Fantasy recommendations, please

Why does everyone always get raped in fantasy books?  That’s what I want to know.  I was all excited to read Daughter of the Blood, which Memory and Ana both said was wonderful, but see, if I had just glanced at Amazon and seen the plot synopsis that said “Sexual violence pervades [this book]”, I would have known in advance that it is not for me.  As it was I was doggedly determined to finish it, and I got all through, and nothing got resolved because it’s the first in a series, and, and, and I am sad.  I really wanted it to be a fantasy series that I would love and read all the books in.

Failing that, can someone please recommend me a fantasy series with a good sense of humor where nobody gets raped?

  • It’s definitely a very dark book, but I loved it because I didn’t feel that the abuse was dealt with voyeuristically at all – kind of like Tender Morsels (though Tender Morsels is much much better). I completely understand why these books are not for everyone, though!

    You said humour and so I wanted to say Pratchett, but I think I remember you saying you didn’t like him? So no change you’ll pick up The Wee Free Men even though it’s hilarious and moving and has a smart and awesome protagonist AND is all about stories, among many other things? 😛

    • Oh yes, I didn’t think it was voyeuristic. It was just – frequent. And the threat of sexual violence was pervasive, so I was uncomfortable with it for that reason.

      I haven’t tried to read Terry Pratchett since a few years after I got my grown-up library card (so like, ninth grade). It is possible that Past Jenny was unfairly judgmental. I read Sourcery and also one other book that I now can’t ermember. Okay. The Wee Free Men. I will try it.

      • Eva

        I’m seconding Wee Free Men! I loved it, and I’m not exactly a Pratchett fangirl. 😉

  • I’m afraid the extent of my fantasy knowledge is Harry Potter…I just don’t know very much in the genre. :/

    • I don’t know that many grown-up fantasy writers, that’s my problem. I read fantasy all the time as a kid but not that much anymore. Probably because grown-up fantasy protagonists always seem to get raped.

  • I was not a Pratchett fan before I read The Wee Free Men either, so I’ll back Nymeth up on that one. Maybe Jonathan Stroud, too? The Bartimeus Trilogy if you’re in the mood for a series, and Heroes of the Valley if you’re not. They’re dryly funny and snarky and very clever.

    How are you on attempted rape? (I mean in fiction… I’m assuming you’re against it in real life!) I think you’d enjoy Lois McMaster Bujold’s books, but at least of two of them do have an attempted rape (I can’t remember about some of the other’s I’ve read, which at least means it wasn’t prominent enough to stick in my mind).

    • Oh yes! Jonathan Stroud! You’re quite right, I’ll get those.

      I am probably okay about attempted rape. I mean assuming it is not all voyeuristic. Though it did happen this one time on Buffy and that made me angry, but mainly because I felt it went against the point of the series. What does Bujold write?

      • Bujold writes both fantasy and science fiction; I’ve read one of her fantasy series that starts with The Curse of Chalion (her other fantasy series, The Sharing Knife, is on my TBR). They’ve got one of the neatest, most logical religious systems I’ve come across in fantasy. I don’t remember if the second book in that series has an attempted rape or not (although judging by Bea’s comment, yes?), and the third one starts out with a woman being accused of killing the heir apparent, who she claims was trying to rape her, but I don’t remember any of the actual rape attempt being “on screen”. I’ve only read the first two books of her sci-fi series, and the first one, Shards of Honor, does have an attempted rape in it that’s a bit more graphic, but it doesn’t feel pointless; it’s an important catalyst for a lot of things that happen later.

        The main things I love about Bujold is that 1) she doesn’t write “typical” stories – they’re not standard quest adventures, and her fantasy in particular has a lot elements I haven’t seen elsewhere, and 2) she writes wonderful characters, particularly women. In my brain, she’s sort of the female equivalent of Guy Gavriel Kay, except not as lyrical but more creative in her world building. (I didn’t recommend Kay for this question, since he’s not a humorous writer, but he writes some lovely, lovely fantasy novels.)

        Oh, I also have a question for you, judging from some of your comments below: How important is it to read Patricia C. Wrede’s Lyra novels in order? The Enchanted Forest Chronicles were some of my favorite books when I was younger, but I’m just now getting my hands on some of her other books, and I can’t tell whether the Lyra novels are a series proper, or just books set in the same universe.

