As an editor, people I barely know often ask me to recommend a book. A job hazard, I suppose, much like a waiter is expected to be able to recommend their restaurantâ€™s best dish, but itâ€™s a subject I warm to readily enough, so I donâ€™t really mind.
â€śOkay, sure,â€ť I answer. â€śWhat kind of book are you looking for?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t knowâ€”whatâ€™s good?â€ť they ask.
â€śWhatâ€™s good,â€ť indeed. Such an innocent question with such a complicated answer! Beyond the garden of good and bad writing, lies a field of subjectivity and taste. Do you like your fantasy served with a side of romance, or laced with the grittiness of a hard-boiled detective novel? Do you prefer the flavors strong and dark as Turkish coffee, or light and sweet as a fine Riesling? Are you willing to pull open the jaws of its literary devices to get at the rare delicacies within, or do you want it served in perfect bite-sized portions?
For all the Realms-curiousÂ bibliovores out there, Iâ€™ve prepared a list of just a few of the offerings on the Forgotten Realms menu that Iâ€™d recommend to friends interested in picking up one of our books, along with some tasting notes.
Sword & Sorcery
Some things are classic and timeless. Like pizza. Fantastic when itâ€™s hot from the oven at night for dinner, and good again in the morning for breakfast when itâ€™s fresh from the fridge, there isnâ€™t a wrong time or place to have pizza. For the pizza-lovers of the Realms, let me introduce you to Richard Bakerâ€™s Blades of the Moonsea.
Horror is a classic pairing with fantasy, like duck with a merlot sauce. Nightmares really are just the darker side of dreams, after all. And nobody understands this better than the master of monsters, author James P. Davis. For those of you that like rich, decadent reading, Iâ€™d recommend: Circle of Skulls.
The world of fantasy is filled with flights of meringuelike fancy, and nothing gives it that grit and depth that makes it feel so real, even when youâ€™re reading about dragons and elves and magic, like a good mystery. If you like your meringue balanced with strong coffee, try The Captive Flame, by Richard Lee Byers.
It seems wrong to assign particular fantasy books to women, as though men could not enjoy them, or as though women could not enjoy other books. But like fine artisan chocolates, some books should definitely be put on the must-try list for women. For the chocoholic in your life, give them a belated valentine of Erin M. Evansâ€™s The God Catcher
With fantasyâ€™s recent engagement to horror, and their not-so-secret affair with mystery, fantasyâ€™s tastes have been running to the serious side lately. But for those of you yearning for something different, take heart! Rosemary Jones brings some serious spice to the table with feisty heroines and intensely original plotlines. For a flavorful adventure, check out City of the Dead.
By necessity, Iâ€™ve left a ton of books off this menu, but that doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t help me recommend some choice titles to the other Forgotten Realms patrons. What books would you recommend to people of various tastes?