May 13 2014 5:00pm

Reddit Fantasy Lists Under-Rated and Under-Read Fantasy

Reddit’s Fantasy group recently asked everyone to name their favorite under-rated or under-read fantasy novels, and the response has been extraordinary! So far the list is enormous, and filled with amazing books that all deserve a larger readership. While the editing process is ongoing, we thought we’d write up the top five choices from the list, just to get everyone started on their next “to be read” pile! Check out the whole list here, and peruse at the top five below.

Acts of Caine seriesMatthew Woodring Stover

Matthew Stover has written many novels within the Star Wars Universe, including the novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. However, the work that topped the under-rated fantasy list is the Acts of Caine series. Beginning with Heroes Die, and continuing with Blade of Tyshalle, Caine Black Knife, and the most recent, Caine's Law, Stover tells the story of Caine, a fighter living two lives.

In the land of Ankhana he is known as the Blade of Tyshalle, and has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does. At home on Earth, he is is Hari Michaelson, and his violent adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that he kills men on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet. When his estranged wife, Pallas Rill, disappears into the slums of Akhana, he must defy the rulers of both worlds to save her life…and his own.

Three Parts DeadMax Gladstone

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith. When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

The Whitefire CrossingCourtney Schafer

Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel—where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark—into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution - and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Tales of the Ketty Jay series—Chris Wooding

Beginning with Retribution Falls and continuing with The Black Lung Captain, The Iron Jackal, and Ace of Skulls, Chris Woodring’s series takes you aboard the Ketty Jay, and airship crewed by the most unlikely sky pirates you’ve ever met! Darian Frey has begun to think he’s not cut out for piracy after all. Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. The crew dodges bullets, government conspiracies, and the occasional enraged ex-fiancee as they search for fame and fortune in the skies.  

The Wars of Light and Shadow series—Janny Wurts

The Wars of Light and Shadow is a monumental fantasy series, told through multiple perspectives, which tackles the conflict between two half-brothers, Lysaer, Lord of Light and Arithon, Master of Shadow. We are introduced to the brothers and their world in The Curse of the Mistwraith. The world of Athera lives in eternal fog, its skies obscured by the malevolent Mistwraith. Only the combined powers of two half-brothers can challenge the Mistwraith’s stranglehold Arithon and Lysaer will find that they are inescapably bound inside a pattern of events dictated by their own deepest convictions. Yet there is more at stake than one battle with the Mistwraith—as the sorcerers of the Fellowship of Seven know well. For between them the half-brothers hold the balance of the world, its harmony and its future, in their hands.

Stefan Raets
1. Stefan
I definitely agree with the Janny Wurts series - it's one of the most complex fantasy series around, and almost criminally under-appreciated. (I covered them in one of our Under The Radar posts earlier.)
Chelsea R Thompson
2. Chelsea R Thompson
Tales of the Ketty Jay takes a rag-tag crew in the first book with a limited scope and limited goals, to really earth-shattering revelations in the second book. I haven't read the third yet, but if it continues along the same path as the first two, it'll be great.
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
Stover rules. His Acts of Caine is one of the best SFF series I've ever read, period. I've been contemplating rereading the last two books recently...

And it warms my heart to see Richard Adams' Shardik make the list, even with one vote, as it's still my all-time favorite book.
Chelsea R Thompson
4. Jason Graboski
Chelsea, read the other two Ketty Jay books and treat yourself! They are fantastic. I was very excited to see them on this list. They are my favorite series.
Jacob Dahl
5. bocaj
Funny. I just finished Three Parts Dead today. Very good Book.
Bruce Arthurs
6. bruce-arthurs
Of the five, I hadn't heard of two. The other three I own copies of, but haven't read yet.

The Max Gladstone novel, I suspect, isn't so much underappreciated as, like with my own copy, as yet unread. It's only, what? , two years old? But it's gotten a lot of buzz and reviews. As more people actually read it, the more it'll be appreciated.

