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Summer Fantasy Reads

Heck with reviewing books one at a time, sometimes what you want is a big pile of books to lay up. (Especially as it heats up outside and all you want to do is sit on the couch with a glass of iced tea, a fan, and a book. Now that sounds like an ideal summer vacation.) My disappointment at The Unremembered has made me think about all the other fantasy books I’ve loved. Fantasy is such a huge genre; there’s so much you can do, so many exciting worlds you could explore, why read the same thing over and over? While I admit to a fondness for cheesy 80s fantasy (it’s what I grew up on), I can guarantee that none of these books are a Lord of the Rings ripoff, and they will all surprise you at least once. These are my favorite summer fantasy rereads.

  • Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle – published in four volumes in the US as A Secret History, Carthage Ascendant, Wild Machines, and Lost Burgundy. Ash is a female mercenary captain in late medieval Burgundy, and she is going to save the world. Just not her own. This is fantastic alternate history at its very best.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is a classic journey-into-the-underworld type story, but what an underworld! (I bought a copy when I was in London a couple of years ago, because it took me two days to figure out why I was so familiar with the Underground map when I’d never been there before, and then I just needed a reread.)
  • Caught in Crystal by Patricia C. Wrede. Although she’s given up her old life, Kayl’s past hasn’t given her up, and she and what’s left of the friends of her youth have to finish what they started. Wrede was my very first writer crush – I was introduced to her through Dealing With Dragons, a sort of fractured-fairy-tale wonderfulness which you should also read – and I’ve loved this book for years. I doubt I noticed it at the time, but it features not only a female protagonist, but a middle-aged one at that. And yes, she kicks ass.
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Fantasy thieves and con men. If you are the kind of person who likes that kind of thing, do you really need more? This is the sort of book they mean when they say “rollicking adventure,” and better yet, it’s the first in a series. (Red Seas and Red Skies is Locke and Jean plus pirates, and the third is coming out — someday.)
  • Jhereg by Steven Brust. The first in Brust’s epic Vlad Taltos series, this is still one of my favorites: the story of an assassin and his telepathic flying lizard, and their quest to dominate the underworld of the Dragaeran city of Adrilankha. (At least for now. They’ll have other quests later.) Brust takes fantasy tropes and dances on them, with a hefty dose of wry humor. Get in on it now before the series gets any bigger: he’s churning them out at a rate of one a year, and he’s only got six left to go.
  • Mélusine  by Sarah Monette. Felix is a wizard of the Mirador, flighty, petty, and damaged. Mildmay is a former assassin, now the best cat burglar in the city. Not always the easiest book to get through, with half of it from the point of view of a man who’s gone so insane he cannot reliably identify humans as humans, but it’s a fantastic world, amazing characters, and the series builds most wonderfully.

I find summer terribly nostalgic for some reason, so I love using it to get reacquainted with old favorites. What are some of your favorite summer rereads?

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