Okay you young ‘uns. It’s come to my attention that some who are new to fantasy have missed some very important things. There are some books (and authors) who hold certain golden spots in the annals of fantasy history. These are the classics, they’re referenced in honor in short stories, they are the ones everyone has read or at least heard of. Or so I thought. More and more recently people aren’t aware of them. And this is a travesty. A TRAVESTY ya’ll!
Here are a just a few of the classics—but important classics mind you:
Okay not precisely that but close to it. If you haven’t read them yet, tsk! You should at least read Nine Princes in Amber. If you haven’t even heard of them, FOR SHAME.
The Chronicles of Amber were published as serials in the late 70s by sci-fi writer Roger Zelazny. They’re fantasy, of a sort, but as Zelazny is a sci-fi writer they have more of a sci-fi language and edge to them. The most fascinating thing about the Chronicles of Amber, however, is the world building. Zelazny managed to craft Amber, the only true world, and explains that all other worlds, including the world we inhabit, are merely shadows of the original Amber. Princes and Princesses of Amber can contact each other through a set of tarot cards called the Trumps (psst that’s my favorite thing), and have their own political agendas. These Princes and Princesses, or rather this whole strange family, is really the focus of the books.
Amber is a little bit dark, a little bit violent so if that’s not your thing then the book may not be for you. I’m not much a fan of that sort of thing but I was really impressed by this incredibly creative world.
When you think of some classic fantasy characters, it’s hard to not mention Elric. Elric is the last ruler of the ancient empire of Melniborne and is a classic anti-hero. His body is very weak, and he uses drugs to sustain himself, but to contrast he is very clever and a powerful sorcerer. He has a vampiric sword which takes the souls of those he kills. Elric is often at odds with the blade which adds some interesting depth to his character. What I always found the most interesting thing about Elric, was that his race is known for being somewhat cold, cruel, and uncaring, but Elric, surprisingly, shows a bit of a conscience, and we watch that conscience grow and develop throughout the novels.
I mention Elric because he has had a tremendous influence in literature and pop culture. Elric has been featured in music, short stories, television, role playing games, and there is even potentially a movie in the works. The role playing publisher 'White Wolf' was even named for him.
Wow, it’s even hard typing that. Anyways…
I thought it was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, since then more and more people have cropped up who have never even heard of the man. Which is utterly and completely shocking since he’s written some of the most popular epic fantasy in the 80s early 90s. He also gave us such cult characters such as Belgarath, Belgarion, and Polgara.
For me, growing up, everyone who read fantasy had read, at some point, David Eddings.
David Eddings work is classic epic fantasy. It’s also very easy to read and so I like to think of it as excellent ‘transition’ fantasy for someone who is ready to make the move from YA fantasy up to adult fantasy. His characters are relatable and loveable. The Belgariad, in fact, is one of my favorite ‘coming of age’ fantasies.
The downsides with David Eddings is that his two different series tended to have extremely similar plots and similar feel. Also he could not write a good female character to save his soul. If I could set one character in all of literature on fire, it would be his character C’Nedra. She was horrible.
I hope you enjoyed this brief brief history lesson into the olden days of fantasy and sci fi. Some of these books may not be on your top five list, but they are classics for a reason. I, for one, am glad I have read them.