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Friday, July 5, 2013

Best Stand Alone Fantasy Novel: Write In

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So normally Fridays are for The Mailbox, but we're still working on Wibbly Wobbly time here at Writing About Writing, so it's probably going to go up tomorrow instead.  Hopefully having lesson plans means the regular update schedule will normalize a bit.  But let's talk about fantasy novels....

What is the BEST stand-alone fantasy novel?

I need nominations for a poll.  I'll probably take the write in nominations for at least a couple of weeks and then turn what I have into a poll.

The same rules apply as did for The Best Stand Alone Science Fiction Novel poll:

1- I will favor nominations made in the comments here at the Writing About Writing site.  If thirty people write in on W.A.W.'s Facebook Page, I won't ignore it, but if there's a tie (and I often have to settle ties since the poll gets unwieldy at any more than 10 choices), I will settle it by first taking the nominations here.  So if you really want your book to get on our poll, please write it in the comments and don't put it on the G+ or FB feed as a reply to the crosspost.

2- Stand alone means "CAN stand alone"--not necessarily that there were never sequels (especially sequels that came after a first book's success).  As long as a book is contained, I will accept the nomination.  If reading a previous book is more than a incidentally helpful to knowing what's going on, or there is obviously more to come, it is not stand alone.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone in America) is actually a stand alone work.  There is room for the story to go on (as it does) but it doesn't end on cliffhanger, and there's no sense that it needs to go on, and there's no book before it that sets up what's happening.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is NOT a stand alone work.  It very much helps to have read the first book, and the end is very clearly setting up more to come.  Generally, I will accept your judgement as to what is stand alone and what isn't unless you are really stretching it.

This rule may be particularly important as it is very unusual to find fantasy books that don't form sagas. But a stand alone novel in a world an author comes back to often is okay while the third book in a quadrilogy is not.

For the purposes of having an "interesting" poll, I'm not going to take Lord of the Rings as a single work even though I know it was the publishers who broke it up not Tolkien.

3- "Fantasy" has a very broad definition, so I'll take most nominations that aren't WAY outside the bounds of fantasy's umbrella.  It could also mean anything from modern day urban fantasy to medieval high fantasy.

4- You may use whatever criteria you desire to determine what is the "best."  From most foundational to most important to most literary to most enjoyable to read.  It's totally up to you.  Best means whatever you want it to mean.

5- ONE NOMINATION!!  This is for the "best" so nominating fifteen books is kind of antithetical to the point.  If you absolutely, positively can't decide between two books, give me two nominations, but know that if it comes down to breaking ties I will take you FIRST suggestion first.

You may, however, second as many of the other nominations as you like to ensure that they get onto the poll in the event of too many nominees.

I will be adding two titles to this list.

The Mists of Avalon* by Marian Bradley
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

*See how I picked a book that is technically part of a saga.  But Mists CAN stand alone--and it even seems like maybe it was originally written as a stand alone work and added to.  That's totally fine.

And please please please feel encouraged to offset the sausage-fests these lists usually are by offering up women's voices to our list.


  1. Wait, what were the rules for nominating sci-fi stand-alone novels? Can one person nominate more than one book?

    I nominate C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

    If more than one book per person is allowed, I also nominate Dracula by Bram Stoker.

    1. Awesome. I figured that one would be a shoe in. :)

  2. American Gods!!!!

  3. Replies
    1. Okay. Cool. I like that one too. Though it's one of about three books that I think the movie might be just as good or better.

    2. This is a point in its favor. Not a lot of books translate well into the flicks.

  4. My favorite fantasy novel is Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt.

    I second Stoker's Dracula.

    1. There's going to be another poll for horror, so unless I'm hurting for nominees in this poll, I'll probably save Dracula.

  5. I clicked the Publish button before I finished. I nominate Butler's Kindred, too. It's probably the best fantasy novel I've ever read, but it's deeply grim and hits me too hard to be a favorite. Butler's novel affects me so hard that she makes me hurt. I read it now and again because it's just that damn good; the hurt is an acceptable exchange.

  6. I nominate Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay.

  7. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    1. Nice. Thank you. Hopefully Y.A. doesn't get buried if this gets to the poll.

  8. The Book of Night With Moon - Diane Duane

    If you do a separate Y.A one:
    Into The Dream - William Sleator
    but probably no one else has read that

  9. Winter of Magic's Return by Pamela F. Service
    Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

  10. I'll second Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce with runner up Imager by L E Modesitt. Don't know how many times I've reread these.

  11. I hate to point it out but Alanna: The First Adventure is not a stand alone. It is the first in a four book cycle, and the foundation of a larger world that has at least 2 other series set there.

  12. I will however enter a nomination I can't believe no one beat me to. Nevewhere, by Neil Gaiman.

  13. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
    Watership Down by Richard Adams

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