Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs get to follow along with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel listing their favorite books with a particular fantasy trope. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
23rd OF OCTOBER, 2014 – ELVES
ELVES claims to have been the first people in Fantasyland. They are called the Elder Race. They did not evolve like humans, but sprang into being just as they are now.
Now, this one is easy. All I have to do is narrow my picks down to a manageable number.
1. J.R.R. TOLKIEN’S MIDDLE-EARTH
My favorite elves. Whether they are Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri, Avari, Eldar, Nandor, Sindar, or Silvan, it doesn’t matter to me. These guys are the true Elder Race, who walked with the gods and exhibit all the wisdom and grandeur that I expect in my elves. Of course, my fondness might be because Tolkien was my first introduction to fantasy and t o fantasy elves in general, but no matter, that just makes them my first love, which means that they hold a special place in my heart above those that came after.
Buy The Silmarillion at Amazon.
I have not read many of the Warhammer Time of Legends novels, but what I have read has made me a huge fan of the elves of this land. From their peaceful past to the Chaos Wars to their old world empire to the Sundering and their ongoing battles with their Dark Elf kin, these people never fail to amaze me in their mesmerizing history. I can’t recommend these elves more highly.
Buy Malekith (Time of Legends) at Amazon.
3. MORIGU by MARK C. PERRY
This unfinished fantasy tour de force is filled with larger than life heroes and villains, gore-coated combat, huge battles, gods and goddess, and every fantasy race imaginable — including elves. While at first glance, Mr. Perry’s elves seem to be clones of the LoTR elven people of Tolkien, this quickly begins to change as the elves of Morigu morph into many shapes: noble elves, wise elves, mad elves, bloodthirsty elves, crazed elves, and haunted elves. But the one thing they never are, no matter how different from each other they appear, is boring. And when dealing with elves, the thing I will not tolerate is boring, so Mr. Perry’s version of elves is definitely on the list.
Buy at Morigu: The Desecration at Amazon.
4. THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT by R.A. SALVATORE
I know lots of people have always hated Drizzt, have grown to hate him, are tired of him, or don’t particularly care for Mr. Salvatore’s writing style, but all of you have to admit that The Legend of Drizzt has some pretty spectacular elves in the drow. These vile (Well, mostly) subterranean dwellers have a unique society, culture, religion, and mythos that is pretty spectacular and well worth a try — even if you don’t exactly dig Drizzt himself. So, while I can understand some of your disdain for the series itself, I really could never conceive of anyone NOT rating the drow as some of the best fantasy elves out there.
Buy Homeland: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I at Amazon.
5. THE RIFTWAR SAGA by RAYMOND E. FEIST
The elves in this series start off as pretty much a clone of Tolkien’s silvans, but slowly, as the tale evolves, they and their shadowy origins turn into something a lot more surprising and interesting. While I don’t want to reveal any spoilers for those of you who haven’t yet read this fantasy classic, let me just say that Mr. Feist’s interesting twist on the normal elven myths was pretty cool and unexpected for the time, though I realize it isn’t as earth shattering now. Even with that being said, the elves in the Riftwar Saga are never the “stars” of the show, but they do become bigger and bigger players in the ongoing storyline until finally they are at the center of it all by the conclusion. Well worth a try for elf lovers.
Buy Magician: Apprentice at Amazon.
6. VLAD TALTOS by STEVEN BRUST
While not as exceptional as when I first read about them in the 1980s, the Dragaean (or elves, as the humans call them) are an amazing example of the Elder Race of creatures. These guys basically control the world, allow the humans to exist because they are not too much of a problem, and spend most of their time in political machinations, magical research, and general killing of time, because, you know, it gets boring when you live forever. For those and many other reasons, the Dragaean of Mr. Brust were some really cool elves when I first encountered them, and I still have to recognize them as one of my favorite elven people of all time.
Buy The Book of Jhereg at Amazon.
