Dragon on a Pedestal by Piers Anthony
There is trouble in Xanth again. The Gap Dragon had escaped and was ravaging across the land, the forget-spell was causing mass amnesia, three-year old Ivy was headed right for a hungry dragon. Could things get any worse? Probably....
I was 14 and picked this book based entirely on the cover. I think the colors were what appealed to me the most, but the contrast between the dragon and a little girl totally captured my imagination. The book is the seventh in a series and one that prompted me to go back and read everything Anthony had written up to that point. I can't say whether the story would hold up to adult scrutiny, but my 14-year-old self loved the pun-based magic that was a huge part of story.
The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Ancient Evil threatens the Elves: The ancient tree created by long-lost Elven magic, is dying. When Wil Ohmsford is summoned to guard the Amberle on a perilous quest to gather a new seed for a new tree, he is faced with the Reaper, the most fearsome of all Demons. And Wil is without power to control them....
This is another book I picked up thanks to its colorful cover (drawn by Darrell K. Sweet-- who also drew "Dragon on a Pedestal") and it's the first book I ever read that fell into the real sword-and-sorcery style of fantasy. Again, I didn't pay attention to where this book fit into the series but got lucky in that it could be read as a stand alone novel. I didn't fall in love with the whole series because each of the first three (or so) books are basically the same story- but I LOVED this book because I thought the Reaper was genuinely scary. I'd love to revisit this book now and see if it has the same impact now as it had then.
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?
To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.
But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .
I'm pretty sure I bought this book for two reasons: the main character was female and dragons... Even though this series gets into some sci-fi elements later on, it really reads like fantasy thanks to its telepathic dragons. The sexual overtones and politics were over my head when I first read this series so I liked it a lot, but I'm not sure that my current sensibilities go with McCaffrey's - but it must be remembered that this was published in 1968. Nonetheless this is a series that carried me through many, many boring high school lectures.
Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...?
This is the first series that had me prowling the bookstores hoping for the next book in the series to come out. Digital downloads have pretty much ended my days of roaming the aisles of my favorite bookstores- which is a shame as that is how I found all of my early favorites. And I must admit to some disappointment in the later books written by Eddings because they were so saccarine they made my teeth ache. But the first five books were pure magic.
Of this particular list I think I'm most tempted to go back and read "The Elfstones of Shannara." I'm pretty sure I haven't read that book in at least 20 years and I'm curious to see if it still seems like a dark piece of fiction all these years later.
What about you? What books lured you into the fantasy genre? And which ones would you recommend for someone with some serious reader's block?