Fantasy

Swords, sorcerers, magical powers, maybe some elves. You know it’s fantasy if it has trees, castles, medieval arms, or swirly magicky things on the cover.

Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Academ's Fury audiobook cover

The story of Tavi moves from the countryside to the city, and new nemeses are introduced. It’s a solid follow-on from the first. The main character is a likable kid who seems to have both extraordinary struggles and the most unique luck, which of course makes for a good story. Be forewarned, from here on out, I enjoyed the series less and less. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Amber Spyglass, The by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman book cover

I didn’t love the finish to the series. Like most final books, I thought it delved too deeply into a quasi-religious rant. However, I have heard the perspective of friends that they enjoyed that aspect and the unique take on gods, God, angels, devils, and the like. If you made it this far, you should continue and finish the series. I didn’t hate it. 

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |

Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Captain's Fury audiobook cover

At this point, it’s pretty obvious the books follow the same plot structure. But at the time I was reading these, I was grinding rep in WoW—and if you have no idea what that means then just know that whatever you were doing at the time I was grinding rep, even if it was sitting on the couch picking your nose, you were having a more productive life than me. And so I listened to book four.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Cursor's Fury audiobook cover

At this point in the series, I was still enjoying the books but noticed the similarity in the plot between books two and three. It was an enjoyable read, if similar to the previous one. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I hated this book. I can’t believe it’s being made into a movie, oh excuse me, a “major motion picture.” The only reason I finished this was because it came highly recommended by one of my best friends, who raved about the series. Maybe the problem is that the only other Stephen King book I’ve read is The Stand, and this series is supposedly rife with King references. Or maybe the book just fucking sucked. I’m going with that. Sorry Ted.

Genre: Fantasy

First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher

First Lord's Fury audiobook cover

I mean, at this point, I’m five books into the six-part series—might as well finish it, even if the plot follows the same damn outline. Again. And again. I was so burnt out on the series that I waited a year to pick up this one. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon

I enjoyed the first book in this huge series. The unique take on magic, where humans interact with the elements through their “furies” was a refreshing break from the typical sorcery stuff of high fantasy. The story is compelling, building a large world with diverse races and kingdoms without being too overwhelming early on.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Golden Compass, The by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass book cover

A very enjoyable, action-packed fantasy with a young main character set in an alternate-reality. It’s not heavy swords & sorcery, which is a nice departure. It’s a great start to the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets book cover

Book two teeters on the edge of Young Adult and… not YA, which I guess would be just mainline fantasy.  Now that the Wizarding World has been established, the books start to have a lot more fun. And yet, like all of them, they turn slightly darker with each new novel. I love the introduction to Dobby, and Lockhart is a great buffoon. I thought the ending was a little weak, but I won’t say more for risk of spoiling it. And, if you haven’t read Harry Potter—what are you waiting for? 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows book cover

At last we come to the end. Though this is the least Harry Potter-esque of all the books, it is a fantastic work of fantasy. One wild adventure leads to the next and the next and the next. Once it gets going, it’s a non-stop torrent of escapades fitting for a trio on the run while the Wizarding World is in chaos. While this book is fantastic, it’s not my favorite of the series simply because it’s the least Potterish of them all. Nonetheless, you won’t be disappointed with it.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book cover

In the summer of 2018, I re-read the entire series (the Stephen Fry version, not the Jim Dale reading on Audible). As I undertook the endeavor, I wondered what my favorite book would be. The “easy” answer is Deathly Hallows—it’s kind of like how every Star Wars fan is expected to say Empire Strikes Back is their favorite Star Wars movie. But I wanted to approach my third time through the series—once reading on actual paper and once on audiobook—with a fresh mindset, open to whatever the series brought out this time through. 

Goblet of Fire is hands-down my favorite Harry Potter book. It’s the quintessential Harry Potter experience. He’s still at school, getting up to his usual antics with his friends. They start to grow up a little bit, with the introduction of the ball we get our first taste of young love in the wizard world. Dumbledore is still the wise, beloved, distant yet present headmaster. The Malfoy-Snape-Potter story arc is more subdued, replaced with more complex antagonists. The Wizarding World opens up beyond Great Britain to show us there are witches and wizards everywhere. Harry is embroiled in some incredibly challenging wizarding tasks. And while all of this is happening at everyone’s favorite setting, Hogwarts, there is a dark wizard lurking in the shadows throughout the whole novel. While Deathly Hallows is dark from start to finish, Goblet of Fire only has the undercurrent of darkness, like storm clouds looming in the distance on an otherwise sunny summer day. It has everything (except quidditch, but I’ll take the Triwizard Tournament over quidditch any day). I love this book. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince book cover

