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  1. #1

    Recommend good "low fantasy" books?

    I find that I most often can get into fantasy books which are of the "low" variety. If you are not familiar:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LowFantasy

    I think Magic has a very strong spot in fantasy, I just prefer that spot to be behind the scenes, mysterious, and rarely used. Maybe it's because I grew up on Tolkien, where one of the more powerful wizards seems to almost never use any type of spell. It's more about his knowledge of the arcane, leadership and wisdom, and when push comes to shove, using some sort of barely defined power...

    Lately I've been reading Malazan, and I need a break. Seems like every chapter there is some new form of magical warren brought up, or new demon is summoned, or new race of ancient beings comes to light, etc... And my one main qualm is that you get lowborn footsoldiers out there discussing warrens in great detail, as if every peasant in the world knows all the arcane secrets to be held....

    I also like grimy, dirty, gray and gray morality. AKA: there's not really a "good" guy, or good side to the major conflicts. Most of the people in power can be seen as bad or good, just depending on how you are looking at it. Reference the first 3 Song of Ice and Fire books for the overall motif of what I really like. You pretty much just have humans as a race. Any talk of dragons, or magic, or elder races is all mostly just talk. Probably how some people in our own ancient times talked about such things. When you do see glimpses of magic, you're still unsure if it's sleight of hand, or magic. Or it's very ritualistic and vague.... And pretty much every side is seen as fighting for what they think is right, but doing a lot of wrong in the process.

    This dropped off a ton in the last book, and is why I'm not including that in my quest.

  2. #2
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I think you're a little confused as to what "low" fantasy means. Which is okay, as it's never been a clear term, nor a particularly useful one. It does not mean numinous magical fantasy or low magic fantasy. It means not high fantasy -- not dealing with royalty or leaders or large, epic events of great importance, and not written in a "high" style but in a low one -- modern vernacular, commercial, action instead of poetry supposedly, etc. It's a term that developed in the 1980's, it was often applied to sword & sorcery as the pulpy, trashy side of fantasy writing, which was not always its original intent, and was largely abandoned as a term, as for the most part was the term high fantasy. Sometimes people will use it in an academic sense in relation to the academic definition of high fantasy.

    Tolkein is/was considered high fantasy. I don't really consider Tolkein numinous fantasy, as I understand it, but there's a lot of disagreement there too about that concept. So let's drop the language issues entirely and go with magic being mysterious and "grey" stuff. Try Joe Abercrombie's stuff. Also George Martin's Song, if you haven't read it, probably fits the bill. Try Robin Hobb, also. Stephen Brust's Jhereg series is maybe a bit mechanistic for you, but might still work, as might Glen Cook's Black Company books. Try Mike Sullivan's Riyria series, as that has some good mystery, though the magic is present. Lots of books have grey content and lots of books have mysterious stuff in them. Those are two basic criteria that people should be able to provide titles for.

  3. #3
    Registered User JustaStaffer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I think you're a little confused as to what "low" fantasy means. Which is okay, as it's never been a clear term, nor a particularly useful one. It does not mean numinous magical fantasy or low magic fantasy. It means not high fantasy -- not dealing with royalty or leaders or large, epic events of great importance, and not written in a "high" style but in a low one -- modern vernacular, commercial, action instead of poetry supposedly, etc. It's a term that developed in the 1980's, it was often applied to sword & sorcery as the pulpy, trashy side of fantasy writing, which was not always its original intent, and was largely abandoned as a term, as for the most part was the term high fantasy. Sometimes people will use it in an academic sense in relation to the academic definition of high fantasy.

    Tolkein is/was considered high fantasy. I don't really consider Tolkein numinous fantasy, as I understand it, but there's a lot of disagreement there too about that concept. So let's drop the language issues entirely and go with magic being mysterious and "grey" stuff. Try Joe Abercrombie's stuff. Also George Martin's Song, if you haven't read it, probably fits the bill. Try Robin Hobb, also. Stephen Brust's Jhereg series is maybe a bit mechanistic for you, but might still work, as might Glen Cook's Black Company books. Try Mike Sullivan's Riyria series, as that has some good mystery, though the magic is present. Lots of books have grey content and lots of books have mysterious stuff in them. Those are two basic criteria that people should be able to provide titles for.
    Good answer. I was trying to phrase something similar. In that vein I'd mention Prince of Thorns, anything by KJ Parker, and Richard Morgan's Steel Remains.

  4. #4
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Let's also add from fairly recent publication:

    Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
    The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

    and second Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.

