Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spotlight List: Fantasy Authors I Should Have Read

Spotlight is a feature I do where I pick a topic or theme and then highlight some books that fall into that theme.

Authors I Should Have Read

I like a wide range of genres, but my favorite genre is fantasy. Historical fantasy, fairy tales, high fantasy, you name it and I love it. After the last Spotlight List about fairy tale retellings, a number of people commented on the absence of a few notable authors. Well, there's a reason they weren't there: Because I haven't read them! Yes, it is embarrassing but true, I haven't read a single book by any of the following authors who are, it seems, must-reads for every fantasy fan.

Here's where you come in: Have you read any books by these authors? Is it a gigantic travesty that I haven't read them yet? Which of their books do you think I should begin with?

Robin McKinley

Ok, so I'll start this list out with a little lie because I actually have read Robin McKinley before. Sort of. I started her most recent book Pegasus, but I DNF-ed it. There was too much thinking and flashbacks and not enough character development and action for me. When I heard there's a giant cliffhanger and then a long wait for book two, that was the final nail in the DNF coffin for me.

But...I still got the sense that Robin McKinley is a writer I am going to love. So where do I begin? I know Beauty is supposed to be THE Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I'm not sure I'm in the mood for that one just yet. I'm leaning more toward her high fantasies like The Hero and the Crown or The Blue Sword (which I actually own). They go together, right? Which do I read first, and do they have to be read together like a series? Is there another book of hers that's even better?

Juliet Marillier

Honestly, I've been avoiding Juliet Marillier's books for the simple and pathetic reason that they're long and that scares me. Most of her books have stunning covers, but I think they're actually part of the reason I'm so afraid of the page count. There's so much detail in those covers! I feel like I'm going to be equally swamped with pages and pages of endless minute detail. I know, that's quite a stretch when it comes to judging books by their covers!

So where do I begin? I'm leaning toward her fairy tale retellings like Wildwood Dancing or Heart's Blood, but then there's also her Sevenwaters series (which is big and daunting and I know nothing about). I also see that there's a sequel for Wildwood Dancing, so does that mean the first book doesn't end as a standalone? Which book do you suggest I start with? Are my fears of endless detail warranted or do the pages fly by?


Mercedes Lackey

When I was young and browsing the shelves at my library, Mercedes Lackey's books always stood out to me. They were gorgeous, but for some reason I never read any of them. I think I was under the impression that they were too old for me (too old in the "these books have sexy times" kind of way). 

I assume they're not too old for me now, so it's time to start working my way through her catalog. Talk about overwhelming! I don't even know where to begin here. She has a bunch of different series, but I don't really know much about any of them. Do you have to read each series straight through, or do the books each read as standalones? Where should I start??


Patricia A. McKillip

I should have read her too, right? Again, I don't know how I managed to miss her books when I was younger, but it's high time I fix that. She has standalones, series, and duologies that look like they range from high fantasy to fairy tale retellings. It's a little daunting!

I think I'd rather ease my way into things and start with a standalone...preferably a shorter one? I've heard good things about her Riddle Master series (which, yeah, isn't short or a standalone) but I also feel drawn to The Changeling Sea. Where should I begin? Is she the must-read author I think she is? Her covers also make me think of a dense, detail-heavy book. Is that the case?

Tamora Pierce

I've put her last because I feel most embarrassed about not having read any of her books. Honestly, I'm boggled as to why I never read any of her Tortall books. They seem like they were practically made for me. The only reason I can come up with is that this or this is probably the cover I saw in my library and I was no less a cover judge then than I am now.

I have got to fix this! I know there's the Circle series, but I think I should make my way through her Tortall books first. I really, really hope I can correct this wrong sometime this year, but I'm so easily distracted so I'm not making any solemn vows or anything, ok? Is this the correct reading order: Song of the Lioness quartet, Immortals Quartet, Protector of the Small quartet (gotta say, I'm partial to that title), Daughter of the Lioness duology, and the Beka Cooper series?

Commence the shaming! Or, you know, gentle encouragement. Have you read any of these authors? CAN YOU HELP ME PLEASE?!

