In my opinion, the ultimate escapist books are High Fantasy. In a fantasy novel, everything is different. The people, the country, the languages, the culture and everything else are up for the author to invent and describe. When its done well, a reader feels like they have stepped into the pages and are off on the adventure with the characters. I love fantasy novels. I thought long and hard about what books I wanted to highlight today. There are so many good ones and then there are so many popular ones and sometimes, in my opinion, those are two different things. I even thought about mentioning Game of Thrones, which I love, but I couldn’t think of a series to compare it to.
I’m going to start with an incredibly popular series of books: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. This series was the first fantasy series I ever read… well after Tolkien of course.
The Wheel of Time is an exceedingly complex story that stretches over 14 volumes plus a prequel. This series has very elaborate world building with everything you would expect in a fantasy series. The magic in the world is interesting and original as is the religion and the prophesies. The story follows 5 main characters, 3 boys and 2 girls, from a very small town as they travel and discover the larger world. In 14+ books, you have a know a lot happens. The best thing about this series is that the 5 characters each have their own major subplots that are never neglected.
The worst part about this series is that unfortunately the author, Robert Jordan, passed away before he could finish the final novel. He left notes and Tor recruited Brandon Sanderson to finish the final book. The book became huge and unwieldy and was eventually split into 3 books. Brandon Sanderson does an admirable job following Robert Jordan’s notes but its still not the same.
If you like Wheel of Time (or really any fantasy) then you might like…
The Codex Alera is not only one of my very favorite fantasy series, it also has the best back story I’ve ever heard. Jim Butcher was once bet that he couldn’t write a great story based on a lame idea. He replied that he could do it based on two lame ideas of the bettor’s choosing. Â The person betting him chose the Holy Roman Empire and Pokemon. This series is the result. Â Now, after hearing that, who wouldn’t want to read these books?!?
This series also has incredibly detailed world building. I loved it because everything in it was so unique the first time I read it and I still haven’t encountered another series of books like it. Instead of the usually run of fantasy races; elves, hobbits and the like. Jim Butcher has created a race of humanoid wolves called the Canim whose society uses a strict caste system, a tribal race named the Marat who adopt a totem that they bond with for life and an insect like race called the Vord. These are in addition to Alerans (humans), named after their country, Alera.
In the world of the Codex Alera, everything and everywhere are inhabited by elemental spirits called Furies. Everyone who lives in Alera is able to commune with at least one type of Fury and often Furies and people become bonded together.Â This communion is called Fury Crafting. This series follows a young boy named Tavi, who happens to be the only one in his world who is unable to Fury Craft.
This book series also had a great twist in it that shocked me. I’m a sucker for a good twist.