Friday night topic: Fantasy fiction

Maybe I'm not a proper geek, but beyond a few big names like The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, and the Harry Potter books, I've not been a huge reader of fantasy novels. Just never really got plugged into it. That changed recently when I was exposed in quick succession to The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, then to The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and finally to George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. I've been flying through these books, enjoying them greatly.

I'm also a little bit worried. They are all high-quality, character-driven fiction, and by most estimations, they all defy the conventions of the fantasy genre in important ways. I have several more books left in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, but then I'll be finished. I'm already vaguely aware, from having looked around, that fantasy novels of similar quality may not be easy to find.

It doesn't help that The Name of the Wind may be one of the best novels I've ever read. Tough act to follow, that.

My son really liked Eragon, for instance, but it seemed awful to me in comparison. I couldn't get past a chapter or two.

Perhaps that makes me picky or simply not a fan of the entire sword-and-sorcery genre, but I wonder what you all think. Any of you readers of fantasy books? Are the ones I've been reading truly genre-defying stand-outs, or do I just need to be pointed in the right direction for more of the same? Any recommendations in this or other genres? Discuss.

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