To start, fantasy is NOT science fiction. Although they are often grouped together, fantasy and science fiction are completely separate genres. Just because you don’t like Star Wars or Star Trek, does not mean that you won’t enjoy fantasy fiction. One very well known example of fantasy fiction is the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry Potter novels feature elements that are characteristic of fantasy: magic, magical or fantastical creatures, situations that could never really happen in our non-magical, science-based world, etc.
If you would like to read a book that takes you on an adventure in a world that is full of magic and wonder, fantasy books are a great choice. There is a subsection of the fantasy genre called urban fiction, where fantastical creatures are based in a normal, everyday society. An example of this would be the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. However, for the sake of this post, I will be highlighting the more complete fantasy novels and authors.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.
Speaking of entering a new world, Brandon Sanderson is an AMAZING writer. He considers even the tiniest details of worlds and how they work. By doing this he creates completely believable realities. Warbreaker is currently a standalone novel, though there is a sequel named Nightblood promised some time in the future.
Warbreaker takes the reader into a world of fantasy where “breath” is a personal power or magic and political alliances have the power to create or destroy societies. Select people are brought back to life because of a noble death, and are deemed gods, though their conduct often contradicts that title. This novel covers the interaction between different classes, and addresses what lengths some will go to for power. Throughout the novel you get to know many different and unique characters by virtue of Sanderson’s powerful writing skills. This novel hints at intimate content, though it is not explicit. It is in our adult section and is a great read for ages 16 and up.
Other awesome novels by Sanderson include the Mistborn series in our adult section, the Steelheart trilogy in the young adult collection, and Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians in our juvenile section.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The joke is that it takes about as long to read the series as it does to actually take the ring to Mordor. This might be true, depending on how fast you read. This is a hefty trilogy that is completely worth the time and effort. Tolkien takes world making to another level, even beyond that which Sanderson does. The trilogy begins by introducing the reader to Bilbo Baggins and his younger cousin(ish) Frodo Baggins. These two hobbits reside happily in the shire where they eat an enviable amount of food every day and enjoy smoking their pipes in peace. However, Bilbo has a secret from his past that threatens his family, the shire, and the entirety of Middle Earth, where the story is based. The complete trilogy follows Frodo and his companions on an amazing adventure to (spoiler) take the ring to Mordor.
Tolkien fills this amazing world with horrible and fantastic creatures alike. Often, Tolkien has even invented an entirely new language for these creatures. I LOVE The Lord of the Rings books and recommend them to all ages, though the length of the books may be intimidating for young readers.
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to this trilogy, the prequel The Hobbit is just as inventive and imaginative, but in much fewer pages.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
This is the first book in one of Nix’s young adult series that keeps the reader on their toes. The title character Sabriel lives in a world of magic and her father is the Abhorsen- someone with power over the dead. This heart-pounding series is full of magic, and power, and choosing the good while trying to vanquish evil. Sabriel is attended by Mogget, a cat with strong powers, and Touchstone, a Charter Mage. One of the wonderful aspects of fantasy that this novel exemplifies is the creation of a new world. This does not mean that there are no laws or that laws can be circumvented at the author’s pleasure. Rather, in fantasy novels, characters are bound by a set of laws unique to that world, including some that are similar to the laws we are familiar with.
Other novels in this series include Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel. I would recommend these books for ages 12 and up simply because of the reading level as well as some action and suspense.
The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
This is a young adult series, also by Garth Nix, which takes the reader into a world full of mystery. This book might be closer to urban fantasy than just pure fantasy as it begins in the normal world, but travels to another more fantastical one. Arthur is a young man who is supposed to die in the normal world but instead ventures into another world in order to unlock secrets and save himself, and others, through a series of keys. The series starts with Mister Monday, followed by Grim Tuesday, and so on until the seventh book Lord Sunday, which concludes the series and the fight for a kingdom with a surprising twist. Honestly, it is difficult to put these books down!
I would recommend this series to anyone 12 and older. As a side note, teenage boys might be more interested in this series because of the male main character.
To recap, the fantasy genre is its own and not just another Star Trek science fiction genre. Fantasy takes the reader to another world where where the impossible is possible! Fantasy is a great genre to read in order to escape for a few minutes. Other popular fantasy authors include Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and Patrick Rothfuss (all adult authors). If you are looking for an adventurous book that takes you out of the ordinary and into something extraordinary, I would recommend reading one of the above listed fantasy novels!
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!