The Return of Talking Time

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  #1  
Old 01-18-2016, 08:44 AM
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Default This is Fine - Top 50 Fantasy Novels



The numbers have been crunched and you fine folks sure did vote for a list of fantasy novels. It's good. Everything's good. Conscious this time around was hard fought. There was a wide a selection of titles nominated. So wide in fact that 71% of the entries only got one vote! I know Fantasy is a wide topic but dang. Some mighty fine titles got abandoned by the wayside, but that's fine. This is fine.

Here are YOUR favorite Fantasy novels.

FalseLogic sayz:

Hearing another nerd wax eloquent or vitriolic about a list of, largely considered, nerd books has been done before. A LOT. Half the internet consists of nerds making lists and then “fighting” about it. The other half is porn. So! Instead I showed the front and back covers of the entries on the list to my mom and asked her to talk about them! My mom doesn't read fantasy. She doesn’t even read romance novels! She reads these weird Mormon romance/mysteries wherein all the good parts of both those genres are excluded and no one consumes caffeine! This list is all a Brave Nerd World to her. I offered as little input as possible.

Last edited by Falselogic; 01-18-2016 at 02:30 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-18-2016, 09:05 AM
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Mort by Terry Pratchett (1987) - 38 points (JBear, Reinforcements, Gerad)

The first (of many!?) Discworld books on the list. It's the first in the "Death" sub-series and the 4th Discworld over-all, well before they got really good. That's okay though because this one stars Death, the most beloved of The Disc's reoccurring characters (right?), and sets up the mythology that will drive many of the future books.

Here, Death takes for an apprentice the appropriately named Mort. Mort bungles the job though when he can't even kill off a princess. This causes all sorts of metaphysical problems and blah blah blah Susan Sto Helit eventually.

“Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it's the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it's just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let's just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.”

FalseMomgic sayz:
[front cover] - This is about death right? It’s got the scythe and hourglass on the front… How is that fantasy?

[back cover] - What’s Discworld? Is that a place? Oh, the title, I get, I get it now. It’s wordplay, a pun, right? Death is a person? Okay. I don’t think I would read this book
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:23 AM
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We're only one entry in, and this is already the best list. FalseMomgic is the new high water mark. Looking forward to the rest!
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:04 AM
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Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (1865) - 39 points (Nodal, Healy)

Alice Liddell dreams she's the dream of the Red King and that when he wakes she'll disappear. Then she wakes up. Along the way she plays chess.

Like it's predecessor, a work of puns and poems and plays on words (some incredibly subtle). This is the one with Jabberwocky, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and the Lion and the Unicorn.

"A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?"


FalseMomgic says:
[front cover] - Oh! Alice in Wonderland! I know that book. (I try to tell her this is the other book and what the differences are. I mention the Jabberwocky, Walrus and the Carpenter, and the Unicorn and the Lion.) I don’t recognize any of those. I didn’t like the Disney movie. It didn’t make any sense. (I try to get her back on the book. She continues to describe all the ways she disliked the Disney movie.)
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Old 01-18-2016, 11:01 AM
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Sabriel by Garth Nix (1995) - 39 points (Grignr, Lady, Nodal)

Girl rings some bells and kills dead guys again. Notable for it's strong lady protagonist, unique setting, and that there are two portals and Fantasylands. First the Wall dividing Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom, and then the Gates dividing life and death. So Sabriel has to navigate two sets of rules to fulfill her purpose. Kind of an unusual take on the quest narrative. A good read that also has a taking cat in.

“A Kiss," said Mogget sleepily. "Actually, just a breath would do. But you have to start kissing someone sometime, I suppose."

"A breath?" she asked. She didn't want to kiss just any wooden man. He looked nice enough, but he might not be like his looks. A kiss seemed too forward.