    Mark
    Mark

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    I think you're a little confused as to what "low" fantasy means. Which is okay, as it's never been a clear term, nor a particularly useful one. It does not mean numinous magical fantasy or low magic fantasy. It means not high fantasy -- not dealing with royalty or leaders or large, epic events of great importance, and not written in a "high" style but in a low one -- modern vernacular, commercial, action instead of poetry supposedly, etc. It's a term that developed in the 1980's, it was often applied to sword & sorcery as the pulpy, trashy side of fantasy writing, which was not always its original intent, and was largely abandoned as a term, as for the most part was the term high fantasy. Sometimes people will use it in an academic sense in relation to the academic definition of high fantasy.

    Tolkein is/was considered high fantasy. I don't really consider Tolkein numinous fantasy, as I understand it, but there's a lot of disagreement there too about that concept. So let's drop the language issues entirely and go with magic being mysterious and "grey" stuff. Try Joe Abercrombie's stuff. Also George Martin's Song, if you haven't read it, probably fits the bill. Try Robin Hobb, also. Stephen Brust's Jhereg series is maybe a bit mechanistic for you, but might still work, as might Glen Cook's Black Company books. Try Mike Sullivan's Riyria series, as that has some good mystery, though the magic is present. Lots of books have grey content and lots of books have mysterious stuff in them. Those are two basic criteria that people should be able to provide titles for.
    Like any subgenre, it is often open for debate, or has vague definitions encircling it. I don't think I am confused as to what it is, and am well aware Tolkien is not "low" fantasy in any shape, but it does have that one quality I was speaking about, which other works which are often labeled as low share. And that is Magic being relatively unknown, and uncommon. I was just trying to point out the parts that I found most useful in defining what I enjoy, which is often labeled as low... Thanks for the recommendations, I'll do some delving.

    I'm also not against it "dealing with royalty or leaders or large, epic events of great importance..." as long as it is on a more personal basis, much how GRR Martin's work is done, even though it well moved into the 'epic' stages. But it could also easily take place only in a little shanty town outside of a small city, and I'll be fine with that...

    Read the first Prince of Thorns... Not a big fan at all. I just could not get into the writing at all. I often have problems with the protagonist being a child/teen who is exceptionally wise/learned/or just lucky and somehow finds himself bettering EVERYONE he comes into contact with... Which this had in spades. I also did not buy the "grittiness" put out there by him and his 'brothers'. Not a knock on the work itself. It just didn't click with me.

  6. #6
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I still think you're confusing low magic fantasy with low fantasy. Sword and sorcery books were seldom low magic, but were routinely called low fantasy. (Of course, I always think that a lot of the titles called low magic are not low magic at all, but that's me.)

    Numinous fantasy tends to be described as that which is trying to tell a fantastic story that focuses on the transcendent, the unknowable, the other, the fascinating and mysterious, the occult and the spiritual. So that would seem to fit more what you are talking about, as opposed to something like Malazan, which is more exposed.

    However, you also brought up grey, amoral characters. Most fantasy main characters are grey, but in my experience, when someone brings up wanting grey characters, they want extra grey, dark fantasy, usually with a militaristic bent, and certainly Malazan falls in there. That's why Abercrombie might work for you on the two criteria. K.J. Parker, also, would probably be a good choice. There are a lot of dark, militaristic fantasies with some mystery low levelness to them. Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint series, Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex novels, China Mieville's New Crobuzon books, Trent Jamieson's new The Nightbound Land series might work, or works by Guy Gavriel Kay like Tigana or The Lions of Al-Rassan. (You may have already read those.)

  7. #7
    Oh baby, so many great recommendations here already!

    No matter what precise definition of "low" fantasy you settle on, I will second several of the suggestions already made. You can't go wrong with em. Specifically:

    Joe Abercrombie -- anything he has written, or will ever write in the future.
    Robin Hobb -- yes and no. IMHO she gets too wordy and runs on for too long, but especially the first Farseer trilogy is good stuff if you don't mind emo.
    Stephen Brust's Jhereg series -- great stuff, and Brust plays interesting games with his narrative structure in every book. Very modern in style and dialog, reads sorta like UF only set in a secondary world. Short books, quick reads.
    Glen Cook's Black Company books -- I am personally not wild about these, but I've only read the first one. Just a personal quirk, they are very popular.
    Mike Sullivan's Riyria series -- I haven't tried these yet, I intend to read em soon.
    Mark Lawrence -- Prince of Thorns -- sorry you didn't like this, IMO it's very very good -- but it IS different, and it does have a very strong narrative voice to it that some folks may not appreciate!
    Richard Morgan's Steel Remains -- one of my favorites of all time, strong stuff that may turn some folks off.
    Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch -- I was not as thrilled with this as some folks, but it's still a good story. One torture scene really squicked me out big time. Still makes me shiver.
    Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick -- I loved this, looking forward to the sequel -- the opening sequence was the hardest part of the whole book for me, so don't give up if it squicks you out at first! -- oh, and the author is a fencer, so the swordfighting sequences are very good.
    Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint series -- I've only read the first, liked it a lot. It's a "romantic" (as in Three Musketeers romance, not as in Harlequin romance) story of intrigue, with sardonic humor.

  8. #8
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    There are whole worlds of it out there.

    Despite the length of this missive from Lists 'R' Us Central, I think you will find that:
    1. everything on it is a fantasy;
    2. everything on it is at least a good book, with many top masters of the field, and sometimes English literature in general, represented; and,
    3. none of it involves empires clashing, kings and princes duelling, mighty wizards defending All of Reality, or any other such stuff.
    A few of the books are nominally "young adult", and have been so marked in parentheses, but I feel each readable for pleasure by a civilized adult. I have omitted almost all story collections (though I had to leave in Borges, of course); any asterisks indicate story collections.

    I can't guarantee that you'll like them all--you will probably dislike a good few--and they vary in quality, but none, I feel, worse than "fairly good" and many superb.

    Because the list is very long, the forum software obliges me to post it in two halves. This is the first:

    • Adams, Douglas
      The Dirk Gently Duo:
      - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
      - The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
    • Adams, Richard
      Watership Down
      Shardik
      The Girl in a Swing
    • Ajvaz, Michal
      The Other City
      The Golden Age
    • Aldiss, Brian W.
      The Malacia Tapestry
    • Amis, Kingsley
      The Green Man
    • Amis, Martin
      Other People
    • Andrews, Allen
      The Plantagenet Duo:
      - The Pig Plantagenet
      - Castle Crespin
    • Arnason, Eleanor
      The Sword Smith
    • Attanasio, A. A.
      The Arthor Tetralogy:
      - The Dragon and the Unicorn
      - The Eagle and the Sword aka Arthor
      - The Wolf and the Crown aka # The Perilous Order
      - The Serpent and the Grail
      Wyvern
      Kingdom of the Grail
    • Auster, Paul
      Mr. Vertigo
      Timbuktu
    • Baker, Frank
      Miss Hargreaves
    • Barker, Clive
      The Thief of Always
      Weaveworld
    • Barrett, Neal
      The Hereafter Gang
      Interstate Dreams
    • Barth, John
      Chimera
      The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor
    • Bauer, Steven
      Satyrday
    • Beagle, Peter S.
      A Fine and Private Place
      The Last Unicorn
      The Innkeeper's Song
      A Dance For Emilia
    • Bell, Douglas
      Mojo and the Pickle Jar
    • Bellairs, John
      St. Fidgeta and Other Parodies *
      The Pedant and the Shuffly
      The Face in the Frost
    • Benary-Isbert, Margot
      The Wicked Enchantment (YA)
    • Benson, Stella
      Living Alone
    • Billias, Stephen
      The Quest for the 36
      The American Book of the Dead
    • Bisson, Terry
      Talking Man
    • Blaylock, James
      The Twombley Town Trio:
      - The Elfin Ship
      - The Disappearing Dwarf
      - The Stone Giant aka The Goblin Keeper
      Land of Dreams
      The Last Coin
      The Paper Grail
      Night Relics
      Winter Tides
      All the Bells on Earth
      The Rainy Season
      Knights of the Cornerstone
    • Borges, Jorge Luis
      Collected Fictions *
    • Bradbury, Ray
      Something Wicked This Way Comes
    • Bramah, Ernest
      The Kai Lung Sextet:
      - The Wallet of Kai Lung
      - Kai Lung's Golden Hours
      - Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat
      - Kai Lung Beneath the Mulberry Tree
      - Kai Lung Raises His Voice
      The Moon of Much Gladness aka The Return of Kai Lung
    • Brunner, John
      The Traveler in Black
    • Bulgakov, Mikhail
      The Master and Margarita
    • Byatt, A. S.
      The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
    • Cabell, James Branch
      The "Biography" Cycle (18 books in all):
      - Figures of Earth, #2
      - The Silver Stallion, #3
      - Domnei, #4a
      - The Music from Behind the Moon, #4b
      - Jurgen, #6
      - The High Place, #8
      - Gallantry, #9
      - The Way of Ecben, #18b
      The "Heirs and Assigns" Trio:
      - Hamlet Had an Uncle
      - The King Was in His Counting House
      - The First Gentleman of America
      The Florida Books:
      - There Were Two Pirates
      - The Devil's Own Dear Son
      The Nightmare Trilogy:
      - Smirt
      - Smith
      - Smire
    • Cady, Jack
      The Jonah Watch
    • Calvino, Italo
      The Cloven Viscount
      The Nonexistent Knight
      The Complete Cosmicomics *
    • Card, Orson Scott
      Hart's Hope
    • Carlyon, Richard
      The Dark Lord of Pengersick
    • Carroll, Jonathan
      The Land of Laughs
      Voice of Our Shadow
      Black Cocktail (novella)
      The Answered Prayers Sextet:
      - Bones of the Moon
      - Sleeping in Flame
      - A Child Across the Sky
      - From the Teeth of Angels
      - Outside the Dog Museum
      - After Silence
      The Crane's View Trilogy:
      - Kissing the Beehive
      - The Marriage of Sticks
      - The Wooden Sea
      The White Apples Trilogy:
      - White Apples
      - Glass Soup
      - (third book being written)
      The Ghost in Love
    • Chambers, Robert W.
      The King in Yellow
    • Carter, Angela
      Nights at the Circus
    • Chabon, Michael
      Summerland (YA)
    • Charnas, Suzy McKee
      Dorothea Dreams
    • Cherryh, C. J.
      The Rusalka Trio:
      - Rusalka
      - Chernevog
      - Yvgenie
      The Arafel Duology:
      - The Dreamstone
      - The Tree of Swords and Jewels
    • Chesterton, G. K.
      The Man Who Was Thursday
    • Cisco, Michael
      The San Veneficio Canon:
      The Divinity Student
      The Golem
    • Clarke, Susanna
      Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
    • Cokal, Susann
      Mirabilis
    • Connolly, John
      The Book of Lost Things
    • Cook, Glen
      The Garrett Books:
      - Sweet Silver Blues
      - Bitter Gold Hearts
      - Cold Copper Tears
      - Old Tin Sorrows
      - Dread Brass Shadows
      - Red Iron Nights
      - Deadly Quicksilver Lies
      - Petty Pewter Gods
      - Faded Steel Heat
      - Angry Lead Skies
      - Whispering Nickel Idols
      - Cruel Zinc Melodies
      - Gilded Latten Bones
    • Cooper, Louise
      Mirage
    • Crawford, F. Marion
      Khaled
      The Witch of Prague
    • Crowley, John
      The Deep
      Engine Summer
      Little, Big
      The Aegypt Quartet:
      - The Solitudes
      - Love and Sleep
      - Daemonomania
      - Endless Things
    • Dalkey, Kara
      Euryale
    • Davidson, Avram
      Ursus of Ultima Thule
      The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy
      The Island Under the Earth
      Limekiller
      The Peregrine Trilogy:
      - Peregrine: Primus
      - Peregrine: Secundus
      - Peregrine: Tertius - never written, but series complete enough
      The Vergil Cycle:
      - The Phoenix and the Mirror
      - Vergil in Averno
      - The Scarlet Fig
      The Boss in the Wall
      Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty
    • Davies, Robertson ***
      Murther and Walking Spirits
    • Davis, Kathryn
      The Thin Place
    • De Bernieres, Louis
      The Latin American Trilogy:
      - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts
      - Senor Vivo And The Coca Lord
      - The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
    • DeMarinis, Rick
      Cinder
    • Dickinson, Peter
      The Blue Hawk (YA)
    • Ducornet, Rikki
      Phosphor in Dreamland
    • Duncan, Dave
      The Omar Duo:
      - The Reaver Road
      - The Hunters' Haunt
    • Dunsany, Lord
      The Shadow Valley Chronicles
      - The Chronicles of Rodrigues aka Don Rodriguez
      - The King of Elfland's Daughter
      - The Charwoman's Shadow
      - The Blessing of Pan
      - The Curse of the Wise Woman
      - My Talks With Dean Spanley
      - The Strange Journeys of Colonel Polders
      The Jorkens Sextet:
      - The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens *
      - Jorkens Remembers Africa *
      - Jorkens Has a Large Whiskey *
      - The Fourth Book of Jorkens *
      - Jorkens Borrows Another Whiskey *
      - The Last Book of Jorkens *
    • Eddison, E. R.
      The Zimiamvia Trilogy:
      - Mistress of Mistresses
      - A Fish Dinner in Memison
      - The Mezentian Gate
    • Eisenstein, Phyllis
      The Cray Ormoru Trio:
      - Sorcerer's Son
      - The Crystal Palace
      - The City in Stone - awaiting publication, but series stands complete
    • Emmons, Josh
      The Loss of Leon Meed
    • Fessier, Michael
      Clovis
    • Findley, Timothy
      Pilgrim
    • Finney, Charles G.
      The Circus of Dr. Lao
      The Unholy City
      The Magician Out of Manchuria
    • Ford, Jeffrey
      The Well-Built-City Trilogy:
      - The Physiognomy
      - Memoranda
      - The Beyond
    • Frayn, Michael
      Sweet Dreams
    • Friesner, Esther
      Mustapha and His Wise Dog
      New York by Knight
      Druid's Blood
      Yesterday We Saw Mermaids
    • Gaiman, Neil
      Good Omens
      Neverwhere
      Stardust
      American Gods
      Coraline (YA?)
      The Wolves in the Walls (YA?)
      The Graveyard Book (YA)
    • Gardner, John
      Grendel
      Freddy's Book
      Mickelsson's Ghosts
      The Sunlight Dialogs
    • Gentle, Mary
      The White Crow Quartet:
      - Scholars and Soldiers
      - Rats and Gargoyles
      - The Architecture of Desire
      - Left to His Own Devices
    • Gilliland, Alexis A.
      The Wizenbeak Trilogy:
      - Wizenbeak
      - The Shadow Shaia
      - Lord of the Troll Bats
    • Goldstein, Lisa
      The Red Magician
      Dark Cities Underground
    • Grahame, Kenneth
      The Wind in the Willows
    • Grant, Richard
      Tex and Molly in the Afterlife
    • Gray, Alasdair
      Lanark: A Life in Four Books
    • Gray, Nicholas Stuart
      Grimbold's Other World (YA)
    • Green, Simon R.
      Shadows Fall
    • Hanratty, Peter
      The Arthur Duology:
      - The Last Knight of Albion
      - The Book of Mordred
    • Hansen, Erik Fosnes
      Tales of Protection
    • Harrison, M. John
      The Viriconium Quartet (proceeds from sf to fantasy):
      - The Pastel City
      - A Storm of Wings
      - In Viriconium aka The Floating Gods
      - Viriconium Nights
      The Course of the Heart
    • Helprin, Mark
      Winter's Tale
    • Hickman, Stephen
      The Lemurian Stone
    • Hoban, Russell
      The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz
      Kleinzeit
      Pilgermann
    • Hodgson, William Hope
      The Night Land
      The House on the Borderland
      Carnacki the Ghost-Finder
    • Hoffman, Alice
      Practical Magic
    • Hoffmann, E. T. A.
      The Devil's Elixirs
      The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
    • Holt, Tom
      Expecting Someone Taller
      Who's Afraid of Beowulf?
      Flying Dutch
      Ye Gods!
      Overtime
      Here Comes the Sun
      Grailblazers
      Faust Among Equals
      Odds and Gods
      Djinn Rummy
      My Hero
      Paint Your Dragon
      Wish You Were Here
      Open Sesame
      Snow White and the Seven Samurai
      Valhalla
      Nothing But Blue Skies
      Only Human
      Falling Sideways
      Little People
      The J. W. Wells & Co. Books:
      - The Portable Door
      - In Your Dreams
      - Earth, Air, Fire and Custard
      - You Don't Have to Be Evil to Work Here, But It Helps
      - The Better Mousetrap
      - May Contain Traces of Magic
      Barking
      Blonde Bombshell
      Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages
    • Hood, Daniel
      The Dragon Books:
      - Fanuilh
      - Wizard's Heir
      - Beggar's Banquet
      - Scales of Justice
    • Houarner, Gerard Daniel
      The Bard of Sorcery
    • Hughart, Barry
      The Master Li Trio:
      - Bridge of Birds
      - The Story of the Stone
      - Eight Skilled Gentlemen
    • Hughes, Rhys
      Nowhere Near Milkwood
    • Irwin, Robert
      The Arabian Nightmare
    • Jacob, Max
      King Kabul the First and Gawain the Kitchen Boy
      Vulcan's Crown
    • Jackson, Shirley
      The Haunting of Hill House
    • Jerrold, Douglas
      Whimsical Tales of Douglas Jerrold
    • Joyce, Graham
      The Facts of Life
      Requiem


