Please note, all of the following are fantasy novels, but I can’t stand traditional wizards in pointy hats with elves and trolls etc type fantasy. To draw me in, a fantasy trilogy has to offer me something very different, and I feel that the five I have picked, although you can find them in the fantasy section of the library or bookshop, all offer a different take on fantasy, from gothic to heroic to plain out of this world. The imagination involved in building these five different worlds are just phenomenal.
1. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Note – Outside the US, The Golden Compass is known as Northern Lights.
I adored this trilogy. I read it when I was sixteen. I reread it every year. Every time I reread it I discover something new. It is the deepest experience of any literature I have ever read. There are so many layers. Simultaneously, it can also be approached as a children’s adventure story. Lyra, and her companion Pantalaimon, face a series of adolescent and not-quite-so-adolescent trials as they set off to save Lyra’s best friend from an evil organisation, and eventually go on to save not just their world, but every world in every universe. It not only asks some big questions, but offers answers as well – and that’s why religious people hate it. Personally, I think it’s an educational tool in the understanding of brainwashing young people into unconditionally accepting religion. It asks people to question the rules that govern society. The Golden Compass was made into a moderately successful movie, but because of the heavy anti-campaigning from the religious right (because the novel suggests people question religion and – so it is claimed – the two heroes in The Subtle Knife kill God, where in fact they do NOT, God is elderly and dies a natural death… sorry to give that away but it pisses me off that people who haven’t even read the book try to campaign against it) The Subtle Knife film is not going ahead.
2. The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix
Note – In the US, the trilogy is simply known as The Abhorsen Trilogy.
This is truly a masterpiece, an epic piece of literature by one of Australia’s best fantasy writers. Simultaneously a tale about women’s power and coming of age mixed with horror and a rollickingly good plot, I devoured the first two when recommended by a friend, then had to wait impatiently for several years before Abhorsen was written to complete the trilogy. Originally, Sabriel was written as a stand-alone, and is an original take on the standard hero’s journey, while the other two more concentrate on two people finding their place in a world where they feel like outcasts. The take on how magic works is incredible as well, and it mixes the magic world (the Old Kingdom) with a non-magical world, separated by a wall. I don’t want to give much away about the plot, but I suggest you go and read read read, because Nix is on par with the great fantasy writers like Tolkien and Lewis. It’s an incredible story that is spread over all three books, but can be read as three separate stand-alones; and everything is neatly wrapped up at the end. Only a master storyteller can do this.
3. The Isles of Glory by Glenda Larke
This is another fantastic trilogy from an Australian author that mixes magic and science together in a fantasy world separated by a strict breeding program. Blaze Halfbreed is a magnificent lead female, and totally one of the coolest warrior women I have ever read about. I really identify with her frustrations on being a 6 feet tall woman. I love the relationship developed between her and Flame, as it is a heterosexual female friendship you don’t see much of in fantasy. Warrior women tend to clash with other females in fantasy. Some kind of competitive thing, I think. Magic is approached in a way that eventually shows the good guys as the manipulators, much like the way I see capitalism.