FalseMomgic says:
[front cover] Who is Sabriel? Is that him on the cover? Is that a woman? I can’t tell. Kind of a pretty boy though…Where is his wife? (I did not notice the ring until my mom pointed it out) That thing in the back it must be the bad thing. There’s always a bad thing in these type of books, right? Like that eye thing in the Hobbit movies (Sauron in Lord of the Rings).

[back cover] This doesn’t tell me anything about the book.
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  #6  
Old 01-18-2016, 11:19 AM
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I love this. I dunno any of mine outside the really obvious will make it on the list, but I don't care, this is too much fun.
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Old 01-18-2016, 11:46 AM
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The Ruby Knight by David Eddings (1993) - 39 points (Erilex, Falselogic)

The second book in The Elenium sequence. I've never read any Eddings, but from online synopsis this looks like your standard quest fantasy very much in the post-Tolkien vein. Sparhawk (that's some cheek) is a knight searching for a sapphire rose that will cure the Queen from a political poisoning. He journeys with companions, fights monsters, and navigates the land. You know the drill. Apparently the book is bolstered by a quick pace, snappy dialog, and Sparhawk's surly attitude. Kind of interesting that the second book in a trilogy would nab a spot. Does it rise above the others in any particular way?

"I'd be careful, King Wargun,' Kalten advised over his shoulder as he and Sparhawk started back to where their friends had dismounted. "He bites."
"Which one? Spahawk or the horse?"
"Take your pick, your Majesty."


FalseMomgic says:
[front cover] Half the picture is missing, I can’t even tell what is going on. This is just like the book you showed me. A man and a monster. See, all these books are the same thing. Monster and knights. I don’t know why you complain about what I read. These books are all the same too…

[back cover] (I couldn't find one to show her. I sum up the story though) This sounds just like the Hobbit movie. Find a ring or stone and use it to kill someone… Did we let you read this when you were little? No wonder you and your brother are so weird!
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  #8  
Old 01-18-2016, 11:47 AM
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Momgic has some good insights some times.
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Old 01-18-2016, 12:48 PM
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I like this lady.
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:07 PM
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The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (1991) - 40 points (JBear, Rascally Badger)

The third book in Jordan's mammoth Wheel of Time sequence. Brandon Sanderson writes of the book:
In book three, Rand comes to accept himself as the Dragon Reborn.

Now, you might think he’s already accepted his place. He found the banner in book one, and though he kicked and stomped in book two, it seemed that he truly accepted his title. And that might be true.
He then goes on to waffle about how accepting a title isn't the same as accepting what the title means, which I guess maybe? But I think it speaks more to this series and Fantasy Bloat. Rand found banner in book one, indicating he's the Dragon. Seems to accept the title in two, and then accepts the title in three. Is this not the same revelation thrice over? Maybe it's unfair to rag on the first three books, as by all reports this is when the series was still on-track.

I've seen conflicting reports saying that Jordan was originally offered a six-book deal by Tor, or that it was a one-book that expanded to three and then to six as the series sold. Either way, what was originally conceived as series of contemporary length soon swelled up to proposed 12 volume series, each one 600 pages or more. As the series progressed the pace slowed the crawl. More and more characters were introduced and the narrative spins its wheels following their various sub-plots. Even here in The Dragon Reborn we can see it as fewer chapters focus on Rand and the reader rides along with more secondary characters than in the previous books.

Sanderson praises this as brilliant, saying that by reducing Rand from the narrative it expands the world. Maybe, but I can't help but fell that the story loses its focus. Whether Jordan just had so a big story to tell that necessitated spending thousands of pages milling about or if sales pressures meant he had to keep expanding the story it's hard to say (though I suspect the latter, as Song of Ice and Fire is currently experiencing the same bloat and wheel spinning). Regardless, by the mid-90s Wheel of Time was an institution and fans eagerly ate up each new volume. This series, perhaps more than any other, proved the genre fans were willing to ride the long wave. There is pleasure in inhabiting a long narrative, of soaking up every minute detail, and getting to know dozens and dozens of characters. I'm sure Tor found much pleasure as well at having a best-selling series that showed no sign of stopping. If nothing else we can credit Jordan for establishing the modern trend of doorstopper mega-epics, but in my opinion that's a rather dubious achievement.