Disagree on any of these authors?
Are there any other authors you think are "must reads" for any self-proclaimed fantasy fan? 
  Feel free to add links to your reviews!

Want to see more Spotlight Lists?
Sleeping Beauty Retold
Historical Fiction with Magic
Click HERE to see more of my lists

Click to see some from Splash of Our Worlds


  1. You have three of my favorite all-time authors on this list: Patricia A. McKillip, Robin McKinley, and Juliet Marillier. I grew up reading these authors, much younger than most people read them. They'll always be my favorite. You should definitely read them some time!

  2. What a great list! For some reason, I haven't read many of these either. The one Robin McKinley book I read was Beauty, and I didn't even get to that until this past June. I really enjoyed it, and I definitely want to read more. I've heard wonderful things Juliet Marillier and Mercedes Lackey books, but I've never read them, and I want to change that soon. I loved Tamora Pierce books in middle school, but since then I haven't picked any up, and I want to start reading them again. I'm sure I'll like them even more now. It's great to hear that someone else also hasn't read these books - I always thought I'd love these books, but never got around to buying them or checking them out of the library.

  3. As for recommendations of where to start, with McKillip I'd suggest Winter Rose, it's a shortish one; McKinley I'd go with Deerskin; and Marillier, Wildwood Dancing and Daughter of the Forest are both good starts. I wouldn't worry about length. If they grab you I'm sure you'll get through them quickly.

  4. I'm actually not a Tamora Pierce fan, though I know she has many followers and admirers. Which is my way of saying to you shouldn't feel too bad.

    I know I've been one of the people trying to push Juliet Marillier on you, but I have to warn you that the Sevenwaters books are pretty dark. I love them--especially books one and two--but beware the heartwrench.

    And it just so happens that I have an extra copy of Wildwood Dancing. Do you want it? Also, Cybelle's Secret is more of a companion novel to Wildwood than a sequel. Wildwood tells the story of Jenna and Cybelle's Secret is the story of one of Jenna's sisters.

  5. For McKinley, I love "Deerskin" but there is quite a bit of violence (a rape) so definitely research that before you decide.

    For Marillier, I think Wildwood Dancing and its companion Cybele's Secret are amazing (no cliffhangers but probably read them in that order). I flew through them.

    For Lackey, I've only read her Elemental Mages and Five Hundred Kingdom series (both of which draw heavily on fairy tale elements) and my faves are "Phoenix and Ashes" and "The Fairy Godmother" for their heavy use of Cinderella plots with unique twists.

    Haven't read any McKillip yet although I have added a few to my goodreads shelves. I think she has received some gorgeous covers but I can't speak to her style.

    As to Pierce, I cannot believe you haven't read any of her books! The order you listed is correct although I think that the Beka Cooper series is technically set way before the others but since it was written later (with the third book coming out later this year), you could probably wait on it.

    Overall: You have to read Alanna's story! Seriously, even if you choose to read none of the other authors' books at this time, you HAVE to read the Song of the Lioness quartet [Blogger peer pressure!]

  6. Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of the Wild Swans fairy tale, which explains why I love it. I still need to read the newest installment in the series. I have fond memories of the original trilogy. Those books kept me up until 8 o'clock in the morning!

  7. What an excellent post for me to use to get recommendations for oldish books I've yet to read. Nope, I've never read any of these authors either. It's only fairly recently that I've begun exploring more. There was a time, actually about a decade long, when all I ever read was Harry over and over again. Prior to that, practically all I ever read was Roald Dahl. I'm just obsessive like that I guess. So I have quite a bit of exploring and discovering to do, there's no doubt!

  8. *hangs head in shame*

    Smalls, wish I could help you out here but I hadn't heard of any of these authors before this post. I know. I know.

    I suck.

    I'm trying to make myself a bit better by telling myself that fantasy really isn't my genre, but it's not helping.

    Based on your post here, Robin McKinley is piquing my interest most. Bummer about Pegasus, because the cover is gorgeous.

  9. Aylee - I thought I was the only one who reread HP over and over and absolutely nothing else! I believe that was in about 2008. Thankfully, I've discovered so many wonderful books since then, but I still have a soft spot for the HP books.

