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MIND MELD: What Fantasy Series is Underrated?

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What Fantasy Series comprised of at least 3 novels do you think is underrated? What makes it worthy of more attention?

Read on to see what they said…and be sure to tell us your picks below!

Tim Pratt
Tim Pratt is the author of the story collections Little Gods and Hart & Boot & Other Stories, the poetry collection If There Were Wolves, the novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, and an urban fantasy series about a sorceress named Marla Mason that begins with Blood Engines and continues with Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, and Spell Games.

I always thought The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone quartet by Greg Keyes should get more attention. It’s gritty epic fantasy with archetypal/iconic character types, but despite occasional feints in the direction of being about “good vs. evil” the actual underpinnings of the world are a whole lot stranger than that, with many shades of gray. It’s also admirably *weird* — for one thing, despite taking place in a fantasy world full of knights and monsters, it also has some oblique and oddball connections to our own world. (Maybe that last part is why it’s not more popular?) Nevertheless, I want an Aspar White action figure, and it’d make a great setting for a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

Kelly McCullough
Kelly McCullough is an an award-winning short story writer and novelist. His first book, WebMage, was released by ACE in 2006 to considerable critical praise. WebMage was followed by Cybermancy, CodeSpell, and MythOS, with SpellCrash finishing up the series in May 2010. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Weird Tales, Writers of the Future, and Tales of the Unanticipated. His illustrated short story collection, The Chronicles of the Wandering Star, is part of a National Science Foundation-funded middle school science curriculum, Interactions in Physical Science.

That’s a tough question. I’m really torn between Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. books and Barry Hughart’s Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. They’re both fabulous series and both are undervalued for-I suspect-the same reason. They’re funny but they’re not humor.

I don’t think that our genre does well by books that take funny seriously. Pure light humor of the romp variety can do well, look at Aspirin’s Myth series or more recently Anton Strout’s Simon Canderous series, but more serious books that also make people laugh often seem to fall into the cracks between sub-genres.

I’m not sure whether that’s a failing of marketing, or if it’s because humor is so subjective, or that things that walk a narrow line are more likely to fall off, or what. But it seems to me that serious books that include more than a relatively slight element of humor often suffer in the f & sf world. The Garrett books are some of Cook’s best writing but they tend to be vastly overshadowed by the Black Company. Likewise Hughart, whose books have fallen out of print, which is frankly a crime against the genre, since they’re simply brilliant.

In life the dark and the light are often inextricably mixed. Things that hurt, or make us think, can also make us laugh. I wish that fiction that did the same was more popular.

Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd is the author of The Twilight Reign quintet (being republished in the U.S by Pyr) which so far includes The Stormcaller, The Twilight Herald, The Grave Thief, and The Ragged Man. Book 5 is currently being written. He currently negotiates contracts for an independent London publisher while working on the fourth book in the series. He continues to be suspicious of cats. They’re evil.

Much to my professional jealousy, I realise looking over my bookshelves that most of the series I really love have already acquired the level of respect they deserve. It seems that whenever I discover a really great book it then turns out people got there years before me and it’s already a hit, or I progress further into a series and end up disappointed with it.

David Farland’s Runelords is an example of that – I loved the first two but then it started losing some of its spark and, checking Amazon, the series seems to be ticking along without any clear end in sight. It wouldn’t surprise me if some say Greg Keyes’ Kingdom of Thorn and Bone, but having enjoyed the first two enough to keep reading I found myself wanting the bad guys to win in book 3 and never finished it, preferring his earlier works (and the series there, Age of Unreason, was a bestseller so doesn’t qualify). Ricardo Pinto’s trilogy started with a real bang, but book 2 took the characters out of the setting and was so dismal, despite the writing skill displayed, there’s no way I will reread it top catch myself up after a seven year wait for the final volume.

The fantasy book I tend to recommend as much as any is the first of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, The Devil You Know, but I don’t believe I’m anything like alone in that so the series I’ll have to go for is Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky. They’re good, honest epic fantasy books – stepping away from the usual medieval setting and introducing an intriguing twist in the Kinden that colours every detail of the world. Complex but not overly weighty, exciting and fast-paced, they’re books that make impatient for your next train journey/lunch break when you can ignore the rest of the world and immerse yourself in something more fun.