SaltManZ, Shardik's only gotten one vote? Blasphemy! That book was one of the few where, when I reached the final page, it felt like I was having to come back up out of a vivid dream.

(The first under-appreciated book that comes to my mind is SPACE PRISON, aka THE SURVIVORS, by Tom Godwin, from 1958. A classic "ripping yarn" with added depth.)
Chelsea R Thompson
7. Madison Woods
The Max Gladstone novel sounds like one I'd enjoy, and I'd never heard of it. Thanks for the list!
Chelsea R Thompson
8. Missblake7
The Jaran books by Kate Elliott
I read them every year.
Kevin Connolly
9. Cross777
Ive read Stover and Wurts and enjoyed, Gladstone and Wooding and didn't like and never heard of Schafer.

I'd add the first Paratwa book Liege-Killer by Christopher Hinz(the other two books not so much, and not the new reprints the covers are horrid.) and Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson
Chelsea R Thompson
10. Pannies
It is an exelent consept, but intrinsically flawed.
The books with the most votes are the ones that were most read, but is supposed to be ones that are exelent but least read.
Chelsea R Thompson
11. MikeOfThePalace
@ 10

We addressed that. There was actually an earlier poll, that was dominated by the authors you would expect (George RR Martin #1, JRR Tolkien #2, Pat Rothfuss #3, etc). This was the results of a new poll, where works were only eligible if A) they did not appear above the bottom of the first poll, and B) didn't have many reviews on GoodReads.

The bigger problem, that we're sorting out how to deal with, is that we didn't really get much ranking out of this. There were a small handful that got a couple votes each, and then hundreds that only got one vote.
12. hoopmanjh
Myself, I'd have to go back to the 1980s and point to Michael Reaves' Shattered World books and M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel novels, especially Man of Gold and Flamesong.
Chelsea R Thompson
14. Fred Zimmerman
Anything by Dave Duncan. Prolific, smart, and consistenly high quality.
Chelsea R Thompson
15. Lucas H
I have the Janny Wurtz series sitting untouched on a bookshelf, at least in part because it is a wh0pper of a series and I'm intimidated by the sheer size of it. Seeing it on this list makes me tempted to get started on it, however.
One legit complaint about that series though: It's tricky to determine what order to read the books in. I had to google it.
Chelsea R Thompson
16. Anna M
Anything by Tanith Lee!
Chelsea R Thompson
17. Michael T
Check out Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward if you ever find yourself so lucky as to find a copy.
Michael Beach
18. mgbeach
Very cool! I actually contributed to the original thread on Reddit. My choices were David Gemmell's Troy series and Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell. Check em out!
Chelsea R Thompson
19. Pixy Misa
Three Parts Dead is a wonderful book. Two Serpents Rise, not a direct sequel but a related story set in the same world, takes a while to get up to speed but is ultimately also very satisfying. I'm very much looking forward to Full Fathom Five, the third book in the series.
Chelsea R Thompson
20. kjtherock
I would put the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson on the list.
Chelsea R Thompson
21. Tashraven
I have read and liked Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise (the latter my favorite of the world so far), and two more on the list are in my TBR pile. I would add Awakenings and The Lost Prince by Edward Lazellari to the list.
Chelsea R Thompson
22. W.G.
I'm half-surprised Weis/Hickman's "Rose of the Prophet" wasn't on here. It's not as good as others I've read, but it's got a unique problem and approach to it. It's also the book that got me interested in fantasy.
Chelsea R Thompson
23. Bob Finegold
The survey would have benefited from a greater number of participants. With the leading books/series obtaining their placement with as few as 3 votes, the significance of the results can be questioned. Everyone has their favorites, and the long list of "1 vote" entries demonstrate this. Still, it does bring to light fantasy stories of which I was unaware.

