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Diana Wynne Jones is a wonderful author. Find her books here.

The Gunslinger The Gunslinger by Stephen King

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
"The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied." (The Gunslinger by Stephen King, p.3)

The gripping first chapter in Stephen King's Dark Tower series introduces readers to enigmatic Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger in a world not unlike a post-apocalyptic Earth, with many exceptions. As King himself asserts, this is more like the first chapter of an epic volume than a standalone book, and so it sometimes seems to raise more questions than answers, more of an introduction than a completion, leaving the reader clamoring for more.

Roland is on a quest for the Dark Tower (an enigmatic icon of power through which he hopes to save his dying world). Roland pursues "the man in black". Meanwhile, he meets several intriguing characters including a lonely woman named Alice, a man who was recently dead, and a boy from somewhere he doesn't believe exists called New York City.

I held out on reading this book for years because it was an unfinished series and was a fantasy by my favorite horror writer. When I finally picked it up, I took longer than usual to read the first "chapter", but when finished I went on to the second and third without pause, and it only gets better.

Then recently, King revised and expanded the Gunslinger and I had to read it again, and found it improved partially due to revision and partially due to my enlightened state after reading the other books. The revisions are minor, some to correct errors and some to bring it more in tune with the other books (this book was written about 20 years before the second one!) This edition (and the other rereleased editions below) is also a beautifully illustrated trade paperback. I especially recommend this series to any fan of King, horror, fantasy, westerns, and/or epic quests.

For those concerned about the series being unfinished, King has completed the next several books and they are being released in 2003 and 2004.

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (Preorder, Released November 4, 2003)
The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower Interview with Stephen King about his series.

WysardWysard by Carolyn Kephart

This lush and magical fantasy novel tells the story of Ryel Mirai, a lord of Markul, who embarks on a treacherous quest in which the stakes are higher than his life or the lives of those he loves-- the stakes include their souls and their world. In flashbacks we learn that Ryel entered the city and began learning to become a wysard (think "wizard") at a young age. He had to leave behind his family in the process, but he gained a new family in the wysards who taught him, including Edris, who had old and enigmatic ties to Ryel's family.

At the opening of the book, Edris has died under mysterious circumstances that tormet Ryel. Ryel is also hearing voices-- actually, just a single, taunting voice that is telling him to venture beyond the walls of the city and travel elsewhere to save a beautiful princess, as well as his own mother, who is sick and dying.

While he may have ignored the plight of a princess who was a stranger to him, he cannot ignore his mother's need of his skill as a learned physician and a powerful wysard. Ryel soon finds that dark forces are intertwined with the horrific events in his life: the evil sorcerer, Dagar, is determined to defeat him and rule Markul. This is only the beginning of a battle between good and evil.

This book has all the elements of a superior fantasy novel, including the creation of a unique, full-blooded world. Wysard's world is more like four worlds, since there are four great cities described. Another element is the battle of good against evil, with the good not being perfect, and the evil tempting its characters. The book will make the reader think and wonder, not only about the storyline, but about the nature of life, death, and fate. As in real life, there are no easy or simple answers.

The author keeps the action flowing while revealing the inner workings of the wysard's mind. The language and imagery of the book are rich and eloquent. The plot has a satisfying amount of twists and keeps the reader turning those pages. Most of the characters are three-dimensional: they are human and realistic, with flaws, secrets, and complexities. The only prominent character that would be served well with further development was the love interest, the princess Diara. Perhaps that will be something to look forward to in the next book.

As for criticism, I can only say that I did not know this was book one of a series that will be continued in Part II, and I can't wait to read that one as well. I'm hooked. I highly recommend this book. (KK)

Added 3/2003:

Lord BrotherLord Brother by Carolyn Kephart

Triumphant sequel to Wysard. Ryel Mirai, continues his search for the lost spell capable of rejoining body and soul, thus bringing his beloved instructor, Edris, back to life. But someone seeks to thwart his quest: Lord Michael Essern, a dedicated student of the Arts of Death. Lord Michael has sworn allegiance to the daimon Dagar, who seeks to return to the World re-embodied in Ryel's form.

In Lord Brother, Dagar draws the young wysard deeper into danger, ever closer to the fulfillment of the demon's plans to plunge the World into unending torment. When Ryel becomes involved with the shadowy cult of the Sword Brotherhood he unwittingly jeopardizes his plan to rescue Edris. Meanwhile, his teacher's body awaits the life-essence that can be re-instilled into him only by the joining-spell...if Ryel can find it. Even if he does, can the spell be made to succeed?

