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Media => Brush and Quill => Topic started by: Dincrest on June 21, 2015, 04:12:09 PM

Title: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on June 21, 2015, 04:12:09 PM
It's clear that many of us here on the forums are avid readers of fantasy novels.  Heck, RPGFan is the reason I read (both present and past tense) series like A Song of Ice and Fire, Coldfire, Mistborn, and currently The Stormlight Archive to name a few.

Now, as much as I like series and I'm currently invested in the still ongoing The Stormlight Archive and A Song of Ice and Fire, sometimes the thought of investing time and money into a big series (even a "manageable" trilogy, which us voracious readers can easily tear through) seems daunting.  Like an obligation or a chore.  Sometimes people only have time to read maybe one book a season and the idea of a 10 book series elicits a "yeah... NO!" reaction, even though they WANT to get into fantasy.  Kinda like how several of us only have so much time to play RPGs that we only play a small handful a year or favor shorter (15-25 hour) titles than 50-75 hour epics. 

So while the "standalone fantasy novel" is a rarity these days for several reasons, what are some of the good ones you folks have read?  The ones that start and end between two covers.  That don't have sequels.  That aren't part of a larger series.  That stand alone as independent entities.  I know several of our favorite authors have had standalone books (like Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Guy Gavriel Kay).  How have those works been? 

Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Tooker on June 21, 2015, 04:25:31 PM
Sanderson's Warbreaker is good, and you can download it free from his website, which is even better.

David Eddings has a book called The Redemption of Althalus that I like.  As is always the case with Eddings, though, if you've read one of his things, you've basically read them all.  I just happen to like his stuff, even though it is repetitive.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Rucks on June 21, 2015, 07:45:27 PM
Does American Gods count? Because that book is RIDICULOUS and I hope everyone here reads it at some point.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on June 21, 2015, 07:48:53 PM
Why wouldn't it?  Not all fantasy has to be "lol elves." 
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: ironmage on June 21, 2015, 10:46:26 PM
"Under Heaven" is the only work of Guy Gavriel Kay's I've read so far, but I was rather impressed.  The novel is set in a fictionalized version of ancient China, with palace intrigue, politics, romance, and even some martial arts.  The fantasy elements, although present, are somewhat understated, and feel like a natural extension of the setting.

I found Kay's prose to be very readable, almost poetic, and his characters are very well detailed (I'm especially a fan of a certain drunken poet).

The ending felt a bit rushed, and I think he could have easily extended this into more volumes, but I'm just as glad he didn't.  I think he wrote another novel set in the same world; I should hunt down a copy eventually.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on June 29, 2015, 05:58:34 AM
Sounds like 'Under Heaven' takes some cues from wuxia (Chinese martial-arts fantasy).  I'm actually looking for a nice piece of wuxia to add to my Kindle collection.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Sugarnes on July 11, 2015, 02:24:25 PM
I agree, I'm a fan of many an epic series but particularly when you pick one up early and have to wait years between books....urgh I'm an impatient soul!

A personal favourite that broadly fits the brief is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke.  A little different but magic is at its core it has a really clever story arc and great setting.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: mecharobot on August 08, 2015, 12:33:44 AM
As for stand-alone fantasy, I think either YA or children stories are where it's at (or possibly epic poetry). There is one that has always remained somewhat important to me and I've read quite a few times, which I think goes by Brothers Lionheart in english. Basically it is somewhat like that game "Brothers - A tale of two sons". You got an older brother and a younger one, who end up in a seemingly idyllic fantasy world via spoilerific means. They don't get any super powers or end up as mighty warriors, but become a part of it and live through the events. There is however a more sorrowful theme in it about suicide and sacrifice and it's not necessarily a happy story, from which I understood the author was heavily critiqued for way back when.

I'm not sure why it has stuck with me for so long. Maybe because I used to be closer with my brother? An escapist fantasy in a beautiful land? Perhaps it is these male bonds that imo aren't that common, since everyone thinks it is all about a power fantasy? Probably it is not the best book in the world, but I think it has something in it that I'd like to see more of.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Aurian on August 08, 2015, 11:29:20 AM
Some good stand Alones:

Curse of Chalion, by Lois Bujold McMaster
Love the characters and interesting world building in this one. Lois goes on to write more books in the same world but each one can stand alone.

Gospel of Loki, bu Joanne Harris
The tales of the Viking gods, from Loki's point of view. Full of snark.

Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on August 12, 2015, 08:35:02 PM
Cool to hear that there are solid standalone fantasy novels out there and that not everything is part of a daunting series. 

Keep the titles coming, because I'm sure plenty of people are benefiting from this thread.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Aurian on August 12, 2015, 09:45:45 PM
I don't always hVe time/room for epics... I love hVing some stand Alones around, or even trilogies but longer than that starts to cause some fatigue. A lot of epics just seem to have a lot of filler...

I buy physical copies of stand Alones and keep series on my Kindle
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: insertnamehere on August 14, 2015, 11:44:23 PM
Fire Bringer?
I got this about a year ago for dirt cheap at a bookshop, and it's pretty highly rated on goodreads.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58087.Fire_Bringer
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Yoda on September 23, 2015, 09:50:52 PM
Can we do a semi-hijack and make this a general fantasy thread?