Book six has the strongest ending of the entire series. I could hardly wait to get through the book for the final few chapters. It is the last door to be knocked down before the final—and the darkest—book. Another great thing about this book is that all the characters become more complex, the purely black and white trappings of previous books is shed. I truly enjoy book six.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Fittingly, book four is the turning point for the series (and my favorite), and now we turn to dark times in the wizarding world. In this book, my hands-down favorite antagonist comes to roost in Hogwarts:  Dolores Umbridge. She is the most delightfully sinister character in the whole series. Adding her in creates more problems for Harry, but also creates challenges for the faculty of Hogwarts. It makes the story a touch more interesting… and fun. Plus, the seriousness of the whole series steps up another notch as more adult wizards enter the fray between good and evil. This is why I love the Potter series so much: the series grows up each year, just as the main characters do.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban book cover

The only thing that holds Book 3 back from being a five-star for me is the Malfoy-Snape-Potter story arc was growing wearisome for me. At a certain point, it became a distraction from the story, which is fantastic. This book does more to setup the end game of the series than any other. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Book 1 by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1

Note: This review is for the Stephen Fry recording, not the Jim Dale version on Audible, the latter of which is complete shit.1

If you haven’t read Harry Potter and you’re over the age of 18, then this first book may be a bit difficult to get through. After all, it is about a 10-year-olds. However, it is worth dealing with the young adult story, which goes by quick enough, to get into the main story of Harry Potter and introduces you to the wizarding world. The beauty of this series is that each book grows more mature in terms of plot and depth, just as the characters grow.

Power-listen through Book 1 (the Fry version, please) and consider it your ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express into the best fantasy universe on the planet.

1 I downloaded the Fry version years ago—around 2007—and recently purchased the Dale version in 2018. Jim Dale’s reading was so awful, I couldn’t tell the difference between Dumbledore and Hermione. Yes, it was so bad, a 10-year-old girl and a 109-year-old man sounded nearly identical. And yes Albus Dumbledore is 109 in book one.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

On A Pale Horse audiobook cover

In a modern world where Satan advertises on billboards and magic is part of everyday life, a complete loser becomes the next Death. It’s a wild concept and makes for a good book. Truthfully, as I’m writing this review eight and a half years later, I don’t remember anything else about the book—I may give it a quick re-read. It’s part of a series, but I didn’t continue on after book one.

Genre: Fantasy

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder audiobook cover

Orson Scott Card must have something with child protagonists. I guess with “Ender’s Game” being his most famous and popular piece he decided to stick with what works? I’m just speculating. The Pathfinder series is an interesting fantasy/sci-fi crossover. I’ll classify this book as fantasy based on my own arbitrary designation. Whatever. On to the review. It’s a decent enough book, and while not quite in the young adult section, it’s not quite at the depth of other fantasy or sci-fi novels. The premise is interesting, and the pacing well enough to keep me interested enough to grab the second book.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Pathfinder |

Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Princep's Fury audiobook cover

Yep. Same plot structure. Again. Still grinding rep in WoW, might as well power through the series, too.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Ruins by Orson Scott Card

Ruins audiobook cover

Book one was interesting enough for me to continue with the series. And the cliffhanger at the end of this book should have been interesting enough for me to finish it out with the third book, but I never got around to it. I just really wasn’t that invested in the characters to care to finish. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Pathfinder |

Series: Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Codex Alera - Tavi

I cannot recommend this series. The plot lines of books two through six are so similar that I burnt out on it and even after the final book came out, I debated whether or not to buy it for six months. There are things about the series that are good—the magic system is very interesting and unique. The world is large enough to provide new settings in each book. And the main characters are well-written. The the author’s credit, he really makes his main character struggle and earn it in every book. But the rest was too repetitive for me to rightfully recommend. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter - all book covers

All of these reviews are for the Stephen Fry recording, not the Jim Dale version on Audible. That version on Audible is complete shit.

I downloaded the Fry version years ago—around 2007—and recently purchased the Dale version of book 1 in 2018. Jim Dale’s reading was so awful I couldn’t tell the difference between Dumbledore and Hermione. Yes, it was so bad, a 10-year-old girl and a 109-year-old man sounded nearly identical. And yes Albus Dumbledore is 109 in book one.

With that out of the way, let’s talk Potter. 

I believe the reason this series is such a part of the modern culture is because it does two things that very few other authors ever do: 1) the plot lines and the main characters grow up and become more serious in each book and 2) no plot lines are recycled from book to book. All the rest of the elements have been done before, yet even these are done well (or at least not overdone). 

If you have never read Harry Potter—or haven’t read it in a while—I highly recommend jumping into the series with the Stephen Fry version, and opening the door to the wizarding world. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Series: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder series book covers

Though Orson Scott Card’s big hit, Ender’s Game, has a child main character, and is one of my all-time favorite books because Ender’s character is so compelling, you’d think that would be a specialty for Card. He’s certainly written a lot of books with child protagonists, including more in the Enderverse. However, the child main characters in this series fell flat for me. I didn’t event continue on after the second book. I also thought the fantasy/sci-fi crossover was interesting, but still, I didn’t carry on after the first book. We’ll see, maybe I’ll get back and finish it. This is not a flat-out “don’t read” it’s just a three-star series that will neither waste your time nor change your life. 

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Series: Pathfinder |

Subtle Knife, The by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman book cover

Book two of the series follows on strong with more adventure in this universe. It follows on strong from book one in an imaginative new world.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |