I like fantasy... *good* fantasy. Unfortunately the market is somehow flooded with drivel that is unimaginative, derivative, and contains flat dialogue. High above everything else of course, I hold Lord of the Rings/Tolkien in awe. In contrast to ‘The Hobbit’ I thought it was too slow and drawn out at first, but this is just because it takes the time to show an entire world to you. I think anyone needs to read it at least twice to really enjoy it. Any of the other books I've read that have drawn me inexplicably 'into' its world, I list here.
“Narnia” I’ll start with the more obvious. The Chronicles of Narnia is one of those stories that works for all ages. I suggest reading them in the order they were written (Lion, witch & wardrobe first) Best Things: Really the best part has to be the magician’s nephew, where you learn how it all started.
“Well of Darkness” Well of Darkness (The Sovereign Stone Trilogy, Book 1) is not epic, and mainly concentrates on one city/castle. But wow, is it well thought out! It takes a while to set up though. If I remember correctly, until chapter 5 it’s slow going. It’s worth it however, as it takes off like a rocket after that. Some rules of fantasy are even broken! First book that made me say wow in a long time. This is the first part of another trilogy, but feels more like a prelude and therefore quite complete. Thank goodness because the rest is garbage (and from the reviews apparently what is normally expected of the authors.) Best things: Learning the magic system, portrayal of the orcs, a political angle
Xanth I don't even like this author, but somehow he managed to write A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth, Book 1),a stand-alone gem. The theme of the story always seemed to shift and shift ever so slightly so that it was fresh the whole way through. Well defined areas, unique and only possible in a fantasy setting. The series itself wears on and on to the point where no one likes it anymore, but the follow up a least, Source of Magic (Xanth Novels) if not just as good, is very close. Don't know about the rest. Best things: the different magical areas & talents.
DragonLance Probably my most controversial choice. An ealier work by the same authors as Well of Darkness. Here I only mean the original trilogy, Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy Gift Set. Some have criticized this as a LOTR rip-off, but I see it as just one of their avenues of inspiration. It's very different. And, regardless, it's still good. Of these, the first Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume I) is definitely the best, having the best ending A+. It stands on it's own, except that it seems by itself to short. But the rest is quite acceptable and many times reaches back up to the glory of "autumn twilight" B+ I don't imagine that I'll read the rest of this series, especially since they are by several different authors. No chance for consistency. Best things: the different dragons & the gnomes.
Cast of Fate Cast of Fate (Dragon Dice) right now has only two reviews. The reason it appears to be so obscure is that it’s based on a TSR dice game “dragon dice” I got it just for the promo die, but the story turned out to be fantastic! The main complaint of the story is that it had little or no relation to the game. I see that as a good thing. Are dark elves redeemable? Best things: can’t remember… I should read it again :o
“Arena” Arena (Magic - The Gathering, No. 1) is another promotional book that turned out to be good. Though not on the same scale as Cast of Fate. It leans toward the younger, less patient reader which is annoying, but not enough so to tear you away from the main story. Could not put it down. Best things: Learning about the schools of magic/people in charge of the schools.
Dragon Champion Dragon Champion (Age of Fire, Book 1) is one of those books that got me again realizing that there is still good fantasy being made. Never in this book had I any idea of what would happen next, where the characters where go, our how they would get out of this mess, and never was I disappointed. As a warning, several people are not happy with what goes on when the dragon hatch in the early, just get through it and say to yourself that's just the way dragons are. Unfortunately, I can't recommend book 2 in this series. Best things: Seeing a fantasy world through a (non typical) dragon's eyes.
Neverwhere Neverwhere: A Novel Oh my gorsh this book was so good. The scenery constantly moves and I never knew what would happen next, down to the last page. You never know why everything works, you just know that it does. Gaiman tends to insert humor where the book would otherwise be slow. Best things: The "bargaining" scene