Fantasy Series, Reading Ladies & More–Selections from Problogger’s Top 5

In honor of today’s work read, a police procedural that left me hungering for Ruth Rendell, I give you my list of the posts I’ve enjoyed so far from the Problogger Group Writing Project:

Top 5 Most Entertaining Foreign Films of the Last Decade

An fun list of films, though I would quibble and say that City of God isn’t exactly “entertaining” in the traditional sense. I’d replace it with Strictly Ballroom, unless he’s being strict about foreign language films, not just foreign films–which seems to be the case, because Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a Hollywood film. But I used to be a film nerd for a living, so I’m allowed to quibble.

Textual Tangent has a list of 5 paintings of women reading. Very romantic. None of them have their mouths hanging open.

I love this one–Top Five Things I Hate about Microbudget Movies. Yes and amen to all of those.

5 Excuses for NOT Being Creative…and Why They’re Invalid made me feel veeeeeery lazy. Then I went back to playing Alchemy and forgot all about it.

I’m not a songwriter, but my dear friend Sarah is (and a very good one, too), so this top 5 is for her: Top 5 Ways to Cure Writer’s Block. Seems to be very good advice!

Adlergedanke has a list of Top Five Fantasy Series that he likes. Of the five he lists, I’ve only read one, David Eddings’s The Belgariad. While I respect what Eddings created, I was less-than-impressed by the characters & dialogue. It felt like I was reading someone describing a movie to me, and the movie sounded awesome but the description of it was a bit lackluster. Does anybody know what I mean? I’m sort having the same feeling about Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, and am hoping it doesn’t happen with Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series. But you never know.

My top five fantasy series would have to be:

1. Robin Hobb’s Six Duchies books. Three trilogies, one love. Start with Assassin’s Apprentice and hang onto your hat, as my Louisanian friend Jimmy would say. Heights of imagination, depths of emotion, and a sense of risk that’s palpable on every page–these books have everything. It’s hard to convey the scope of the books in just a few sentences, but the first book begins with Fitz, bastard son of the recently deceased King, and inheritor of a genetic predisposition to a type of psychic power called the Skill. The succession of power leads to the usual chaos and turmoil, with Fitz, a potential pretender to the throne, right at the center of things. His alliance with the next-in-line, the new King Verity, earns him the hatred of the next-in-line after that, Prince Regal, and his life consists of a series of delicate games to keep himself alive. Meanwhile, attackers from the South have unleashed a hideous plague on the people of the Six Duchies that renders them like zombies–very dangerous zombies who will kill anyone on sight. The Farseer Trilogy, first of the three, renders Fitz’s quest to develop his powers, his work as the King’s assassin, and his fight to stay alive.

Oh, but there’s so much more! The middle trilogy, The Liveship Traders, moves away from the Six Duchies to a city in the south established by families who own sailing ships that come alive. Althea Vestrit’s ship is about to quicken on the death of her father, but just at that moment her brother-in-law seizes control from her, his intention to turn her beloved Vivacia into a slave ship, violating all the traditions and values of the Bingtown Traders. This trilogy is much more political than the first, delving into trade alliances, economics, and the balance of power on a local level. They’re also told in the third person. The series follows Althea and other characters (including a very scary pirate and some toxic sea serpents) as the true nature of the wizardwood that composes the living ships is revealed–with earth-shattering results.

The third trilogy is the Golden Fool, and returns to Fitz, now much, much older and greatly changed by his experiences with Verity. His dear friend, the Fool (who also appears in Liveship Traders) seeks him out with a mission that Fitz desperately wants to refuse, but can’t. That’s all I can really say, but it’s a crazily intense culmination of the previous six books. (I’d actually recommend reading Farseer, then books 1&2 of Golden Fool, then Liveship Traders, then the final book of Golden Fool for the maximum experience).

I could cheat and fill out a top five with only Robin Hobb and her alter ego Megan Lindholm, but I won’t.

2. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. “The man in black ran across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” I became hooked on these books in college, and I was pleased that King delivered a thoroughly satisfying (in an unsatisfying way) conclusion. What I like about these books is that while King sets them partially in the present day, he’s never tongue-in-cheek about it–the books don’t have any embarrassingly geeky attempts at humor that are why you couldn’t get me to watch the new Star Wars movies if you paid me. I hate that with a passion. The gunslinger is on a metaphysical quest that requires him to draw three people from our world: a boy, a junkie, and a woman in a wheelchair with multiple personalities. It’s a grand adventure spanning 7 books.

3. Madeleine L’Engle’s Kairos books, starting with A Wrinkle in Time. These books don’t go from A to B the way my first two selections do. Rather, they follow a family through generations as they travel through time using a special gift they call “kything.” Each book can stand on its own, but the cumulative effect is to create a family history that feels so real you wish it was yours.

4. I have to say it–JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In the words of REM: “You alone, you are the everything.”

5. CS Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. I have loved these books since I was a very little girl, and can’t wait to introduce them to my own child.

Honorable mention:

George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, because only 4 out of the planned 7 have been published. Martin’s series is epic fantasy like Hobb’s, only much grittier and militaristic, and is a retelling of the War of the Roses. Martin tells each chapter from the point of view of one character, which is a great technique because his story is so expansive that it’s the only way to keep track of everyone as they scatter across Westeros and beyond. The King is dead, long live whoever survives to snatch the throne. He has the same gift that Hobb does, to allow his characters to change in our estimation of them. He’s not afraid to give his heroes frustratingly wicked flaws, nor to allow us to feel sympathy for his villains–to the point where you realize that they’re all people, everyone of them (except the dragons, of course).

6 thoughts on “Fantasy Series, Reading Ladies & More–Selections from Problogger’s Top 5”

  1. First of all, thanks for taking up the tag and replying so quickly.

    I avoided “Harry Potter”, “LoTR” and “Narnia” so I could dive into series very few people (or only hardcore fans) have read about.

    And same goes for me. I haven’t read most series on your list too 😀 Though Dark Tower is quite near the top of TBR list. I didn’t like “Song of Ice and Fire” so much, as the blood and gore was a bit too much for me, as was the fact that every time I started liking a character, he was bumped off in some way 😉

  2. Yes–good point about the best-known series. Harry Potter is also worthy of inclusion, pending the last book, of course!

    I hear you about Martin–other people have had that same reaction. They’re very dark books, very sad books, but the writing and storytelling are so exquisite that I can deal with it.

  3. The only series I have read on your list is The Dark Tower – Narnia is next. I’m going to say I was left baffled by The Drk Tower ending – I’m on the fence about whether I liked it or not.

  4. It was baffling, I agree, but I think it was the only way that it could’ve ended, within the story terms set up by King.

    Narnia is wonderful. I also recommend Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (search Novik in the sidebar for my reviews of the first 2 books).

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