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High Fantasy - Beyond Tolkien

Thanks to the rousing success of the Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) movies and HBO's gratuitously visceral show Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, high fantasy has become an important part of pop culture. Suddenly, it's kind of cool to be a fantasy geek!

There are a number of fantasy subgenres, like high (or epic), urban, and dark. High fantasy takes place on it's own world. Part of what's so great about high fantasy is you get to immerse yourself in a completely different world, one with unique conflicts, creatures and, of course, magic. And while Tolkien and Martin are great (don't even get me started on A Song of Ice and Fire - if you haven't read it, go do it now), there are so many amazing worlds out there just waiting for you to pick them up and explore.

Here are some of my favorites:


Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
AmazonKrista Says: I read Elantris a couple of years ago and I still recommend it to people all the time. Especially those who are pretty new to the genre and intimidated by starting a really long series, which is so common in fantasy, because it's a stand-alone. It's an easy book to get into and the world is well developed. You get some politics, some magic, and some action. It's a great read.
Amazon Says: Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet more...
Amazon Says: Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling. Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god. But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself. A rare epic fantasy that doesn't recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It's also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy. less...
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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
AmazonKrista Says: The Mists of Avalon is one of my favorite books and one of the few books I've read more than once. It's the legend of King Arthur, but told from the perspective of the powerful and fascinating women in his life.
Amazon Says: A Literary Guild Featured Alternate Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. more...
Amazon Says: A Literary Guild Featured Alternate Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come.... less...
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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
AmazonKrista Says: The Name of the Wind is a huge, sweeping story of a man named Kvothe (you may have heard of him) and his extraordinary life. It's a really big book and the second in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, is even bigger, but it's worth every single word.
Amazon Says: Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his more...
Amazon Says: Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard. less...
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Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
AmazonKrista Says: Ahh, Fitz. He'll always have a special place in my heart. Just trust me and read this trilogy. Then read the Liveship Traders trilogy. And then the Tawny Man trilogy. There are more after that but by then you'll have found her website and you won't need me anymore.
Amazon Says: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the r more...
Amazon Says: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.   As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.   Praise for Robin Hobb and Assassin’s Apprentice   “Fantasy as it ought to be written . . . Robin Hobb’s books are diamonds in a sea of zircons.”—George R. R. Martin   “A gleaming debut in the crowded field of epic fantasies . . . a delightful take on the powers and politics behind the throne.”—Publishers Weekly   “This is the kind of book you fall into, and start reading slower as you get to the end, because you don’t want it to be over.”—Steven Brust less...
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Stardust by Neil Gaiman
AmazonKrista Says: If you haven't heard of Neil Gaiman, I'll be surprised. He's awesome. From the man behind American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and more. It's Neil's version of a fairytale and it's so much fun.
Amazon Says: In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall--a secluded hamlet so named for an imposing stone b more...
Amazon Says: In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall--a secluded hamlet so named for an imposing stone barrier that surrounds a fertile grassland. Armed sentries guard the sole gap in the bulwark to keep the inquisitive from wandering through, relaxing their vigil only once every nine years, when a market fair unlike any other in the world of men comes to the meadow. Here in Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to beautiful Victoria Forester. But Victoria is cold and distant--as distant, in fact, as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky on a crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the ancient wall, and propels him into a world that is strange beyond imagining. But Tristran is not the only one seeking the heavenly jewel. There are those for whom it promises youth and beauty, the key to a kingdom, and the rejuvenation of dark, dormant magics. And a lad compelled by love will have to keep his wits about him to succeed and survive in this secret place where fallen stars come in many guises--and where quests have a way of branching off in unexpected directions, even turning back upon themselves in space and in time. Neil Gaiman works his unique literary magic in new and dazzling ways in Stardust, a novel that will shine in the heart and memory far beyond the turning of its final page. less...
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