The wondrous world of fantasy is piquing at your curiosity, but given the staggering amount of novels and series and authors you can't seem to choose a single novel to begin your adventure? Well, fret no more, this guide will help you choose a novel, a series or an author that might suit your needs.
The fantasy genre has undergone drastic changes over the last 10 years, not only in the volume of authors and novels written but also in the number of readers. Movies and T.V. have played a crucial part on the development of this genre, from the lackluster Dungeon and Dragons films, to Eragon, to the epic Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia movies and now to the HBO series A Game of Thrones. To any one of us that love fantasy books, this explosion of authors and series has had a deep impact in the way we approach our reading, thus selecting the right novel or the right author to begin enjoying the gifts of the fantasy genre can be a bit tricky.
1. - Define what type of fantasy you want to read.
This is by far the most important aspect to define before choosing any book or author. Fantasy has many sub-genres that will make the process a bit more difficult. Knowing this sub-genres and what they mean is a must. This is a listing of some of the sub-genres:
Arthurian Fantasy. - This genre focuses on fantasy written around or inside the world of King Arthur's court. Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley and The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart are good examples for this sub-genre.
Dark Fantasy. - It depicts the darker side of fantasy worlds, the monsters lurking in the shadows, black magic and corrupt settings. This sub-genre exists to frighten and scare. Heroes have ambiguous morals and will act, first to save themselves and then to save the world. Michael Moorcock's Elric or Stephen King's Dark Tower Series are good examples.
Epic Fantasy. - This is the most popular of the sub-genres. In here, you will most likely find the typical battle between good and evil, in very distinctive and easy to follow stories. While the worlds created are massive, it is easy to identify which side is which. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring books, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series are perfect examples for this sub-genre.
Fairy Tales/Mythology. - Many stories are created using the original material of fairy tales, fables, legends, and folklore. Many authors utilize elements from these sources and adapt them into their own worlds. These books usually retell the original story of works like Sleeping Beauty in Orson Scott Card's Enchantment.
Heroic Fantasy. - Although it shares some of the characteristics of Epic fantasy, its unique trait is the presentation of the protagonist as a reluctant and taciturn youth, thrust into situations of world-saving magnitude. Heroes do not want to be heroes, they want to be left alone in their farms or mines or gutters they hail from, and it is this humbleness that allows the hero to hurdle any ethical or moral dilemma presented to them. Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles and R.A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt series come to mind.
Sword and Sorcery. - This genre encompasses tales of adventure in worlds with medieval settings. Robert E. Howard gave us Conan the Barbarian.
Adult Fantasy. - Like the name suggests, this is fantasy that only grown ups can read. Why? Well, mostly because of the violence, graphic sex and language. George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire is a great example for this sub-genre.
2. - Define if you want to read a stand alone book, a finished series or an ongoing series.
Bracing yourself to read a 15 book series is completely different than saving time to read a stand alone book. I have begun series not knowing they were going to be that long, and not knowing that they were not finished and it is frustrating. Reading an ongoing series can be frustrating because of the span of time between books, while finished series might be too long. Planning ahead, knowing what you want to read and the time you are ready to commit to the book should be pleasure, not a burden.
The following is a small list of stand alone novels:
1. - Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
2. - Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
3. - The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
4. - Perdido Street Station by China Mieville and
5. - Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist.
3. - Read what you want to read, not what the critics, or review sites want you to read.
This point might be true in anything regarding online reviews. Most sites are paid to promote products and with books it is no different. Try reading the review given by the publisher, or by your local or national newspaper. Online reviews are tricky and more often than not, misleading. Use the internet as a tool; research the authors you interested on, find reviews that do not discuss the merit of buying the book but the substance of the story. In time you will be able to discern between the fluff and the real reviews.
Well, the only thing left is for you to buy or borrow a fantasy book.
Hope this guide helps.