    On another note, I was considering reading Deerskin but decided on Beauty instead for the reasons people mentioned above. I must say, I was very happy with my decision. McKinley did a great job of appealing to people who love to read. And as far as I can remember, there was nothing too violent or graphic. I would definitely recommend Beauty.

  10. I haven't given up on Robin McKilney either because like you, I can see that there is a fantastic author there even though Pegasus was a bit of a disappointment. I might try Beauty next rather than the high fantasy ones. Thanks for reminding me about Juliet Marillier- Wildwood Dancing looks like something I would enjoy and the covers are an extra incentive ;)

  11. I am not much of a fantasy fan Small. I have read a couple and everyone know and then I will love one. So I can't help you with any of those authors.

    Have you read Isobelle Carmody? I have heard she is a good fantasy writer to add to your list.

  12. I don't know any of those authors :o
    Thanks for growing my list even more..haha

    Now if you want something like epic fantasy (i really hate all those sub-categories) you should try Raymond Feist. He is my favorite author. He start writing around when D&D books came out as well. He is old. I have about 20 of his books. Maybe more. All at the same series, sooo you need some good nerves..

  13. I've never actually read anything by Tamora Pierce either! I've heard good things but I don't know, I just haven't. I recently finished Pegasus by Robin McKinley and I liked it, but I agree there were too many flashbacks.

  14. Aww, Pegasus was one of our faves. That said, there IS a lot of backstory. (It's just so beautifully written and interesting!!)

    ANYHOOT. We recommend Blue Sword and then Hero and the Crown. In that order. Hero is probably our second fave McKinley. That duology is amazing, though. (And much shorter and more action-filled than Pegasus.)

    We haven't read Marillier ourselves, but we heard Heart's Blood is really good.

  15. Oh! I have only read one author on this series and I really do want to read McKinley's books, they sound like a must for a b&B fan like I am.
    But I don't know, I just never seem to get around it.

    Re: Juliet Marillier, her books are lovely but you're right, there is a lot of detail.

    I personally adore Daughter of the Forest, but the first half of the book was a bit of a struggle for me, I actually put it down for a couple of weeks because I just couldn't seem to progress very much, but then (this was still when I finished everything I started, and this is probably the only case that I'm glad I did!) I picked it up and finished the book in one night, I couldn't stop reading.

    The second part just flowed and I loooved it - it has one of my favorite heros ever, Hugh of Harrowfield, and he's definitely the type of man anyone can fall in love with while he's still very much a man (let's just say talking about his feelings isn't really a skill he possess), he shows what he feels rather than say it and I just LOVE him.

    I also really liked Heart's Blood, but it had it's lulls in the narrative. There is lots of dark magic and stuff on it, so I guess it's more of a mood book.

    Sorry for the gushing.

  16. *jumps on board with the Alanna series blogger pressure* These were *the* books to get me into YA fantasy. Before then I stuck to realistic reads and honestly didn't really see the point of fantasy. Now, of course, it's a whole different story and I give most of the credit to Tamora Pierce for her Song of the Lioness series! I'd recommend you start there (keeping in mind, of course, when the books were published - some things may be cliches now that weren't back then) and then try the Immortals series. I am not as big a fan of her later stuff or the Circle series.

    It's been quite a while since I read Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea but I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it & I think you would as well.

    As for Robin McKinley - read Beauty! Well, whenever you're in the mood for it, I mean :D It's my favourite McKinley read.

  17. This makes me smile. I should probably do a post like this and beg for recommendations :)

    LOVE McKinley, though I have to admit not everything of hers. Pegasus was a bit long and drawn out. I wholeheartedly recommend Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown. They were written in that order, but H&C is more of a prequel. Probably should still be read in the writing order. I also really liked Chalice. Haven't read Sunshine but I've heard lots of good about it (and some content that might warrant consideration before reading).