Greg van Eekhout
Greg van Eekhout is the author of the middle-grade fantasy novel Kid vs. Squid and the ostensibly grown-up novel Norse Code. He lives in San Diego, CA.

M.T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales middle-grade series has a somewhat convoluted publishing history. The first two books were released by a different publisher and under a different series title than the third book, and maybe that’s why the series isn’t the huge seller I think it deserves to be.

For the record, the series consists of Whales on Stilts (the villains are whales who walk on stilts), The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (a summer camp mystery) and Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware (a stand-out if, for nothing else, Anderson’s tour-de-force descriptions of an exotic Delaware you can’t get to from here).

Though consistently manic, zany, and ROFL-worthy, these books nail the reader with brief suckerpunch passages of beauty and poignancy. One such example comes from The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen in the voice of the anachronistically innocent and earnest Boy Technonaut Jasper Dash, who finds himself living in a cynical age with which he is ill-equipped to cope:

“Weightlessness, after all, is not just anti-gravity; it is learning to long for the sky more than the safety of the dirt.”

I misted up the first time I read that. Then I turned the page and resumed ROFLing.

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires, Weather Warden, and Outcast Season series. She has published more than 30 novels to date.

I’d have to say that Roger Zelazny’s Amber series still blows me away. I have always thought that in many ways, his vision of Amber as the center of the universe, and all realities, including our own, being pale reflections of it, was truly groundbreaking. It’s a great vision combined with a cracking good action/adventure tale with lots of family politics, murder, intrigue, and magic — compulsively readable. It has one of the most intriguing beginnings of any series I’ve ever read, as Corwin wakes up alone and confused in a convalescent hospital, and follows what small leads there are back to a bizarre and dangerous succession of relatives who are never what they seem.

I’d also like to put in a good word for P.N. Elrod’s Vampire Files series, which has a brilliant film noir quality … a vampire in gangland Chicago just seems to fit better than I’d ever have expected, and the characters are note perfect, as is the period detail. This series deserves to be a film … something in lush black and white, with shades of vivid crimson.

Jes Battis
Jes Battis is the author of the Occult Special Investigator series with Ace-Penguin, as well as scholarly books on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Farscape. He teaches fantasy and science fiction and eighteenth century studies in the Department of English at the University of Regina.

The first series that comes to mind is Chaz Brenchley’s Outremer novels. They feature Marron, a young queer protagonist who falls in love with a knight, whose story is told against a backdrop of Crusade warfare. The books are beautifully written, and feature an inventive magical system involving a symbiotic life-form that’s also a kind of naked singularity. Brenchley’s attention to medieval Middle Eastern and Mediterranean history is a pleasure (especially someone like me, who loves details), and his descriptive prose is sharp and elegant, imagining everything from a deadly air-elemental who charms a princess, to a memorable love scene involving a broken bone and exquisite tenderness.

I also enjoyed Brenchley’s 2006-07 series, Selling Water By the River, whose protagonist, Issel, cries tears of sparks, and prowls the rooftops of Sund while learning to master his water magic. Although this was a 2-book series, I felt that it deserved to be a trilogy.

Diana Pharaoh Francis
Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. She has also written the Crosspointe Series: The Cipher, The Black Ship, The Turning Tide, and The Hollow Crown (forthcoming in 2010). Her latest book is Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Her website is:

You know, this is a great topic because there are a lot of underrated series out there and now I’ll get to see which I haven’t read and have a new reading list. I love it! I’ve pondered the question for awhile and can think of plenty of series that I love, but I keep coming back to the notion of underrated. By readers? By critics? I decided on a series that I love and decided it was underrated by the fact that if I recommend it to people, they haven’t yet read it. And that is Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy (actually there are more books in the world and it’s become more of a series, but I’m focusing on the original three).

Let me tell you what I love about these books. They were unique when they came out, a melding of epic fantasy and horror, and included an ensemble cast, grittiness, humor, a cool world, excellent character building and a great story. There’s a kind of urban fantasy feel to it, though it is not urban fantasy at all and that feel blends well with the other elements, giving this series a really wonderful and unique flavor.