I'm looking for some recommendations for a fantasy book or series. I'd like a fantasy/ dark fantasy setting, something like the Dark Souls world where you exist in something deep but might not be aware of the history and not a Tolkien thing where they beat you over the head with history and detail. Do the Drizzt books fall in this style? Sorry if I spelled that incorrectly.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Aurian on September 23, 2015, 11:25:00 PM
You might like the Dark Elf trilogy from the Drizzt saga (chronolocally the first trilogy, but it was actually published after the Ice Wind dale trilogy). The series is still going (must be 10 or so?) but I dropped out long ago. After awhile it gets hard to believe and enjoy a series where the hero can take on whole armies and win. He just feels too indestructible and untouchable. He felt more interesting earlier on in the series.

Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Yoda on September 24, 2015, 12:06:09 AM
Ive been meaning to look at those. Inshould also say I am looking for a story focusing on a single protagonist.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Jimmy on September 24, 2015, 10:46:34 AM
In that case, the Drizzt books probably are right up your alley. The Dark Elf Trilogy and The Icewind Dale trilogy are both good. I didn't read any beyond that though so I can't comment on the rest. Also, R.A. Salvatore may not be the best fantasy writer, but the dude can write the hell out of a fight scene. There are actually over 30 Drizzt books, but they're usually told in an insular trilogy format so you don't really need to read one trilogy to hop into another.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on September 24, 2015, 05:37:22 PM
Can we do a semi-hijack and make this a general fantasy thread?


Sorry, but no. 

I'd rather not tangent this into a generic fantasy thread because then it would be like every other generic fantasy thread, and this one focuses on standalone fantasy novels for those who want to read a fantasy novel but not want to commit to a multi-book series. 

That being said, I think you might like R. Scott Bakker's "Prince of Nothing" trilogy.  I personally couldn't get into it, but it has the elements you're looking for to scratch your particular itch.  I also think you might enjoy some of Brandon Sanderson's work, like the first Mistborn trilogy- it isn't "omg grimdark" but it does have a pretty bleak setting. 
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Towns Car Marty on September 29, 2015, 07:40:18 AM
Ever read Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker? It's not fantasy in the traditional sense but it's worth a read. The writing style take a little bit of getting used to, but I found it to be a pretty rewarding book.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: D-Rider on September 29, 2015, 09:49:53 AM
One book that comes to mind is "The Folding Knife" by K.J. Parker.  I'm not gonna do it a disservice by trying to summarize it, but trust me when I say it's excellent.

"The Lies of Locke Lamora" is another one.  There have been a couple of sequels to it that I haven't read yet, but that's a modern gold standard for a well-crafted fantasy novel that wraps up everything by the end.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on November 12, 2016, 06:37:54 PM
I know this is a bit of a necro-res, but it's something that hits home with me now.  

I actually abandoned some epic-beyond-epic series because these days I simply don't have the time, patience, or energy to dedicate to a huge multi-book series like Wheel of Time, Malazan, or Stormlight Archive. I had to throw in the towel on The Stormlight Archive, because though it is an incredible-beyond-words series, it was simply too much, too dense, and simply eking out any time to read it felt like Sisyphus pushing a rock.   Yet I still get those epic fantasy cravings and am always looking for some good standalone fantasy novels.  

Anyway, I recently downloaded some Kindle samples that were recommended here.  

"The Folding Knife" by K.J. Parker- I recognize it as a good book and I can totally see why D-Rider likes it.  I feel like it's the kind of book that resonates with his persona.  However, it just didn't do "it" for me.  I use this analogy all the time, because it's true.  It's like with dating.  Sometimes you date a girl and you know she's a great girl but she's not the one for you.  

"Warbreaker" by Brandon Sanderson- As much as I love and respect Sanderson, his books are hit-or-miss for me.  I mentioned Stormlight Archive before and I LOVED the first Mistborn trilogy; I got my mom to read it and she loved it too (yeah, she's the reason I'm into fantasy.  She got me into Tolkien, I got her into Mistborn and Song of Ice and Fire.)  In the second Mistborn trilogy, Alloy of Law was okay, but still need to read Shadows of Self which I've been told is really good.  I couldn't get into The Rithmatist at all, Steelheart and Legion seemed totally up my alley but somehow didn't do it for me... and unfortunately Warbreaker is among those latter books.  I could not get into it at all.  The whole "breath" based magic system didn't do it for me, the prose was not as strong as his later works, and the characters weren't very interesting.  Still, for a freebie it's solid.  

"The Redemption of Althalus" by David Eddings- Now THIS sample, I really enjoyed.  Eddings is an American writer, but he very seamlessly incorporates older-timey English syntax to really make me feel like I'm reading an old tome and not reading a digital fantasy book on my Kindle.  His prose immersed me.  I want to explore this book's world and its characters even though I'm sure I've met their ilk before in other fantasy novels.  This is my first experience with a David Eddings book and I'm liking it.  I might have to buy this one.  Truth be told, I was apprehensive to read it because of all the stuff people have said, like "Eddings' writing is really repetitive" or "you read one Eddings book, you've read them all" or simply that Eddings is a hack writer.  All that may be true, but since I don't plan on going into his big series, I'd be happy to start and end my Eddings odyssey on this one positive note since it seems this book is a good representation of his style as a whole.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Artimicia on November 13, 2016, 06:16:04 AM
I know this is a bit of a necro-res, but it's something that hits home with me now.  

