Top 10 Fantasy Series’

This month for my Top 10s I thought I’d honour one of my favourite genres: Fantasy. So first I will be chronicling my Top 10 Fantasy Series’ and then tomorrow will be the Top 10 Fantasy Realms ūüôā May all you heroes, villains, maidens, witches and wizards enjoy!

1. Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

I bought the Axis trilogy (which consists of Battleaxe; Enchanter and Starman) at the annual Cat Haven f√™te when I was 15, for 50 cents a piece! They were in a box of bric-a-brac and at the time I had never heard of Sara Douglass (a prominent Australian fantasy writer) but I was interested in starting a nice meaty fantasy series and at 50 cents each how could I lose? I took book 1 – Battleaxe – to one of the school camps my school held every term and the first chapter blew me away. So much so that I couldn’t sleep and instead recounted¬†the whole¬†thing¬†to one of my best friends who was in the bunk next to me and we even talked about it the next day over dodgy camp breakfast (this may have been because the chapter described the violent birth of the demonic baddy of the series and we were joking that it was just like the birth of another friend of ours, but still).
The series follows a young man called Axis (surprise, surprise) and his journey to find and kill his polar opposite, Gorgrael¬†the Destroyer as it is prophesied. Along the way he also seeks to find his “true love”, Faraday who has been forced into marrying Axis’ cruel half-brother; and is trained by the Icarii, a wise long-lived race of winged people. Because the Axis Trilogy was the first adult fantasy series I read, it is the benchmark I measure all others by, and it’s a mighty series to live up to as all three books were nominated for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards and Enchanter and StarMan both won the award in their respective
years. If you’re a fan of classic fantasy or are looking for a place to start in this sometimes daunting genre, then the Axis Trilogy is a quality read to look for, filled with all the important fantasy elements: a brave hero; a creepy bad guy; epic battles; tragic love stories; large-scale magical events and a well-formed world.

The one that started it all - and at 50c!

2. Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh 

I talked about this series a bit when I did my Top 10 Animal Characters, especially the trials I went through to find the second two books: Revenge and Destiny¬†and there was no doubt that they would be on this list. The series is classic fantasy (battles of good and evil; magic powers etc. etc.) but is also a little different. Fiona McIntosh doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of¬†(imagined) life in the Trinity Trilogy, with some truly horrific things¬†happening to key characters throughout, and this was one of the aspects of this series I really loved, because fantasy novels can sometimes succumb to nicely wrapped up “happily-ever-afters” where all the main characters are alive and happy, which is a little hollow. Like the Axis Trilogy the main theme of this series is a journey leading to the predestined fate of a main character, but unlike the Axis Trilogy the hero, Tor, is not the only focus and his love interest, Alyssa, is often given just as much page time. The Trinity Trilogy¬†also has a bit more humor in it that the Axis Trilogy which was quite a serious affair, and it is really needed it to balance out the darker parts.

A quality trilogy

3. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready 

I read this series pretty recently, starting with Eyes of Crow in late 2009, then Voice of Crow midway through 2010¬†and ending with The Reawakened early this year, and they have been some of the most enjoyable reads of those years. I initially borrowed Eyes of Crow from the library and had no idea it was the first of a series as the other books weren’t mentioned anywhere on or in the book and it worked very well as a stand alone. Then I was looking for a different book one day and spotted the spine of Voice of Crow – it must have been out when I borrowed the first book so I didn’t see it, and it was one of the most exciting library discoveries I’ve ever had! Amazingly, Voice of Crow was just as good as it’s predecessor – filled with the same intricate mythology, complex characters and relationships as well as a neat blend of humor and drama – in fact, it may have been even better. Unfortunately the library didn’t have the third and final book, but that didn’t stop me – I just found it and bought it on Amazon ūüôā
This series is a refreshing detour from the traditional medieval-swords-and-maidans style of fantasy, so if you like some elements of the fantasy genre but are a bit sick of all those epic battles and dragon stuff, then this series could be for you. I especially loved the take on Native American culture and mythology, revolving around Spirit Animals. Great stuff.

