I read a good deal of books being an English major, but for fun I mostly read fantasy novels. My gallery currently contains tributes to Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" and Brandon Sanderson's "The Way of Kings" and will soon have an image of Kvothe from "The Name of the Wind". So I thought I'd go through some of the series I've read and give my two cents that probably no one cares about but what the heck imma do it anyway!
Oh by the way if you like any of these series you'll probably also enjoy Berserk. And vice versa. Just putting that out there.
George R. R. Martin- A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: Martin's epic fantasy series is the one you hear about most these days. It's got its own HBO show (Game of Thrones) and appeals to the widest fanbase due to its complex male and female characters that are actually convincingly written. There characters are all shades of grey to the point that it's hard to figure who is supposed to be the hero. Obviously the Starks at first seem to be the protagonists and the Lannisters their opponents, but that distinction gets muddled up as the books go on. The series is heavy on the sex and violence, but starts off very light on the magic. It appears that people accepted that it did exist, but it has faded from the world. The supernatural starts coming back in a big way though and it's handled very well. The series mostly concentrates on members of nobility, so we don't see much through the eyes of the "smallfolk" and characters actions end up having kingdom-shattering effects. I highly recommend this series, although there was a huge wait for the fifth book and nobody knows how long the sixth book will take to come out. There are currently seven planned books.
Joe Abercrombie- THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY: Abercrombie is my second favorite fantasy author. His characters are all kinds of shades of grey, though they tend to be on the darker side. The best thing about Abercrombie is how he subverts the typical fantasy cliches. The wise old wizard turns out to be a bit of a conniving bastard, while the blood-thirsty barbarian turns out to be a pretty chill guy. There's also a darkly hilarious Inquisitor of His Majesty's Inquisition, who reminds me a bit of Tyrion from Game of Thrones, alongside a prissy nobleman and a vengeful woman. The story plays out as a struggle between various factions: The Union, the Northmen, and the Gurkish Empire. The story is heavy on the violence, has a moderate amount of sex, and some magic. Magic users, such as the Magus Bayaz, play a huge part in the plot of the series as he is hundreds of years old and his personal grudges form the basis for the threat the entire Union faces. The series is finished in three books, but Abercrombie has written two other books in the same world, "Best Served Cold" and "The Heroes", which in part continue the story while allowing him to integrate parts of other genres. If you like Berserk you'll definitely like what Abercrombie has to offer.
Brandon Sanderson- THE WAY OF KINGS: This is the first book in a proposed 10 that form "The Stormlight Archives", Sanderson's epic fantasy series that may become his life's work. Magic plays a big part in this series which is also heavy on the violence. Hardly any sex though. The plot revolves around a war for vengeance on a tribe that assassinated the King of Alethkar. There's also a larger plot in the background that involves one character having visions of the past, while another develops abilities not seen for hundreds of years. A young noblewoman also enters the mix, though her role in the larger plot remains the be seen. Overall it's a very enjoyable book, although it's a bit more typical than I'm used to. There appears to be a force primarily for good that will be introduced that will face off against a force that is primarily evil. I'm hoping this distinction will be subverted a bit in coming books, but even if it isn't Sanderson's writing is worth reading. Besides, the action scenes are pretty badass. Highly recommended.
Steven Erikson- MALAZAN: BOOK OF THE FALLEN: This is a difficult series to recommend. The series in complete at 10 books and I've read the first three. Erikson constructs an interesting system of magic and is very good at world building but his characters are just not up to snuff. Many characters seem to speak in exactly the same voice and have these little melodramatic monologues in their head that I suppose is supposed to add depth to their personalities, but it just comes off as annoying. The plot is really what motivates these books, as the various deities all have their own plans that they're trying to put into motion. There's some powerful images in these books, and the "Chain of Dogs" part of the second book is quite engrossing but when an important character died in book 3 and I didn't care I set the series aside. If you like world building and magic systems and epic, book-spanning plots you may enjoy the series, but I didn't find the characters interesting enough to follow.
Patrick Rothfuss- THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLES: So far there's two books in this series, "The Name of the Wind" and "The Wise Man's Fear". Both are mostly told from the first person perspective of Kvothe, who is spinning the story of how he became legendary. The series is heavy on violence, fairly heavy on sex in the second book, and heavy on magic. Much of Kvothe's time is spent at the University, a place to learn magic. The magic here is fortunately much more believable than a series like Harry Potter. Rothfuss bases his magic systems on existing scientific disciplines as well as anthropological studies of how primitive peoples thought magic worked. This leads to a series that seems well rooted in reality while still being fantastical. My only real complaint is that he sometimes gets a little overwrought with his metaphors and the prose gets a little purple. Some people have also complained the Kvothe is too good at what he does and that he's a self-insert character for Rothfuss. Personally while I think Kvothe might be aggrandizing himself a bit in telling his story he doesn't breeze through life the way a character created for the author's ego would. I'm looking forward to the third (and final?) book of this series.
Anyway that's my short overview of notable fantasy series I've read. If you want to recommend me some more I'm all ears. I might end up doing fanart for them.
Listening to: Pandora radio: Mumford and Sons
Reading: The Heroes