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”?