I'm so glad this wasn't a one off ūüôā

4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman 

It took me years to get to this controversal but highly praised series, but I had wanted to read them since I was in my early teens. It was just after the movie The Golden Compass¬†that I was finally prompted to read them, when my little bro got the box set for xmas and¬†didn’t show much¬†interest – swoop! I was surprised by how involved the story was for¬†what is defined as a children’s series – and how violent! There has been a lot of criticism of this series, mainly claiming that it is anti-christian and promotes this to children. I can see how people could get this idea, as the Church in the world of His Dark Materials is a quite evil organisation and there is a secret plot to kill its version of God – “The Authority”, but I don’t think that they strive to condemn christianity to children or that children hate the church or God after reading them. It is a very deep but also very exciting and fun series, and I think anything that makes kids read is a good thing. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Controversy shontroversy

5. Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

I have shown my fangirl status when it comes to this series before and I will probably continue to sing its praises long after Isobelle Carmody (finally!) releases the last book. The Obernewtyn Chronicles is the longest series in this list so far with five books published and two more due. In the US and Canada book 5, The Stone Key was split into two volumes, The Stone Key and Wavesong, which I understand because the books got bigger and bigger and The Stone Key was around 1000 pages long and felt like a couple of books rolled into one, but it can be a bit confusing when looking for the books online.
There are a few elements that make this series really great, in my opinion. Firstly it is a classic children’s fantasy idea, with children/young adults who have special abilities rising up against the cruel adult rulers of The Land. Secondly, the books have¬† really poignant messages behind them – 1. that it doesn’t matter if you are different, everyone is special in their own way and can do great things; and 2. that we need to care for our environment, as the books are set in a post-apocalyptic future where much of The Land is poisoned.

The US/CA covers (last two are yet to be released)

6. Deltora¬†Quest series’ (Deltora¬†Quest; Deltora¬†Shadowlands; Dragons of Deltora)¬†by Emily Rodda¬†

I have included the three series’ by Emily Rodda¬†that are set in Deltora¬†because they are a continuation of the same story, with the same characters, and also I¬†loved them all so much I couldn’t choose ūüôā I read the first Deltora¬†Quest series (which consists of 8 short¬†novels) several times over my tweens/early teens, often devouring whole books in a couple of hours. The series is about a young boy called Lief who is on a journey to complete the legendary Belt of Deltora¬†with his gruff mentor, Barda¬†and wild orphan girl Jasmine. Each book chronicles their travels to key areas of Deltora¬†where the various gems that make up the belt can be found, and along the way there are a range of trials, battles and puzzles they have to solve. The best thing is, the reader also gets to solve the riddles and puzzles because they are introduced gradually as if you are right there with Lief, Barda¬†and Jasmine and the books are filled with little pictures to help you along. The second series is three books long and follows Lief, Barda¬†and Jasmine as they travel¬†beneath Deltora¬†to reunite the three pieces of an ancient pipe that suppresses¬†the evil of the¬†Shadowlands and was also really interactive and action-packed even tho it was a lot shorter. The whole Deltora¬†saga then concludes with the Dragons of Deltora¬†series, where the gang must track down the Four Sisters, creators of the evil Shadowlord, and kill them using the legendary¬†Dragons of Deltora. Quality reading for even the most reluctant readers.

The 8 books in the original Deltora Quest series

7. Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda

The Rowan of Rin¬†series is in a similar vein to the Deltora¬†books (which is understandable as they’re both by Emily Rodda) but the Rowan books are a little more simple and each book is a stand alone story. They all revolve around Rowan, a quiet boy in the small village of Rin¬†who herds the Bukshah, a kind of cattle native to the area, but who keeps getting caught up in vague prophecies foretold by the villages creepy recluse, Sheba. There are five books in the series: Rowan of Rin; Rowan and the Travellers; Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal; Rowan and the Zebak; and Rowan of the Bukshah and each of them follow a simple but effective path: the set-up, where everything in Rin¬†is fine and dandy; something kind of odd starts to happen; Sheba makes a prophetic¬†announcement¬†that features Rowan in some way; Rowan and often other people of the village go on an epic journey to rectify the strange happenings which includes lots of puzzles and problem-solving; Rowan saves the day. Just like the Deltora books, this series is great fantastical fun for reluctant readers and has some hidden morals to boot. All the books have been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year, which I discussed in a recent post¬†and Rowan of Rin won the year it was shortlisted.

Poor sweet Rowan - everything happens to him!

8. The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I also talked a bit about this series in a Top 10 because it’s a pretty memorable one. Unlike most fantasy series out there the “hero” of these books isn’t a strong young man¬†but a scruffy little girl with no real skills at fighting (at least at first)¬†who is slow to develop her latent powers. It is this gradual growth of the main character, and the layers of her powers and background that unravel through the books that really attracted me – it felt more natural than some examples of the genre. It’s a great series for young adults, especially those that love animals.