    (List continues next post.)

  9. #9
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    And the rest . . .

    And this is the second part of the list:

    • Karr, Phyllis Ann
      At Amberleaf Fair
      Wildraith's Last Battle
    • Kathryns, G. A.
      The Borders of Life
    • King, Gabriel
      The "Wild Roads" Books
      - The Wild Road
      - The Golden Cat
      - The Knot Garden
      - Nonesuch
    • King, Stephen
      The Eyes of the Dragon
    • Kotzwinkle, William
      The Exile
      Fata Morgana
    • Kress, Nancy
      The Prince of Morning Bells
    • Lafferty, R. A. [everything]
    • Le Guin, Ursula K.
      The Earthsea Books (YA):
      - A Wizard of Earthsea
      - The Tombs of Atuan
      - The Farthest Shore
    • Lee, Tanith
      Dark Castle, White Horse (YA)
      Kill the Dead
      Cyrion
      The Flat-Earth Cycle:
      - Night's Master
      - Death's Master
      - Delusion's Master
      - Delirium's Mistress
      - Night's Sorceries
      The Paradys Quartet:
      - The Book of the Damned
      - The Book of the Beast
      - The Book of the Dead
      - The Book of the Mad
      The Venus Quartet:
      - Faces Under Water
      - Saint Fire
      - A Bed of Earth
      - Venus Preserved
      The Unicorn Trio (YA):
      - Black Unicorn
      - Gold Unicorn
      - Red Unicorn
    • Lindholm, Megan
      Wizard of the Pigeons
    • Lindsay, David
      A Voyage to Arcturus
    • Lively, Penelope
      The House in Norham Gardens (YA)
    • Lupoff, Richard
      Sword of the Demon
    • Lustbader, Eric Van
      The Sunset Warrior Quintet:
      - The Sunset Warrior
      - Shallows of Night
      - Dai-San
      - Beneath an Opal Moon
    • MacAvoy, R. A. *
      The Damiano Trilogy:
      - Damiano
      - Damiano's Lute
      - Raphael
      The Lens of the World Trilogy:
      - Lens of the World
      - King of the Dead
      - The Belly of the Wolf aka Winter of the Wolf
    • MacDonald, George
      Phantastes
      Lilith
    • Machen, Arthur
      The Great God Pan
      The Inmost Light
      The Three Impostors
      The Red Hand
      The House of Souls
      The White People
      A Fragment of Life
      The Hill of Dreams (quasi-fantastic)
      The Shining Pyramid
    • Mayhar, Ardath
      The Seekers of Shar-Nuhn
      How the Gods Wove in Kyrannon
    • McKillip, Patricia
      The Throme of the Erril of Sherill (YA)
      The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
      The Riddlemaster Trilogy:
      - Riddlemaster of Hed
      - Heir of Sea and Fire
      - Harpist in the Wind
      The Changeling Sea
      The Cygnet Duology:
      - The Sorceress and the Cygnet
      - The Cygnet and the Firebird
      The Book of Atrix Wolfe
      Winter Rose
      Song for the Basilisk
      The Tower at Stony Wood
      Ombria in Shadow
      In the Forests of Serre
      Alphabet of Thorn
      Od Magic
      Harrowing the Dragon *
      Solstice Wood
      The Bell at Sealey Head
      The Bards of Bone Plain
    • McKinley, Robin
      The Door in the Hedge
      Beauty
      Rose Daughter
      Spindle's End
    • Meynard, Yves
      The Book of Knights
    • Miéville, China
      King Rat
      The Bas-Lag Books:
      - Perdido Street Station
      - The Scar
    • Millhauser, Steven
      From the Realm of Morpheus
      Little Kingdoms
      Martin Dressler
      Enchanted Night
      The King in the Tree
    • Mills, Magnus
      Three to See the King
    • Mirrlees, Hope
      Lud-in-the-Mist
    • Mitchell, David
      Ghostwritten
      Number9Dream [sic]
    • Moers, Walter
      The Zamonia Books:
      - The 13˝ Lives of Captain Bluebear
    • Morley, Christopher
      Where the Blue Begins
      Thunder on the Left
    • Mujica Láinez, Manuel
      The Wandering Unicorn
    • Myers, John Myers
      Silverlock
      The Moon's Fire-Eating Daughter
    • Nathan, Robert
      Portrait of Jennie
    • O'Brien, Flann
      The Third Policeman
      At Swim-Two-Birds
      The Dalkey Archive
    • Orr, A.
      The World in Amber Duo:
      - The World in Amber (Apparently also known as Emperor of Irish.)
      - The Ice King's Palace
    • Peake, Mervyn
      The Titus Saga:
      - Titus Groan
      - Gormenghast
      - Titus Alone
      - Boy in Darkness
      Mr. Pye
    • Pearson, Edward
      Chamiel
    • Pinckney, Josephine
      Great Mischief
    • Powers, Tim
      The Drawing of the Dark
      The Anubis Gates
      The Fisher King Trilogy:
      - Last Call
      - Expiration Date
      - Earthquake Weather
      Declare
      Three Days to Never
    • Pratchett, Terry [everything]
