Friday, July 14, 2023

The List...College & Beyond Part I

Good lord!  Another long break.  Geez!  Life is crazy.  

In college, I continued with many of my favorite series including Darkover, the Pip & Flinx books, Valdemar and others.  A few of my other favorites included (in no particular order):

The Shannara series by Terry Brooks can be a little controversial.  Most people feel that it's a straight Tolkien rip-off - particularly the first book, Sword of Shannara:

And...they're not wrong...exactly.  My personal feeling is that there's enough difference to make it interesting and, as the series expands, the differences become wide enough to make it worth reading for itself without the Tolkien comparison.  Also, don't go by the recent (and horrible) TV adaptation that just ruined it.  Brooks also does a great job of eventually weaving Shannara together with one of his other series so it's worth reading as well.  My favorite of the entire Shannara series is "The Elf Queen of Shannara".  

His Landover novels are also a fun read:

Next we come to another of my favorite, and very prolific, authors:  Barbara Hambly.  She writes across multiple genres including Sword & Sorcery, Urban Fantasy, Mystery, etc. and is still currently putting out novels.  My earliest introduction to her was the Darwath series:

Blending urban fantasy elements with classic fantasy and a post-apocalyptic setting, Hambly utilizes what is a repeat theme for her - world-hopping between our "Earth" and another, more magical world.

This shows up again in her Windrose Chronicles books - which feature one of my favorite kooky yet brilliant wizard characters of all time, Antryg Windrose:

If you want good ol' Sword & Sorcery, but with a twist, nothing beats the Sun Wolfe/Starhawk books which asks the question "What happens when your everyday mercenary barbarian swordsman is granted magic he neither understands nor wants?"  And don't discount Starhawk - she's not the typical "chick in a fur/chainmail" bikini that is the Sword & Sorcery trope for female warriors.  She's smart, she's deadly and she's an equal (or better) half of the partnership:

On the other hand, if vampires are your thing...Hambly has that covered as well with her Asher/Ysidro series.  No, the vampires don't sparkle...and James Asher brings a touch of Sherlock Holmes/private detective flavor to this of my favorite takes on the vampire trope before it became overdone and everywhere:

I'll talk more about Hambly's other works in an upcoming post, but if you prefer straight up mysteries without the fantasy elements, I highly recommend her Benjamin January books.

I've saved the best for last:  Katherine Kurtz's books.  I first discovered her through her Deryni series which takes place in a meticulously researched and detailed alternate medieval Europe where non-magical humans magically gifted Deryni live side by side and take turns throughout history being in control and persecuting the other race only.  The painful losses suffered on both sides are emotional and gut-wrenching (detailed in the prequel books about Camber of Culdi and particularly in King Javan's Year).  The detailed magical system and religious elements really add to the realism of the world.

Kurtz also furthered my love of Urban Fantasy with her Adept series.  Unfortunately, I've learned that only book 5 is available via Kindle, but you can still get the paperback versions of the others.  I've had to give up on physical book copies as my worsening allergies include dust from book papers as they deteriorate over time.

There's a loosely-related series about the Knights Templar by Kurtz that is also excellent.

Okay, that's it for this installment.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get the next one done more quickly (but no promises).


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