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Fantasy writing

5 classic fantasy books to read

Most lovers of fantasy fiction are well-acquainted with such classic works as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But what are some of the lesser-known but important works of fantasy literature as well as some modern classics?

Most lovers of fantasy fiction are well-acquainted with such classic works as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. But what are some of the lesser-known but important works of fantasy literature as well as some modern classics?

1. The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris

Many consider this the foundational novel of modern fantasy due to its skillful creation of a fantasy world with elements of the supernatural.

Its faux-medieval style was archaic even when Morris wrote it in the late nineteenth century and this makes it off-putting to some modern readers. Yet patient readers and writers seeking to understand the roots of the genre will be rewarded.

2. The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

This novel also may be challenging to some readers. Both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were greatly influenced by this classic of high fantasy that is greatly influenced by Eddison’s studies of Norse myth.

3. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A more modern classic and the first in renowned writer Le Guin’s series of five books about the boy wizard Ged, the pursuit of a shadow, and the Earthsea world Ged inhabits.

4. The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

Another modern classic of the genre. This book shares the journey of a unicorn and a magician and their quest to stop an evil king. Many contemporary fantasists were influenced by Beagle’s work.

5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

A feminist retelling of the Arthurian tale from the point of view of the women including Morgan le Fay, Guinevere and others, placing the female characters of Arthurian legend at the centre in stories where they are usually confined to the margins.

Writing fantasy and looking for constructive feedback? Join Now Novel’s writing groups and get feedback from other fantasy lovers.

What do you consider some fantasy classics, and why?

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By Bridget McNulty

Bridget McNulty is a published author, content strategist, writer, editor and speaker. She is the co-founder of two non-profits: Sweet Life Diabetes Community, South Africa's largest online diabetes community, and the Diabetes Alliance, a coalition of all the organisations working in diabetes in South Africa. She is also the co-founder of Now Novel: an online novel-writing course where she coaches aspiring writers to start - and finish! - their novels. Bridget believes in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change.

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