      • Not important at all, I don’t think. You’re right, they aren’t a proper series, just a group of books set in the same world. And if you read The Harp of Imach Thyssel first, and do not like it, don’t judge the whole Lyra world by that. It is my least favorite.

  • Like Ana, I didn’t feel that the violence was voyeuristic, but I can see how it isn’t for everyone.

    I was going to tell you to read the Nightrunner books, but then I remembered who I’m talking to. 🙂 So I’ll recommend Gail Carriger’s SOULLESS instead. I had a ton of fun with it. It’s very funny, and it’s all Proper and Victorian. Well, except for the rampant make-out sessions.

    • See, the Nightrunner books make me want to reconsider my parameters, because of all that mess that happens to Alec. But Gail Carriger sounds like a good idea; I think I saw a little video clip on how they made the (extremely cool) covers for her books.

  • Dresden Files! So You Want to Be A Wizard (maybe not so much humor as AWESOME)! Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy, yes! The Dark is Rising sequence (also not a lot of humor)!

    Probably you’ve read all of these already, though. 😐

    ALSO how can you not like Terry Pratchett? Have you read Nation? Because that’s his BEST Pterry-for-people-who-don’t-like-Pterry book, I think. Not that I’m going to force you to read it, or anything.

    Uh.

    • I, um, I am sorry I don’t like Terry Pratchett. I’m going to try again! So many people love him and I want to love him! My concern has always been that he gets compared to Douglas Adams a lot, and I enjoyed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but didn’t love it and have never reread it. I will try The Wee Free Men, though, and Nation, and when I have read those two I will reassess my position.

      • I’m with you on wanting to like Terry Pratchett. I adore his footnotes, but I have a lot of trouble reading his books.

    • Lu

      Yes! So you Want to Be A Wizard… which I think is totally funny (when it’s not sad) 😉

  • The only fantasy I know and loved is fantasy I read as a child. I don’t read much fantasy now. Dealing with Dragons was a favorite kids’ read. I think I’m going to reread it soon!

    • I’m rereading it now! Or actually I’m rereading Searching for Dragons, because that was the one that came to hand; but it’s made me want to revisit the whole series.

  • Bartimaeus trilogy! (I see Anastasia suggested it already, but I had to mention it.)

    • I will get it! (Hopefully my library will oblige me.)

  • Bea

    I feel awful about rape, too. And infidelity; cannot really enjoy a book that features it. Which is why I cannot stand the Outlander series even though I like adventure novels with strong female characters…

    I’d say Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, but I’m just starting the second book, and I wouldn’t know for sure if there’s any rape in it, would I? 😉 (oh… nevermind. Attempt of rape with a happy ending works for you?)

    • Are the Outlander books the ones with Claire and Jamie? Are they full of rape, or infidelity, or both?

      That’s two votes for Bujold; I will give her a go. 🙂

  • The Winterlands series by Barbara Hambly. Starts with Dragonsbane. Or Ariel, by Stephen Boyett, that one always makes me laugh. I also really liked The Dragon and the George, but only the first book, the rest of the series bored me. Sorry, not much help after all!

    • Yes, you are a help! Barbara Hambly is a brilliant idea! I really enjoyed her vampire book and I love dragons. ON IT.

  • So you want to be a Wizard ~ fabulous series. Has bits of humor and a lot of good story.

    Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms set is a lighthearted and fun fantasy series.

    Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest ~ funny twist on traditional fairy tales (much like Lackey’s set)

    Tamora Pierce writes great fantasy, but I prefer her Tortall set to any of her others.

    Robin McKinley writes a lot of fantasy, but it’s not “humorous” I just love her so much I always have to recommend her books.

    • I am rereading the Enchanted Forest books right now! Patricia C. Wrede was one of my very favorite authors when I was a kid; ditto Tamora Pierce. And I am well excited for Robin McKinley’s new book to come out.

      • Try Patricia C Wrede’s “Caught in Crystal” then, if it’s still in print. It’s written for adults, and I remember really enjoying it. It’s less funny than the enchanted forest, but it’s still good.

        I’ve been dying for Robin McKinley’s book (though now she says that Pegasus is going to be a two-parter [sad-face]), and have read everything she’s written at least twice.

        Tamora Pierce is super good. She just makes me happy. There are still moments where I find myself laughing.

        I really enjoy Kim Harrison – she writes contemporary urban fantasy with a bit of murder mystery and a bit of romance. Her books are definitely geared to adults, and have their niche. (But I really enjoy them anyhow). I didn’t suggest them before because, well, you wanted humor, but they’re good.