"The Redemption of Althalus" by David Eddings- Now THIS sample, I really enjoyed.  Eddings is an American writer, but he very seamlessly incorporates older-timey English syntax to really make me feel like I'm reading an old tome and not reading a digital fantasy book on my Kindle.  His prose immersed me.  I want to explore this book's world and its characters even though I'm sure I've met their ilk before in other fantasy novels.  This is my first experience with a David Eddings book and I'm liking it.  I might have to buy this one.  Truth be told, I was apprehensive to read it because of all the stuff people have said, like "Eddings' writing is really repetitive" or "you read one Eddings book, you've read them all" or simply that Eddings is a hack writer.  All that may be true, but since I don't plan on going into his big series, I'd be happy to start and end my Eddings odyssey on this one positive note since it seems this book is a good representation of his style as a whole.

I was WOT fan back when, never got into Sword of Truth, but this Athalus one sounds good to me, something about the older-timey English syntax and "old tome" that got to me =-)
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on November 13, 2016, 06:00:55 PM
I read more of your recommended samples today. 

"Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban- I did not enjoy reading this at all.  I respect the commitment to writing completely in a dialect and when I took a 20th Century American Novel class in college, I read an entire novel in a dialect.  However, reading novels in dialect is not at all pleasurable for me.  I read to enjoy myself, and I did not enjoy this.  Plus, I felt like there were too many instances where Hoban slipped into "normal speak" too much and too long.  So this one will not be on the docket.

"American Gods" by Neil Gaiman- Gaiman is a talented writer, but like Sanderson, his work too is hit-or-miss with me.  But while American Gods is a good piece of writing with a grimy grittiness that showcases Gaiman's versatility (a sharp contrast it is to Stardust), it wasn't quite my taste.  (Truth be told, I couldn't really get into Stardust either.)

"Under Heaven" by Guy Gavriel Kay- This sample was a total winner.  I LOVED it.  The prose just has this evocative quality that I love about wuxia storytelling.  I mentioned earlier that I've been looking for a good piece of wuxia for my Kindle but haven't been too successful.  Like I wanted a novel equivalent of something like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers.  Under Heaven definitely seems to fit that bill.  I know it's not true wuxia but the way it's inspired by wuxia and lovingly captures that style of storytelling. 

So, yeah, The Redemption of Althalus and Under Heaven are the two winners here.  Those samples have rejuvenated me and made me excited about reading again.  Those two books I will definitely purchase down the road.   

I still have to read my sample of "Curse of Chalion" by Lois Bujold McMaster, and I'm looking forward to reading it.  Most of the epic fantasy I've read has been by male authors, so I'm excited to read more by a female author.  The last epic fantasy series I read by a female author was the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman.  I liked the characters (Gerald Tarrant is one of the finest anti-heroes in fantasy) and the really dark and bleak atmosphere, but the series was painfully slow for me to read and get through. 

EDIT: I just read the Curse of Chalion sample.  Of all the samples I read, this one would be a third place finisher after Althalus and Heaven... but a distant third.  I liked the descriptive worldbuilding, but the way the exposition was integrated felt too predictable, too "brain dumpy" and disrupted rhe flow.  I also felt like the narrative skipped around a bit.  Not bad, but it didn't grip me the way Althalus and Heaven did.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on May 14, 2018, 06:27:24 PM
Yeah, I know this is a thread-res, but it could still be useful for anyone else looking for a good standalone fantasy novel to read. 

Anyway, I read a sample of "Blood of the Four" by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon.  I rather enjoyed the sample.  I can see this book being more fun "summer blockbuster" style action-fantasy rather than something with the deep worldbuilding and complex characters of something like Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, or The Stormlight Archive.  The story doesn't seem like anything we haven't seen before, but the writing is tight.  Such a contrast from the overly loose and, frankly, amateurish writing of Blackmark (which I opted not to finish.  Thank goodness Blackmark was a freebie.)  Plus, as with the other recommendations in this thread, Blood of the Four is a standalone novel and was conceived as a standalone from the get-go.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Aurian on May 14, 2018, 09:19:52 PM
Have you tried Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold yet? It can be a stand alone but the author has a few other novels set in the same world, all unconnected except for one (Paladin of Souls which follows a minor character from Curse after the events of Curse).

Demonic pacts, an older protagonist, Gods and politics.
Title: Re: Standalone fantasy novels thread
Post by: Dincrest on May 15, 2018, 02:34:44 PM
Have you tried Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold yet? It can be a stand alone but the author has a few other novels set in the same world, all unconnected except for one (Paladin of Souls which follows a minor character from Curse after the events of Curse).

Demonic pacts, an older protagonist, Gods and politics.

I did try out a sample of it.  See Reply #21.