With all of us just plain fed up with the politics and virus and all the depressing stuff that get force-fed to us every day, thought I’d put up a list of “feel good” fantasy that’ll just makes you sit back and just takes you for an enjoyable ride guaranteed to put a smile on your faces at the finish!
So, how do we define “feel good”? Everybody feels good after a good book irrespective of the genre, right? For me, it’s all about the tone. Books invoke a variety of feelings in the reader, but for this specific purpose, if the reader is happily cheering at the protagonist’s corner all through the book (keyword: happily), that’s the one I’d consider “feel good”. Now these aren’t all happy go lucky protagonists. They have obstacles to overcome, villains to defeat, trials to endure … but they underlying feeling is always one of joy, hope and cheer! Just sheer fun!
Without further ado, here is the list in no particular order.
CRADLE by Will Wight
Books in series: Unsouled, Soulsmith, Blackflame, Skysworn, Ghostwater, Underlord, Uncrowned, Wintersteel, Bloodline [forthcoming]
Now I could become a karate champion trying to wax (on and off) lyrical to this series which has gripped me from the day I started on “Unsouled” and till current day where I frequently heap abuse on Will’s inability to produce a new book every week!
The book follows the protagonist (Wei Shi Lindon) as he embarks on a grand adventure to get powerful enough to save his town from destruction from a Dreadgod. Now apart from having such an adventurous journey as a plot, what sets this series apart is the fun diversity of the world and characters. Every book is set in a different part of the world following Lindon’s journey making them unique and refreshing. It’s got a variety of characters from martial artists of all powers, to Heralds, Sages, Monarchs, Dreadgods to Heavenly Messengers and supreme Judges. The characters and races are all fresh to this series and every single one of them has a depth to make an individual impact to the reader.
It’s just amazing that Wintersteel, the 8th book in the series was released last year and still has fans clamoring for more! Eighty books in this series won’t satisfy me. I’d still want more!
MURDERBOT DIARIES by Martha Wells
Books in series: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, Network Effect [forthcoming]
When I first head the name, I was kind of thinking obviously of a trope-y murder mystery involving robots. To say I was pleasantly surprised when Murderbot turned out to be a cynical security bot which has hacked its own control unit so it can watch Entertainment Feeds, mostly TV dramas. What makes Murderbot so likeable is the human element that is a constant underlying theme to every page and this especially reminds me of Andrew Martin in the acclaimed Bicentennial Man by Asimov! A vein of dry sarcastic humor runs all through the books which just keeps the smile on your face till the end.
We get treated to a quietly compulsive character that just wants to be left alone with a cynical distrust to everyone and everything else, but somehow (which itself can’t explain) repeatedly puts itself into dangerous situations to save “it’s humans” and refusal to acknowledge the word “friend” is just plain charming and the blooming relationship between the crew and Murderbot as it blossoms from book 1 through 5 is something to savor. It also touches upon various facets of life like Big Corporates, Android treatment, Gender Neutrality etc in a subtle yet powerful fashion.
To summarize, you just can’t help not like Murderbot!
ELI MONPRESS by Rachel Aaron
Books in series: The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, The Spirit Eater, The Spirit War, Spirit’s End
What happens if a young rapscallion wizard aspires to be the greatest thief in the world? What then happens if he partners with wannabe greatest swordsman in the world who already carries the greatest sword in the world? And to add to the fun, throw in a loveable little demon that scares the crap out of everyone and has a huge target on its back. What follows starts off as fun heist job just blooms bigger and bigger to have world threatening implications! Sounds generic? The books definitely are not!
The book follows Eli as he aspires to be the greatest thief not to acquire wealth, but to have the largest bounty ever on his head. He is a effervescent character who prima facie comes across as mischievous, irresponsible and happy go lucky, but then we get to discover his background, situation and intentions unfolding to bring forth the real Eli. Josef and Nico aren’t just sidekicks but have their own backstory and influential to the plot on their own. Not just with Eli, the relationship between Josef and Nico is done spectacularly well! The joy of Eli, the brooding of Josef and tragic history of Nico just complement each other making one of the most fun group of MCs in fantasy history! Finally to round things off we have Miranda who’s the psychological flipside of Eli.
