The best underrated fantasy novels
Sure everyone's heard of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. There are lots of novels or series out there that deserve to be read and in some ways out do those famous books. If you've read all the big names out there and your thirst for fantasy isn't quenched yet, give these books a shot. They're unique, very well written, and can satisfy your craving for good fantasy.
Tigana- Guy Gavriel Kay
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay is a fantastic book. The name of the book comes from the country of Tigana, which is a cursed land. The country fought back against an evil tryrant, and was defeated. In punishment, the name and history of the country was magically erased from the minds of all men and renamed. The story follows the struggles of the former prince of Tigana and his supporters as they fight back against two power hungry tyrant sorcerers, to win back their country. The characters are always morally grey, and uncertain of themselves. The plot is always unpredictable, and the magical world they live in is very vibrant. Kay always writes his worlds as analogue of historical events of some country, in this case Tigana's world being an analogue of Italy.
Ysabel-Guy Gavriel Kay
Ysabel, another by Kay is a unique modern fantasy that blends historical fantasy elements taken from Provence France. A young boy walks into an ancient church, observing the unique architcture and taking in the history when a nameless man approaches and warns him to leave saying " You have blundered into the corner of a very old story." From there, Ned Mariner and his new friend are thrust into a magical war between two men, fighting for the love of the mysterious Ysabel. Kay draws many historical elements into play and coats them in his own special magic, giving every character a depth, and sometimes literal magic. The novel is very fast paced, but the plot sucks you in and doesn't let go until the rides over.
The Name of the Wind- Patrick Rothfuss
If you're a Harry Potter fan, this story will be right up your alley. The book follows Kvothe, a hero in hiding as he chronicles the events leading to the present day. You are introduced to Kvothe's younger years, through his years in his family's theater troupe, his subsequent years as a street urchin big city, to his education in the magical University, where he learns the skills to become the hero he eventually becomes. All the while hunting the mysterious "Name of the Wind" which would allow him to control the element of the wind, as well as the Chandrian, which killed his parents and family.
The Wiseman's Fear-Patrick Rothfuss
The sequel to Name of the Wind picks up where it left off, continuing Kvothe's journey. Kvothe takes a brek from the university, becoming a court musician in a far off land, a swordmaster from a hidden tribe of warriors, and tangles with the mysterious Fae, where he learns many magics and wonder. The novel takes what was great about the first book and builds upon it, expanding the world and magics that made the first book so great. Kvothe is a very likeable intelligent character that makes his adventures easy to continue following.
American Gods- Neil Gaiman
In today's age people worship new gods: television, the internet, fashion, celebrities. The old gods of ancient history are personified as actual people. Having lost their followers, they work day jobs and live in dank appartments and the small places of the world. In America, Shadow, a newly released criminal is given a job by the mysterious Wednesday. The novel follows Shadow as he is introduced to various gods and creatures, gathering them for a mysterious purpose. The novel's strengths lie in the unique characters spawned from legendary characters. The story can be gritty, dark, beautiful, and if you're a history buff for ancient legends you'll thoroughly enjoy Gaiman's take on these stories.
The Gunslinger-Stephen King
"The man in black fled, and the gunslinger followed." Those words start off an epic 7 book series that follows Roland of Gilead, the last of the gunslingers, far off descendant of King Arthur. Wielding twin revolvers forged from Excalibur, he sets off in search of the Dark Tower in his quest to reach the end of the world, and climb its great heights. King pulls characters from different time periods, of various background, and from his vast list of characters from his novels hes already written. The story is dark, and sometimes scary, but Roland's quest for the Tower is something that draws you in. You want to reach the Tower as much he does. The Gunslinger kicks off the tale like a classic western, set in a post apocalyptic world.
Wizard and Glass- Stephen King
The fourth novel in the Dark Tower series, continuing Roland's quest for the Dark Tower. In this book, Roland and his "ka-tet"( his group of fellow questers bound by destiny) stop for a while as Roland regales them with a story from his youth. Meeting his first love, and his first quest as a gunslinger. King takes Roland, til this point a stoic and hardy "knight" and makes him human. He shows his reasons for going on this quest, his motivations. After everything in this book is said and done, you can't view Roland the same way. The story of Roland in his youth is one of the best books in this 7 book series, and stands alone.
Wizard's First Rule-Terry Goodkind
The first book in the Sword of Truth series, the novel introduces Richard and Kahlan. Richard, a young man wielding the Sword of Truth, a legendary weapon capable of great and terrible deeds, and Kahlan, a confessor. They begin a long and winding quest to defeat the evil tyrant Darken Rahl, and along the way, fall in love. This novel stands out as one of the best romances/fantasies I'v ever read. The magic system in this world is very detailed and just...cool. Its a long book, and admittedly it can drag in some places, but Richard and Kahlan act very human, and its these two that make you want to keep reading.
The Last Light of the Sun-Guy Gavriel Kay
Another book by Kay on this list. In this novel, Kay chronicles the lives of several character within an Arthurian England analogue. Vikings raid the coast, and seek treasure and glory, magical creatures roam vast forests, and young men fall in love. The draw on on Arthurian and ancient viking legends is strong in this novel, and with a dash of fae, it stands out as an epic fantasy. The characters all have realistic motivations, some driven by revenge, others by glory and gold, others for survival. The world of Last Light is enchanting and beautiful, and sometimes dangerously so...
A Wizard of Earthsea-Ursula K. Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic but lesser known fantasy novel. It follows Sparrowhawk, a wizard in training. This isn't Harry Potter. This is a dark world where magic has serious consequences, where changing the weather too much could upset the balance of nature, where pride can create a creature of darkness that hunts you relentlessly. Sparrowhawk's journey as a wizard takes him to grand locales, and dark places. The magic system in this book is what gives it its greatness. The wizards actually feel like powerful and wise men, and are more "Gandalf" than "Harry".
In this list of books, my hands down favorite is The Name of the Wind. After years of just reading the "mainstream" fantasy novels I was given it as a gift, and as i tore through it quickly i discovered my love of fantasy novels that turned my small stack of books on my desk into a closet absolutely packed full of books. Every book on this list is worth a read, and will take you to magical worlds that you've only ever dreamed of.