Famous for his high fantasy novels set in pre-historic Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien is what most consider to be the founder of modern high fantasy. Many themes established by Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings became tropes oft used by writers within the genre. This includes how modern writers regard mythical creatures like elves, dwarves, and trolls. A scholar and professor of linguistics, notably Anglo-Saxon, he created languages for his novels’ various cultures.
Were he alive today to see the legacy his work has left behind and the inspiration that work created in others, he would undoubtedly be overwhelmed yet proud. Below is a list of high fantasy novels that I think Tolkien would pick up and read were he still with us. These recommendations harken back to his works while creating a spot uniquely theirs.
Elizabeth Moon, The Deed of Paksenarrion
Wanting more adventure out of her life than the daughter of a sheepherder, 17-year-old Paks runs away and joins with mercenaries. She is trained in the mercenary ways, fights with grit and heart, and is eventually tasked with a hold quest in search of an elven prince once she joins the followers of Gird. Her quests find her interacting with other races living in her world and at the gods’ mercy.
Orcs, dwarves and goblins, elves and their evil cousins, magic swords and ensorcelled jewelry, charismatic soldiers who turn out to be lost kings, dragons, evil and good wizards… You might think I’m talking about J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic series set in “Middle Earth,” but I’m not.-DrPat, Amazon Review
R.A. Salvatore, Legend of Drizzt: Homeland
A prequel to The Icewind Dale Trilogy, Homeland explores the origins of drow ranger Dzritt Do’Urden. Originally destined to be sacrificed to the Spider Queen, he is unexpectedly spared and begins a journey that will have him escaping from the Underdark and his abusive family.
R.A. Salvatore was inspired by Tolkien, so he tends to go a little into depth about description and each character’s moral compass.-MirasolVale, Amazon Review
Garth Nix, Sabriel
Reminiscent of Frodo’s journey, young Sabriel must venture into a world she does not understand to find her missing father. She gathers new companions are her journey deepens into the Old Kingdom, magic abounds, and battle looms ever closer. Become engrossed in her tale as she learns the fate of her destiny.
One of the things that I liked about Sabriel from the start was the world-building. A crucial part of any fantasy, and Nix has done an excellent job here. Particularly in regard to the well thought thorough system of magic, but also with the entire world that it is based in.-Paul T., Amazon Review
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
If we could have gotten a prequel depicting the life of Galdalf in his younger years, I imagine he would have been similar to Ged. Follow Ged’s journey into understanding himself and his magic as he tries to thwart his doppelganger from possessing his body. Full of magical creatures, an enchanting world, and adventure.
Often compared to Tolkien’s Middle-earth or Lewis’s Narnia, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea is a stunning fantasy world that grabs quickly at our hearts, pulling us deeply into its imaginary realms.-Anonymous, Amazon Review
Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon
A Middle East-inspired setting freshens up the recurring European-based fantasy theme in this tale about rebellion. In a battle between good and evil, a thief known as the Falcon Prince wages a power struggle against the current ruler Khalif.
Science-fiction and fantasy stories are at their best when they truly fascinate, immersing the reader in new worlds or cultures. The best of the best will go one step further and encourage readers to more than fascination; they will engender an insatiable curiosity, the sincerest sympathy, and a boundless empathy. Saladin Ahmed’s tale of ghul hunters and mystics fighting ancient evils does exactly that.-Aaron Sikes, Amazon Review
Stephen R. Lawhead, Taliesin
Tolkien himself professed the Christian foundations of his Middle Earth world; this series brings those ideas more into focus as Christianity and Paganism clash with the world of fantasy. Book one of The Pendragon Cycle is an epic spanning centuries, an Arthurian retelling focusing on Merlin. Taliesin begins with Merlin’s mother and her departure from a crumbling Atlantis into the British Isles, where she meets Taliesin, Merlin’s father. In five books, become immersed in the magical immortal life of Merlin as he becomes a druid of old and the fabled mentor of King Arthur.
Stephen Lawhead’s treatment of Arthurian legend opens up the world of Celtic myth to the modern reader. Weaving together pagan mysticism and Christian faith, Atlantian legend and British history, he creates a work of compelling fiction.-Anonymous, Amazon Review
Noriko Ogiwara, The Dragon Sword and Wind Child
Another shift from Europe, this Japanese-inspired fantasy novel likens to Lord of the Rings in that the world’s fate is in the hands of young unlikely heroes. Saya must come to terms with her previously unknown heritage as the two facets of herself pull her in differing directions. Coming of age, adventure, and mythology combine for an epic tale.
Another interesting part of this book is that it’s not your usual elves, fairies, etc. Noriko Ogiwara, influenced by Western writers, used Japanese mythology to create this world.-LutePlay, Amazon Review
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