These are very violent books. Especially the first one and if you don’t like violence, you won’t like these. But it fits the world and it makes getting to the end feel really triumphant. For all the violence, there’s a really excellent payoff at the end. These are books that I wish I had written and so I recommend them to people all the time. I don’t know if they are underrated in general, but certainly they are not bestsellers that I’m aware of. So go get them and read them now. You won’t be disappointed.

David B. Coe
David B. Coe is the award-winning author of eleven fantasy novels and the occasional short story. His first trilogy, The LonTobyn Chronicle, received the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best work by a new author in fantasy. His latest fantasy novel, The Dark-Eyes’ War, is the final volume of his Blood of the Southlands trilogy, which began with The Sorcerers’ Plague and The Horsemen’s Gambit. The series is a follow-up to his critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet. He has recently written the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe. David’s fantasy novels have been translated into more than half a dozen languages, including Russian, German, French, and Spanish. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog, a site devoted to discussions of the craft and business of writing fantasy. His web site can be found at:

I have to admit that the self-promoter in me wants to choose one of my own series. But I’ll resist that temptation and point you toward a trilogy by Lynn Flewelling. A disclaimer: Lynn is a friend who I met years ago because we’re represented by the same agent. She is also a wonderful writer. She builds rich, evocative worlds, she creates fascinating characters and breathes life into them, and she spins intricate, compelling narratives.

Nowhere is her talent more apparent than in her Tamir Trilogy (The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle’s Queen, all from Bantam). The premise of the series is simple enough: An usurper king has taken the throne in a traditional matriarchy and, in response to a dark prophecy, has started killing off noblewomen to maintain his hold on power. When his brother’s wife gives birth to twins, one a boy and one a girl, the male child is sacrificed and the baby girl is magically “changed” into a boy. She is raised as a son, but she is haunted by the embittered spirit of her brother. I won’t give away more than that; you’ll just have to read the books.

This trilogy succeeds on every level. The books are beautifully written. Lynn’s pacing is excellent; the voices of her various point of view characters work perfectly. And she tells a terrific story, with lots of action, intrigue, and plot twists. But more than that, the Tamir books force the reader to think about gender and sexuality, about the boundaries between the world of the living and the realm of the dead, and about the determinative power of fate and destiny. This is epic fantasy at its best, but it’s also a ghost story, a love story, and, in the end, a deeply humane story in the truest sense of the word.

Lynn has received both critical and commercial notice for her Nightrunner series, and deservedly so. The Tamir Trilogy isn’t known as widely. I think that’s a shame. This is as good as any fantasy series I’ve ever read; it’s a series I wish I had written myself. And as a writer, I can’t give a higher compliment.

S. Andrew Swann
S. Andrew Swann is the pen name of Steven Swiniarski. He’s married and lives in the Greater Cleveland area, where he has lived all of his adult life. He has a background in mechanical engineering and — besides writing — works as a database manager for one of the largest private child services agencies in the Cleveland area. He has published 18 novels with DAW books over the past 17 years, which include science fiction, fantasy, horror and thrillers. He has recently sold a pair of historical fantasy novels to Spectra; Wolfbreed (Aug 2009) and Wolf’s Cross (July 2010). His latest book is Heretics (Feb 2010), the second volume in the Apotheosis Trilogy. Volume three, Messiah, is scheduled for Feb 2011.

Ok, I’m going to cheat a little here, because there was once a time when if you were talking a fantasy series, you were not talking “novels.” From the pulps up through the 1970s, if you were talking a series of anything, you were likely talking about short stories published in the genre magazines. And, if you’re talking overlooked work today, that whole class of fiction — from Jirel of Joiry, to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — is probably almost unknown to most of today’s readers. Which is a shame, because much of what appears in print today draws its inspiration from this early stuff, directly or indirectly. And I’d like to draw attention to someone who may be to gritty noir urban fantasy what Tolkien is to the grand high-fantasy epic, and probably no one reading this knows who he is.

The author is Seabury Quinn, and the series is about occult detective Jules de Grandin. These stories, which began appearing in Weird Tales in the mid 1920s, featured an investigator who’s been called “the occult Hercule Poirot,” and were incredibly popular at the time. Popular enough that reader polls consistently had him beating such now-better-known notables as H.P.Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and C.L.Moore. And, throughout the pulp era, Quinn had more stories published than any other contributor. One-hundred-forty-nine stories between 1925 and 1951. (At least in words, more than enough to fulfill the three “novel” requirement.) While he may not have been as stellar an author as his contemporaries, his pair of occult detectives presages the X-Files, the Dresden Books, and any number of modern titles where we find the mixture of genre mystery or police procedural tropes with the supernatural in a modern setting.