Magic system is unique, with all objects having spirits and wizards able to command them. We get treated to a wide variety of spirits small as a door to big as a mountain, good and evil wizards, gods and demons; it’s a treat of a series!
CHRONICLES OF THE FID by David H Reiss
Books in series: Fid’s Crusade, Behind Distant Stars, Starfall
First superhero fantasy entrant to this list!
Book 1 was hands down the best book I’ve read in 2019. What a journey! It’s like reading Iron Man, Despicable Me and The Incredibles all in same book. It’s an astonishingly refreshing and fun series.
Our MC is Dr. Fid a self-made techie super-villian, who after seeing his brother die, because a hero refused to help makes it his job to keep heroes in check and bring the wayward ones to task. One of the most fun villains, I ever rooted for! The character arc of Fid is one of the most loveable arc’s I’ve ever read. It just felt so natural and yet over the top at the same time! Add in alien villains, bad heroes and a loveable android girl, and this blossoms into a wholesome, well written, down to earth and thoroughly fun adventure rollercoaster ride of a book. Not just super-fights, but the author nails down the human interplay emotions just right to leave a deep impact as you start understanding and sympathizing with and rooting for the characters.
The writing style is crisp, laced with light humor and gives you not just the plot but also the feelings and decision making of the characters. If you are looking for good old fashioned fun series which would leave you emotionally happy at the end, look no further.
HERE BE DRAGONS by David P MacPherson
A MC suffering from mid-life crisis, a man chest and an ornery donkey gets on a quest to save the dragons. If you ever thought of trope-inversion, this book would just make you roll with laughter.
The book follows the protagonist, a wannabe hero, who ends up married after his first ever quest and now enjoying a laid back life reminiscing of heroic stuff. Now, he gets pulled into an innocuous quest which just spirals out of controls into a rip-roaring fun adventure to help a dragon that needs saving. It’s just pure fun to follow the cynical hero accompanied by the snide donkey making the journey that just get improbable-er every step of the way. Though this immediately triggers Shrek in your mind, be at ease…this books is just as unique and refreshing. This book has a lot of charm to it. All the characters are eminently loveable and not just in a comic way. They are people you’d love to meet in real life!
Not just the humor, but David makes the character feel wholesome and real, someone we can relate to and cheer for.
DARK PROFIT SAGA by Zachary Pike
Books in series: Orconomics, Son of Liche, Dragonfired [forthcoming]
Now I’m absolutely haven’t come across any book even remotely similar to this, which kind of makes this harder to introduce to people. The closest I can compare this is with the esteemed Terry Pratchett’s Moist von Lipwig books. It’s just as good too!
It’s a satiric comedy fantasy book that takes digs at capitalism. Heroism (as in defeating evil monsters) has become a business with people investing in quests for a share of loot and then packaging these shares to be traded at exchange. Not quite subtle dig on mortgage backed financial crisis of 2007-08. Even the character names [Goldson Baggs for Goldman Sachs] are part of the satire. I’d have never thought something related to finance and fantasy could be mixed well, but this just breaks all expectations.
The plot follows our hero dwarf as he assembles a madcap team of colorful misfits including a hapless goblin, alcoholic elf warrior, two mages who can’t sand each other etc on a journey which would test all of them. The books move between the adventures of the group and the fantasyconomics of the city seamlessly. The climax is epic and you just can’t help wanting to dive into next book immediately!
KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames
Books in series: Kings of the Wyld, Bloody Rose
“Expendables” of Fantasy! The tale follows the famed adventure band Saga, who has since retired. Now one of the band has a terrible necessity and the band gets together to resolve the problems in their unique style.
It’s quite a fund read with a vein of humor running all through the pages. We get a cast of different and unique characters who all are ‘over the hill’ for adventuring, but still get back together and put some swag on! It’s a fantastic world with huge bunch of races, monsters and lands to adventure in. The initial pages are all about the members, their myths, their legends, and ofc their legendary weapons! Then the band gets off to the race and once the adventuring starts, you just can’t help but follow them through the pages and cheer. Lots of action and we get treated to the legends themselves and their legendary weapons, their myths et al. There are no pacing issues as the book grabs you from the start and doesn’t let up till the end.