I will add of under-rated and under-read fantasies:

The Magazine of F&SF-published James Stoddard's Compton award winning novel THE HIGH HOUSE and its sequel THE FALSE HOUSE. The third in the series, THE HOUSE ETERNAL, I am told (at last) may soon see print.

Similarly, Robert Don Hughes' Pelmen the Powerhaper novels beginning with THE PROPHET OF LAMATH.
Chelsea R Thompson
24. Trike
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone has one of those awesome covers that immediately drew me in... then the description pushed me away. It just sounds dumb

I know it's Fantasy, but that shouldn't be an excuse for ridiculousness. The god who powers an entire city of 4,000,000 people has died which will result in the power going out, transporation screeching to a halt and people rioting, dying and, one assumes, starving to death... and they put a first-year law firm associate on the case?

This is like Hurricane Sandy hitting New York City and the mayor's office assigns Becky the Intern to solve All The Problems.

I can hope it's just terrible copywriting and that's not the actual plot, but I'm not even going to add that book to my 9-foot-tall to-read pile (I'm not kidding) based on that description.

Cool cover painting, though.
Chelsea R Thompson
25. Megs
@24: Art imitates life - in the book, the associate is doing the heavy lifting but there's a partner around who's in charge. Much like in a real law firm.
Christopher Smith
26. Scipio Smith
I am astonished that Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt did not get a single vote, a criminally under-rated series with the best two female characters I've ever read in a fantasy novel.
Chelsea R Thompson
27. Vincent 18
I have "Three Parts Dead" and "The Curse of the Mistwraith," but I've not read them yet. I guess I'll move them up on my "to read" list.
Chelsea R Thompson
28. Jens R.
I am pleased to see The Time Master trilogy by Louise Cooper on the list even if it's only got one vote. It's a shame that these books are so little known.

@26: Shadows of the Apt did in fact get on vote, it's right there on the list between Wheeler's Sea Change and Adams' Shardik.
Chelsea R Thompson
29. Michael T
I also enjoyed Black on Black by K.D. Wentworth. May be a bit biased because she was an acquaintance, but I tried not to let that affect my feelings on the book.
Chelsea R Thompson
30. Somewhere south
Matthew stover's Caine books are really good. I compare them to joe abercrombie in that they manage to be dark, hilarious and brutal simultaneously.
Chelsea R Thompson
31. C.Harley
I am with HoopmanJT-- Michael Reaves "The Shattered World" and the sequel from the 80s and the late, great M.A.R. Barker's work. Incredible world building, amazing stuff.
32. hoopmanjh
@23 -- Few things in this world would make me happier than to see James Stoddard publish the third House novel.

(One of those things would be Michael Reaves publishing a third Shattered World novel.)

Another author that seems to have fallen off of everybody's radar over the last 10-15 years: Jo Clayton.
Chelsea R Thompson
33. Leon E Stauffer
Interesting, I'd heard of several of these, only read one. Boy I hope the others are better than that one, which achieved the dubious distinction of being one of the very few books I've simply never been able to finish (despite multiple attempts). It wasn't so much that it was bad as that it just never clicked at all and the characters were horrifically annoying.
Chelsea R Thompson
34. Carfax
@20 ... Is this sarcasm? Cause if it's not, Malazan is one definitely one of the best fantasy series ever written though it makes no sense whatsoever, and i doubt it's ever been underrated since the early 2000's after he started writing again
Chelsea R Thompson
35. kjtherock
@34... Just try and find people who have read it. Not an easy thing to do. It is definitely under read. I agree it's one of the best,if not the best,series written.
Tabby Alleman
36. Tabbyfl55
I've read the Malazans. Hard for me to suggest an under-read favorite, as I hardly know any one in my circle of friends that reads fantasy at all. The best measuring stick I've got is that if it rates a "Re-Read" type blog on this site, it's probably not all that under-read.
Chelsea R Thompson
37. PamMandeville
Hopefully we'll start seeing the Goblin Series by Jaq D. Hawkins on these lists now that the final book of the trilogy is about to be released.

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