Book Recommendations, by Camber

Book Recommendations, by Camber

Note, In most cases, I’ve recommended the first book in a series where I would recommend the entire series.

1. Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of Kings.
Epic in scope. The first of a series that promises to be one of the best of all time. One of the best examples of worldbuilding I’ve seen; Sanderson is a master of thinking through all the possible ripple effects of his choices as an author. I would rank Tolkien better because he came first, but Sanderson builds on the shoulders of giants and does not disappoint, making him slightly more accessible and satisfying for modern audiences. I’ve found that Sanderson is a rare gem – an author that writes at a very high rate of productivity (at least two books per year) but also at a very high mark of quality. My standard for quality is that the author makes me care about the characters and the story, takes care making a world, is smart enough that I can’t find any logic holes. Most importantly, that s/he depicts relationships, greatness of heart, sacrifice, and beauty convincingly enough that it moves me to tears at least once in the book. Most authors can’t do even one of these well, but so far I’ve never seen Sanderson not deliver on all of the above.

2. Tolkien, J.R.R. Fellowship of the Ring.
The more times I read Tolkien, the more impressed I am at his work. I’m always excited when I see his scholarly work in philology cited in some article I read. Recently I was doing genealogical research on ancient Saxon lines, and found that the definitive study of an obscure text on a historical figure was written by the Don himself. An amazing man. He launched the genre of modern fantasy writing, and D&D owes its existence to The Lord of the Rings.

3. Le Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea.
Le Guin is better known for some of her other works, such as The Left Hand of Darkness. But I loved her Earthsea trilogy when I was in middle school; when I found Tolkien a bit too complex for my young mind, Earthsea was just right. If you ever wanted to see what a Truenamer should really look like, this will excite you.

4. Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind.
If it weren’t for the fact that Rothfuss is taking forever to finish his series, this would rank higher on my list. He only makes a few unforgiveable mistakes with his characters (George R.R. Martin makes so many that I’ve banished him entirely from my list), and his writing is so good that I feel like

strangling him every year that he doesn’t add another book. If he continues to deliver, this could put him second or third on my list.

5. Jordan, Robert. The Eye of the World.
If it weren’t for the fact that Brandon Sanderson penned a perfect ending to his works, Jordan’s epic tale of Aes Sedai and the Dragon Reborn would just be a sad unfinished tale that started off with more promise than it was able to deliver. The first book in the series was very well written. Some of the later books start to drag. But overall, worth the time it takes to read them all.

6. Kurtz, Katherine. Deryni Rising.
I’m always surprised when I find that Kurtz’s work isn’t better known among fantasy readers. She does an excellent job of depicting an alternative low-magic medieval world, in which a psionic race (the Deryni) play a prominent role. It you want your fantasy to be less fantastic and more realistic, this is a good read. Unlike my other recommendations, I’ve named the first published book as the representative of the series. If you want to read them in timeline order,

start with Camber of Culdi. Yep. That’s where I take my username from. That’s how much I love it.

7. McClellan, Brian. Promise of Blood.
Gunpowder plus magic. Awesome. The setting is kind of Napoleonic in its cultural feel. So much later than what I’m used to in fantasy novels. But wow, very well-written, and very exciting. These are fairly recent, so they don’t have many fans yet. But they are gems.

8. Kowal, Mary Robinette. Shades of Milk and Honey.
When my wife saw me reading Kowal’s books, she thought I was reading some trashy romance novel. I can see how the cover art might suggest that. But these definitely aren’t silly romances. The side of me that enjoys classic literature like Jane Eyre, Lorna Doone, or Pride and Prejudice, really appreciated Kowal’s creation of a fantasy magic inserted into the time and culture of Jane Austen, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Where the powder mage trilogy of McClellan is filled with blood and action, Kowal’s novels appeal to my more feminine side. The magic is nearly 100% illusion-based, and the setting is mostly English high society. Be forewarned, this isn’t for everyone. But I look forward to each of her novels, and hope she continues writing for many decades.

9. Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three.
I’d liken this to LotR for younger audiences. If you ever watched The Black Cauldron, this is the first book in that series. Well-written and accessible for all ages 10 and up.

10. Brooks, Terry. Running with the Demon.
If you want to get into Terry Brooks’ immense body of work, I’d recommend starting chronologically, not by date of publication, but instead by timeline. I’m impressed at how he got from the modern world to the fantasy of Shannara. I’d also recommend Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold!

