This year, I want to talk about some of the many types of fantasy you can find (I have a post about fantasy subgenres which can be found here). I think when people hear “fantasy”, their mind immediately goes to serious epics with swords, magic, and dragons. While I happen to love all of those things, there are many ways to tell a story. For the first of my Fantasy Focus series, I want to take a look at comedic fantasy.
Irreverent and witty, fantasy comedy often takes a humorous look at the fantasy genre, either creating new and entertaining fantasy worlds that focus on humor, parodying common fantasy tropes, or even poking lighthearted fun at specific works of fantasy.
Here is a list of some of side-splitting authors and some of the books they’ve written, in case you’re looking for suggestions on where to start! This is by no means anywhere close to a complete list of fantastic comedic fantasy authors that can be found, so please chip in with suggestions!
In case you missed them, I’ve posted links to this week’s interviews and guest articles as well. Enjoy!
This year has been an amazing one for reading! I was planning on doing a top 10 books that I loved in 2021, but I could only narrow it down to 20. Even that was a difficult thing to do. Eventually I managed to get down to 20 books, but it was hard! So, in no particular order, and after a ton of internal wrestling, here’s my top 20 books of 2021.
*These are books that I enjoyed this year, not necessarily books that were published in 2021.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.
A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.
But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle’s Best Thriller Novels of the Year, and Mystery Scene says, “A well-written and gripping ode to the stage…A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth.” (taken from Amazon)
“If you’re looking for a book to suck you in and leave you floored, this one is for you.”
The Resurrectionist of Caligoby Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.
“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart. (taken from Amazon)
“A brilliant must-read for fans of books the include grimy, smog-filled streets, shady doings, and ridiculously fun characters.”
The last of a dying breed, a holy warrior must rise up against a growing darkness in Evelium.The most unlikely of heroes, a lowly itinerant mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker is shunned by society for his mongrel half-Orc blood. Desperate to find work for himself and his band of fighters, Umhra agrees to help solve a rash of mysterious disappearances, but uncovers a larger, more insidious plot to overthrow the natural order of Evelium in the process. As Umhra journeys into the depths of Telsidor’s Keep to search for the missing people, he confronts an ancient evil and, after suffering a great loss, turns to the god he disavowed for help. Compelled to save the kingdom he loves, can he defeat the enemy while protecting his true identity, or must he risk everything? (taken from Amazon)
“This book would make anyone fall in love with fantasy.“
Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet. Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more. Much, much more. Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders. Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.
” It isn’t too often that I call a book perfect, but that’s what Dragon Mage is. It is absolutely perfect.”
Exiled by her despotic brother, Malini spends her days dreaming of vengeance while trapped in the Hirana: an ancient cliffside temple that was once the revered source of the magical deathless waters but is now little more than a decaying ruin. The secrets of the Hirana call to Priya. But in order to keep the truth of her past safely hidden, she works as a servant in the loathed regent’s household, biting her tongue and cleaning Malini’s chambers. But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, their destines become irrevocably tangled. One is a ruthless princess seeking to steal a throne. The other a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Together, they will set an empire ablaze. (taken from Amazon)
“Savagely beautiful, The Jasmine Throne kept me riveted from the first page all the way through until the last heart-stopping moment.”
In the city of Agatos, nothing stays buried forever.
Only an idiot would ignore his debt to a high mage, and Mennik Thorn is no idiot, despite what anyone might say. He’s just been … distracted. But now he’s left it too late, and if he doesn’t obey the high mage’s commands within the day, his best friends’ lives will be forfeit. So it’s hardly the time to take on an impossible case: proving a woman who murdered a stranger in full view is innocent.
Unfortunately, Mennik can’t resist doing the right thing – and now he’s caught in a deadly rivalry between warring high mages, his witnesses are dying, and something ancient has turned its eyes upon him.
The fate of the city is once again in the hands of a second-rate mage. Mennik Thorn should have stayed in hiding. (taken from Amazon)
Review to Come
We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley
The Render Tracers always say magick users deserve to burn. Aren couldn’t agree more, Keluwen would beg to differ, and Corrin couldn’t care less either way.
In a world where most people use swords for protection, Aren uses tools that let him see what no one else can see, and he takes advantage of loopholes that can undo magick in order to stop the deadliest people in the world. He is a Render Tracer, relentlessly pursuing rogue sorcerers who bend the laws of physics to steal, assault, and kill. But his next hunt will lead him to question his entire life, plunging him into a world where he can’t trust anyone, not even his own eyes.
