Introducing newcomers to speculative fiction

Hi there!

Earlier this week, I received an email from a father who was looking for suggestions for things to read for his teenage kids. He wrote that his son and daughter, age 14 and 16, loved the Harry Potter books and could not get enough of the Lord of the Rings movies. He wanted me to recommend fantasy or scifi books/series that I believed his children would like.

This proved to be easier said than done. Now at 31 years of age, my taste in books (and many other things, for that matter!) has evolved considerably since my teenage years. So here is a list of the sort of novels/series which I enjoyed when I was still in high school.

I would kindly ask all of you to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment. Between all of us, perhaps we can come up with a more comprehensive list of titles that will enable newcomers to fall in love with fantasy and scifi as much as we did!:-)

My suggestions:


The Dragonlance Chronicles

- Dragons of Autumn Twilight
- Dragons of Winter Night
- Dragons of Spring Dawning

The Dragonlance Legends

- Time of the Twins
- War of the Twins
- Test of the Twins

The Second Generation
Dragons of Summer Flame

The Darksword Trilogy

- Forging the Darksword
- Doom of the Darksword
- Triumph of the Darksword

The Rose of the Prophet

- The Will of the Wanderer
- The Paladin of the Night
- The Prophet of Akhran


The Icewind Dale Trilogy

- The Crystal Shard
- Streams of Silver
- The Halfling's Gem

The Dark Elf Trilogy

- Homeland
- Exile
- Sojourn

The Legacy
Starless Night
Siege of Darkness
Passage to Dawn


The Belgariad

- Pawn of Prophecy
- Queen of Sorcery
- Magician's Gambit
- Castle of Wizardry
- Enchanter's End Game


Dragon Prince

- Dragon Prince
- The Star Scroll
- Sun-Runner's Fire

Dragon Star

- Stronghold
- The Dragon Token
- Skybowl

11 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

At about that age I read a lot of Stephen King books and enjoyed them. One's I'd recommend include:

Eyes of the Dragon
The Stand

Maybe the Dark Tower Series, but it may be a bit too advanced.

I also enjoyed Michael Criton books at that age.

Jurrasic Park

Anonymous said...

Guy Gavriel Kay:
The Fionavar Tapestry (3 books)
The Lions of Al-Rassan
Sailing to Sarantium
Lord of Emperors
Last Light of the Sun

Tamora Pierce (anything)

Anonymous said...

for young starters i'd definitely recommend Eddings the Belgariad and Malloreon are a good introduction to the fantasy world. That's the books that really got me interested in fantasy. Then i discovered "Magician" but i'd recommend Feist's work for an older public.
Garth Nix would also be a good start with "Sabriel".

Anonymous said...

I'd recommend for younger readers:

Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern)
Terry Brooks (Shannara)
R.A Salvatore (Forgotten Realms)
Raymond Feist (Midkemia/Riftwar)
O.S. Card (Alvin Maker/Ender Series)

shaza said...

If they enjoyed the LotR movies, I'd say read the actual books! Though, after reading Harry Potter, LotR will seem dull and slow.

Well, I'd try Wheel of Time--that's what got me into reading fantasy (at age 12/13).

I started Martin when I was 13, though their dad probably wouldn't approve of such a graphic series.

Zelazny's Amber series might be good. I read that at 12 and liked it.

Hmmm, I think WoT is the best idea.

Anonymous said...

As most of the other recommendations are for adult books, I thought it might be helpful to chime in with some books specifically written for teens. As I'm not an SF reader, this list is limited to fantasy. (I hope someone else will pipe up with SF YA books for you.)

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass [titled Northern Lights in the UK]; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass)

The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree)

Sabriel series by Garth Nix (Sabriel; Lireal; and Abhorsen)

Singer series by Katherine Roberts (Song Quest; Crystal Mask; Dark Quetzal)

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver (5 more to come in the series)

Otori trilogy by Lian Hern (Across the Nightengale Floor; Grass for His Pillow; Brilliance of the Moon)

Young Wizard series by Diane Duane (So You Want to be a Wizard; Deep Wizardry; High Wizardry; A Wizard Abroad; The Wizard's Dilemma; A Wizard Alone; The Wizard's Holiday; Wizards at War)

The Dragon King Saga by Stephen Lawhead (In the Hall of the Dragon King; The Warlords of Nin; The Sword and the Flame)

Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson (The Wind Singer; Slaves of Mastery; Firesong)

These ought to get the kids started, and once they figure out what kinds of books they like best, I'm sure they can go on from here.

Terie (from Robin's newsgroup)

Anonymous said...

Well, I started reading fantasy when I was 14 (which is not much more than one year ago now, mind you ;)). From my experience, a 14 or 16-year-old can enjoy exactly the same books as an "adult". My father also reads fantasy books, and when we discuss the books we've read, I really don't notice an obvious difference in the way we experienced or interpreted the books. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really know if there even are fantasy/SF books that are more suitable for newcomers to the genre, or for kids/young adults for that matter. One could say that starting with a relatively simple book or series would be the right way to go, but if I started with a simple fantasy book, I don’t know if I would have been so captivated by this rich genre like I have become now! Curious what I started with? The Liveship Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. I absolutely loved those books, and still do; I actually have just reread them a couple of weeks ago! Then I found out Robin Hobb had written more books (and also that I had started with her second trilogy instead of the one I should have started with.. >_<), and soon I also read the Farseer and the Tawny Man trilogy. Robin Hobb became my favourite author. I immediately recommended her books to a friend of mine (also aged 14 at that time), a friend who also really liked the Harry Potter books. She loved Hobb’s books too. So, Robin Hobb’s Farseer and following trilogies would probably be my first recommendation. Since I heard a lot of good things about Raymond E. Feist, I decided to read Magician, book one of the Riftwar Saga, but after having read Hobb, it felt a bit too simple, especially the characters didn’t appear like real, three-dimensional people. This is what I mean; if I started reading fantasy with Magician, I don’t know if I would have continued with the fantasy genre: certainly not for some time. A Song of Ice and Fire, by G.R.R. Martin would be my second recommendation, being the second fantasy series I read and found fantastic. Although I liked The Wheel of Time, I thought it was a bit too longwinded, but it is certainly worth a try! I have to admit I liked Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel Legacy too, but maybe that isn’t suitable for everyone. Actually it certainly isn’t suitable for every kid ;). Hmm.. well in one year I haven’t been able to read that many books yet, but I do have to say I don’t think the kids will like The Lord of the Rings books after having seen the movies. I read the series before I saw the movies, but even then, having no idea of what to expect, I found the story itself (although I could see the hard work Tolkien must have put in creating such a detailed world) a bit dull.
So, to summarize this (too) long story into some sort of list, my recommendations for young newcomers to the fantasy genre are (seems like I’m recommending things to myself.. >_<):

