Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We Love Lists: The Fantasy Books Rose Red Thinks You Need to Read

A couple weeks ago on Twitter, one of the people I follow asked for fantasy recs in such a way that I haven't been able to get it out of my head.

Of course, I gave her some recs but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Fantasy books are my reading bread and butter. Across all subgenres, fantasy accounted for 72% of my reading in 2018 and that's a trend that has repeatedly happened over the last five years. So I got to thinking about what books would be on my definitive list of my must-read fantasy. The product of that thought plus a week of pondering and a bit of debating with the Bestie is this list. I present to you my list of fantasy books that I think everyone needs to read.

The Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab
No one who reads this blog is surprised that a Schwab book made this list. I adore the Shades of Magic series and I love its take on portal fantasy. There are so many tropes that these books do right and turn on their heads and it's delightful! Also, Lila Bard just makes the series. I love her interactions with Kell and everyone else in the series. And it gets bonus points for the queer rep.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
This book was my gateway book into fantasy so it makes sense that it would make my list of fantasy books I'd make everyone read. It was also the first book I ever read where the chosen one was a girl. I've reread this book at least once a year for the last twenty years and it holds up. There's horses and swords and just a hint of romance. It's a book I still recommend all the time.

The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
I have loved all of Sanderson's adult fantasy books I've read but his Mistborn series is by far my favorite. And I think the unique magic system is a good part of that and the amazing characters make up the rest. And one of the things I love about this series is that it's a series of series. We get to see how the world evolves as time passes and it's an amazing thing I wish more series did. It's been fun to read the second series in the series for Easter eggs referencing the first series. These are the books I recommend people start with when wanting to get into Sanderson's work.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is an oldie but a goodie. Cimorene was my first runaway, unconventional princess who was going to go her own way and she's still one of my favorite heroines of all time. I love her and the group of friends and allies she collects on her way. It was also one of the first books I read where a place is essentially another character. Twenty plus years later and I'm still enchanted with the Enchanted Forest and its inhabitants.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk
This is a newer book but I'm absolutely head over heels for it! It was one of my favorite books of last year. It’s a magical murder mystery set in a post-WWI England-esque fantasy world. It’s delightfully tropey, quietly queer, and features bicycle chases. It's a shorter book at 302 pages but it packs a punch. It tackles a ton of hard topics in such a great way while still being fun and tropey and I can’t stop thinking about it. The comments on agency are particularly thought provoking. I really can't recommend this one enough.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrew
I could make a whole list of urban fantasy books I would love people to read but for the purpose of this list only one made the cut. The Kate Daniels series is everything I want in a fantasy book and more. The heroine is a badass force of nature, the love interest is supportive and protective, and all of the secondary characters could jump from the page fully realized. Add in the terrific post-magic apocalypse setting of Atlanta, the magic system, and all of the different mythologies that made an appearance throughout the series and it's no wonder why I included it on this list. This is one of those series that just gets better with each book and the stakes stay high throughout. This series is a master class that should be mandatory reading for everyone.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
I loved this series from the moment I read the first page of The Raven Boys. It was atmospheric and creepy as all get out in places but also darkly whimsical. I haven't been able to get Blue and her Raven Boys out of my head since I binge read the series in 2016 and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. I was a little skeptical when a good friend described it as a group of teens looking for a dead Welsh king in the middle of nowhere Virginia but it's the best non-spoilery description of seen for it. The writing is almost lyrical and the characters will quietly (or not so quietly in Ronan's case) grow on you until you're completely obsessed with them. Just writing this blurb makes me want to reread the series again.

A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede
I can pinpoint the exact moment in my childhood where I become obsessed with fantastical thieves and heist and it was the moment I read Mairelon the Magician. I never knew that I needed a book about a cross-dressing street thief who tries to steal from a real magician before I read this and I'll admit that it's still a trope that I seek out. It was also my introduction into the fantasy of manners subgenre which is always a subgenre I need to read more of. I will forever mourn the fact that we only have two books following Kim and Mairelon's adventures. I still have my fingers crossed the Patricia Wrede will change her mind and write more in this series.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
I never knew I needed a fantasy book about poison tasters and spy masters that's also full of political intrigue but that is what Poison Study is. I loved how the romance developed and how magic came to play in the story. This is a series where I think the first book is the strongest but the sequels are good supporting stories. It should be noted that when I recommend this series, I'm only recommending the original trilogy. In my mind they are the only books that exist in this series because the newest books the author added were just not good.

The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner
For short books, The Queen's Thief series packs a lot in. The story is incredibly layered and I'm still picking up new things four rereads later. I fell almost instantly in love with the thief, Eugenides, and have obsessively read his adventures as soon as I got my hands on each book. I can't even describe why I love this series so much. It's just so good! The series is set to end this year and I'm not ready to say goodbye yet.

Which fantasy books would you include on your must read list?

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