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Topic: Non-Magic Fantasy

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Subject: Non-Magic Fantasy
Date Posted: 4/20/2008 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/8/2007
Posts: 49
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Anyone have any recommendations for fantasy books without magic, or at least with very limited magic.  I've never been able to get into books with alot of magic in them and most fantasy seems, by definition, to have a lot.

 

Thanks for any help,

Mike

Date Posted: 4/20/2008 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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Mike,

This may be a long shot, but have you ever tried the "Tales of the Otori" series by Lian Hearn?  They are set in medieval Japan---our hero is born with certain gifts that are amplified with the onset of puberty and some training: he has incredible hearing, can go invisible and can split his image.  He doesn't use these talents much, only when needed, so the "magic" isn't very overwhelming.

I loved this series!  There is warfare, treachery, honor, intrigue...you name it!  The first book is "Across the Nightingale Floor", then "Grass for his Pillow", then "Brilliance of the Moon."  It was supposed to be a trilogy, but a fourth tale "The Harsh Cry of the Heron" was written, along with a prequel "Heaven's Net is Wide." 

I listened to the first three and the readers were wonderful.  Hope this sounds interesting!

Date Posted: 4/20/2008 9:37 PM ET
Member Since: 11/4/2005
Posts: 1,983
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I would suggest most of the books by David Gemmell, in particular the four books in the Rigante series( book one is Sword in the Storm), the Troy seies ( first book is Lord of the Silver Bow) or the first book in the Drenai saga (first book is Legend).  He is easily the most consistently good author I have read, he wrote 31 books and every one was good if not great.  The ones above are all very low magic if any.  The Troy series is more of a historical fiction than fantasy but it is told from a really interesting point of view.  I know there is a wait for the Troy series on PBS but it looks like there are copies of the other ones available now.

George R. R. Martens song of ice and fire series is also very good with low magic (first book is A Game of Thrones) but this series is not complete yet and he takes a really long time between books.

 

Mike

Date Posted: 4/20/2008 10:28 PM ET
Member Since: 6/8/2007
Posts: 49
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 I read and enjoyed Legend and I have book two.  I'll look at Gemmel's other series as well. 

 

I'm not sure about Medieval Japan but I'll give it a try.

Thanks,

Mike

Date Posted: 4/21/2008 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2008
Posts: 25
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The Initiate Brother by Sean Russell was an excellent medievil Japanese(ish) novel about a Monk who goes into a lords service.  It had little to no magic to my recollection, though, the monk was believed by his superiors to have a higher-purpose.  It was also a great read.

Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka was another Japanese Fantasy.  Set in 19th century Japan with an interesting cast of characters.  No magic at all. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman was also a great read, even if you saw the movie.  There is a little bit of magic, but the story doesn't revolve around it, and you barely notice it.

Michael Crichton's Timeline is about some people who travel back in time to Medieval France.  No magic, but some science fiction.

 

That's all about I can think of at the moment.  Usually Fantasy = magic, so it's tough to come up with good examples.   Interesting question, though. 

 

 

Date Posted: 4/21/2008 12:05 PM ET
Member Since: 8/2/2007
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An interesting cross-genre series is David Weber's that starts with "There Will Be Dragons" - it is set in the far future but has elements of SF, Fantasy and military action.  Check out www.baen.com for the series info.

Another interesting series is E E Knight's Vampire Earth series which has a lot of elements of SF and Fantasy, along with post-apocalypse reconstruction.   No magic and the vampires aren't really vampires. 

Date Posted: 4/21/2008 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2006
Posts: 50
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I've found that the "Sword & Sorcery" subgenre is less magic-oriented than most modern fantasy.  Magic is there, but it's rare, ritualistic, and eeeeevil.  Check out Robert E. Howard's characters: Conan (very different from the Schwarzenegger movies), Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Solomon Kane, et al.  Fritz Leiber's tales of Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser are also excellent S&S, and are relatively easy to obtain.  More info at http://www.swordandsorcery.org/

Date Posted: 4/21/2008 4:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2008
Posts: 25
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You, I almost said both the Conan series and the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books.  But, I haven't read the Conan books for myself, and the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories are in a world of magic, but since they themselves don't control it, it may be a good suggestion.  They're great stories.

Date Posted: 4/23/2008 9:30 AM ET
Member Since: 9/17/2007
Posts: 367
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Some excellent suggestions here. Maybe the original poster can clue us in on what about "magic" (which is a broad term) he doesn't like.

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 1:59 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
Posts: 1,583
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There is minimal magic in Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet.  The first one, A Shadow in Summer, is now out in PB, while A Betrayal in Winter is HB.

 

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 2:34 PM ET
Member Since: 6/8/2007
Posts: 49
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"Maybe the original poster can clue us in on what about "magic" (which is a broad term) he doesn't like."

 

I wish I could.  I'm not really sure what I don't like about it.  I think I just have a hard time believing it.  I know that's not very helpful.