Robin Hobb -
The Farseer Trilogy,
the Liveship Trilogy
and the Tawny Man Trilogy

G.R.R. Martin -
A Song of Ice and Fire

Robert Jordan -
The Wheel of Time

Just my two cents, nothing more! ;)


ps. My apologies if I have a weird choice of words or if my grammar is wrong, but I'm Dutch :).

Anonymous said...

Some very good suggestions so far! I'd like to second Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series:

The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

... and ...
The Foundling (and Other Tales of Prydain)

The previously mentioned works of Anne McCaffrey (the Dragonrider's of Pern), Roger Zelazny (the Amber series), David Eddings, (the Belgariad), Raymond Fiest (his Riftwar Saga in particualr), and J.R.R. Tolkien (I'd start with The Hobbit before attempting The Lord of the Rings) are all excellent selections (in my opinion) for younger readers interested in Fantasy Literature.

Also, a few additions (most with stronger "Fantasy" rather than "Science Fiction" leanings):

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin:

A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
The Farthest Shore

(Personally, I'd stop there -- although there are people who prefer the later Earthsea works ... I just don't.)

Elizabeth Boyer's works ... among them:

The Sword and the Satchel
The Thrall and the Dragon's Heart
The Elves and the Otterskin
The Wizard and the Warlord

... and her Wizard's War series ...

The Troll's Grindstone
The Curse of Slagfid
The Dragon's Carbuncle
The Lords of Chaos

C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia ... my preference is for the order the author originally wrote them:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magicians Nephew
The Last Battle

... perhaps, once they are a little older, introduce them to the works of Tad Williams (I like all of the stuff he's written!)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about their being overfaced. I started fantasy when I was twelve, and quickley got into all of the 'adult' parts of the genre with no trouble. A good messageboard to discuss the books on is useful, but I think that protecting kids from books is wrong, if it comes from a fear that they won't understand it. Of course they won't understand everything, but no one does, and it's only by reading challenging things that are over their head that people learn. And it's not hard, either. There is basic introduction fantasy, which I started out with because I didn't know better and wish that I'd skipped. If they want something like that, though-a lot of Eddings (some is good, too much is bad), Jordan, Brian Jacques, Goodkind *shudder of horror*. Those are the basic starting blocks for the unguided fantasy reader. A wiser, more informed person (as I was unfortunate enough not to be) will start with Hobb, Card, some King, and others as their introduction, and move out from there.

Have they actually read The Lord of the Rings? Absolutly essential reading, before all other series. Otherwise...I read Martin when I was 13 (apparently someone else here has too...), I'd suggest it, but yes, it's a bit graphic. I also started on the Dark Tower series and enjoyed them immensly. Robin Hobb is an excellent, safe choice-I've only read Farseer thus far, but I think it has enough of a mix of a good story with themes to be appealing in both the entertainment and bookish sense. Zelazny's Lord of Light is excellent. An older reader may get much more out of it theme-wise, but it should pass as a good story on its own, though the timeline and opening could potentially be confusing-if they try this, don't try and make sense of it until it's done, or you'll be hopelessly lost. Excellent book, though. His Dark Materials is pretty good, Narnia is essential if they want some of the more Tolkienesque stuff. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (potentially Speaker for the Dead, but definitly not Xenocide & beyond-it looses its power) are excellent choices that are SF-oriented but not too far SF. Neil Gaiman is also wonderful. Some people hate short stories, but another suggestion would be a Year's Best Fantasy and Horror to get a broader scope of the genre. I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting. I'm not sure if they want something challenging or basic, hopefully I've covered a few things. People develop their own taste within the genre, again-messageboards and blogs are excellent places to help with the orientation process involved with getting into a genre, and with sorting through all of the different books and authors that are around. You only need to find a way into fantasy, and then people's tastes develop differently and they should have no problem choosing from the wide range of books. Once they've found what they like, the problem isn't not enough books, it's too many. :) Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to 3rd the Prydain Chronicles. I was surprised to see that mentioned here. I think I read it for the first time when I was 14 and I've read it 2 times since then.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to add my votes for:

* Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia
* Alexander - The Chornicles of Prydain
* LeGuin - The Earthsea Trilogy

and I'd like to add Patricia McKillip - The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy as well -- also an excellent read and very original, even for those who are used to more complicated, 'adult' fantasy.

To me, these still are some of the hallmarks of the fantasy genre -- I'm 28 now and read all of these in elementary school and loved them. I seem to remember also enjoying books by Grace Chetwin, Jane Yolen, and Shirley Rosseau Murphey (spelling?), which all are along these same lines.