Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi: dipping into fantasy

Banner: Dancing with Fantasy and SciFi - 2019 Reading Challenge (text on a background image of books viewed end on)

I heard on the grapevine that it’s Fantasy February – so that seems like a good reason to crack on with my first batch of fantasy recommendations for Annemieke’s Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi reading challenge

How big’s the challenge?

It’s a year-long prompt challenge with three categories: SF, Fantasy and General (a free choice of either SF or fantasy for each read), so you can sign up to read 20, 30 or 50 books across the year. Each category has prompts – the challenge is to read a book for every prompt. You can join in at any point in the year (and match books you’ve already read to prompts) – it’s very easy-going!

You can only use each read against one challenge prompt.  Don’t worry – you can switch categories on a read later – so if you list your latest read against ‘Magical School’, you can move it to ‘PTSD’ later on if it fits and you’re finding that one tricky.

Annemieke has done a great job of choosing a great mix of straightforward prompts and less obvious ones to keep things interesting. They should help you get off the beaten track a bit, even if you’re an old hack like me! However, it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re only just getting started, so this is the second in a series of posts to help you find a read for each prompt (you can find my first batch of SF recs here).

What to read?

You can find Annemieke’s suggestions over on the original challenge post. I’m going to try hard not to repeat any of hers within the same category (and not to repeat myself, either: books may fit many prompts, but will only be matched to one). That turned out to be quite a challenge this week…

Even so, this isn’t a definitive list by any means. I’m suggesting 3-10 books per prompt, split across 3 sub-categories: well-loved books for genre classics and/or bestsellers; new in 2019 for new releases I’m excited about; and top tips for personal favourites and/or books I’m really intrigued to read.

I’ve included books I’m thinking of reading for the challenge as well as books I’ve read and can recommend that fit the bill (marked with an asterisk*). I’ve tried to stick to the first book in a series unless they can be read as stand-alones.

Prompt Well-loved New in 2019 Top tips
Classic fantasy Hope Mirlees: Lud-in-the-Mist

Lord Dunsany: The King of Elfland’s Daughter

Robert Holdstock:
Mythago Wood

n/a – we’re looking for oldies but goldies here  Ellen Kushner:
Swordspoint*Patricia McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of EldJanny Wurts: Curse of the Mistwraith*
Magic school Robert Jordan: The Wheel of Time*

Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown*

Sergey & Marina Dyachenko:
Vita Nostra
Sebastien de Castell: Spellslinger* / Soulbinder*

Mark Gelineau & Joe King: Faith and Moonlight*

Necromancers Laurell K Hamilton:
Guilty PleasuresLloyd Alexander: The Black Cauldron*

Myke Cole: Gemini Cell

Suggestions welcome! Max Gladstone:
Three Parts Dead*Amanda Downum: The Drowning City
PTSD R F Kuang: The Poppy War*

Suggestions welcome!

R F Kuang: The Dragon Republic Sally Gardner:
Tinder*Roanna Sylver:
Chameleon Moon*
Dragons Rosemary Manning: Green Smoke*

Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman:
Dragons of Autumn Twilight*

Michael Ende: The Never-ending Story*

J R R Tolkien: The Hobbit*

Ursula Le Guin: Earthsea*

R J Barker: The Bone Ships

Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple: The Last Tsar’s Dragons


Jo Walton: Tooth & Claw*

Jon Hollin: Fool’s Gold

Marc Turner: Dragon Hunters

Aliette de Bodard: The House of Shattered Wings*

Fairytale retelling

I’m taking a broad approach and including folklore and myth here

Robin McKinley:
BeautyJuliet Marillier:
Daughter of the Forest* (The Wild Swans)

Alan Garner: The Owl Service* (The Mabinogion)

A G Howard: Stain (The Princess and the Pea) Karen Lord:
Redemption in Indigo (Senegalese folklore)Kate Forsyth: Bitter Greens (Rapunzel)

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (SE Asian, anthology)

Grimdark Joe Abercrombie: The Blade Itself*

Richard Morgan: The Steel Remains*

Glen Cook: The Black Company

Steven Erikson: The God Is Not Willing

Peter V. Brett: The Desert Prince

Anna Stephens: Godblind*

Anna Smith Spark: The Court of Broken Knives*

Kameron Hurley: The Mirror Empire

Ghosts Paul Cornell: Chalk*

M R Carey: Fellside*

Rachel Burge: The Twisted Tree Zen Cho: Spirits Abroad*

Cassandra Khaw: Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef*

Uncommon fantasy creatures Peter S Beagle: The Last Unicorn (…guess)

S A Chakraborty:
The City of Brass* (djinn)

BB: The Little Grey Men* (gnomes)

Kalyn Josephson: The Storm Crow (elementals)

Nicki Pau Preto: Crown of Feathers (phoenix)

Kara Barbieri: White Stag (goblins)

Sarah J Sover: Double-crossing the Bridge (trolls)

S Jae-Jones:
Wintersong* (goblins)J Y Yang: The Red Threads of Fortune* (naga)

Yoon Ha Lee: The Fox’s Tower (kitsune)

Shapeshifters David Eddings: The Belgariad†

J K Rowling: Harry Potter

Lots of paranormal romance ticks this box if that’s your cup of tea

Marlon James: Black Leopard, Red Wolf Indra Das: The Devourers

Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library*

Elizabeth Bear: Blood and Iron*

Martha Wells: The Cloud Roads

† These books are undisputed classics. I devoured them as a teenager; 25 years later, I can’t recommend them, exactly (I’m not sure I’d find them readable if I read them now), but they’re well-loved and influential so they deserve a mention.

Got some suggestions? Add them in the comments!