The ’90s saw incredible new authors join those from the ’80s.
As I recounted in So You Want To Read The ’80s, the SF&F genre saw unbelievable growth in the ’80s. It rolled right into the ’90s, with many of those same authors continuing established series — the success and money made from those series allowing publishers to find new talent. And there was a lot of talent to be found, as you will see below.
SF&F also saw the field branch out into under represented territory, some readers moving away from the epic and high fantasy of the ’80s and early ’90s for bestselling urban and paranormal romance fantasies. But perhaps even more important for the genre were the publications of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, both of which Terry Brooks attributes to “making fantasy safe for the entire world to read.” I will not list them below since who hasn’t read them?
That leaves some great books, some of which I know you’ve read, others that are waiting for you to be discovered. This list in no way represents every great novel from the ’90s. Rather, it is a wonderful and power-filled starting point.
How many of these have you read? And what would you add? Comment below!
Eye of the World (1990)
by Robert Jordan
Considered one of the finest examples of epic fantasy, Eye of the World published to great reviews and readership, the first book in a sweeping story that took 15 volumes and sadly two writers to complete. It uses many of the tropes of the genre but also is so large in scope that it cannot be ignored. To read the ’90s, one must read Eye of the World.
Good Omens (1990)
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
What happens when two powerhouse authors with very different strengths join forces to tell the tale of the End of Times? The birth of the son of Satan? An angel and demon living cozily along side one another? The Four Horesemen? We get Good Omens, one of the most hilarious books of the decade. It is as different from the bestselling fiction of the ’80s can be but it also highlights a new type of story that could be told. Soon to be a TV series.
The Diamond Throne (1991)
by David Eddings
I received some minor flak for not including David Eddings in my ’80s write-up. I enjoyed the Belgariad a great deal — especially the magic system and the thief Silk — but I have always enjoyed the Sparkhawk stories more. It doesn’t involve an orphan farm boy, for one, but instead a worn down knight who returns from exile to save the new young and former pupil queen who has been poisoned. Great characters and lots of questing.
Guilty Pleasures (1993)
by Laurell K. Hamilton
This was a break out book for urban fantasy and paranormal romance both. Especially in her first several novels, Hamilton was able to capture fantasy of the “other” world infringing on our own, creating a wonderful character in Anita Blake and a vast world for her to play in. Eventually the stories devolve into mere sexcapades, but these first few books were excellent.
Assassin’s Apprentice (1995)
by Robin Hobb
Hobb’s three-trilogy story about a young assassin brought up within a castle of machinations and political intrigue is considered one of the most beloved stories of all time. She is a fantastic writer, creating beautiful prose and memorable characters. If there was one book I would have you read on this list, Assassin’s Apprentice would be it. When George R. R. Martin likes it, you know it’s good.
The Golden Compass (1995)
by Philip Pullman
A young adult novel for adults! Pullman has managed to write one of the timeless masterpieces with His Dark Materials, the story of Lyra, a young Oxford girl who discovers a much larger world — and universe — in peril. The story is considered by some to be heretical, which makes it all the more intriguing. A must read.
Running with the Demon (1997)
by Terry Brooks
While fantasy readers know Brooks for his Shannara series, I consider Running with the Demon and its two sequels to be his best work. It is a dark contemporary fantasy set in modern day Illinois featuring a teenage girl, her sylvan sidekick, a demon who visits the town, and a knight who dreams of a future he needs to prevent. An amazing story for everyone.
Green Rider (1998)
by Kristen Britain
Few women have written epic and high fantasy as well as Kristen Britain. Green Rider published to rave reviews and the story of Karigan G’ladheon has continued every since. The book is filled with magic and politics, complex characters and danger at every turn. Readers who love Melanie Rawn’s work from the ’80s will love this too!