When Keluwen finally escaped her fourthparents’ home and set out on her own to become a thief, she never thought she would one day be killing her own kind. She honed her magick on the streets, haunted by her past, hunted by Render Tracers, and feared by a society that hates what she is. Now she joins a crew of outcast magicians on a path of vengeance as they race to stop an insane sorcerer who has unlocked the source of all magick and is trying to use it to make himself a god.
Corrin is a sword fighter first, a drinker second, and a…well, there must be something else he is good at. He’ll think of it if you give him enough time. He is a rogue for hire, and he has no special powers of any kind. The most magick he has ever done is piss into the wind without getting any on himself. He is terrible at staying out of trouble, and someone always seems to be chasing him. When he gets caught up in a multi-kingdom manhunt, he finds himself having to care about other people for a change, and he’s not happy about it.
They are about to collide on the trail of a man who is impossible to catch, who is on the verge of plunging the world into ruin, and who can turn loyal people into traitors in a single conversation. They must struggle against their own obsessions, their fears, ancient prophecies, and each other. They will each have to balance the people they love against their missions, and struggle to avoid becoming the very thing they are trying to stop.
All they have to do is stop the unstoppable. Simple. (taken from Amazon)
“We Break Immortals has heart, humor, excellent characters, and violence aplenty. It’s the sort of book that plunges in and never stops to let you catch your breath. It is, in a word, badass.”
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place―and realizing that family is yours. (taken from Amazon)
“This book is wonderful. It’s comfort in written form. It’s a reminder that happy endings (or maybe happy beginnings) exist, often found in the most unexpected of places, if only we’re brave enough to look.”
Campaigns and Companions by Andi Ewington and Rhianna Pratchett, illustrated by Alexander Watt
Grab your dice and pencil, sit your pets down, teach them to play… and immediately regret your choices.
Hilarious collection of Dungeons & Dragons-themed pet jokes by acclaimed comics creators Andi Ewington, Rhianna Pratchett, Calum Alexander Watt and Alex de Campi
What if your pets could play D&D? And what if they were… kind of jerks about it?
If there are two things all geeks love, it’s roleplaying games, and their pets. So why not fuse the two? It’s time to grab your dice, dust off that character sheet, and let your cat or dog (or guinea pig, or iguana, or budgie) accompany you on an epic adventure! It’ll be great!
…unless your pets are jerks. (taken from Amazon)
“I got a Nat 20 with Campaigns andCompanions (those who know me know that I never roll 20s, so this is a momentous event).”
Jamie is a lonely, anxious kid when he has a run-in with a witch in a remote Somerset village. He’s almost forgotten about it thirteen years later when unpredictable storms and earthquakes hit England – and that’s the least of his worries. Suffering from anxiety, terrible flatmates and returning to his family home after his mother is diagnosed with cancer, he’s got a lot on his mind. But Melusine, the witch of flesh and blood, lures him back with the offer of cold, hard cash in exchange for his help investigating the source of the freak weather; something’s messing with the earth spirit, Gaia, and Mel means to find out who – or what – it is. As they work together, travelling to the bigoted Seelie Court and the paranoid Unseelie Court, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls, Jamie must reconcile his feelings about the witch’s intentions and methods all while handling grief, life admin and one singularly uptight estate agent. (taken from Amazon)
“I loved the combination of ordinary and flat-out bizarre, the day-to-day grind and the unexpected.”
Goblinby Eric Grissom, illustrated by Will Perkins
A young, headstrong goblin embarks on a wild journey of danger, loss, self-discovery, and sacrifice in this new graphic novel adventure.
One fateful night a sinister human warrior raids the home of the young goblin Rikt and leaves him orphaned. Angry and alone, Rikt vows to avenge the death of his parents and seeks a way to destroy the man who did this. He finds aid from unlikely allies throughout his journey and learns of a secret power hidden in the heart of the First Tree. Will Rikt survive the trials that await him on his perilous journey to the First Tree? And is Rikt truly prepared for what he may find there? (taken from Amazon)
“Masterfully told and beautifully illustrated, Goblin is an unforgettable journey, full of both action and heart. “
Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism, attending séances in the hope they might reach their departed loved ones.
William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him – seemingly from beyond the veil – placing doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?
Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunted, twisted tale of power, paranoia and one ultimate, inescapable truth… (taken from Amazon)
” The Spirit Engineer is an engrossing book that delves deep into the subjects of loss, paranoia, belief, and what can happen when a person’s beliefs are questioned.”
