A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about books and she suggested something and I said, "Oh, I don't really like fantasy." She twitched an eyebrow. "But you love Harry Potter?" "Well, yeah," I responded, "but I don't like, you know, like damsel in distress fantasy."
But, I thought about it and I realized that Harry Potter is about wizards and magic and dragons and witches and unforgivable curses and that kinda makes it fantasy. So, okay, I like that. Which lead me to try and figure out what I don't like. (For the record, I don't like romanticizing the middle ages - they sucked, people died and only on tenth of one percent weren't basically slaves), I don't like names with no vowels or names with no consonants. And I don't like damsels in distress. I like girls who put on their armor and fight.
Anyway, for people who don't think they like fantsy (like me) but who are willing to try, I present:
5 Books of Fantasy 101
- Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
Why it's fantasy: One of Pratchett's amazing Discworld novels, Carpe Jugulum tells the tale of a vampire vs. witch war for Uberwald. Chock full of magic, myth and legend.
Why it's awesome: If you're not familiar with Discworld or Pratchett's work in general, the first thing you should know is that it's hilarious. Pratchett uses the fictional Discworld to explain and mock the things we live with everyday.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Why it's fantasy: After stopping to help a bleeding girl on the sidewalk, Richard Mayhew finds that he no longer exists in his life: his fiance has never hear of him, his apartment's been rented to someone else and he never held his boring job. Trying to get his life back, Richard becomes a part of another London. A magical, mystical, and very dark London.
Why it's awesome: Richard and Door (the girl he stopped to help, the girl who didn't belong in his world) embark on a wonderful journey that recalls every myth from the Greeks to Stoker. Also, Door rocks. I'd kinda like to be Door when I grow up. Except she would never grow up.
- Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Why it's Fantasy: This is the first of McGuire's series featuring the changeling, October Daye. When one of October's few full-blood Fae friends, the Countess Winterose, binds October to find her killer with her dying words, she is plunged into the Faerie politics, plots and must come face to face with the truth of her complicated and magical past.
Why it's Awesome: Firstly, Seanan only does good work. Secondly, October, or Toby to her friends, is one my favorite characters of all time. Technically, this falls under a subcategory called Urban Fantasy and is a great introduction. Seeing how Faerie hides it's existence to a technologically advanced world is half the fun.
- The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman
Why it's Fantasy: Going back generations, the Sparrow family women are gifted. Elinor can smell a lie, her daughter Jenny sees other people's dreams and granddaughter Stella can see how people will die. Years ago, Elinor and Jenny fell out and haven't spoken since, but when Stella's gift becomes an undue burden, the women must come together to protect her.
Why it's Awesome: This story of family and love (both romantic and familial) does more tells more than a tale of magic. The family, struggling to redefine and complete itself is at the center of an entire town's reawakening.
- Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
Why it's fantasy: The Night Circus is born when two magicians decide to compete through their young apprentices. The circus is created as a venue for the competition, but what it creates is completely unpredictable. As the apprentices, unaware of the deadly competition they are in, fall deeply in love with one another, many others fall deeply in love with the circus, following it as it travels and being forever transformed by it's magic.
Why it's awesome: The sweet love story at the center of the circus means that even though the circus was created for evil purposes, it becomes a source of life and magic for many people. The world inside the circus is so complete and beautiful that the entire book is a sheer delight to read.