11. Modesitt, L.E. Jr. The Magic of Recluse.
Modesitt has several series, but this is the better of them. If you want to read them in chronological order, start with Fall of Angels. One thing I like about his works are that they pit order mages against chaos mages, but avoid painting one as good and the other evil. Each side believes they are the good guys, and he switches back and forth in showing us their perspectives (not within the same novel, thankfully). His Soprano Sorceress series is also quite good.

12. Hambly, Barbara. Dragonsbane.
Hambly is one of the better older fantasy authors. Between Tolkien and the 80’s, there was a lot of junk written. Hambly stands out as an exception. I’d also recommend her book The Ladies of Mandrigan for the same reason. Unlike most of my recommendations, I’d recommend both of these as standalone books (though Dragonsbane is part of a series called Winterlands).

13. Sanderson, Brandon. The Final Empire.
Several of Sanderson’s works deserve an honorable mention. The Mistborn series is particularly impressive for its inventive magic system. Warbreaker and Elantris also deserve mention for the same reason. The Mistborn series have more of a post-medieval feel, and they’re darker than what I usually enjoy, but very well written. There is a second trilogy in the series that takes place several hundred years later that’s Wild West fantasy. And a futuristic one is in the works. I also love the premise – a hero is destined to save the wold. But instead, he defies the prophesy and uses the ultimate power that would save the world, to instead conquer it and rule for 1000 years as its godlike overlord. Now, against all odds, a band of rogues attempts the ultimate heist – to rob him of his wealth and perhaps even overthrow the Lord Ruler.

14. Card, Orson Scott. Seventh Son.
I actually prefer Ender’s Game (it would rank 3rd on my list), but since this is a fantasy list, I would give Card’s first volume in the Tales of Alvin Maker an honorable mention. I hope he finishes the series, but since he’s already said that the main character will die in the end, I’m not too eager. It seems Card isn’t either. Also recommended by him: Enchantment, Pastwatch, The Folk of the Fringe, Pathfinder (no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the game), and The Gate Thief. Card is one of the few authors I would trust with my time no matter what he writes. I’ve read enough of his work to find that he’ll only write about characters that he cares about, and that he’ll quickly make you care about as a reader. He also understands what greatness of heart is, and is able to depict it well enough to move me to tears in nearly every one of his books.

15. Smith, Sherwood. Inda.
A tale of a nobleborn boy who excels in battle and gets caught up with pirates. There’s more to it, but hopefully that will get you interested enough to try out this series.

16.Lynch, Scott. The Lies of Locke Lamora.
This was recommended heavily to me as a fan of Patrick Rothfuss. It turned out to be more violent than I’d prefer, but I can see why people like Lynch’s work. Darker than my usual tastes. If you like rogues, you’ll like Locke Lamora.

17. Pierce, Tamora. Terrier.
This is the Beka Cooper series of the story of a young female rogue. The Alanna series, of a young female knight, is also satisfying. I thought they were good, but they are the all-time favorites of my eldest daughter, so they deserve mention.

18. McKillip, Patricia. Riddle-Master of Hed.
These deserve mention as a bardic epic tale. I actually preferred McKillip’s short story, The Throme of the Erril of Sherill, but that is almost impossible to find.

19. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
I suppose I shouldn’t leave Rowling out, even though she almost seems cliche. I enjoyed her work, but I wouldn’t return to it unless I was reading it with one of my children.

20. Mull, Brandon. A World Without Heroes.
Beyonders is a short trilogy that went well, kept me interested, and that was recommended by my kids. Not as overloved as Harry Potter, and you’ll feel less embarrassed admitting you’ve read it. Mull has other series, such as Fablehaven and The Five Kingdoms, that are also well-written (all for YA audiences).

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One Response to “Book Recommendations, by Camber”

  1. Sanctus says:

    Hah. Re-reading this, it seems I have a penchant for recommending books without telling much about their plot or premise. Ah well. They still are my favorites, and these are some of the reasons, so I’ll stick with that. I should add one note about Seventh Son. There are several books on my list (Promise of Blood, Shades of Milk and Honey, Seventh Son) that are set in something akin to the early 19th century, which I find very unusual and very intriguing for fantasy. Seventh Son imagines two key things: (1) an America where the War for Independence against the British was lost, and Washington executed as a traitor, and (2) a frontier America where the folklore magic (which was taken seriously in real 19th century frontier America) really works. Things like dowsing, doodlebugs, seer stones, and hexes play a major part in the story. Native American shamanism is equally real. Every person has at least one “knack,” or power, and the seventh son of a seventh son has the most powerful of them all.

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