    • Pratt, Fletcher
      The Blue Star
      The Well of the Unicorn
      The Land of Unreason
    • Price, E. Hoffmann
      The Devil Wives of Li-Fong
      The Jade Enchantress
    • Read, Herbert
      The Green Child
    • Ruff, Matt
      The Fool on the Hill
    • Rushdie, Salman
      Haroun and the Sea of Stories (YA)
    • Salmonson, Jessica Amanda
      The Tomoe Gozen Trio:
      - The Disfavored Hero
      - The Golden Naginata
      - Thousand Shrine Warrior
      Ou Lu Khen and the Beautiful Madwoman
    • Scarborough, Elizabeth
      The Unicorn Creed
      The Harem of Aman Akbar
    • Shea, Michael
      The Nifft Trio:
      - Nifft the Lean
      - The Mines of Behemoth
      - The A'Rak
    • Sherman, Delia
      Through a Brazen Mirror
      The Porcelain Dove
    • Shetterly, Will
      Cats Have No Lord (now available in an author-revised edition)
      Witch Blood
    • Silas, A. E.
      The Panorama Egg
    • Smith, Thorne
      Topper
      Topper Takes a Trip
      The Stray Lamb
      The Night Life of the Gods
      Rain in the Doorway
      The Glorious Pool
      Skin and Bones
    • Snyder, Midori
      The Innamorati
    • Somtow, S. P.
      The Shattered Horse
    • Stableford, Brian
      The Last Days of the Edge of the World
      The Eleventh Hour (YA)
    • Stephens, James
      The Crock of Gold
    • Stevermer, Caroline
      The College of Magics Series:
      A College of Magics
      A Scholar of Magics
      When the King Comes Home
    • Stewart, Sean
      Resurrection Man
      Cloud's End
      Galveston
      Perfect Circle
    • Stoddard, James
      The Books of the House:
      The High House
      The False House
    • Tarn, W. W.
      The Treasure of the Isle of Mist
    • Tepper, Sheri S.
      Beauty
      The Revenants
      The Marianne Trilogy:
      - Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore
      - Marianne, the Madame, and the Momentary Gods
      - Marianne, the Matchbox, and the Malachite Mouse
    • Theroux, Paul
      Millroy the Magician
    • Tolkien, J. R. R.
      Mr. Bliss
      Smith of Wootton Major
      Farmer Giles of Ham
      Letters From Father Christmas
      Roverandom (YA)
    • Tournier, Michel
      The Four Wise Men
    • Vance, Jack
      The Dying Earth Quartet:
      - The Dying Earth (Mazirian the Magician)
      - The Eyes of the Overworld (Cugel the Clever)
      - Rhialto the Marvelous
      - Cugel's Saga (Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight)
      The Lyonesse Trilogy:
      - Suldrun's Garden
      - The Green Pearl
      - Madouc
    • Wangerin Jr., Walter
      The Books of Parable Duo:
      - The Book of the Dun Cow
      - The Book of Sorrows
    • Warner, Sylvia Townsend
      Lolly Willowes
      Kingdoms of Elfin
    • Wellman, Manly Wade
      The Silver John Sextet:
      - John the Balladeer
      - The Old Gods Waken
      - After Dark
      - The Lost and the Lurking
      - The Hanging Stones
      - The Voice of the Mountain
    • Wells, Martha
      City of Bones
      Wheel of the Infinite
      The Death of the Necromancer
      The Element of Fire
    • Werfel, Franz
      Star of the Unborn
    • White, T. H.
      Mistress Masham's Repose
      The Once and Future King Quintet:
      - The Sword in the Stone
      - The Queen of Air and Darkness
      - The Ill-Made Knight
      - The Candle in the Wind
      - The Book of Merlyn
    • Whittemore, Edward
      Quin's Shanghai Circus
      The Jerusalem Quartet:
      - Sinai Tapestry
      - Jerusalem Poker
      - Nile Shadows
      - Jericho Mosaic
    • Wilhelm, Kate
      Cambio Bay
    • Willey, Elizabeth
      The Kingdom of Argylle Trio:
      - The Well-Favored Man
      - A Sorcerer and a Gentleman
      - The Price of Blood and Honor
    • Williams, Charles
      The Aspects of Power Septet:
      - Many Dimensions
      - War in Heaven
      - Descent into Hell
      - The Greater Trumps
      - The Place of the Lion
      - Shadows of Ecstasy
      - All Hallows' Eve
    • Williams, Tad
      Caliban's Hour
    • Wolf, Gary K.
      Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
    • Wolfe, Gene
      Peace
      The Devil in a Forest (YA)
    • Woolf, Virginia
      Orlando
    • Wright, Grahame
      Jog Rummage
    • Zelazny, Roger
      The Amber Dexad:
      - Nine Princes in Amber
      - The Guns of Avalon
      - Sign of the Unicorn
      - The Hand of Oberon
      - The Courts of Chaos
      - Trumps of Doom
      - Blood of Amber
      - Sign of Chaos
      - Knight of Shadows
      - Prince of Chaos
      A Night in the Lonesome October