        Christopher Moore is pretty funny, though he’s not strict “fantasy”

      • I like Caught in Crystal, although it’s been years since I read it. When I settle down into a permanent job, I’m going to start buying Patricia C. Wrede’s grown-up books. The Raven Ring was my favorite when I was younger, and I’d like to see how it holds up.

        Kim Harrison you say? Okay! I do not necessarily need wildly funny humor. I am content with a wry edge. 🙂

  • Ali

    Have you read anything by Sharon Shinn? I especially like her twelve houses series. The first book is called Mystic & Rider.

    • I read her sci-fi adaptation of Jane Eyre and was unimpressed, but I’ve been given to understand that’s not a fair representation of the general quality of her work. So I’ll try her!

  • Mumsy

    *hates violence against women* And Bea, you are right: infidelity is also discomforting – I find it hard to bond with the character.

    • I am much okayer with infidelity in books than with sexual violence. The infidelity thing does not exclude me from ever liking a character, though it does make it a bit harder.

  • Have you read any of Stephen Lawhead’s books? My personal favorites are the three books in the Song of Albion Trilogy. It’s got a nice parallel world story to it, and it’s all warriors, bards, wizards and battles of good and evil. I’ve heard good things about another series of his which starts with the book Taliesin.

    I also love Sheri Tepper’s writing, but after thinking about it realized that two of my favorites of hers (The Gate to Women’s Country and Beauty) do involve some violent scenes. I’m pretty sure that her earlier works don’t have violence against women, and I remember that they were quite fun fantasy. There are three series that come to mind, all are part of the “True Game” series, and each trilogy is told from a different perspective. They are: The True Game trilogy (from Peter’s perspective), The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped, and the Jinian Footseer books. If you look up Sheri Tepper on Wikipedia you can find a list of all the titles.

    Oh, and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are kind of a fantasy/sci-fi combo. They are all about dragons who bond with humans, and musicians and they are quite lovely. I love them so much that I have read them many times and own all of them.

    • I’ve heard of Lawhead but never read him, though doesn’t he have a really unpleasant protagonist? Or am I thinking of someone else? And I will definitely look up Sheri Tepper! And I might as well give Anne McCaffrey a chance, having shunned her for no reason in the days of my youth.

      • I think you might be thinking of someone else. I forgot to mention too that the Lawhead books could be considered Christian fantasy/fiction, but there really isn’t anything overtly religious in the books unless you are looking hard for some type of symbolism (and really the only thing I can think of is just one scene at the end of the whole trilogy). I just love the books for the otherworldly adventure story.

      • I don’t mind Christian themes. I love the Chronicles of Narnia, apart from The Last Battle, which I think there is really no excuse for. 😛

      • anna

        Do the dragon song/singer ones if you’re trying McCaffrey. If you’ll like any, I think it would be those, but I don’t really see you liking her much. But I’m not nearly as good at predicting you as you are predicting me.

  • Agreed! So glad to know I’m not the only one who wasn’t enthralled with the last Narnia book. 🙂

  • trapunto

    Yeah! What’s with that? It isn’t my own particular deal-breaker, but I have noticed the prevalence.

    Are you looking specifically for high (medieval-type) fantasy written for grownups, with a lot of fat books in the series? And is bad stuff happening, and people being creepily mean and manipulative ruled out, or just rape? And, does it have to be funny, or can it just be clever?

    I have to say, I’m a big non-fan of most humorous fantasy (I’m with you on Pratchett, if Nymeth is correct about that), and have disliked a lot of the popular series mentioned above. I keep trying them, because it’s hard to believe other people would like them so much, and find it so funny, and me not. Tough Guide to Fantasy is the only big fantasy laugh I can think of. And some early Jack Vance, like Wyst: Alastor 1716. And Kage Baker’s novels beginning with In the Garden of Iden.

    If you are in the mood for YA fantasy, Ysabeau S. Wilce is gets my New Author Most Likely to Write Books As Good And Also Funny Dianna Wynne Jones’ award. Her website is a hoot.

    I might be able to think of more if you laid out some more parameters?

    • Clever is fine. I didn’t mean funny like humorous novels, so much as funny like clever and wry. I do not need high fantasy with lots of books in the series exactly, but I would really like it if I could find something like that. When I was in middle school, I enjoyed Mercedes Lackey so much because there were always loads more books in that world for me to read.

