I’ve always been an escapist. I’ve always dreamed of other worlds and different ways of life, so it’s pretty obvious what my favourite genre of book is going to be. Fantasy of course. What better way to spend a dull, rainy day than to be questing with sword in your hand, or fighting ancient evils with just your wits and your wand. As I said, pure escapism. Over the years I’ve read many of them, some of them average, some of them weird and some of them just plain terrible. But in amongst the masses I’ve found some true gems that stay with me to this day. So here is my top five. It’s my personal top five, it’s not meant to be the definitive list, or the greatest fantasy books ever written, it’s simply the books that I liked, enjoyed and that resonated with me the most.
1. Mythago Wood.- Robert Holdstock.
Living on the edge of an ancient wood a scientist stumbles upon an age old secret. A wildwood that houses your own ancient legends and heroes, plucked from your subconscious and made real by the prehistoric trees. Flitting in your peripheral vision and escaping into landscapes of old. It’s the imagination of the writing and the melding of folk law and history into one coherent novel that puts this at the top of the list for me.
2. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant. – Stephen. R. Donaldson.
A man largely shunned by society and suffering from leprosy finds himself in an alternate reality. But is he really there or is it a figment of his tortured mind. The series covers ten books in all and is a large time investment, but if you like complex and in depth fantasy, then I’m sure you’ll love this battle of good versus evil, where our protagonist is heralded as the potential saviour of a whole world despite his own frailties and misgivings.
3. The Lord Of The Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien.
What can I say about The Lord of The Rings that hasn’t already been said? The genre defining work, the first blockbuster fantasy. If you are into fantasy you will have read it. I can’t really add anything, you know the story, you know the characters, you know you’re reading a seminal work.
4. The Chronicles Of Narnia.
These books were a big part of my childhood. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to find a secret, wondrous land hidden in the back of their wardrobe? They have stayed with me all through my life. A land a with wonder, danger, politics, battles, talking beasts. Come on, who’s not going to love that. Again this is so ingrained into fantasy literature that very little needs to be said by me.
5. The Eyre Affair. – Jasper Fforde.
The Prose Portal, a device which enables people to enter works of fiction. What more do I need to say? That the Crimea War is still raging after one hundred years? That there is a government department called Litra Tecs who investigate literary based crimes. It’s got everything from war to time travel. It’s a roller coaster. It’s also a little bit odd and full of imagination. And our heroine is called Tuesday Next. If that doesn’t wet your appetite then nothing will.
So there we have it, my personal top five. You may not agree with me, you may actively disagree with me, but these are the fantasy books I would have on my desert island. I would get lost in these while I awaited rescue, and maybe pretend I didn’t need rescuing if I hadn’t finished them.