Category Archives: Fantasy

Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

This book sells itself as “high fantasy and low stakes” and delivers on both counts. There’s all manner of creatures like goblins, orcs, and elves, along with various spells, monsters, and magical items.

However, it is about a fighter orc who literally hangs up her sword and opens a café. The troubles she encounters are almost entirely about the mundane difficulties of running a business, but with enough fantasy creatures and magic to make it interesting.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I’ve read so many hack-and-slash fantasy books, and played enough Dungeons & Dragons that I really enjoyed this low-key approach to things. The characters were fun, grounded, and relatable.

Recommendation: Read it if you’ve read a lot of fantasy and might enjoy a fresh take on things. Or are in the mood for something gentle.

26 Best Grimdark Books

Art by Kai Lim

Grimdark is a fantasy subgenre that is particularly dystopian, amoral, or violent. Its protagonists tend toward the conflicted antihero, and its worlds are often brutal and nihilistic. The writing also tends to be much grittier and realistic. A whimsical quest to get the magic doohickey this is not.

The slightly overwrought term is inspired by the tagline of the tabletop strategy game Warhammer 40,000: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.”

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23 Best Fantasy Mystery Books

We like mystery because life is mysterious, and storytelling exists to help us figure out how to live. Mysteries help us figure out how to deal with the unending avalanche of unknowns in our own lives (probably not directly, unless you deal with dead bodies a lot).

Some say that mysteries are popular because people like puzzles. Well, I like a certain kind of mystery, but I’ve never been a puzzle person.

I like Raymond Chandler mysteries, the hard-boiled detective who fights to stay alive while prowling dark alleys and darker minds. Often, I don’t care that much about the final reveal of who the real criminal is. It’s the journey, the tortuous path that I like.

In fantasy especially, the who-dunnit can easily become a what-dunnit.
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23 Best Fantasy Graphic Novels

Sandman, © Vertigo Comics

There’s still a stigma to reading graphic novels. As a grown man, I wouldn’t do it in public. However, at home, I love them and I encourage my kid to read every one he gets his hands on.

At their best, graphic novels combine deep, thoughtful storytelling with real works of art. I’m glad to see that great comics are still being written and drawn (and inked and colored).
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