tough guide fantasyland map
I’ve always been one of those people who are a bit snooty about fantasy, eschewing anything with dragons or magic and generally fearing that most fantasy will be cookie-cutter high fantasy of the medieval European variety – with barbarians in the north, exotic desert people in the south, and some sort of quest in between.

That said, I was fascinated by the Calormen scenes from the Narnia stories as a child, and Ged’s growth in A Wizard of Earthsea still offers so much to me, even as an adult.  I also just simply adore the presence of just a little bit of magic and mystery in my everyday world, something urban fantasy does so very well.  And for those who love their history, you can’t look past the complex and deeply realised worlds of Guy Gavriel Kay.  I often wish Kay’s wonderful alternate histories, set from Moorish Spain and Tang Dynasty China to Byzantium, were more widely known.  If you enjoy political intrigue and complicated plots told from multiple perspectives, Kay is an excellent choice.  His stories and characters are also deeply moving: I don’t think I have ever cried more in my life than in the final chapters of Tigana or The Lions of Al-Rassan.

So if you love fantasy and have someone in your life that you would like to convert, or if you are deeply suspicious like me, but are looking for a little complex and fully realised escapism in your reading, try some of the following:

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Trader by Charles de Lint
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Among Others by Jo Walton
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Chimes by Anna Smaill
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

And if you can’t beat them, join them… read and chuckle your way through Diana Wynne Jones’ excellent Tough Guide to Fantasyland

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