20 Fantasy Worlds to Visit

Bryce Wilson at Screen Rant published a list of 15 fantasy books / series to “shak[e] off some serious Westeros withdrawal” after the sixth season finale of Game of Thrones aired at the end of June.

While there were solid choices on the list, what struck me was that out of 15 named creators only 2 were women. That’s 13%. Since women make up half of the world’s population, an eighth is an unacceptably low proportion in my eyes, so I made a list of my own.

Flickr Peter Roan Monteleone Chariot
Even Achilles knows that women are an integral part of the world.

Notes on my list: 1) it’s novels only (no anthologies), 2) in a random order, 3) with no double entries (otherwise I’d include also Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy), 4) and I include not only a variety of flavors within the fantasy genre but also historical fiction. Moreover, 5) I’ve included old and newer favorites as well as new-to-me authors whose works sound intriguing. Finally, 6) the common denominator is (like in the Game of Thrones) the presence of power struggles of various sorts, negotiation of identities, and survival.

1. Ursula K. Le Guin. The Earthsea cycle (A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; Tehanu; Tales from Earthsea; The Other Wind)

Aspects of identity examined in an island-based early medievalesque world with magic and lots of sailing.

2. Kai Ashante Wilson. Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

Sword and sorcery, gods and mortals, with a band of mercenaries working as caravan guard in focus. (Linguist’s note: Fascinating mix of vernacular and more formal language.)

3. N.K. Jemisin: The Dreamblood duology (The Killing Moon; The Shadowed Sun)

Ancient-Egyptian-flavored fantasy on a moon orbiting a Jupiter-like gas giant.

4. Samuel R. Delany. Nevèrÿon series (Tales of Nevèrÿon; Neveryóna; Flight from Nevèrÿon; The Return to Nevèrÿon)

Sword and sorcery in a world before the dawn of history, with strong elements of power, economic development and breaking barriers.

5. Rosemary Kirstein. The Steerswoman

D&D-like adventures in a medievalesque world with hidden computer technology.

6. Saladin Ahmed. Throne Of The Crescent Moon

Old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery with an Arabian Nights flavor.

7. Robin Hobb. The Farseer trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice; Royal Assassin; Assassin’s Quest)

Convoluted political intrigues and power struggles in the Six Duchies.

8. Kate Elliott. Black Wolves

Four generations of dynastic struggles in a Central-Asia-influenced world with demons and a power-hungry new religion.

9. Nicola Griffith. Hild

Political intrigue between Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in a fictionalized 7th-century Britain.

10. David Anthony Durham. The Acacia trilogy (Acacia: The War with the Mein; Acacia: The Other Lands; Acacia: The Sacred Band)

Political, economic, mythological and morally ambiguous forces battle for the control of the Acacian empire.

11. Nicole Kornher-Stace. Archivist Wasp

Yearly duels to the death to gain or retain the title Archivist in a post-collapse world with ghosts.

12. Charles R. Saunders. Imaro

Sword and sorcery, heroic warriors, grand landscapes, giants and magic in a world inspired by Africa.

13. Robert Harris. Cicero trilogy (Imperium; Lustrum [U.S. title: Conspirata]; Dictator)

Rise to and repercussions of power told through a fictional biography of Cicero.

14. Alaya Dawn Johnson. The Spirit Binders series (Racing the Dark; The Burning City)

A coming-of-age story in an island world resembling Polynesia where people have learned to bind elemental powers to their command.

15. Joe Abercrombie. The First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself; Before They Are Hanged; Last Argument of Kings)

Demons and humans in a dark, edgy world full of skirmishes.

16. Guy Gavriel Kay. The Sarantine Mosaic (Sailing to Sarantium; Lord of Emperors)

Power voids, political intrigue, assassins and travels in a world inspired by 6th-century Mediterranean.

17. Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn series (The Final Empire; The Well of Ascension; The Hero of Ages)

Magic from metals in a mist-laden world.

18. Patrick Rothfuss. The Kingkiller Chronicle (The Name of the Wind; The Wise Man’s Fear; Day Three: The Doors of Stone [working title])

Magic and music meet in a coming-of-age story.

19. Aliette de Bodard. Obsidian and Blood books (Servant of the Underworld; Harbinger of the Storm; Master of the House of Darts)

Three standalone Aztec noir fantasy-mysteries with blood magic, star-demons and war.

20. Kameron Hurley. The Worldbreaker Saga (The Mirror Empire; Empire Ascendant; The Broken Heavens [forthcoming])

Brutal power struggles in a world where plants can walk and kill, and blood magic opens portals between parallel realities.

Bonus entry by a fellow Finn:

Emmi Itäranta. The City of Woven Streets

A blend of a coming-of-age story with high-stakes intrigue and danger on an island with water-based tech.

Enjoy! I know I will get back to this list after finishing my current reading project.

Image: Monteleone chariot with Thetis and Achilles, detail of image by Peter Roan on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 (Etruscan, currently Greek and Roman galleries, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2nd quarter of the 6th century BCE; bronze inlaid with ivory)

Messing with numbers is messy.

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3 thoughts on “20 Fantasy Worlds to Visit

  1. Erik August 1, 2016 / 08:55

    A couple more suggestions:

    Jo Anderton, The Veiled Worlds – Industrialized magic in a Russian-tinted world, with lots of character drama and a slowly unfolding plot of political intrigue

    Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings – Unraveling friendships and shifting alliances in a fantasy retelling of the rise of the Han Dynasty.

    Like

    • Eppu August 2, 2016 / 21:00

      Great; thanks for the suggestions. Those sound interesting.

      Like

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