Summer is upon us, and what better time for a teenager to escape into some great fantasy reading? Your child may already be familiar with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but perhaps some of the authors and characters I mention here will be new friends by summer's end.
For those who want something delightfully wordy to fill long, lazy beach days, Robert Jordan 's Wheel of Time series is ideal. Jordan has created an incredible series that has a dozen long volumes so far, and still doesn't seem close to ending. His books do need to be read in order for them to make sense, so begin with Eye of the World and move on from there. Protagonist Rand Al Thor may initially remind some of Luke Skywalker, but Jordan's world is so complete and enthralling that the few similarities to Lucas's work may be overlooked. Jordan is often compared to J. R. R. Tolkien. These books are truly hard to put down, and it is very easy to loose oneself in them for hours at a time.
Tamora Pierce is a prolific writer who has created several wonder-filled literary worlds. Gifted sons and daughters will enjoy her stories, which are populated with strong male and female characters who often have special abilities that can be both a blessing and a curse. Pierce tends to favor quartets based upon one character or theme, so the reader can start with book one of any particular series. The Circle of Magic Quartet should be followed by The Circle Opens, but otherwise, each short series can stand alone. Some other great series by Pierce are The Immortals, Song of the Lioness, and The Provost's Dog. I love all of her work and wish she could write a bit faster! Be aware that there are some oblique references to sex in many of these books, as well as discussion of a character's menarche in Protector of the Small. My son was a little confused by it when he read this particular book at age nine.
Very dark, but very enticing and exotic, Herbie Brennan's Faerie Wars books are great reads. The fourth volume in the series, “Faerie Lord”, has recently been released. These stories involve a troubled teenage boy from our own world who interacts with characters from an otherworldly realm. Though the books do contain a fair amount of violence, the twisting plot lines and likable characters will keep you reading and rooting for “the good guys”.
Anne McCaffrey is another author with plenty of titles to her credit. She created the planet Pern, where people ride Dragons and fight bizarre enemies. Again, there are some references to sex, though nothing terribly descriptive. Pern is a beautiful planet and the humans who settle there have all the quirks and foibles of real people. The dragons and the way they bond with their humans are fascinating. The Dragonriders of Pern books hop back and forth in time according to order of publication. New readers may feel most comfortable starting with the Harper Hall trilogy.
Finally, my teenage son's favorite fantasy series is about Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Anyone who appreciates the humor of Monty Python should love Terry Pratchett. His stories are ridiculous but highly entertaining. If you're tired of sage old magic users like Merlin, Gandalf, and Dumbledore, you should get to know Pratchett's Rincewind. He's got to be the most inept wizard ever, though somehow, he always comes out of bad situations unscathed. My all time favorite Discworld character though, is Death. He's hysterically funny, and goes around accompanied by a rodent sized mini grim reaper who represents the death of rats. Discworld beginners should look for The Color of Magic and then go on to The Light Fantastic. There are dozens of books in this series, and they can be digested very quickly.