Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!
Today I want to talk about: gateway fantasy books.
I know that fantasy can sometimes receive a bit of a bad reputation – some people seem to think it’s either a really difficult genre to read, or really geeky, or they just have no idea where to start. So I want to share with you today a three stage process for people new to the fantasy genre. I’ve split them into three ‘stages’, with the idea that you tackle them in order, to build up confidence reading the genre. It was really hard to split these books into stages, and I hope my explanations of why and how I split them make sense and don’t offend anyone!
Stage One: for younger readers AND/OR fantasy set at least partly in our world
These books come under ‘Stage One’, as they are either aimed at younger readers so the fantasy world is not as complicated as say, The Lord of the Rings, or they are set either partly or entirely in our world. I think these are pretty good books to start with, particularly the ones set in our world: Sabriel by Garth Nix, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Magicians by Lev Grossman (this one is definitely an adult book!). This way you won’t be immediately thrown in at the deep end, and at least some elements of the story will be familiar. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett and Song Quest by Katherine Roberts are set in fantasy worlds, but are aimed at younger readers so you know you won’t need to worry about keeping up with a huge cast of characters, assortment of strange languages and entirely new and vast geography that you might find in books for older readers.
Stage Two: aimed at Young Adult audiences and older AND/OR set in a ‘less detailed’ fantasy world
I say ‘less detailed’ because I do not mean in ANY way that the author has only half-heartedly created their world, or that these books are seen as ‘lesser’ fantasy. I just mean that the scale of the world-building is as not big as some of the books in the next stage. ‘Stage Two’ includes these sorts of books, as well as Young Adult Fantasy, which often falls into the category anyway. Throne of Glass (my review) by Sarah J. Maas, Graceling (my review) by Kristin Cashore, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson, Finnikin of the Rock (my review) by Melina Marchetta and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo come under Young Adult fantasy fiction, and all are fantastic examples of the genre. Mort by Terry Pratchett, like the rest of the Discworld books, is primarily aimed at adults but Pratchett’s brilliant sense of humour makes it a lighter read.
Stage Three: ‘heavier’ fantasy
Feeling ready for ‘Stage Three’? By ‘heavier’, I mean that these books have more detailed world building than those in Stage Two – perhaps the author has created an entire history, a new language etc. If you’re prepared to take a dip into the world of heavier fantasy, then I’d recommended starting with The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan. And if you’re not too scared of reading some Tolkien, then give The Hobbit (or even The Lord of the Rings) a shot! So many people are unsure about reading his work, but I was recently interviewed by Pages Unbound for Tolkien Reading Week, where I shared my love for Middle-earth – hopefully that will convince some people! As you feel more confident with reading fantasy books, I would highly recommend the following: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.