Blake Charlton
Blake Charlton is the author of Spellwright from Tor Books, its sequel Spellbound is scheduled to come out in mid 2011. He is a third year medical student at Stanford Medical School. Being very shiny, Blake has more jokes about premature baldness than you do. His website is

Underrated? Nay, my peoples of SF and frakkin’ F, let us examine of under-read, since the reading of the book is even more important than the rating of them. In this case, we would be speaking of Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet.


These books are sofa king wonderful it’s not only giving me a slight headache, it is also giving you a slight headache. TLPQ is a fantasist’s fantasy, written with subtlety and brilliance for the reader who’s devoured every fantasy series under the sun, moon, stars, and hitherto unidentified manifestations of dark matter.

So what makes Abraham’s books so good? The magic system is not only unique, profound, and really cool, but it is also employed with great discipline, making for a fresh take on the whole Gritty / less-magic fantasy movement that is going full tilt boogie with no intention of stopping. Abraham, like the leaders of said movement, always portrays his world though the lens of moving personal relationships.

So if the books are so great, why haven’t they taken off? I think it goes back to the “fantasists fantasy” stuff I was jumping up and down about earlier. Abraham has done several things here that are unusual and take some time to sink in. The magic in this world is not mystical or martial; it’s economic, almost industrial. Whereas most fantasists (including me), rev-up the magic systems to help keep our readers turning pages, Abraham saves the big guns for the key moments of the epic. It’s the interpersonal drama that keeps the reader going. Finally, the dominant culture in Abraham’s world is pseudo South Asian, rather than pseudo European. I think there is a hunger out there for such fantasy, but that it takes a bit longer to catch on.

Readers who are opinionated and have read a lot of fantasy-and, really, ye who peruse Mind Melds written by the likes of lowly me, this means ye-and crave a fresh series must pick up these books.


James Enge
James Enge is the author of Blood of Ambrose (which made LOCUS‘ Recommended Reading List for 2009) and This Crooked Way (which didn’t). His short fiction has appeared in Black Gate, Flashing Swords and Every Day Fiction. He has a story in the upcoming anthology Swords and Dark Magic and his third novel, The Wolf Age is slated to appear in October 2010. Like the rest of the chatterverse, he is now on Twitter and occasionally shows his face on Facebook.

I couldn’t think of one series that really fit this description, so here are four.

1. Charles Saunders, the Imaro books.

This series started to appear in the brief sword-and-sorcery heyday of the 70s, then fell out of print. The series was picked up by Nightshade a few years ago, and when they dropped it, Saunders continued to publish the work via Lulu under the “Sword and Soul” imprint. And I say yay to that.

This is fantasy adventure set in Nyumbani, an alternate Africa. The series is utterly untainted by the post-colonial crap that usually comes up when Africa appears in an adventure story. Saunders writes intensely, vividly, memorably. The first book begins a little slowly, bogged down in an origin-story that might be more powerful if it were implied rather than narrated step-by-step. But it’s a satisfying read, and the second novel (The Quest for Cush) is even better.

2. Leigh Brackett, the Eric John Stark stories (and her space operas generally). Maybe these don’t count as fantasy… but they weren’t very science-based fiction even when they were first published. Most of the high technology would count as science under Clarke’s Law.

Brackett’s sword-and-planet stories came out in the 40s and 50s mostly; they were the kind of fiction that serious sf writers pointed to and said, “I don’t write that stuff.” It’s mere pulp, and the pulpiest of pulp. The quintessence of pulp. If most pulp is grape juice, Brackett’s fiction is cognac. Beautifully written, elegantly plotted tales of adventure. I don’t know if it says anything essential about the human condition, and I don’t care; I just want more of it. Haffner Press has been bringing them back into print in gorgeous big volumes; the last one (Shannach, the Last: Farewell to Mars) is slated to appear this year.