Or will victory go to Michael, Ryel's nemesis...and Lord Brother?

Everything I said about the first of this series applies to this book as well. The book can be reviewed as a reader and as a writer: As a reader, it draws me into it, transports me to another world of magic and treachery, romance and suspense, with memorable characters who I feel I know and care about. As a writer, the book inspires me to write more myself and aspire to do the same, with beautiful imagery and eloquent language. Bravo!

Once again, I join those clamoring for the next book in the series!

Is it Not Nifty? Sluggy Freelance

What do ferrets, mini-lops with switch blades, clueless humans, witches, aliens, and demons from another dimension all have in common? They're all in Sluggy Freelance! If you've read the free, daily online comic strips, you already know it's one of the best comics, online or off. The books are worth buying for the bonus material and to introduce friends and other unsuspecting technophobes. More Sluggy books available here.

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand

"I met them in Magic, Witchcraft and Religion. A fitting place, that magician's grove within the enchanted forest that was the Divine, where Balthazar Warnick presided at his podium...."

A luscious, sensual, vivid fantasy tale of mythology, cults, conspiracies, magic and obsessions. The speaker in the quote above is Sweeney Cassidy, a naive freshman at the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine in Washington, D.C. The people she met are free spirits Oliver and Angelica, an engaging, sensual couple she befriends. Sweeney soon discovers that the university is controlled by a clandestine order, the Benandanti, which secretly manipulates every government... every church... every institute in the world, and has done so since Roman times-- or even longer. The Benandanti are desperate to prevent the return of their ancient foe, Othiym Lunarsa, the Moon Goddess, whose fate is entwined with that of Sweeney and her friends. And that is just the beginning...

Piers Anthony has an undeniable talent for humor, cleverness and puns. His Xanth books imagine a fantastic, magical world where elves, ghosts, and gargoyles exist.

Spell for ChameleonThe first book of the famous Xanth series tells of Bink, a young man who must go on a dangerous quest to find out what his magical talent might be. If he does not discover it soon, he'll be banished from his village.

Demons Don't Dream
Drawn into the fantasy land of Xanth by a harmless-looking computer game, two young people from Mundania (Earth) find there is more at risk than losing the game.  Dug, who is beguiled by a beautiful serpent-princess, and Kim, who discovers her favorite fantasy realm has suddenly become frighteningly real. Dug and Kim battle their way across the fantastic, perilous land of Xanth, testing their courage and cleverness against obstacles and puns.
(Hardcover also available.)

More Books by Piers

Madeleine L'Engle writes entertaining, thought-provoking fantasies.

A Wrinkle in Time
Entertaining and intelligent tale begins a four-book series about time travel.
Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a "tesseract," which is a wrinkle in time. Meg's father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search for their father?

The Other Canyon by Patricia Geary

Strange Toys by Patricia Geary
This is one of those must-reads, especially for fans of unusual and unique fiction that will inspire the writer in all of us.   The story follows Pet through her life, beginning at age nine and then jumping to thirty-- as she struggles to counteract the supernatural troubles her older sister gets into.  As you read, you ARE Pet, you are not sure what is real and unreal-- power, love, everyday trivia, or even the monsters you glimpse from the corner of your eye-- or whether it really matters after all.

Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan
Warm up your imagination, Mindplayers will take it for a ride!

SynnersSynners by Pat Cadigan

Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn
If you've seen the animated feature, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  The Last Unicorn is an epic about- you guessed it- the search for the unicorns, which seem to have disappeared, and the tale of the last unicorn known to be living and the people who try to save her.
Hardcover available.

Michael Ende

Neverending Story

Great adventure novel-- not just for kids, either. Bastian Bux steals a book called The Neverending Story and begins to read it. As he reads, he envisions what he's reading and sees through the eyes of the main character. He soon finds that he is part of the story as well. If you've seen the movie, you know there are some delightful fantasy characters and creatures as well as some deeper meanings.
Hardcover available.

Ray Bradbury

For those not familiar with Bradbury, they're in for a treat (and maybe a trick or two as well.)  Many have seen his Martian Chronicles on the big screen or on video, but no movie mogul can duplicate this man's imagination.  Even better, he expertly shares his visions with his readers- and isn't that really what writing and reading are all about?

Driving Blind (Stories)
Hardcover available.

