Friday, March 02, 2012

Where Do I Start?

You want to read in the Fantasy genre or expand your reading further. Where do you start? The genre is huge, with books ranging from the epics to those based on role playing games. Trying to make a choice and find something worth reading can be daunting when you stand in front of the section in the bookstores. What books should you read? Do you want something entertaining or something that will make you think? This article will try to answer that question. There will be some suggestions from each of several subgenres in this article.

First, let's start with Foundation books. These are the books that provide a base to start from in your reading adventures. They are works responsible for expanding the literature to what it is today. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien are good starting places. The books have a great story to tell full of deep meanings and adventure. For a fairy tale quality, there is The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany or his The Charwoman's Shadow. These lyrical storie travel through many fantastic scenes, vividly described by the classic author. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin is a powerful coming of age tale. Many other books form the foundation that spread into several subgenres.

Epic (High) Fantasy is probably the largest part of the genre. Bookstore shelves are full of stories about heroes and great battles between good and evil. Some of the books grace the Bestseller list at times. There are many places for the reader to start here. The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Wiliams is the grand story of a poor boy who must overcome great obstacles in the world of Osten Ard. Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed is a good place to start too. The tale of Morgon and his search for riddles is a masterpiece. These are just a couple of the many books in the large subgenre.

Another popular subgenre is Contemporary Fantasy. The books take place in our modern world where magic intrudes to make our world a little more enchanted. Many of these books take place in urban settings, some with a dark edge. Charles de Lint is one of the masters of this subgenre like his most recent book Forests of the Heart or any of his other books. Emma Bull's War for the Oaks is a classic about the realm of Fairy mingling with our world. Many other enjoyable books come under this umbrella.

There is another subgenre where readers can find good books. Adult readers avoid these books under the young adult marking. They are missing some wonderful Fantasy books. All Ages Fantasy is the subgenre of books targeted for a younger audience, but contain layers of complexity. These books contain something for readers of all ages. One example is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, which tells the stories of young people combating magical forces. The Owl Service by Alan Garner combines Welsh myth with a modern English country setting to tell a powerful story. Another book is the beginning of the "Prydain Chronicles" by Lloyd Alexander. The Book of Three is a coming of age tale about Taran the boy who takes care of a prophetic pig. All of these books have something that an adult reader can appreciate.

These are a few of the starting places you can try to gain an appreciation of the Fantasy genre. There are many other subgenres that weren't mentioned in this article, but book titles in those areas will be found on the reading list that follows. Hopefully you'll find something to capture your interest. The list will be added to this site and I hope to expand it with time. What books do you think should be added to this list? Put your ideas on a discussion.

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