Wild magic = awesome ūüôā

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling 

I really couldn’t have done a list of fantasy series’ without mentioning Harry Potter, even if I wasn’t a huge HP fan because there isn’t many fantasy series’ that have made as much of an impact on pop culture and children’s reading habits. There is a reason the Harry Potter books are among¬†some of the highest selling books of all time – they may not be the most well-crafted novels but they are filled with action, emotion and magic of course! and that is a recipe for a hit (or series of hits) with the young set, and with plenty of¬†adults too. I think I’ve read the first four books four or five times each (mostly while I was waiting for the last three to come out) and most likely I’ll read them all again, and again in my lifetime. There’s just something about the tale of an unwanted, underappreciated boy who finds out he’s a wizard and goes to a magical school that’s so enjoyable and addictive to read. HP forever! ūüôā

Accio Harry Potter box set!

10. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Even ‘tho i’ve only read the first¬†6 of this 39 book strong series there is no way I could forget it because even in those 6 books I have fallen in love with Pratchett’s quirky writing style, the hilarious characters and the wonderful world on the Disc. Many people might find the sheer number of books in the series too daunting to dive into, but beleive¬†me if you like quality fantasy that’s a bit tounge¬†in cheek and oddball it’s worth it. And the good thing is, they mainly¬†make sense as individual books so you don’t nessesarily¬†have to read¬†all of them or in order. ¬†Of the once I’ve read I would recomend Mort the most, mainly because as I’ve said before¬†I love Pratchett’s personification of Death ūüôā

A Grim Reaper that's almost cuddly

Top 10 Books About Animals

I’m a big animal lover and I happen to read a lot¬†of books that feature animals, so I thought why not do an animal themed Top 10 this month ūüôā Sooooo first I present my¬†Top 10 books about animals and then the Top 10 animal characters.

Enjoy ūüôā

1. Watership Down  by Richard Adams

Lovers of my previous Top 10’s¬†will know that I’m quite fond of the rabbit epic, Watership Down, but it had to be in this list because, basically, it’s awesome ūüôā It may have been the first book with an entirely non-human character base that I loved as a kid, but made me feel grown-up. It’s an excellent story with a wealth of details about the rabbit’s social structure – Adams even created a rabbit language, political and social hierarchies and other clever little tidbits that make the story really rich and believable. Even if you don’t really like books about animals, I would recommend it.

2. Redwall  series by Brian Jacques

Another book (or series of books) that showed me animal stories didn’t need to be boring! I read a fair few of these when I was in primary school (tho I can’t remember which ones exactly) and I thought it was so cool that someone wrote a series of books about mice and other woodland creatures that battle with tiny swords and protect little castles! One day I hope to read the series again from the start, especially because it’s still going with the 22nd book being released earlier this year ūüôā

To battle!

3. Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH¬†¬†by Robert C O’Brien

I think I was given this book for a present when I was a kid, and I still own the original (and very well-read) copy. It’s another book about rats and mice but very different to the Redwall series. instead¬†of mice with swords the story revolves around a field mouse called Mrs Frisby¬†and her family who have fallen on hard times since their father was killed by the farm’s cat. When her son Timothy falls ill and their home is threatened by impending plowing, Mrs Frisby¬†seeks the council of a wise owl who on hearing the name of her late husband¬†refers her to the Rats of NIMH. The rats are¬†former lab rats from¬†the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which are highly intelligent due to the testing they underwent there. The book is a classic of children’s literature¬†and received the Newbery Medal¬†in 1972. Robert C O’Brien’s daughter Jane Leslie Conly¬†(O’Brien’s actual name was Robert Leslie Conly)¬†also wrote two sequels after her father’s death: Rasco and the Rats of NIMH and R-T, Margaret and the Rats of NIMH¬†which I don’t think I have read and there was two animated films made based on the books.

This is what happens when you experiment on lab rats people!

4. Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky

So far I have only read the first of this series – The Capture – but even from the first book I was attracted to the detail Kathryn Lasky went into when describing owl culture and behaviour. The book showed some real research into the anatomy and day-to-day life of various owl species, while telling an exciting and emotional story that acknowledges kids intelligence by using real scientific names of species and not shying away from harsh realities – after all, owls aren’t really cute and fluffy, especially in the world of these books! I look forward to reading more of the series (there is 15 in total!) and in fact the second book – The Journey – is on one of my “to read” piles just waiting to be picked up ūüôā

