Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek for Baen, Mission: Tomorrow and Galactic Games (both forthcoming), also for Baen, Choices and Gaslamp Terrors (forthcoming), Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter as @SFFWRTCHT.
As the co-editor of Baen’s new anthology of high fantasy with a military feel, Shattered Shields, I have spent a lot of time reading and researching military fantasy. But unlike military science fiction, it’s not a clearly defined subgenre, so most of the books falling into the category must be discovered within other categories. Everyone’s heard of big series like Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Erickson’s Malazan, and Cook’s Black Company, but there are other high fantasy series with great military elements. So here are a few recommendations for military fantasy fans of series they might want to discover.
- Ken Scholes’ Psalms of Isaak (TOR)—the first five books are out and filled with various armies negotiating, fighting, and strategizing as major elements of the plot. A science fantasy with an epic fantasy feel, the stories include metal men, diverse cultures, a Catholic-like secular humanist religious order, and more in a postapocalyptic setting similar to Miller’s Canticle of Leibowitz. There’s plenty of action and intrigue here as well as some great characters, unique magic, and a fascinatingly complex world. 4 of the 5 books have been released along with several short stories and the 5th novel is due next year.
- Ian Tregellis’ Milkweed Triptych (TOR)—Set in World War II, this trilogy revolves around a secret British military core of magic users fighting a special Nazi time with magic and paranormal abilities. A fascinating bit of alternate history with lots of military action and science fiction and fantasy elements, Tregillis does an outstanding job of using the actual history while adding to and modifying the details in fantastical ways. All three books are out.
- Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns (ROC)—Set in a secondary world, this series features elements of Napoleonic era strategy and warfare. Billed as a flintlock fantasy, there are guns here in addition to magic and swords and the central characters are members of organized military branches invading a foreign land and interacting with armies there. Well written with strong characters and action, there’s plenty here to satisfy any fan’s military fantasy jones.
- Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer Series (Orbit)—This New York Times bestselling series may be epic fantasy but it’s filled with armies and structured soldiers, including magic users, fighting epic battles, strategizing and jostling for power. A strong hierarchy is a key element and I think military fantasy fans will find a lot to enjoy here.
- Mercedes Lackey’s Vows and Honor Series (Daw)—Two female mercenaries discover a magic sword and take up arms to right the wrongs done against womanhood. Feminist and military fantasy, not bad, eh? Sword and sorcery with warmth and humor from one of the top female fantasy authors writing today. Sworn by an oath to their goddess, the two soldiers fight together for justice.
I tried to think of more military fantasy books by female authors to mention but couldn’t remember any I’ve read so far with as strongly military fantasy elements as these (there are many examples in military science fiction), besides the obvious Elizabeth Moon (Paksenarrion) but that just means you readers can add your favorite recommendations in comments, so please do. I am sure there are other worthy series out there and we’d love to hear about them.