Staff picks: Favorite fantasy novels


Barker, Clive . Weaveworld.
A volatile mix of the fantastical and the contemporary, the everyday and the otherworldly, Weaveworld is an epic work of dark fantasy and horror. An account of the Fugue, a magical land inhabited by descendants of supernatural beings who once shared the earth with humans. The Fugue has been woven into a carpet for protection against those who would destroy it; the death of its guardian occasions a battle between good and particularly repulsive evil forces for control of the Fugue.

Bishop, Anne. Sebastian.
Long ago, Ephemera was split into a dizzying number of magical lands-connected only by bridges that may take you where you truly belong, rather than where you had intended to go. In one such land, where night reigns and demons dwell, the half-incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved-a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her.And an even more devastating destiny awaits him, for an ancient evil is stirring-and Sebastian’s realm may be the first to fall.

Brett, Peter V. The Warded Man.
For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the demons on equal terms, but those days are gone. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Duncan, Dave. The Gilded Chain: A Tale of the King’s Blades.
A lifelong dream of protecting his beloved liege from enemies, traitors, and monsters is dashed to bits when Durendal is bonded till death to an effete noble fop at his king’s orders. Yet Destiny has many strange and inscrutable plans for the young knight–for a mission, a contest, and, perhaps, a treasure await him in a faraway land. But he soon finds himself enmeshed in treason and foul intrigues, compelled to betray the king he had hoped to serve.

Frost, Gregory. Shadowbridge.
Sprung from a timeless dream, Shadowbridge is a world of linked spans arching high above glittering seas. It is a world of parading ghosts, inscrutable gods, and dangerous magic. Most of all, it is a world of stories. No one knows those stories better than Leodora, a young shadow-puppeteer who travels Shadowbridge collecting the intertwining tales and myths of each place she passes through, then retells them in performances whose genius has begun to attract fame . . . and less welcome attention.

Hobb, Robin. Shaman’s crossing.
Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king’s tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounted—a powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle’s soul and devastate his world.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. A Song for Arbonne.
Based on the troubadour culture that rose in Provence during the High Middle Ages, this panoramic, absorbing novel beautifully creates an alternate version of the medieval world. The matriarchal, cultured land of Arbonne is rent by a feud between its two most powerful dukes, the noble troubador Bertran de Talair and Urte de Miraval, over long-dead Aelis, lover of one, wife of the other and once heir to the country’s throne. To the north lies Gorhaut, whose inhabitants worship a militant god and are ruled by corrupt, womanizing King Ademar. The stage is set for a brutal clash between the two cultures.

McGarry, Terry. Illumination.
After Liath passes her test of magehood, demonstrating her talent as a brilliant illuminator of magical runes, she loses the inner light that gives her power. Her only hope lies in seeking the help of the mysterious ruling caste of nine wizards responsible for the training and assigning of mages throughout the realm of Eiden Myr. Liath’s journey involves her in an even more perilous search for the truth at the heart of her magic.

McKillip, Patricia. Alphabet of Thorn.
As an infant, Nepenthe was abandoned by her mother on the edge of a cliff and raised by the librarians of the Royal Library of Raine, and knows little of the outside world beyond what she reads. She alone has a chance of translating a newly arrived book, a mysterious tome written in an alien alphabet that resembles thorns. And the thorns are exerting a strange power over her–a magic that may destroy the kingdom of Raine and the entire world.

Morgan, Richard K. The Steel Remains.
Retired swordsman Ringil lives in modest comfort in a small town, earning his keep by telling stories at the inn of his adventuring days until a request from his mother sends him to recover a cousin sold into slavery. The world in which he lives is a dark one, with corpse-inhabiting monsters and mythical sorcerers who practice a peculiarly twisted magic. Ringil is a lover of men, with dark secrets in his past, yet his weaknesses become his strengths as he descends into the darkness to bring a victim back into the light.

Pratchett, Terry. Nation.
After a devastating tsunami destroys all that they have ever known, Mau, an island boy, and Daphne, an aristocratic English girl, together with a small band of refugees, set about rebuilding their community and all the things that are important in their lives.

Pratchett, Terry. Going Postal: A Novel of Discworld.
Arch-swindler Moist von Lipwig never believed his crimes were hanging offenses until he found himself with a noose around his neck, dropping through a trap door, and falling into … a government job? Getting the moribund Postal Service up and running again, however, may be an impossible task. Worse, the new Postmaster could swear the mail is talking to him…

Sanderson, Brandon. Warbreaker.
A tale of unpredictable loyalties, dark intrigue and dangerous magic. To keep a treaty made long ago, the king of Idris must send his daughter to marry the God King of Hallandren. His youngest daughter, struggles to make sense of the schemers and spies in court, while resurrected hero Lightsong questions the role of the undead Returned Gods, who command Hallandren’s mighty army of zombie soldiers. Hoping to rescue her sister, Vivenna joins a group of Idrian operatives with questionable motives and comes to terms with her magical abilities.

Scholes, Ken. Lamentation.
A sf-fantasy hybrid set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future. When an ancient weapon destroys the greatest city and repository of knowledge, the only surviving member of the city is the metallic android Isaak. Lord Rudolfo finds Isaak surprisingly intact in the Windwir’s smoldering ruins and guilt-ridden over his role in the city’s downfall. Yet Rudolfo quickly begins to suspect that the overseer of the neighboring City States is the real culprit and starts girding his Gypsy Scouts for battle

Stirling, S.M. In the Courts of the Crimson Kings.
Jeremy Wainman is an archaeologist who has achieved a lifelong dream; to travel to Mars and explore the dead cities of the Deep Beyond. Teyud is the Martian mercenary the Terrans hire as guide and captain of the landship. A secret links her to the deadly intrigues of Dvor il-Adazar, where the last aging descendant of the Tollamune Emperors clings to the remnants of his power…and secrets that may trace their origin to the enigmatic Lords of Creation who reshaped the Solar System in the time of the dinosaurs. When these three meet, the foundations of reality will be shaken.

Walton, Jo. Tooth and Claw.
Here is a tale of a family dealing with the death of their father, a son who goes to court for his inheritance, a son who agonizes over his father’s deathbed confession, a daughter who falls in love, a daughter who becomes involved in the abolition movement, and a daughter sacrificing herself for her husband. Here is what sounds for all the world like an enjoyable Victorian novel, perhaps by Anthony Trollope…except that everyone in the story is a dragon, red in tooth and claw.

Williams, Tad. The War of the Flowers.
Marginal California rocker Theo Vilmos’ life is about to take a real turn for the worse. He is drawn from his home in Northern California into the parallel world of Faerie when he discovers an old, handwritten book in a rural cottage, for, unknown to him, he is a pivotal figure in a war between certain of Faerie’s powerful lords and the rest of the strange creatures who live in this gritty and even rather grim faerie world.

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