3. James Branch Cabell, the Biography of the Life of Manuel. As far as I can tell, almost no one reads Cabell anymore, but there was a brief time in the 1920s when he was a big deal. His weird philosophical fantasy The Cream of the Jest acquired a small but devoted following among the literati (including fans like H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis). One of his novels, Jurgen, had the good fortune to be charged with obscenity by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and became a bestseller in consequences. (Their next target was Joyce’s Ulysses, which became similarly famous and infamous. 20th century literature owed these bluenoses a great debt.)

But Jurgen and Cream of the Jest were just two volumes in a strange, discursive series that proposed to follow the life of one character through his descendants and friends and their descendants over centuries and through various cosmoi and a bucket or two of pantheons. Cabell’s wit is so dry it can make a desert seem marshy in contrast, and when I say he wears his considerable learning on his sleeve I mean you to understand that he rams said sleeve and its accompanying forearm up the reader’s nose from time to time. In some ways, he is the most annoying writer I have ever read.

But he can also be hilarious. He’s tremendously imaginative and willing to wrap his imagination around subjects that have made some people uncomfortable (God; sex; the meaning of life, if any). And he has absolute control over every sentence he creates. He may not be the greatest stylist in fantasy, but he is one of the great ones and is worth reading for that reason alone. I’m not saying people should read everything he’s written, but his major works (Jurgen, Figures of Earth, Cream of the Jest, Domnei, The Silver Stallion) are worth reading and rereading.

4. Sherwood Smith’s Inda and its sequels have a big enough following that maybe I shouldn’t mention them here. But I’m not sure they are rated as highly as they deserve. This is a dense, deep, intense exercise in world-building by someone who knows how to do it–and who never forgets that characters have to be people, not just names. Wonderful work.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

27 Comments on MIND MELD: What Fantasy Series is Underrated?

  1. Without hesitation I’d put Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exile on this list.  Yeah, it’s technically sci-fi, but really it’s elves, magic, and medievalism.  It reads so much like fantasy that I have a really hard time mentally identifying it as sci-fi.  Review/recap available on my blog:

  2. Wow.  I’ve read only ONE book from that entire list.  The first Garrett P.I. book.  Guess I have some reading to do!

  3. Julian May I’ll go to science fantasy if you like.  But I love that one.

    Otherwise, I’m with Enge’s first two.

    Otherwise, Sean Williams’ Books of the Cataclysm.  Far future postapocalypticised Australia.  With talking stone golems.

    Don’t really think Amber is underrated, though! Is Glen Cook’s Black Company?

    Also Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule.






  4. Paul Kearney’s ‘The Monarchies of God’ is probably the most underated series of books that I can think of, they are set in fascinating world modelled on Europe as it fought against the rise of Islam around the time of the fall of Constaninople. A really dark and griping read which makes George R R Martins excellent Song of Fire and Ice seris seem like light reading.

  5. Leigh Green // May 26, 2010 at 8:23 am //

    Thanks for this. Some of these books I had never even heard of. I’m planning on reading more and watching less tv, so nice to have a reading list this to get started with.

  6. David H // May 26, 2010 at 8:29 am //

    The first five books of the Amber series are good, but the rest are atrocious. I hear good things about Saunders/Imaro. The rest of these series you would literally have to pay me to read–and it wouldn’t be cheap. No wonder the appalling state of Fantasy these days.

    To be fair, though, I think the question itself leads to the abysmal responses. Series of at least three books? Those of us who actually have taste stopped reading these megaton doorstoppers money machines years ago. The one I had been reading, Martin’s ASoIaF series, he himself had the good taste to shelve indefinitely. Give us more stuff like Peter S. Beagle’s work!!!

  7. I’d include William Horwood’s Duncton Wood series here for sure, along with James Clemens’ Godslayer Chronicles (incomplete as it is).

  8. Walter Moers’ Zamonia series is the most fun fantasy series I’ve ever read. Wildly imaginative and ridiculously funny.  The 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear is 700 pages of pure awesomenitude.

  9. Very glad to see Greg Keyes’ incredible series in the list of responses. The Briar King is fantastic!

    I wouldn’t say the Amber series was underrated though. Hard to see how it could be rated any higher.

  10. I’ll just emphatically second Blake’s post re: The Long Price Quartet.  Not underrated per se, but criminally underread.  LPQ is easily the best-written, smartest new fantasy series of the past fifteen years.  It’s a shame (but perhaps not surprising) that so many other decent-but-overhyped books got more blockbuster sales than this series.