The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor. Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force. Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga–the powerful magicians of legend–have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace. But can she trust them? (taken from Amazon)
“… a wild ride full of action, betrayal, and heart-in-your-throat plot twists. Nothing happens as expected, and it’s fantastic.”
Charlie Hall has never found a lock she couldn’t pick, a book she couldn’t steal, or a bad decision she wouldn’t make. She’s spent half her life working for gloamists, magicians who manipulate shadows to peer into locked rooms, strangle people in their beds, or worse. Gloamists guard their secrets greedily, creating an underground economy of grimoires. And to rob their fellow magicians, they need Charlie.
Now, she’s trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but going straight isn’t easy. Bartending at a dive, she’s still entirely too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. Not to mention that her sister Posey is desperate for magic, and that her shadowless and possibly soulless boyfriend has been keeping secrets from her. When a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie descends back into a maelstrom of murder and lies. Determined to survive, she’s up against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, gloamists, and the people she loves best in the world ― all trying to steal a secret that will allow them control of the shadow world and more.
Review to Come
The Infinite Towerby Dorian Hart
Horn’s Company saved the world of Spira.
The Black Circle erased it.
Now Dranko, Morningstar, Kibi, and the rest of the team have a lot of work to do.
In order to mend their broken reality, the company must venture to distant Het Branoi — The Infinite Tower — in search of a third Eye of Moirel. Only then will they be able to travel into the past and stop the Sharshun from changing the course of history.But Het Branoi is a bizarre and deadly place, a baffling construction full of mystery and danger, of magic and chaos, with unexpected allies and terrifying monsters. Horn’s Company will need courage, perseverance, and more than a little luck if they are to find the Eye and discover the terrible secret at the heart of the Infinite Tower.
“Read this series for an escape into a fantastic new world, peopled with some of the best characters you’ll ever read.”
Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of wizened fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.
Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.
For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…(taken from Amazon)
“Author Stephen Aryan crafted an incredible book in The Coward, one that provides an excellent view both of what the fantasy genre can be, and the complicated yet beautiful morass of life.”
An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history–and the men who drove her to it.
They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte.
The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.
“This book combines fact, rumor, and creative license to weave a tale both unsettling and engrossing.”
Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.
Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.
It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love. (taken from Amazon)
” White Trash Warlock was a supernatural show-down combined with complicated real-life problems.”
I’ve been privileged to read some truly fantastic books over the years, from all avenues of publishing. Here’s a list of some of the great self-published books that I recommend. There is no rhyme or reason to the order, and this is far from complete. Give them a go!
This week on my blog, we’re talking about magic systems: the possibilities are endless! Sometimes I read a book that has such a fascinating use of magic that I would happily read an entire book that talks only about the magic and how it works, how it affects the characters, or how its development or absence has changed the world. Here are a few books whose magic I’d love to know much more about:
The Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold:
What is interesting about the magic system in the Fetch Phillips Archives is that it’s gone. This world was once very much dependent on magic, but thanks to the actions of a certain disgraced P.I., that has changed. How it’s affected the magical beings in this world is fascinating and unexpected. There’s a scene involving a unicorn in Dead Man in a Ditch (book 2) that is absolutely heartbreaking.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart:
In this book, the Emperor uses bone shard magic. Basically, he uses shards of bone gathered from his subjects to animate and control constructs. Commands must be etched into the shards, but they need to be worded specifically and with great care in order to be effective. It caused me both an “ew” and “ooh” reaction. I am not sure if it qualifies as a magic “system” per se, since this is a skill only practiced by the emperor, his daughter, and his foster son. Or does that still qualify as a system? What say you?
The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga:
I’m only about halfway through this book and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I am still learning how the magic works. The royalty has abilities, but no one else does. The magical abilities themselves are incredibly unique. They run in the family but, like eye or hair color, abilities vary, and some abilities might be inherited-or it might skip a generation. Sibylla, a princess, has ink that leaks from under her fingernails. This is an ability that has to be written creatively, as it isn’t something that would have a ton of usefulness on its surface. Although, I suspect that it might have something to do with certain nefarious doings.
The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides:
Did you know that you can mix dragon crap (cue the Jurassic Park meme) to perform magic? I didn’t either, but it was a really cool way to explain magic. Basically, based on what a dragon eats, the properties of its, um, droppings mix to create a different form of Grit. Grit can explode, cause a person to float, or even shield someone. I can’t say I’ve ever read a magic system based entirely on poop before. It works, though.
What I appreciate about magic in Robert Jackson Bennett’s world is that it is complex and incredibly different. Known as scriving, which felt to me a little like computer coding-gone-magical. Basically, it’s a way of sort of convincing something to act in a way that’s contrary to its purpose. How cool is that? I can’t say I’ve ever read anything remotely similar to Foundryside’s magic system. It’s rather complicated, though, and I would love to dive into the workings of it more deeply.
What about you? What are some magic systems in books that you would love to know more about?
I figure the appropriate way to end this week’s posts would be to shake it up a little bit: instead of talking about D&D classes in novels, I’m going to give some suggestions of novels for fans of Dungeons and Dragons. I’ll explain a little bit about the reason behind my picks. And..away we go!
First, before I run away with it, Geeky Galaxy has a recommendation:
NPCs by Drew Hayes
“NPCs is a lot less serious and lots more fun. If you’ve wondered what happens when your adventuring party disappears, leaving the locals of the average fantasy tavern to pick up the pieces, NPCs is the book for you. Perfect for D&D and fantasy video games (think Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Skyrim), then this may just be the book for you!”
Now, brace yourself: I’m about to spout opinions.
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Oh, how I loved this book! This is the best “we’re getting the band back together” book I think I’ve ever read. It’s also perfect for fans of roleplaying games. It has an effortless sense of humor, lots of viscera (and heart), the group dynamic, and it’s just flat-out fun. (Review)
Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, there’s no way you’re surprised that I brought Dragonlance into this. I promise, it isn’t my adoration of this series that puts it on the list. It absolutely fits. Originally, this trilogy was written in conjunction with TSR (now owned by Wizards of the Coast, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons). It has that adventuring feel, a mismatched group of companions that have to fight inner and outer darkness, and a vast world peopled with all sorts of fantastical creatures. Oh- and did I mention that there are actually Dragonlance campaign settings? Yup, you can totally play D&D in Dragonlance’s world of Krynn.
Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
Not only is there the D&D party dynamic, this series has something that most gamers will recognize: characters “level up”. They don’t start out awesome. Instead, they improve as they go along, facing bigger challenges as their skills grow.
Lexcalibur: Useful Poetry for Adventurers Above and Below the World by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
And now for something different. Lexcalibur is not a novel. Nope. Instead, it’s a poetry collection that is perfect for roleplaying gamers and fantasy lovers of all kinds. It’s full of humor and wonder. (Review)
Okay, gamers, your turn: what books give you that wonderful “D&D feel”?
I like lists, so I wrote a (far from complete) list of amazing sff female authors. I don’t read as much science fiction as I like, so I went to an expert: Beth at Before We Go Blog. She reviews the coolest books, and interviews amazing authors! Check her blog out. Here are some fabulous writers to read, with titles of some of their work next to their names: Author: NotableWorks:
*Katherine Arden- The Bear and the Nightingale
*Margaret Atwood- The Handmaid’s Tale; Angel Catbird (graphic novel)
*Holly Black- The Cruel Prince, The Spiderwick Chronicles (coauthor)
*Kendare Blake -Three Dark Crowns (series), Anna Dressed in Blood
*Anne Bishop- Daughter of the Blood
*Kristen Britain- Green Rider
*Emma Bull- War for the Oaks The Princess and the Lord of Night
*Octavia Butler- Parable of the Sower Dawn
*Jacqueline Carey- Kushiel’s Dart Starless
*Beth Cartwright- Feathertide
*Becky Chambers -The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
*C.J. Cherryh- Downbelow Station The Pride of Chanur
* Cassandra Clare- The Mortal Instruments (series) The Magisterium Chronicles (coauthor)
*Susanna Clarke -Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Piranesi
*Susan Cooper- The Dark is Rising series
*Delilah S. Dawson- (Star Wars) Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire Kill the Farm Boy (coauthor)
*Sarah Douglass- The Wayfarer Redemption trilogy
*Emily A. Duncan- Wicked Saints
*Sarah Beth Durst- Queen of Blood
*Kate Elliott -King’s Dragon
*Jennifer Fallon- Medalon (The Demon Child trilogy)
The Immortal Prince (the Tide Lord series)
*Cordelia Funke- Inkheart
*Christie Golden -Fate of the Jedi series (contributing author)
Vampire of the Mists (Ravenloft series)
*Alix A. Harrow- The Ten Thousand Doors of January The Once and Future Witches
*Elizabeth Haydon- Rhapsody: Child of Blood
*Heid Heilig- The Girl From Everywhere
For a Muse of Fire