The Halloween Tree
"Eight boys set out on a Halloween night and are led into the depths of the past by a tall, mysterious character named Moundshroud. They ride on a black wind to autumn scenes in distant lands and times, where they witness other ways of celebrating this holiday about the dark time of year. Bradbury's lyrical prose whooshes along with the pell-mell rhythms of children running at night, screaming and laughing, and the reader is carried along by its sheer exuberance.
"Bradbury's stories about children are always attended by dread--of change, adulthood, death. The Halloween Tree, while sweeter than his adult literature, is also touched at moments by the cold specter of loss--which is only fitting, of course, for a holiday in honor of the waning of the sun.
"This is a superb book for adults to read to children, a way to teach them, quite painlessly, about customs and imagery related to Halloween from ancient Egypt, Mediterranean cultures, Celtic Druidism, Mexico, and even a cathedral in Paris." --Fiona Webster at
Hardcover also available.

The Dark is Rising series boxed set by Susan Cooper

Will Stanton finds out on his 11th birthday that he is not merely a boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark.

Susan Cooper, in her award-winning five-title Dark Is Rising series, creates a world where the conflict between good and evil reaches epic proportions. She writes with eloquence and describes objects so realistically, you feel like you can reach out and touch them. Readers feel as if they are embarking on an adventure along with the characters.

The Dark is Rising

The first book in the fantasy adventure series.

Alan Dean Foster

A prolific and entertaining writer of fantasy and science fiction. Click the link above to see a list of all his books, since they are all good. Often blends humor and complex fantasy worlds with likeable characters.



Douglas Adams writes brilliant, humorous science fiction/fantasy (which category it fits in is debatable.)

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Guide is book one in the increasingly misnamed Hitchhiker Trilogy (there are six books altogether.) Only Douglas Adams can effectively start a humorous novel with the end of the earth and most of humanity. Arthur Dent is whisked away from Earth moments before a cosmic construction team obliterates the planet to build a freeway.

His friend Ford Prefect gets him into several misadventures and there are lots of twists and turns. There are many thought-provoking ideas in the books, and many lessons to glean from the guide, including that one should always carry a towel when hitchiking through the galaxy. Adams is a master of intelligent satire, wit, and hilarious dialogue. You'll love it-- especially if you love Monty Python.

There are more reviews of Adams' books in the Scifi category.

More By Douglas Adams

George MacDonald

At the Back of the North Wind

George MacDonald's best-known fantasy has enchanted generations of children and adults since it was first published in London over a century ago. This enthralling fairy tale is just as endearing today. Little Diamond lives in a hayloft and is named after a horse. One night he meets the tall, majestic North Wind, the lady whose dark eyes blaze and whose glistening black hair streams behind her. She takes him with her on her journeys and he learns about the workings of the world, including not only wonderful sights, but injustice, poverty and death.

The Princess and the Goblin
A delicious fairy tale about Princess Irene, her friend Curdie--a minor's son--and Irene's mysterious and her beautiful great great grandmother, who lives in a secret room at the top of the castle stairs. Filled with images of dungeons and goblins, mysterious fires, burning roses, and a thread so fine as to be invisible and yet strong enough to lead the Princess back home to her grandmother's arms, this is a story of Curdie's slow realization that sometimes, as the princess tells him, "you must believe without seeing." Simple enough for reading aloud to a child yet enjoyable for adults as well.

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia
"Narnia is the land of enchantment, glory, nobility--home to the magnificent Aslan, cruel Jadis (the White Queen), heroic Reepicheep, and kind Mr. Tumnus. All the magic of C.S. Lewis's Narnia, bewitching readers for almost 50 years, is captured for the first time in this splendid deluxe edition, including The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle, with fabulous illustrations hand-colored by the original Narnia artist Pauline Baynes and an insightful introduction by Narnia authority Brian Sibley.

"Lewis's work has cast a spell over countless readers over the years, so that once we pick up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we don't want to stop until we've read the whole series. The Complete Chronicles makes it even easier to keep reading! The seven beloved stories have been arranged in the chronological order in which Lewis intended them to be read.

"Begin at the beginning, as Digory and Polly are tricked into a strange other world, which becomes, even as they watch, the great Narnia. Return again and again with four other children--Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy--who are to play such a vital role in Narnia's history. Finally, enter the whimsical land one last time to witness the end of Time, and the beginning of something new: "world within world, Narnia within Narnia." This gorgeous volume is absolutely a must-have for current and future Narnia lovers." (All ages) --Emilie Coulter

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