Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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What adult SFF novels would YOU recommend?

To someone who has previously focused mainly on MG and YA fantasy?

Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library requests suggestions, and this is exactly the sort of thing that is likely to make me zip downstairs to my own personal library and start selecting fabulous books that might fit the bill.

Note that Charlotte is specifically requestion relatively recent books. That makes it harder! I have LOTS of suggestions for books published a decade or more ago. She also asks for books that “are strong on character, and the characters are smart, often witty, and (if they are central characters) likable. …. These books are strong on setting, with lots of lovely details about place, and/or fascinating twists of world building (such as alternate histories) that really make the territory of the book an undiscovered country.”

As it happens, I think that it’s very likely that readers who love current YA generally are likely to prefer stories that are strong on character. I don’t think you often get a YA novel that emphasizes plot, ideas, or worldbuilding over character. A focus on character is very important to YA. And the characters do need to be likeable, generally. No Joe Abercrombe antiheros here, no characters who start off okay but become corrupted, no bad guys winning. Sure, we get semi-sociopaths like the John Cleaver in I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, but then John is a very likeable sociopath who, during the course of the trilogy, actually carves out a niche for himself that is solidly on the good-guy side of things.

In addition the the books Charlotte lists in her post, I would add:

Barbara Hambly, particularly BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD, THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT, STRANGER AT THE WEDDING, and DRAGONSBANE. I think if you don’t like those, you definitely aren’t going to fall in love with Hambly! Granted, these may not meet the “relatively current” criterion, but I think they are perfect. So is —

Doris Egan, the trilogy starting with GATE OF IVORY. Egan never wrote much, but this is a wonderful trilogy that never got the attention it deserved. And one more —

Gillian Bradshaw. In my opinion, anybody who loves fantasy should think of trying historicals, and in particular this author.

Who do you all think belongs on a list of “adult fantasy novels that would appeal to adult readers of YA”?

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6 Comments What adult SFF novels would YOU recommend?

  1. Cheryl L

    Barbara Hambly has published two more books in the series that began with THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT in the past couple of years – BLOOD MAIDENS and THE MAGISTRATES OF HELL. They’re both very good and definitely count as “current”.

    I’d also suggest some of Kage Baker’s work, especially THE ANVIL OF THE WORLD and THE BIRD OF THE RIVER.

    And I think Caroline Stevermer’s A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS and WHEN THE KING COMES HOME would be very appealing for readers who have enjoyed YA novels.

  2. Rachel

    She HAS? I am so THERE. Thank you for telling me! I will go order Blood Maidens and The Magistrates of Hell immediately!

    I have one of Kage Baker’s books on my TBR pile, but I haven’t gotten to it. Glad you suggested her, since she probably deserves to be more on my radar than she is, yet. And, actually I’ve got at least one of Stevermer’s books on my TBR pile, too. So, good suggestions! Thanks!

  3. Elaine T

    Doris Egan also wrote one book as Jane Emerson: CITY OF DIAMOND.

    I’ve read BLOOD MAIDENS, but MAGISTRATES hadn’t come to my attention, I’ll have to find it.

    I would disrecommend stevermer’s WHEN A KING COMES HOME because I thought it fell apart in the second half and wasn’t all that interesting overall. However the Stevermer & Wrede combo books, starting with SORCERY & CECELIA or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, are great fun.

    Wen Spencer, starting with TINKER.

    Jo Walton’s first books: KING’S NAME & KING’S PEACE and then TOOTH & CLAW, a Trollope pastiche with dragons instead of humans where the social strictures in Trollope are biologically based for the dragons. I don’t know if you’d care for it or not, Rachel, given your biology background. But they were accessible to our teenager when she was younger than she is now, which seems to indicate a YA accessibility.

    Carol Berg’s recent trilogy … what was the first one…??? right, SPIRIT LENS , and slightly
    less recent LIGHTHOUSE duology. One element I appreciated in the Lighthouse books was she had dance as ‘magic’ and it was clearly based on ballet; it was HARD, too, instead of the fluffy ‘interpretive dance’ sort of thing fantasy writers tend to come up with when mixing dance & magic.

    I would warn anyone away from the sequels to DRAGONSBANE unless they like seeing likeable characters changed out of all recognition. That was what made me take Hambly off my ‘buy on sight’ list.

    Guy Kay, of course.

    (cough) someone’s GRIFFIN MAGE trilogy. :-)

    Marie Brennan’s quartet about fairies under London starting with MIDNIGHT NEVER COME.

    Bujold – really, anything by her, but if fantasy is wanted, the SHARING KNIFE books or CHALION. even if I really like HUNT in that series, CHALION seems to be a better one to start with.

    That’s all I can come up with, now.
    Oh, extremely recent: Ryk Spoor’s PHOENIX RISING. the whole family liked it.

  4. Rachel

    I think you’ve mentioned the LIGHTHOUSE books before, and I really must go find those, because the dance would really appeal to me. Not that I know anything about dance! But I love seeing something like that treated seriously and well by someone who does.

    I ABSOLUTELY agree about the sequels to Dragon’sbane. Good to put that warning out there!

    MIDNIGHT NEVER COME is another one I’ve had on my TBR pile for some time. I really must get to it.

    I loved SORCERY AND CECILIA! I think that is YA; if it wasn’t published that way when it first came out, it would be today. A wonderful book! I didn’t like the others quite as well.

    And I guess I better look up PHOENIX RISING now, too.

  5. Meredith

    Let’s see…
    Kristine Smith – Code of Conduct
    Elizabeth Moon – any of her scifi or fantasy series
    Julie E. Czerneda -several bio-scifi series
    Martha Wells – Raksura series and Fall of Ile-Rein series
    Sabrina Chase – The Long Way Home series
    Bujold – second that, especially Cordelia’s Honor
    David Weber – Honor Harrington series (a bit dense sometimes)
    Sharon Lee and Steve Miller – Liaden Universe
    P.C. Hodgell – Kencyrath series
    …and of course many more, these are just some that stand out in my mind.

  6. Rachel

    Several on here I’m going to have to look up — I’ve never heard of Kristine Smith or Sabrina Chase. I loved the first few Liaden Universe books, but I have to admit, I can take or leave the later ones. I’m not crazy about just everything by Moon, but I think SHEEPFARMER’S DAUGHTER would be a great choice — it’s very YA really — or HUNTING PARTY if someone is looking for SF.

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