What can be said about the story itself? It's the standard quest fantasy writ long. There's a dark one to be defeated, a "magic system" to be detailed, a prophecy to be fulfilled, some questionable depictions of women, and many, many, many folding of arms under breasts.

“I am Rand al’Thor!” he called, so his voice rang through the chamber. “I am the Dragon Reborn!”

FalseMomgic sayz:
[front cover] Are all of these in a series? (I tell her no) Are you sure? They all look the same, swords and young men, maybe some magic. It all looks very boring reading the same thing over and over again. I mean are there any mysteries? What do they do in these books for so many pages?

[back cover] Thirteen books!? Why? Who would read that many books. See! Look right here. It mentions the Shadow. This is just like the Hobbit isn’t it. Except that was just one book! Thirteen…

Last edited by Loki; 01-18-2016 at 01:39 PM.
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  #11  
Old 01-18-2016, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loki View Post
The third book in Jordan's mammoth Wheel of Time sequence. Brandon Sanderson writes of the book:
In book three, Rand comes to accept himself as the Dragon Reborn.

Now, you might think he’s already accepted his place. He found the banner in book one, and though he kicked and stomped in book two, it seemed that he truly accepted his title. And that might be true.
He then goes on to waffle about how accepting a title isn't the same as accepting what the title means, which I guess maybe? But I think it speaks more to this series and Fantasy Bloat. Rand found banner in book one, indicating he's the Dragon. Seems to accept the title in two, and then accepts the title in three. Is this not the same revelation thrice over? Maybe it's unfair to rag on the first three books, as by all reports this is when the series was still on-track.
Its not really the same revelation, and I would disagree with Sanderson that this book is the book where Rand accepts his destiny. He finds the banner at the very end of the first book and over the course of the second he accepts what it means. The third book is where he proves it everyone else, or at least a large portion of people. This is the book pulls the sword from the stone and proves himself a king.

I ranked it as high as I did (#2 and I stand by it) in large part by how little the main character is in it. He disappears in the opening chapters and barely shows up until the climax, which lets the series' fun characters shine.
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:38 PM
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Momlogic cuts to the quick.

Much like I used to choose my video games based on which ones listed the longest play time on the back of the case, I used to choose my fantasy books based on how many volumes a series had, because more is always better, right? Compared to the other stuff that I purchased based on this metric, The Wheel of Time was amazing.

I played a MUD in high school in which I named my character Rand and crafted a sword named Callandor for him to wield. The cover of The Dragon Reborn depicts him claiming it, and it absolutely captured my imagination the moment that I laid eyes on it. Also, it totally looks like the scene from FFIV where Cecil becomes a Paladin.

All of that being said, I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never actually finished the series. Back when I first read it in junior high, there were only 7 volumes, and I have the memory of a goldfish, so I need to do a complete series reread if I'm going to read any of the later books. I did that once, just after Winter's Heart was released. I own all of them now, but I look at that giant stack of pages on my bookshelf and I just can't.

ETA:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rascally Badger View Post
the climax
That climax is so great. I honestly ranked it where I did based mostly on the strength of that. That I can remember it at all is remarkable. Most of the WoT books had really amazing climaxes, if for no more reason than that's when shit actually happened after 600 pages of treading water (this applies more to the later books).
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:43 PM
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There's only room for one Rand in my heart.

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Old 01-18-2016, 01:46 PM
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That actually worked out well for me, because I was in the habit of naming characters in RPGs to "Rand" at the time anyway, and BOF2 didn't allow you to rename your characters, IIRC.
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:24 PM
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There's only room for one Rand in my heart.