    Marillier is another favorite, but if you want slightly shorter and more accessible, start with Wildwood Dancing and if you like that, read Cybele's Secret - not a sequel as was mentioned. I liked Heart's Blood a lot as well, though the story isn't as memorable for some reason. Daughter of the Forest is fabulous, but dark and requires a LOT of investment time. Decide if you love her enough before you read those :)

    Can't help you with the others, because I'm just as underread as you there. Looking forward to hearing what you decide!

  18. Tamora Pierce is a genius, and her Beka Cooper books are fab. I highly, highly recommend all of her work :)

  19. I was recently shamed into picking up Tamora Pierce from the library. Read Trickster's Choice with me!

    I also added a Juliet Marillier recently on recommendation by Midnyte Reader. I added Heart's Blood.

    Also, did you know Mercedes Lackey wrote a boarding school style MG series? The second book was just reviewed on Books with Bite. It's the Shadow Grail series. I might give that one a whirl.

  20. I haven't read any of those authors' books either :p I've heard Tamora Pierce's books are absolutely amazing, and I now both my dad and sister love her books. Have you heard of the fantasy author T.A. Barron? He's written a ton of fantasy books, but I've only read his series The Great Tree of Avalon, which I absolutely LOVED! Great list!

  21. I'm with you on these! I've only read one Robin McKinley book and I really want to read more. Tamora Pierce is going to be my first go-to though. I desperately want to read her books. I sure wish I'd liked fantasy as a kid. I feel like I missed out on so much.

  22. *Guiltily puts up her hand for not having read Tamora Pierce's books either.*

    I'd recommend Wildwood Dancing to start with (don't worry, there's no endless barrage of minute detail but a lovely retelling of a story :)

    I liked the Changeling Sea (the most fairytale-like of her books) but I also recommend 'In The Forests of Serre' because of the amazing writing and how the plot twists thread together.

    I also enjoyed both the Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown by Robin Mckinley.

    Have fun reading!!

  23. Small-

    I can only help by saying I read Sunshine by Robin McKinley. Definitely not a fairy tale retelling. I'd be flying blind just like you, but I feel like I should read Tamora Pierce if I knew where to start. Let me know will ya?


  24. I haven't read them but love fairy tale retellings. I'll check them out!

  25. I've only read McKinley's Damar series and I believe I read The Blue Sword first - it was a long time ago. I don't think those two don't need to be read in a particular order but if I remember correctly, there's a tiny bit of stuff from The Hero and the Crown appearing in The Blue Sword as legend.

    I love the the Song of the Lioness quartet but didn't really read the others because I missed Alanna's voice. I've also read Pierce's Circle series and liked it. It's how I actually got introduced to her books.

  26. My gosh, you guys are AWESOME!! Thank you so much for all of your guidance and recommendations :)

    Chelsey, Ooh, good! All-time favorite authors is the kind of motivation I want to hear :) Thank you for the recommendations! I’ve heard Deerskin mentioned a lot.

    Pica, Oh good, I’m not alone! :P You are ahead of me though having read at least some. I’d better get started!

    Rubita, Haha, yes, you are one of the Juliet Marillier people (but I love it!) Ooh, heartwrench you say? I love it already! Of course I would love your extra copy of Wildwood Dancing, but you’ve given me so much already! Let me see if I have something I can give you in return first. I was already eying your copy of Immortal. Aaah Ruby! You’re a treasure trove. Thank you for the info on Cybelle’s Secret. Whew!

    Bookworm1858, Thank you for all these awesome recommendations! Your comment is super helpful. I’ve heard that about Deerskin. Thank you for that warning. I know, I know, I don’t know how in the world I managed to miss out of Tamora Pierce. I promise, I WILL read Alanna’s series. I ordered the series for my library and as soon as it comes in I’m going to read it. (I love blogger peer pressure :P)

    Bookish Hobbit, I think I first heard about the Daughter of the Forest book when you were reading it! You’re the reason they’re on my tbr :)

    Aylee, Glad you liked it! Isn’t it helpful? Such awesome responses from everyone. Aw, I love that you read nothing but HP over and over. You make me so nostalgic :)

  27. Missie, Aw, at least we are not alone in our shame :) But I think I should be more shamed because fantasy IS my genre.

