I blame by dad. It was good ol’ papa bear that first chucked me head long into the fantasy genre. He was determined that I would become just as enthralled with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth as he was. So, as a tweenager I got my copy of The Hobbit and was fighting ogres, barrel riding and checking out a dragon’s hoard alongside Mr Bilbo Baggins. From then on my dad’s bookcase was the victim of assault. I destroyed it. The fantasy genre became my obsession…which soon morphed into other genres. Since the day I picked up The Hobbit there hasn’t been a time in my life that I wasn’t reading something.
My first love though will always be fantasy. It’s morphed over the years and I now also adore urban fantasy and fantasy romance, but I still remember the fantasy of my childhood with the greatest affection. Because of this I am eager to share the books that first got me addicted to reading as well as the ones that have kept me hooked.
THE ADDICTION STARTED….
The Belgariad series by David Eddings
Although The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was one of my first reads the series that sticks in my mind and that I have reread a ridiculous amount of times is The Belgariad series by the late David Eddings. It begins with Pawn of Prophecy where we are introduced to Garion a simple farm boy. Or so he thinks. Through the five books in the series we watch this young man transform into a king with the help of his new friends. This is such a classic fantasy. It has prophecy, it has an eclectic group of companions, it has magic and sorcerers and gods. It’s a pretty standard story on the face of it. But, Eddings brings it to life with his humour and such a well-drawn set of characters that, even over 15 years later they are still vividly scribed in my mind.
Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
My poor father was not happy with me, I read Magician by Raymond E. Feist, the first book in the series, so many times he ended up having to get a new copy. I still deny everything of course, he loved this book to, so it was already well on its way out before I got my eager hands all over it. This series is the beginning of the Riftwar ‘verse, a world (or worlds!) he created and has set several series in. However. this is where is started and although I have read some of the other series with the ‘verse he has written, this remains my favourite. It’s another classic fantasy, we have a young man who is apprenticed to a magician, with no idea about the powerful destiny that lays ahead.
THEN I DISCOVERED URBAN FANTASY…
Urban fantasy, for me, is a relation of fantasy but is still a separate genre. The main difference being that a fantasy takes place in a world entirely from the author’s imagination and an urban fantasy is set in a familiar world but with a magical or paranormal twist. Regardless of how you want to define it, it made a huge impact on my reading. It opened a whole new avenue for me and introduced something that was sadly lacking in the fantasy I was reading at the time: strong female heroines. I was captivated
Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
I could wax poetic about this series forever. I adore it. I’ve read and reread this series many times and each time I love it more. Yup, I may be obsessed. Maybe it’s nostalgia, this was one of the first series I read where the main character was female. And not only was she female but she was strong, clever and funny. However, to say it is all nostalgia is not entirely accurate. Andrews has created a fantastic series full of action and mythology with a cast of characters that you can’t wait to get back to. It’s now a finished series so if you want to dive into a series without having to wait for the next book, this one is perfect.
Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance
Thinking about this series exhausts me in the best ways. It. Does. Not. Stop. From the first page until the last our unlucky seer Cassie Palmer stumbles from disaster to catastrophe, just about making it out – mostly- intact. It’s a wild ride. What I love about this series is that Cassie is always the underdog, especially at the beginning of the series, no one expects her to succeed. Yet somehow, she emerges bloody and battered but still triumphant.
BRINGING IT BACK TO ROMANCE…
Coming back to present day, I have been having a love affair with romance for a while now. It always delights me when I discover a fantasy romance; I can indulge in the two genres I love most. There are many fantastic fantasy romances out there, but these are some of my favourites:
Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan
Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan is the first in the Chronicles of the Warlands series and I love it, but it isn’t a book I see around very often. It’s a romance heavy fantasy series which begins with our heroine Xylara, a skilled healer, being given as a “Warprize” to the Warlord conquering her kingdom. I am keeping this spoiler free so I won’t say much more, but I will say nothing is quite what the heroine thinks. There are a few reasons why this remains a favourite reread of mine. One, I love a skilled heroine and Xylara is a skilled healer who is fierce in the care of her patients. Two, the romance, it starts slow and trust is built beautifully between them. It’s worth picking up if you fancy a fantasy romance read with more romance than political intrigue and adventure.
Radiance by Grace Draven
This book appeals to the same side of me that loves an alien hero. I adore it when a hero and heroine are so fundamentally different that they must not only overcome their diverse appearance but their cultural mores as well. This is exactly what Radiance by Grace Draven offers. Both the hero and heroine are from a different species and are about to enter into a political marriage. The species are vastly different in their societal structure and their physical appearance. Yet, they find a way to look past this and form, at first, a friendship which develops into more. There are so many tropes to enjoy in this book – arranged marriage, friends to lover, slow burn – and I am a fan of them all. It’s a wonderful book which I love to come back to.