First, a note about what is not listed here. Some of you may notice a remarkable absence of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or anything else by J.R.R. Tolkien. This does not mean that I do not recognize these as great fantasy, only that if you do not already know about them -- well, someone else is bound to tell you. A someone else I recommend -- The Library of Palanthas is an excellent review of fantasy books in the life of a writer.
Links open in a separate window, so that you won't get lost and can work through the entire list, if you wish.
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle is one of the defining novels of what fantasy is.
Other great novels by Peter Beagle:
A Fine and Private Place
The Innkeeper's Daughter
Slightly lesser, perhaps, but still enjoyable:
The Folk of the Air
Lila the Werewolf
The Unicorn Sonata
and a short story collection, The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Neitzshe.
He edited a short story anthology, The Immortal Unicorn and has also written two nonfiction books, I See by My Outfit and In the Presence of Elephants.
- Silverlock Annotations
- Samuel Seung-Jo Paik has an excellent and extensive study of Silverlock, with detailed bibliography. He has also provided the full text of several public domain works cited, with HTML tags so that you can go straight to the reference.
- Anitra's Welcome to the Commonwealth
- Yes, that's mine.
Silverlock tells the story of a disillusioned young man who washes ashore on the Commonwealth of Letters -- a place where all the great figures of literature and legend are alive and thriving. He drinks with Beowulf, sings songs with Little John and Robin Hood, assists Tam Lin's young bride to win her man back from the Fair Folk and is enthralled for awhile himself. He also goes on a raft down Tom Sawyer's river where he fishes with the Complete Angler, and he has adventures with someone a great deal like Tom Jones. The fantasy is woven with poetry and catchy songs, and so many literary allusions that no matter how well-read you are, you'll end up being turned on to something new.
Another juvenile series that transcends categories is Madeline L'Engle's, starting with A Wrinkle in Time, continuing with A WIND IN THE DOOR, A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET, and MANY WATERS.
Al Schroeder has made some excellent comments on the lasting power of "children's fantasy".
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, is a powerful classic that I remember from childhood. (Read the text online)
So is The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery
Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series is a discovery I didn't make until "adult".
One of the classics of fantasy, Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet, straddles the borders between juvenile and adult fiction. Each of the novels is in a way a "coming of age" story -- but then, so much of science fiction and fantasy is.
Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy is another on the borderline between "juvenile fiction" and "adult fiction".
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough has written a range of fantasy, from the Nebula Award Winning Healer's War to the Godmother series (latest The Godmother's Web). Along the way she did The Songkiller Saga, Nothing Sacred ("There's good news and bad news about this book. The bad news is, I end the world. The good news is, there's a sequel." -- author's quote), and The Last Refuge (the sequel). I still wish I could find some of her old out-of-print light fantasies, like Bronwyn's Bane and The Christening Quest, but I do believe it's her more recent work that is going to make her name in fantasy literature.
Esther Friesner is another author whose books that got me hooked on her (Elf Defense, Druid's Blood, The Chronicles of the Twelve Kingdoms) are now out of print. She continues to write, however: Child of the Eagle (1996), The Psalms of Herod (1995, sequel due out October 1996 but I haven't seen it yet), plus short stories and Star Trek novels. Bibliography
The basic premise of horror, or supernatural fantasy, is that chaos and evil can break in on our lives at any time. It is a catharsis for feelings of anxiety that most of us have: that the world is not, perhaps, as ordered and understood as we like to believe it is; that our lives are balanced precariously on a very thin bridge over primordial chaos and we should, perhaps, not look down.
In the Lovecraftian type of fiction, there is something in the shadows, and it does get you -- or someone very like you. Great and ancient menaces prove more powerful than modern science or human reason.
In novels like those of Stephen King and John Saul, evil breaks into our lives and is never quite totally vanquished. We are forced to confront how tiny and vulnerable we are in a very big cosmos.
But in the horror fiction of others like S.P. Somtow and Peter Straub, human beings confront their own shadow side, embrace chaos and their vulnerablility, and transcend it.
Poppy Brite is a horror author I've had recommended to me, but I haven't had a chance to read yet. She is described as the queen of "bisexual splatterpunk" -- definitely not for general audiences.