  11. Yes to the Smith and the Anderson.  I wasn’t as fond of the Saunders as some other folks were, but I wish Lawrence Watt-Evans’s Ethshar series had made the list. 

  12. I very much appreciate these mind-meld posts, thanks as always. It’s hard for me to know what’s underrated, as I don’t pay much attention to what’s currently considered of value and what’s not. Still, here are some things to consider:

    I am certainly astounded – in a very happy way – to see mention of WILLIAM HORWOOD and his excellent Dunction Wood books. They are not well known. Anyone who liked Richard Adams’ WATERSHIP DOWN should like these as well. I just wish they were easier to come by.

    I agree with the others who have said the Zelanzy Amber series is hardly underrated, and also that after the first few they decline in quality.

    I wonder why there is no mention of Katharine Kerr’s Deverry books? Perhaps they aren’t underrated. They certainly ARE excellent.

    One last: Fred Saberhagen’s Swords books. One should start by reading EMPIRE OF THE EAST, then progress through the SWORDS books, each of which is named for one of the swords. Very entertaining.

  13. There’s two that I would recommend – Greg Keyes’s Age of Unreason series of four books, which sees steampunkish technology, and the consequences of what would happen if Newton discovered Alchemy instead of the laws of physics. 


    The other is Michael A. Stackpole’s DragonCrown Cycle, which I’ve long thought of as ‘Military Fantasy’. Fun reads, the two of them. 

  14. Paul Kearney’s ‘The Monarchies of God’ is probably the most underated series of books that I can think of, they are set in fascinating world modelled on Europe as it fought against the rise of Islam around the time of the fall of Constaninople. A really dark and griping read which makes George R R Martins excellent Song of Fire and Ice seris seem like light reading.


    Agreed. Kearney is a great author, not just in MONARCHIES but also with his SEA-BEGGARS series and THE TEN THOUSAND. By far his most underrated work is A DIFFERENT KINGDOM, which is an rural Irish fantasy more in the vein of Robert Holdstock than David Gemmell and is superb.

    For those recommended Greg Keyes’ series, I agree that THE BRIAR KING and CHARNEL PRINCE are fine novels. THE BLOOD KNIGHT is rocky and THE BORN QUEEN is just plain awful. The series ends astonishingly badly, like the author just couldn’t be bothered any more. A tremendous let-down.

    For my own choices, I’d probably put up Brian Aldiss’ HELLICONIA TRILOGY (which is somewhere between SF and Fantasy), Patrick Tilley’s AMTRAK WARS (the guiltiest of guilty pleasures but tremendous fun) and Chris Wooding’s BRAIDED PATH trilogy. All superb, in very different ways.

  15. Joe Parrish // May 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm //

    I can think of two that I like the first Liz Williams Inspector Chen books, an Asian Harry Dresden in the near future that thought some seem to know about most don’t.  Book 4 just became available in paper, and thought I am not as sure about this I think she is working on book 5.  I like what I have read of these because of the far eastern ideas that get away from the traditional European ideas in so many of the current urban fantasy novels.  And for a second not one in particular but as a whole the Warhammer Fantasy novels, I can not say that every one of them is great, but what I have read of them puts them on par with most of todays modern fantasy, a brutal world, great characters, and just a touch of Europe with out it being Europe.  Ane with everyone in the same world you get characters at time being able to be used by all.

  16. Following on from the earlier point, Paul Kearney’s MONARCHIES OF GOD series is being reissued this year in two volumes: HAWKWOOD AND THE KINGS in August and THE CENTURY OF THE SOLDIER in September. Solaris are reissuing the books in both the UK and USA, I believe.

  17. Paul Boos // May 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm //

    I’d have to say Lary Nivens’ Ringworld series is far under-rated.  It has fans, sure, but still it doesn’t get the attention of many others.

  18. RINGWORLD is widely regarded as one of the most seminal SF novels ever written and is regularly cited as a major SF work of the 1970s. I certainly wouldn’t call it underrated.

