My heart has always desired adventure and exploration. That’s why it should come as no surprise when I tell you the fantasy genre was my gateway into reading, my first love of the written word. My adoration for fantasy has not faded and I’ve consumed my fair share of novels in the genre.Tolkien created the archetype for modern fantasy, but in a way also doomed it. This fact has only become more and more apparent with time and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a unique voice in a sea of Tolkien look-a-likes. Here are three fantasy novels with their own unique voice.

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1)Artemis Fowl

Year
2001

Author
Eoin Colfer

Summary

A twelve-year-old super genius and criminal mastermind kidnaps a fairy, Cpt. Holly Short of the LEPrecon unit, for a large sum of gold in this tale strange tale of magic and technology as two worlds collide for disastrous results.

Notes

Sure, Artemis Fowl might be considered a Young Adult novel, but that term used to mean something different before Twilight arrived and fucked things up for everyone. Technically, Harry Potter was YA before it turned into a cultural event. The point is great writing is great writing. Artemis Fowl has pretty much everything you could want: a great premise, compelling characters, epic action sequences, and most importantly a message that resonates. All of that in a relatively short read at 277 pages.

I recently rebought the novel in its special edition hardcover, but the truth is I liked the old paper back cover better. Pictured as a book of solid gold and covered in strange hieroglyphics, there was an air of mystery about it that made it iconic in my view. Even after all these years, it’s still a quality read. I even got my dad into the series when I was younger and he’s collected most of the series!

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2)The Crystal Shard(Icewind Dale Trilogy)

Year
1988

Author
R.A. Salvatore

Summary

The demonic power of Crenshinibon, the Crystal shard, has arrived in Icewind Dale and threatens to corrupt the land. A group of unlikely heroes(a dark elf ranger, a human barbarian, and a dwarven king) must band together to bring down the corruption that threatens their home.

Notes

Don’t let the fact that the book takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons universe fool you. Salvatore was one of the first writers they hired to make novels based off of the game and was a pioneer in filling out many aspects of the lore. The Underdark, a world of shadow and tunnels ruled by the evil dark elves and their goddess The Spider Queen, is almost entirely his vision. When you read these books, you are reading a groundwork for a world many have now come to enjoy and play in.

The Crystal Shard is the first published book of Salvatore’s original trilogy within the Forgotten Realms(D&D world). I highly recommend reading the entirety of the trilogy, but that can be a lot to commit to especially for people unfamiliar with Salvatore’s work. If you love The Drizzt Saga as I’ve come to love, there are plenty of other books as Drizzt(a dark elf ranger) has proven to be quite the success.

My first encounter with Salvatore’s work was not his original trilogy, but his next four books after. I had no idea that what I was reading had pre-existing material, but found myself enthralled by his writing all the same. He is my favorite author and The Crystal Shard represents the beginning of his journey. Technically there is another Drizzt series that serves as an origin story for the character, but I like reading in the order of publication.

Salvatore’s action sequences are painstakingly detailed and his writing often tackles subject matters that fantasy tends to steer clear of(especially at the time of publication) such as racial profiling and the inherent racism that sometimes accompanies the genre(the black skinned elves live underground and are evil!). His protagonist, Drizzt Do’Urden, spits in the face of that archetype while trying to cope in a world where that generalization is the norm.

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3)The Eyes of The Dragon

Year
1987

Author
Stephen King

Summary

A quasi-medieval kingdom is thrown into turmoil when the king dies and throws the validity of his successor into question. Falling prey to the machinations of an evil wizard, Prince Peter must fight against the encroaching darkness and reclaim the throne that is rightfully his.

Notes

This is another one of those mandatory reading books assigned to me by my father. Now that I think about it, he might have even read it to me. Stephen King’s epic fantasy has more in common with classic fairy tales than modern fantasy, all framed by his unique writing voice. With the the sheer amount of content the man has produced over the years, it’s no wonder why some titles have fallen through the cracks. In my opinion, this is one of his most underrated books and deserves to be included in the pantheon of his all time greats.

It’s Stephen King writing a fantasy novel. What more could you want?