 

I just got the first Fafhrd & Gray Mouser book. and I have a number of Howard's books but I haven't read any yet.    I've already read Princess Bride and Timeline and enjoyed both of them.

 

I think what I'm looking for is something with a setting like the Middle Ages but not.  If that makes any sense.

I'll try some of the suggestions made here already.

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 5:44 PM ET
Member Since: 8/2/2007
Posts: 72
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You might have better luck with alternate history type stories perhaps.  Then you could get the middle ages setting with a variety of other elements tossed in, depending on the story.

You might try the Eric Flint / David Drake Belisarius series which is set in the late Roman period when Constantinople was the capital.  You might also enjoy Flint's 1632 series which starts with 1632, set during the 100 Years War.  I know that is a bit advanced from the middle ages, but it is a really great series.  INfo on both at Baen or the latter at 1632.org

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 6:04 PM ET
Member Since: 6/8/2007
Posts: 49
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I've read a lot of alternate history including the 1632 series, although I've fallen behind.  I've never read any of the Belisarius series but it's on my ever increasing list. 

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 8:00 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
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I just remembered the Glasswright's series by Mindy Klasky.  Also minimal magic.

Date Posted: 5/10/2008 11:10 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,143
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I think what I'm looking for is something with a setting like the Middle Ages but not.  If that makes any sense.

I really think you would like George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, then.  I know it was mentioned upthread, but I'm seconding the recommendation, especially based on what you said here.

Date Posted: 5/11/2008 2:16 PM ET
Member Since: 7/8/2005
Posts: 1,010
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Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series is excellent.  It takes place in an Ancient Greecian type setting.  There are mention of the "gods" but not really magic.  Lots of political intrigue, twists and turns.  They are excellent but they need to be read in order.  The Thief,  The Queen of Attolia and the King of Attolia.

Date Posted: 5/11/2008 2:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/2/2007
Posts: 543
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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Has very little magic, sort of an historical fantasy book (it's set in the early 19th century England).
Date Posted: 5/21/2008 3:01 PM ET
Member Since: 11/17/2006
Posts: 182
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Interesting request.  I've always been under the impression that the fantasy genre contains magic by definition, or at the very least, supernatural creatures/characters/whatever, which I think implies some degree of magic.   I can't think of any book I would call fantasy that has no trace of magic in it.

Date Posted: 5/21/2008 3:45 PM ET
Member Since: 6/8/2007
Posts: 49
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Traces are ok.

Date Posted: 5/21/2008 5:52 PM ET
Member Since: 11/17/2006
Posts: 182
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I'll second the G.R.R. Martin Song of Fire and Ice series recommendation.  It's not too heavy on the magic.  There's definitely some magic and supernatural stuff in it, but not excessive and not the focus of the story, and it's a medevial-type setting with castles, etc.  The down side as a previous person mentioned is that it's an unfinished series, and the wait for the next installment gets old.

 

Date Posted: 5/21/2008 8:10 PM ET
Member Since: 9/15/2005
Posts: 319
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A great series with a middle ages-like setting but without magic wands is Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion series -- it starts with The Curse of Chalion.  All the fantasy elements revolve around interference by their gods, so no wizards are trying to take over the world or anything.

She's a great writer.  Her books tend to start slow and easy, and then she'll throw a whammy and hook you about a third of the way through!

Date Posted: 5/25/2008 10:33 AM ET
Member Since: 1/7/2008
Posts: 413
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Try Roger Zalany's Chronicles of Amber.  THey are really fast paced, lots of time travelesque stuff, but the magic is minimal except for some "fantastic" elements - for example the Chronicles of Amber details a family of feuding brothers and sisters in their search to control the one "true" realm Amber that all other worlds are just failing imitations of.  There are decks of playing cards with each family member on it that can be used to "summon" or "talk" to family members.  Aside from that and this eccentric grandfatherly character that can draw pictures so real they become real in a pinch, there's not much.  Its VERY fast paced, action oriented.  Has that brusqueness of say, Steven King.  I enjoy it. 

Date Posted: 5/27/2008 10:40 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
Posts: 782
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I just finished reading Silverlock by John Myers Myers and it appears to fall into the 'non- magic' fantasy category. AND it was an excellent book!

Subject: Magic
Date Posted: 5/28/2008 2:00 PM ET
Member Since: 2/22/2008
Posts: 908
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Anne McCaffrey's Pern series has dragons and dragonriders, but no magic.  I picked up one years ago because the front cover showed a man riding a flying dragon.  I got totally hooked and so did my gentleman friend.  We are both in our mid 50's.  Anne's son Todd, recently started writing with her and those books are great too.

 

D

Date Posted: 6/2/2008 1:21 PM ET
Member Since: 9/17/2007
Posts: 367
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If you wait before reading the George R.R. Martin series (the first is A Game of Thrones, I believe), when you finally do pick them up you will punch yourself in the groin for having waited.

The longer you wait, the harder you'll punch.

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