Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory. Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians. Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.
In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.
In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I want to talk about fantasy fiction. If you’re going to see me reading something, it’s probably a fantasy novel. I’ve loved fantasy since the beginning of my memory, when I would compel my mother to read me Tolkien. Just as I love Tolkien, you probably do too. Or, you’ve probably at least read him. Likewise for Ursula Le Guin or George R.R. Martin or Terry Prachett or a host of others. So, herein, I’m going to suggest some “off the beaten path” fantasy novels.
Eyes of God (John Marco). This is my favorite “off the beaten path” fantasy novel. (It’s the first in a series that’s also worth reading in its entirety.) Eyes of God is definitely standard fantasy fare, so I feel quite safe recommending it. What makes this book stand out is its grotesque characters. If you like your characters flawed, you’ve come to the right place. Every well-intentioned yet flawed choice drives the plot further and further forward in an exquisite tale of betrayal and hidden magic.
Daughter of the Empire (Raymond E Feist, Janny Wurts). Daughter of the Empire is the oldest of these books, and the most popular. It’s popular for good reason. A part of Feist’s larger Riftwar Cycle, this novel (and its two sequels) take readers to the Japanese-inspired world of Kelewan where an untested but crafty Ruling lady fights for the survival of her family. If you want intelligent and feminine protagonists, Mara is it. And I personally love the alien species, the cho-ja. Always great to see a fantasy race that isn’t elf-like or dwarf-like – and is very clearly not human.
Who Fears Death (Nnedi Okorafor). Nnedi Okorafor’s award-winning novel Who Fears Death is the newest title on here, and the least fantasy-like of the three. Some have even classified the novel as sci-fi or dystopian future. While the novel is set in what is now known as the Sudan and includes electronics like computers, GPSes, and MP3 players, this book is truly fantasy – a journey across an unfamiliar landscape with magic and fantastic beasts. It’s different and a tad experimental – but you won’t regret reading Who Fears Death.