      My thing about rape is that it seems like authors often use it as shorthand to show how Villainous their villains are, so that from the off you can’t possibly sympathize with the villains. Like making them kick a puppy or something; and then of course you are intended to sympathize with the rape victim. I think when it’s done for that reason, it can make the book seem very simplistic. That, and there’s the ick factor.

      I am dying for something with an exciting plot and good characters with interesting relationships, and maybe something that does not have a Wicked Sauron-type Overlord as the villain. I want something, if this makes sense, that is like Dorothy Sayers, but with fantasy rather than mystery.

      (Tall order, I know!)

      • trapunto

        “Dorothy Sayers, but with fantasy rather than mystery.”
        –Oh, I wish! I just finished Strange Poison.

        I’ve been racking my brains, and I think that Kage Baker may be the closest thing to a fantasy Sayers. There are a lot of characters in her books. She does sideline vignettes. She has a bit of authorial remove, a sense of the absurd, and a comic appreciation for her own characters without just being a puppeteer. AND she lets them have develop slowly-revealed deep feelings that carry you clear through the series caring more and more what happens to them. She even does a send-up of the Inklings in a couple of the books! I really don’t know why she isn’t more popular. Maybe because her books fall in the fantasy-sci-fi crack? They are packaged as sci-fi, but they read like a cross between historical fiction and fantasy. Like Sayers, Baker is incredibly smart and not afraid to let it show, but also not too proud to clown for her readers.

      • trapunto

        “exciting plot and good characters with interesting relationships”: I’m missing the obvious! The Assassin’s Apprentice and following books by Robin Hobb. Also known as the Farseer Trilogy followed by the Fool Trilogy. There are a lot of them, and they are the only standard high fantasy I unreservedly love. Narnia meets Nightrunner meets meets Once and Future King meets Jane Eyre meets David Copperfield meets Tolkien–well, that doesn’t sound very good, but the books are. There is an arch-villainess, but only for forms sake. She isn’t even discovered until the very end of the Fool books.

        Have you read T.H. White, for that matter?

  • DKS

    I had an awkward time, a few years ago, when a friend asked me to read Terry Goodkind’s novels, because they were, he said, the books he loved most in all the world — and the first one I picked up had two pointless rapes — one a gang rape, one a rape by demons — and, “No,” I said to my friend, “I am not reading these books.” It’s the pointlessness that gets to me, not the fact of rape per se. It’s the idea that the author is getting some fun out of it, and that he expects it to titillate me — oh, and also the dishonesty of having the rapes carried out by evil characters, so that, if you accused him of glorifying rape, he could say, “But don’t you see? Only the bad people in my book commit rape. I’m condemning it!” Not with that moistly excited language you’re not, cupcake.

    Anyway, I recommend Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. Humour, yes, and while the male villain does become “creepily mean and manipulative,” to quote trapunto, he doesn’t rape anybody. And I recommend William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, a two-book story about a man’s chivalrous rescue-quest.

    • Yes! Exactly! It’s often voyeuristic (not in this one, I don’t think, but often), and that bugs me. Good to know I must steer clear of Terry Goodkind!

  • Anything by Diana Wynne Jones will have its absurd/hilarious bits AND be wonderful fantasy. Go for those (if you haven’t already). Neil Gaiman’s also a master of humor & fantasy. I also recently read a book called A Nameless Witch, which was pretty hilarious and fun.

    • DWJ and Neil Gaiman are two of my top most favorite ever all-time authors with bookshelves devoted exclusively to them. Which makes me inclined to trust you about The Nameless Witch. 🙂

  • Try Octavia Butler. She gets shelved with SF more than fantasy, but she might be what you’re looking for.

    • Lu

      The only thing about Octavia Butler is that her books are not totally devoid of violence against women, so I’m not sure I’d recommend them in this situation. Definitely otherwise though, they are outstanding! Especially Kindred.

  • There’s Megan Whalen Turner, who’s the only fantasy writer I can think of who is as Smart as DLS–the only problem with recommending her is that the brilliance that makes her my favorite writer only becomes clear by about the middle of the second book….The first book is fine, but not stellar.

    There’s also Sherwood Smith’s Once a Princesses and sequel, which are smart and funny, and the lots of other books by her…

    Connie Willis is also really smart and funny –To Say Nothing of the Dog is a good one to start with.