7. THE ORIGINAL SHANNARA TRILOGY by TERRY BROOKS
I’m not what you would call a Shannara fan. Sure, I read the original trilogy during my teenage days in the 1980s, but I went almost thirty years before I returned to Terry Brooks fantasy world. What I have always remembered about Shannara was the really cool elves, especially the central role they played in book two of the trilogy, The Elfstones of Shannara, where their historical enemies and their magical realm are the epicenter of an apocalyptic event that could destroy the world. So while the Elves of Shannara might not be much more than LoTR-prototypes, they are still interesting LoTR-prototypes, so they have to be on my list.
Buy The Sword of Shannara at Amazon.
Absolutely a clone of the Middle-Earth elves of Tolkien, but be that as it may, I always enjoyed reading about the Qualinesti and Silvanesti elves of the Dragonlance world. The Elven Nations trilogy being a favorite of mine during its day and the one that focused the most on these Dragonlance elves and their diverse realms. I will grudgingly admit that these elves do not excite me as much now that I am older and, hopefully, wiser and more well read, but I felt it appropriate to, at least, tip my hat to these old favorites.
Buy Firstborn: Elven Nations (Elven Nations Trilogy Book 1) at Amazon.
9. MITHGAR by DENNIS L. McKIERNAN
Many critics of this series says that Mr. McKiernan basically “copied” Tolkien’s ideas. Well, in The Iron Tower Trilogy, I generally agree (though almost all fantasy series after Tolkien copied him to some level), but after those first few books, the author expanded upon Tolkien’s ideas and slowly evolved beyond them until the Mithgar series became more than just a “copycat” Lord of the Rings. But no matter all that, though, the elves in this series are definitely in the LoTR mold, which isn’t a bad thing for those of us who can’t get enough of Tolkien’s elves. Since I’m one of those people, reading about the Mithgar elves is as close to reading another Tolkien book as I’m going to get, so for that reason, these elves are definitely on my list.
Buy The Iron Tower Omnibus (Mithgar) at Amazon.
10. CORUM by MICHAEL MOORCOCK
This might be cheating, since the list is about “Elves”, but I have to give a shout out to my favorite elven character outside LoTR: Corum Jhaelen Irsei, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe, last of the noble race of the Vadhagh and avenger of his Chaos-ravaged world. While the Vadhagh do not call themselves “elves”, everyone else labels them as such, and since Corum is my favorite Eternal Champion and an “elf”, he had to make an appearance on my list whether he fits the actual criteria or not.
Buy Corum: The Coming of Chaos (Eternal Champion) at Amazon.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY BEST OF FANTASY LISTS.
Brilliant list! Really need to read some R. A. Salvatore
Wow – you absolutely ran amok this week!! Well done. Brooks – not read any (eek) – and, I’ve just bought two but they’re at the end of the long list of books instead of the beginning. The Dark Legacy books! Drat – I suppose I really should start at the beginning…
The Dragaeran were indeed very cool, I included them in my list too – plus isn’t it just a hoot they think themselves as “humans”? I haven’t read any of the Shannara books, but I do know they have elves and I foresee I’ll see a lot of Terry Brooks this week.
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I am reading my first Moorcock as we speak, but it is his Elric that drew me in. Glad to see someone else digging through Warhammer. There are some gems hidden in that series (and some not so much)
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Great list! I know you mentioned missing Guy Gavriel Kay when you stopped by, but I immediately noticed I missed Raymond E Feist, so I guess that makes us even. 🙂
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I’ve read NONE of this! And I call myself a fantasy lover. *sigh
No wait, I’ve read Dragonlance. Although, not all of them since.. come on, there are hundreds of them! But yeah, they were always a guilty pleasure of mine.
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Good one! And so nice that you put Silmarillion there instead of its better-known siblings. It’s still my favorite Tolkien book. The opening chapter, with the Middle Earth genesis, if you like, is one of the most haunting pieces of literature I’ve read.
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Tolkien definitely did it best. His elves were a sort of aspirational state for mankind. Something we mortals could only dream of being.
As much as I love Tolkien… the Silmarillion reads like the Bible.
I totally agree The Silmarillion is the fantasy Bible. Must be why I have it beside my bed at night. 🙂