lots of hardcores fans of a genre read everything and collect everything they find amazing, exposing themselves to a great number of worlds and concepts then digesting them all. As a reader I love these people. It’s such a cool way to live! Always a new adventure just a click away with so many start-up fantasy projects undergo at any given time. As an author I love these people even more because they are the venerable sort who will pick up a tome from a new author and treat it with respect.
Joel Minty, though, reads with less variety but more redundancy. I show my fandom and my excitement for the fantasy series I do dive into by reading and rereading. By delving deep. By digesting like a Sarlacc. I have reread all of, or parts of, Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan Book of the Fallen sometimes in triplicate, and each time caught a little bit more. Of course, that still left me 80% in the dark for Malazan.
Thus, my favourite authors:
Steven Erikson – Memories of Ice and the Malazan Book of the Fallen. (Age: adult)
Lots has been said about Malazan, but billions of further words will be needed to fully wrap the series, and I am a staunch believer in its epic girth, it’s authorian attitude, and its all-encompassing capability. The majesty is in its patience and impatience both – patiently waiting lengthy stretches between connecting details and impatiently demanding the reader’s full attention. The beyond the pale structuring of the books rings of Alan Moore – as if Erikson is walking a leap year ahead of the rest of us. In fantasy novels I love weaving, and Erikson has so much of the series carefully constructed to the minute detail that I am always left in awe. Add to this the fact that his world-building is brave and vast, his races cool and unique, his landscapes historied and alive, his battles course and bloody, and his villains sly and… heroic – and you have every other element integral to fantasy. And that’s before the conflagrations make for 100-200 pages of fast-paced, action-packed conclusion. Plus it’s funny. Plus it’s sad. Plus it makes you think for a moment. Plus it dwarfs you like you are staring up at the immeasurable night sky.
Here is a link to an article I wrote for one of my favourite web sites, Dork Shelf. It further explains the amazing nature of Malazan’s scope (also, gotta love the related article listed at the bottom [for me anyway] “Sean Bean cast in HBO’s Game of Thrones”).
Ian Cameron Esslemont – Stonewielder and the books of the Malazan Empire. (Age: adult)
Alright, so Ian’s works are all a sub-category of the books of Erikson, but at this point, with seven titles to his name, I enjoy the co-creator’s works in their own right. Everyone compares him to Erikson, but instead I compare him to everyone else and find each addition to the compendium of tomes explaining their world a gift. There are times when I feel like his books are fillers meant to expose cool parts of the history otherwise left in the dark, and at those times the books can sometimes feel like Star Wars expanded universe stuff – built for the sake of exposition – but beyond that I still find their level of depth, scope and writing impressive.
Joe Abercrombie – The Heroes and the First Law & The Great Leveller trilogies. (Age: adult)
What I love about Abercrombie is that his strength is characterization where most of my big sagas’ strengths are world building and epic showdowns. Like Malazan it leaves little room for joy and hug-heavy endings, but ample care is put into his stories to achieve a similar level of ‘that left unsaid.’ I often have trouble deciding which characters I enjoy most, because none are ‘set up’ to be obvious choices (as opposed to, say, Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire). He also wrote my favourite sex scene of all time in Best Served Cold. Of his works, his initial trilogy is great, but his follow-up stand alones – jointly called The Great Leveller – are his best work to date, particularly Best Served Cold and my favourite The Heroes. Zooming in close to people in dreadful times of war makes for some grim dinner, but his chaotic, fumbling battle scenes remind the reader that in reality wars were little else.
George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. (Age: teen)
I refuse to input a link here. I could never decide if GRRM’s work overtook The Wheel of Time or just hovered level with its own strengths and weaknesses, but as time went on I got further and further from traditional fantasy to settle into the (partially) GRRM-inspired ‘gritty’ fantasy that focused principally on humans and did not involve bugbears in any fashion. With A Song of Ice and Fire I follow the typical fan’s arc – I love the first three, grew tired of the fourth and fifth, and wait with marginal interest for the remainder. The first book is still the best and offers one of the best surprises in fantasy – especially if you read it in the ’90s when there were no spoilers from the TV community.
Robert Jordan – The Fire of Heaven and The Wheel of Time. (Age: teen)
No fantasy series had as great an impact on my formative years. Wheel made me want to be a fantasy author and inspired a ton of rereads and teenage fandom during long, hot summers. I once made a list of all the characters I could find and came to over 400 by the end of book 6. A friend and I once stayed up all night drawing pictures of every character we could think of. As I’ve said before, Wheel is a gateway fantasy – it opened my eyes to the fact an author could just invent his or her own monsters, own rules of magic, own maps and missions. I loved it as much then as I cherish Malazan now, and while I, too, follow the common mythos of Wheel fandom with regards to the latter books (8-11 could have been one book if you cut out Faile’s plot and the Bowl of the Winds) the work as a whole is still too important to disparage. The three books following Jordan’s death by Brandon Sanderson were an excellent finish and, likely, a distinct improvement on what would have come to fruition from an aging Jordan who had already become redundant.
Guy Gavriel Kay – The Lions of al-Rassan (Age: teen)
I read earlier work by Kay, but it did not strike me as much as the ending of Lions did. Even before reaching halfway through the Fionavar Tapestry I knew Kay was an author’s author who was more elegant by half than every fantasy author I had loved thus far. He seemed an author turned fantasy fan rather than a fantasy fan turned author, and holds the dubious honour of being the only author to make me cry. I have Tigana slated to be read soon and I have heard it may be his best.
There will be more. I have many new authors slated to read (Scott Lynch), and series I’m currently puttering away at (Patrick Rothfuss), but also feel as though there’s something to be said for Joe Abercrombie’s point of view that it is not essential for a fantasy author to constantly be trying to read everything fantasy. I can’t copy Mistborn if I keep putting it off, right?