A GOOD READ: Let fantasy novels warm your winter

Winter, with its cold temperatures and short days, is the perfect time to settle in with a good book and for me, that book is usually a fantasy novel.

It was a fantasy novel that finally got me interested in reading as a kid. Our fourth grade teacher had the class reading The Hobbit aloud and, for the first time, I was reading ahead of the class because I wanted to know what happened next. I even remember the chapter heading that propelled me on: “Riddles in the Dark.”

Fantasy had hooked me and I’ve never looked back.

I’m going to assume that if you read fantasy, you’re familiar with the usual suspects: Harry Potter, the aforementioned Lord of the Rings, Terry BrooksShannara series, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books. You’ve read the big names and the best sellers, and the question you have for the librarian is “What do I read next?”

I recommend Patrick Rothfuss. For the last few years, he has been the first name I mention when asked if I could suggest an author or book. His novel The Name of the Wind is the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. It is a great tale within a tale about a legendary wizard, Kvothe, who is found in an isolated hiding place and convinced to tell the “true” account of his life. It’s a story of how legends come to be, with a nice mix of humour, tragedy and more than a little mystery — not the least of which is wondering how much of the wizard’s story is true. If you enjoy the first book, the story continues in Wise Man’s Fear.

Another of my favourites is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. A great mix of detective fiction and magic, The Dresden Files follow the adventures of private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden as he deals with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and dark wizards, while consulting for the police in modern-day Chicago. I think of Butcher’s novels as Harry Potter for adults, with a twist of noir and a good sense of humour. The first book in the series is Storm Front and if you enjoy these, you may also enjoy the television series, of which there is one season available on DVD.

My third recommendation is Steven Erikson, a Canadian author who writes epic military fantasy fiction, and a surprising amount of poetry, in his series The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Gardens of the Moon is the first book in the series and if you like your wars big, with floating castles, meddling gods, dragons, undead dinosaurs, crumbling empires and protagonists painted in shades of grey, then you’ll soon read the rest. Erikson’s cast of characters is vast and each book sees a change, sometimes moving across the world to another continent (or to another world).

If you come to love this setting as much as I have, you get a bonus as the co-creator of the world of Malazan, Ian Esslemont, is writing additional novels set in the world of the Malazan Empire. They are probably best consumed after you’ve made a sizeable dent in Erikson’s series.

There are many other wonderful fantasy authors writing today. For a change of scene or a change of world, stop by your local public library.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Rory Weston works at Coquitlam Public Library.


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