    Stephanie, I’m really curious to see what you think of the rest of McKinley’s books. We’re kind of in the same position with her.

    Nic, I haven’t read Isobelle Carmody. I don’t think I’ve even heard of her! Thank you!

    Yiota, You’re welcome! :P Ooh, I’ve heard so many good things about Raymond Feist. He’s definitely on my list.

    Liz, Yay! More people who missed Tamora Pierce. I feel less alone :) I think I’m going to give Pegasus another go after the second book is published.

    We Heart YA, Pegasus was beautifully written. I think I’m going to give it a try again once the second book is published. The cliffhanger ending was the biggest reason I DNF-ed. Thank you for the info about the reading order!

    Alex, Ugh, I hear you. I never seem to get around to so many authors. Where does the time go?? Thank you for the info about Daughter of the Forest. I love hearing things like that because then I know what to expect and that I should stick with it. Hugh sounds AWESOME! Oh, and you NEVER have to apologize for gushing about books here :) The more gushing the better!

    Danya, If YOU’RE saying you love the Alanna series, then I am positive I will love them too. Thanks for all the info!

  28. Melissa, Great info! Thank you! After all these great recs I think I’m going to try Wildwood Dancing first for Marillier. The Daughter of the Forest series looks good too, but I think I’ll have to wait until I have more time (is there ever more time?)

    Melissa, Yes! I’ve heard really good things about her Beka Cooper books. I can’t wait until the books I ordered get processed (they’re taking their sweet time! I have book 2 staring at me but no book 1…)

    Logan, noooo it looks like I have to read other books in the series before I can read Trickster’s Choice! No, I didn’t know Mercedes Lackey wrote a boarding school series! Boarding school books!!! Ok, I’m adding that now. Thanks!

    T.B. I have heard of T.A. Barron, but that’s another great author I have sadly never read. There’s that whole long Merlin series, and I have book 2 in the Great Tree of Avalon series. I’d better get my hands on a copy of book 1!

    Alison, Me too. I wish I had had the Tamora Pierce experience growing up. I hope I like her as much now. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for your reviews on them. I’m so bad that you’ll probably get to them long before I do.

    Paper-Wanderer, Yay! More people to sit at my “We haven’t read Tamora Pierce” table! Thank you for all those great recommendations and for pointing me in the right direction.

    Heather, Haha, nope, that’s her adult vampire book, right? I’ve heard mixed thoughts on that one. I’ll be sure to let you know. So far it looks like Song of the Lioness is the place to start.

    Alyssa, Hope you like them!

    A Canadian Girl, Aw, I hate it when a narrator I loved is switched. I think I have an omnibus of some of her Circle books. Thanks for all the info!

  29. Hey there, found your blog through Logan's most recent post. I absolutely love Juliet Marillier. In fact, I recently met her at the RWA signing. I would personally start with her Sevenwaters series. Patricia McKillip you really have to sink your teeth into those stories. They are not light reads (to me anyway.) I also do like Robin McKinley.

    I personally am also going to check out the other ones you mentioned. I have only read one Mercedes Lackey book and I agree with you that getting through all her books will be overwhelming. I'll research the other authors as well.

    Too much to read! Aaaa!

  30. Heed this demand from me:

    READ Robin McKinley, Tamora Pierce, Patricia McKillip, and Juliet Marillier.

    Your life depends on this!!!!

    I have quite a few of these. I would be more than willing to do a reading trade. NO JOKE. email me if you want :)


  31. You can't have Immortal--Logan already snagged it! Let me know about Wildwood Dancing.

  32. Midnyte Reader, I just picked up a copy of the first book in her Sevenwaters series! Excellent :) Thanks for all the feedback!

    Book Geek, haha, I know! I really must read them already. Your throwback review for Tamora Pierce made me feel so shamed :P I don't have any books to trade right now, but if I ever do I'll be sending you an email for sure. Thanks!

    Rubita, Even better! I hope she likes it :) I think I'll pass on Wildwood Dancing for now. I just bought a few books and, um, got the "You have too many books and we're running out of room" speech :O


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