That Rand was best because his mom guilt trips him into doing chores, which he accomplishes by punching everything on a farm.
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:33 PM
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I totally spaced on sending in my list even though I finished it, and I am pretty sad about it. I'll be reviewing it here as we go along to see if my votes would have made a big difference or not. I limited myself to no more than 2 from a particular series, and there were two other WoT books on my list that were not The Dragon Reborn.
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:38 PM
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One of the things I love the most about The Dragon Reborn is that it takes the person who is ostensibly the main character and turns them into the shadowy, mysterious MacGuffin that the rest of the plot chases and tries to decipher.

I remember enjoying Sabriel enough to read the other two books in the trilogy, but other than some striking setpieces, I barely remember anything from the series. Pretty nice of them to let Pure Evil hang around and be generally useful though.
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrael View Post
I totally spaced on sending in my list even though I finished it, and I am pretty sad about it. I'll be reviewing it here as we go along to see if my votes would have made a big difference or not. I limited myself to no more than 2 from a particular series, and there were two other WoT books on my list that were not The Dragon Reborn.
Can you speak to which you picked and why?
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Old 01-18-2016, 03:04 PM
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I absolutely can, but I don't know if it is appropriate to talk about other books that haven't been mentioned yet?
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Old 01-18-2016, 03:19 PM
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I don't think it'll spoil too much to say no other Wheel of Time is on the list, and better to have discussion now while it's on peoples' minds.
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Old 01-18-2016, 03:22 PM
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Off to a great start. I was almost going to put Mort on my list, but I didn't want to go overkill on the Discworld love
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Old 01-18-2016, 03:31 PM
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Flawgic, Your mom is a TREASURE and must be treated as such.
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Old 01-18-2016, 03:31 PM
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The two I picked were Eye of the World and The Shadow Rising. Both of these were within a few points on my list, and pretty much smack in the middle.

I really like the Dragon Reborn, and the reasons fall in line with what others were saying as well, but it just didn't make the final cut.

For Eye of the World, it really just falls down to the fact that it was a nice complete story that can (to a point) stand alone. I can recognize now that it is very much a Tolkein ripoff and full of tropes, but I love it, and it was one of the first fantasy books I read. I still have my high school library copy that I uh... never returned.

On The Shadow Rising, I could sum it up with just the scene in Rhuidan with Rand going through the crystal pillars. That particular portion is one of the few things I remembered pretty clearly throughout the whole series, and it was always one of my favorite scenes in almost any fantasy work. I also like the scenes of the immediate aftermath of the end of the Dragon Reborn. At the time I also felt that it was the first book before the pacing got really bad.
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Old 01-18-2016, 04:23 PM
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Yeah, The Shadow Rising would have been my third WoT book on the list had I allowed myself to put three on the list and that scene in Rhuidean was a big reason why. That is one of my favorite scenes in any fantasy book. I also like the reverse of the scene in Towers of Midnight (I think?).
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Old 01-18-2016, 04:37 PM
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The trick will be getting her to comment on all fifty of them...
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Old 01-18-2016, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrael View Post
For Eye of the World, it really just falls down to the fact that it was a nice complete story that can (to a point) stand alone. I can recognize now that it is very much a Tolkein ripoff and full of tropes, but I love it, and it was one of the first fantasy books I read.
Same. Eye of the World was the highest WoT book on my list, so it may well have ranked if you'd remembered to submit your list.
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loki View Post
There's only room for one Rand in my heart.

I agree with Loki.

I read the first Wheel of Time book but it didn't grab my interest so I never bothered reading any of the others.
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBear View Post
this is already the best list. FalseMomgic is the new high water mark. Looking forward to the rest!
I wasn't totally sure I'd pay close attention to this list, given my relative lack of interest in fantasy novels.

But now? I'm in.
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Old 01-19-2016, 12:46 AM
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Oh hey look, my number 2 pick made it on the list! (#49, Through the Looking Glass.) I hope my number 1 made the rankings.
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Old 01-19-2016, 04:39 AM
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I would have voted for Through The Looking Glass if I had remembered it existed and that it counts as fantasy, so yay!
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