    However, that said, I see very little about the two sequels (THE RINGWORLD ENGINEERS and THE RINGWORLD THRONE). That could be a different post: what sequels to major works get short shrift? I see lots of people rag on the DUNE books Frank Herbert wrote after the original, but I actually quite enjoyed HERETICS OF DUNE and CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE. Similarly, whilst different in tone to the original, I thought THE FALL OF HYPERION was a worthy follow-up to HYPERION. I’d also frankly rate the novel of 2010 as being better than 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

  19. Good find on the Paul Kearny books, might have to get new copies as mine are more than a bit dog eared and selotaped after numerous reads and lends.

    Can’t believe I forgot to mention Katherine Kerr’s Devery books, a truely fantastic series, even if it has taken forever for her to write.

    I would also like to call attention to some of TSR’s shared world output, there are some real gems (and more than a few less enjoyable reads). The original Dragonlance trilogy, the Drow books (a couple are atrocious but most of them are great), The Spelljammer novels, Buck Rogers, and many others are good light reading or a great starting point for new/younger readers.


    To be fair, though, I think the question itself leads to the abysmal responses. Series of at least three books? Those of us who actually have taste stopped reading these megaton doorstoppers money machines years ago. The one I had been reading, Martin’s ASoIaF series, he himself had the good taste to shelve indefinitely. Give us more stuff like Peter S. Beagle’s work!!! Posted by David H

    Sorry but I love a good series, I have already made note of a couple of books I will keep an eye out for. I just think this is a great article and one thread I will be checking up on as long as it stays fresh.

  20. Dan Crawford’s series beginning with “The Sure Death of a Mouse” was one I thoroughly enjoyed, but never seem to see mentioned.  And Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett’s series beginning with “The Armor of Light” seriously impressed me in the world-building stakes.

  21. Barbara Schwartz // May 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm //

    THE CHRONICLES OF TORNOR by Elizabeth Lynn.  It depicts the evolution of a philosophy:  the chieri, small groups who honor the balance of the Universe and travel from village to village exhibiting their dancing and fighting skills.  The legend grows  from a rumor of Eden heard in a cold border keep to its almost prosaic status quo in a lush, decadent delta city over three volumes and several generations.  Sexuality is fluid, gender roles, for the most part, are refreshingly non-existent, and each book evokes the ache of possibilities not acted upon.  Lynn evokes Taoism and Bedouin culture in her rich descriptions of life in Tornor.

  22. RETURN TO NEVERYON by Samuel R. Delaney is actually a series of interconnected short stories and novellas, but it’s collected into four books.  And it is fantastic.  The writing style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s ambitious and meta and (as far as I can tell) practically unknown.  The first book is Tales of Nevèrÿon.  They take place in an early developing society, as inventions and writing systems and civilization spread and change things; I can’t recommend them enough.

  23. I agree with Paul Kearney, rather like him, too.

  24. I have to agree with the suggestion of Anne Bishop.  She has two series and both are very good.  The Black Jewels Series, which can be quite violent as well as sexual, is also filled with humor.  The 2nd in the series especially.  It is one of the series that I will reread yearly.

  25. Paul Connelly // May 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm //

    The Tredana trilogy by Joyce Ballou Gregorian is probably the most unjustly neglected fantasy series.

    And while John Crowley’s Aegypt cycle is praised by critics, I’m not sure it’s as widely read as it should be.

    The same could be said of the Kencyr series by P. C. Hodgell, although Baen is trying to remedy that.

    Two brilliant fantasy series that we are apparently doomed never to see the third books for are Metropilitan/City on Fire /??? by Walter Jon Williams and The Stars Dispose/The Starts Compel/??? by Michaela Roessner.

  26. Chrystoph // June 2, 2010 at 10:53 am //

    I would throw P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series, starting with Godstalk, into the list.

    It is a very well written story of self discovery, matched to conflicts ranging from personal on up through local and including racial and divine.

    It also has its humorous moments without being a comedy.


    Here is an Amazon link (no association) for the re-release.

  27. Here are a few series I consider under rated.


    1. Heirs of Alexandria by Eric Flint, Dave Freer, and Mercedes Lackey.

    The story of a bunch of folks and the demon Chernobog in a fantasy alternate history.

    2. Oath of Empire by Thomas Harlan

    Another fantasy alternate history, and Tom’s version of how Sauron and Gandalf came to be. Features the prophet Mohammed as a view point character, and (spoiler warning) the ultimate hero of the piece.

    There are others I could name, but my recall is glitching again.

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