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Top 10 Fantasy Books
by Theodora Goss
author of
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

I will be buddy reading this with @chocomeiske starting Monday the 10th and cannot wait! 


Theodora's Top 10 Fantasy Books...

I've been reading fantasy as long as I can remember. My favorite book is still The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When I was a child, I would go to the library each week to pick out books by Edward Eager, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, E. Nesbit--but they had to include magic. Magic was the sine qua non. After all, why would anyone read a book without magic--what was the point? I eventually came to appreciate more realistic fiction, but I never stopped loving fantasy. The books I have listed below are some of my favorites, mostly for adults--I've tried to choose books that readers might not have heard of, but would enjoy. Although this list is numbered 1-10, don't think of those numbers as a ranking system--all the books I have listed are equally wonderful. Instead, think of them as a guide: read the first one, then go on to the second one, and so on. What a wonderful, magical path that would be!


1. Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

The town of Lud has banished magic, although fairy fruit is still being smuggled over the border from Faerie. What will Mayor Nathaniel Chanticleer do once Faerie starts to enter and claim the town as its own? He must go on a perilous quest to save both Lud and his son Ranulph from the lure of magic.


2. The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Before King Arthur was a legendary hero, he was Wart, an awkward boy taking lessons from the wizard Merlyn, who turns him into various animals so he can understand himself and humanity. This is the story of Wart as he grows up and eventually becomes the king who believes that right is more important than might.


3. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Lolly is tired of being a reliable spinster aunt, so she moves to the village of Great Mop and makes a deal with the Devil: she will serve him as a witch if she can just have her freedom. This book is a dark, cool drink of empowerment for the women no one listens to.


4. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

Princess Irene and her friend Curdie must defeat the goblins who wish to kidnap Irene and force her to marry the goblin prince Harelip. Luckily, they have the help of Irene's magical great-great-grandmother, who is more than she seems. The sequel, The Princess and Curdie, is just as good.


5. The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

Maggie Black leaves her life on the West Coast for the Arizona desert. Her mentor, the poet Davis Cooper, has died, and as she goes through his papers, she slowly discovers the secrets of his life as well as the magic that exists in the desert landscape. This novel is in part a love letter to the American Southwest.


6. Modern Classics of Fantasy, edited by Gardner Dozois

This is my favorite collection of fantasy short stories, with classics like Fritz Leiber's "Space-Time for Springers," Ursula Le Guin's "Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight," and Peter Beagle's "Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros."


7. Little, Big by John Crowley

When Smoky Barnable meets Daily Alice Drinkwater, he immediately falls in love. Through their story, we learn the history of the Drinkwater family and its long relationship with the world of Faerie. Is this a novel or a very long prose poem? I think it could be both . . .


8. Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip

Who will rule Ombria after its prince, Royce Greve, dies? His powerful great-aunt Domina Pearl wants to claim the throne by acting as regent for his son Kyel, but Ombria is really two cities, and the shadowy, underground Ombria is starting to rise again.



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

Ged is wild and proud and full of magic--can the school for wizards on Roke help tame him? Not before he makes some terrible mistakes and learns the price of magic. Le Guin's tale is a parable of growth--we must all learn what Ged learns to become fully human.


10. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Magic no longer works in England--that is, until Mr. Norrell demonstrates that it is both very real and very powerful. For a while, he is the only working magician in England, until Jonathan Strange appears to help and challenge him. Meanwhile, Napoleon is on the march, and the Faerie realm has plans of its own.

About Theodora

Theodora Goss's publications include the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology co edited with Delia Sherman; Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems; and The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), a two-sided novella in an accordion format. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Locus, and Mythopoeic Awards, and on the Tiptree Award Honor List. She has won the World Fantasy and Rhysling Awards.

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