  10. #10
    Creator of Worlds sullivan_riyria's Avatar
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    I do think the definitions are difficult at times and also it is hard when books don't fit neatly into the "boxes."

    Thanks for the multiple recommendations for my Riyria Revelations and it demonstrates the reasons it is hard to categorize.

    • The first book: Theft of Swords is primarily concerned with the lives of two rogues.
    • The last book: Heir of Novron - the stakes are raised to "epic" scale

    So it is an example of something that starts out with a very 'narrow focus' and the camera pulls back and the plot escalates. From a magic standpoint there is really only 2 people who can wield magic in the books and in general that type of thing is looked upon with superstitious eyes but when necessary it is used - so some books in the series have virtually no magic and others it plays an important part.

  11. #11
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Owlcroft's lists are usually worth checking out. I stayed away from contemporary and historical fantasy because I wasn't sure those were wanted. (I do find it confusing myself -- we have some fans here who will read only secondary world fantasy and want dark, violent, suspenseful, non-medieval, etc. stories, and many contemporary and historicals offer that, but that's seldom what they want. Of course, there are secondary world titles that do that too. Helen Lowe's new Wall of Night series, for instance, might work with the criteria.)

    Quote Originally Posted by sullivan
    Thanks for the multiple recommendations for my Riyria Revelations and it demonstrates the reasons it is hard to categorize.

    The first book: Theft of Swords is primarily concerned with the lives of two rogues.
    The last book: Heir of Novron - the stakes are raised to "epic" scale

    So it is an example of something that starts out with a very 'narrow focus' and the camera pulls back and the plot escalates. From a magic standpoint there is really only 2 people who can wield magic in the books and in general that type of thing is looked upon with superstitious eyes but when necessary it is used - so some books in the series have virtually no magic and others it plays an important part.
    I don't find your books hard to categorize at all; I'm just not sure that they'd completely fit the OP's criteria because they aren't super low magic, they have magic races and creatures, and because magic is studied by some. (And there are more than two people who can wield magic, although how real is the magic is an issue in the world of the story.) However, the magic is mysterious to most, rare-ish, and the tone is sufficiently dark with military, etc., action, so it should fit. It's not actually a radical change of style from Malazan but is a different, more tale based story structure.

    Logically, stories like Martin's where magic is thought gone or temporarily gone from the world and pops back up and starts a war might be the best fit. Ooo, I just thought of another, although it might not be militaristic enough, but Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane series might work.
    Last edited by KatG; July 26th, 2012 at 10:00 PM.

  12. #12
    Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover.

  13. #13
    Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko. This is probably as "low fantasy" as you can possibly get. Dark and gritty urban setting. The protagonist is weak, constantly used as pawn, has morality issue, and no matter what he does, he always play right into someone's hands.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by nuttz96 View Post
    Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko. This is probably as "low fantasy" as you can possibly get. Dark and gritty urban setting. The protagonist is weak, constantly used as pawn, has morality issue, and no matter what he does, he always play right into someone's hands.
    But it's UF, and there's magic everywhere throughout the book.

    It certainly qualifies under the "depressing" criterion, though.

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