Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy Books

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey from Gingerreadlainey.

Two of my all time favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. I find all the best stories there because I find all the best elements here: magic, different species (elves, dwarves, etc.), new worlds. These books take me away from the mundane aspects of my real life, even the urban fantasy books, because they make possible the supposedly impossible.

These are five of my favorites and boy were they hard to choose because, as I said, these are two of my favorite genres so my shelves are packed with dozens of examples from this realm. So many to choose from!

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined.

A lot of people who have read this and seen the corresponding SyFy television adaptation have said it’s like Harry Potter for adults. While that seems like a great compliment, I’d say this trends more towards the Narnia novels for adults. Either way, it’s a fantastic trilogy about a college for magic in upstate New York. There are a wide range of beings to encounter while there and dangers that unfold from those meetings.

One thing I prefer about the television series versus the books is that the events surrounding a certain character that are relayed primarily in book two are relayed side-by-side in season one of the show so that we don’t forget this person exists like you might if you’re just reading the books.

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment.
A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.
As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

I think this was one of the first pirate fantasies I ever read and I am so glad that it was as good as it looks. To be fair, at first I was confused by the author’s treatment of the book. It’s written by him as an “adaptation” of an original work and I didn’t know that when I first picked it up, so I looked for the original for ages. That’s the joke, of course, the whole Morgenstern plotline, the faux history of the world that Buttercup and Westley live in, etc.

This book has everything. To quote the grandfather:

…Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…

What’s not to love?

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A storm is coming…

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy and with American Gods he runs the gamut of pantheons. There are somewhat graphic scenes that I wasn’t prepared for, but moving past them you get into some darkness, intrigue, and otherworldly secrets that threaten the world.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’m a little behind on this series, but the premise intrigued me and I remember loving the beginning when I picked it up. The thought of different worlds parallel to our own, each with differing relationships with magic, is fascinating and who knows, totally possible! Although, if Kell’s adventure is anything to go by, there is danger in such a possibility and as this is only book one, who knows what other dangers lie in the future?

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This book is heavy on describing the environment and the wonders that go into the circus and the people within it. That makes for a wonderful, sensory overloaded experience that I loved every minute of. It’s a shame that it’s a standalone, even though it looks like the circus will go on for much longer due to…”things”. 😉

Because of the quality of writing and the ingenuity of the plot, Le Cirque des Reves has become one of those fictional places that I would most want to visit.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy Books

  1. Great books! I’ve read A Darker Shade of Magic and the sequel, but know I’m waiting to read the third one because it’ll be the final book and I’m not ready to let this series go…I’ve also seen the first season of the Magicians but it’s too dark for me, and I’m adding to my tbr list The Princess Bride and American Gods. I need more time to read!!^^

    Like

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