I ‚̧ owls ^-^

5. Promise of the Wolves  by Dorothy Hearst

This was a book that I ordered off my bookclub¬†a few years ago for a few reasons: 1. I had to buy at least one book each month; 2. It was cheap; and 3. The cover was cool and the blurb sounded pretty interesting. The story follows Kaala, a young wolf who barely makes a place for herself in the Swift River Pack as she is a “mix-blood” and is almost killed at birth for this reason. Kaala¬†and her litter mates are given a chance at life when their mother is banished instead, but they are constantly trying to prove their place in the pack. On top of all this, one day Kaala¬†saves a drowning human child when the number one wolf law is to stay away from humans. From then on Kaala’s¬†curiosity over humans grows as does an inexplicable bond¬†to the girl she saved and she has to evaluate the reasons behind the promise of the wolves: Never consort with humans. Never kill a human unprovoked. Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live. The book is set in Northern America at the time of the earliest native Americans and is a very interesting look at how the human-canine bond may have formed. The series (the second book of the Wolf Chronicles – Secret of the Wolves – apparently comes out this month and the third – Spirit of the Wolves – is due early 2012) were meticulously researched over many years and it certainly shows. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

It was the eyes that drew me in

6. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready

I only¬†started this series in 2009 and it has become one of my favourite fantasy trilogies. While the characters are all human, animals play an integral part as each person has an animal aspect that gives them certain abilities. The first book – Eyes of Crow – starts with the¬†main character, Khia, coming up to the time when a Spirit will choose her and already there has been signs that she will be Crow, namely the fact that she can tell if someone or something near death will die or not. The books weave such a rich mythology based on the Spirit animals paired with spirituality similar to that of the native Americans, which makes the plot and characters much fuller and more believable. If you’re a lover of quality fantasy, I’d¬†definitely recommend you give them a go ūüôā As I said before the first book is Eyes of Crow followed by Voice of Crow and ending with The Reawakened.

I wonder what my Spirit animal would be? ūüôā

7. Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

This is a great little young adult fantasy series that follows Daine¬†(full name Veralidaine¬†Sarrasri) a young orphan who finds out she has Wild Magic enabling her to speak with animals as well as other abilities that are developed throughout the books such as healing animals,¬†inhabiting animal’s bodies and shape-shifting. The first book – Wild Magic – was given to me by¬†one of my mum’s friends¬†when I was in my teens and I loved it so much that I went looking for the second book – Wolf Speaker – at my local library and soon after also borrowed the third book – Emperor Mage – and the last in the series – The Realm of the Gods. Tamora Pierce is one of those fantasy writers that churns out series’ like a machine so there is actually a few other series’ she has written that are set in the same universe as the Immortals quartet – the Song of the Lioness quartet; the Protector of the Small quartet; the Daughter of the Lioness duo; and the Provost’s Dog trilogy but I have yet to read them.

Daine - queen of the beasts ūüôā

8.¬†¬†Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Many people wouldn’t consider these classics of absurdist children’s literature to be books about animals but there are so many great animal characters in them (namely the White Rabbit; the Cheshire Cat; the March Hare; Dormouse;¬†Dodo; the Caterpillar etc etc) that they had to be mentioned. I’ve been a huge Alice fan since I was a child and still can’t go past a remake or reimagining (The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor and the mini-series Alice¬†are particularly good). I even had an Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass themed party for my 22nd where me and my friend made jam tarts, hedgehog balls and other themed nibbles; and we played pin the tail on the mock-turtle and a special version of pass the parcel ūüôā

Curiouser and curiouser...

9. The Wind in the Willows  by Kenneth Grahame

This book is the first chapter-based book I remember being read when I was little. All my picture books and collections of nursery rhymes had been on constant rotation by the time I was about 3 or 4 so mum decided to try reading a little bit of Wind in the Willows¬†to me on¬†nights when I didn’t really feel like a particular story. I was so enthralled by the antics of Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toad Hall that soon it was the only book requested at bedtime. When I was a bit older I also loved the puppet-based tv show. Badger was my favourite ^-^

Nothing beats animals in dapper little coats and waistcoats ūüôā

10. The complete works of Beatrix Potter

In my opinion¬†Beatrix Potter was the Queen of children’s stories about animals. She has created classic characters like Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten and Jemima¬†Puddleduck¬†that are still known of today, which is pretty impressive considering she wrote her stories more than a hundred years ago and she’s been deceased for almost 70 years. Since I was really young I’ve owned The¬†Complete Adventures of Tom Kitten and his Friends; The Tale of Peter Rabbit; The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (one of my personal faves) and a few in the miniature collection, and I still treasure them. I also was very fond of the tv series.

Nawww! look at em in their little clothes! ^-^

Keep your eyes peeled over the next day or two for my other Top 10 – the Top 10 Animal Characters ūüôā

Happy Reading!