The best fantasy books that break the mould

Martin Ash Author Of Enchantment's Reach: The Orb Undreamed
By Martin Ash

Who am I?

I have a great love of visionary fantasy fiction, metaphysical mystery thrillers, and fiction that doesn’t conform to generic norms, be it novels or film, as well as music and the arts. I’m also passionate about exploring the unknown, the mysteries of the mind, consciousness, and our existence in this unfathomable universe. In that regard, I love to travel. Some of my most recent escapades have included journeys deep into the Peruvian Amazon, Brazil, the Andes, and Mexico, meeting local indigenous folk wherever possible, and participating in shamanic ceremonies and tribal rituals. And lastly, I’m an ardent Formula One fan – something that has not yet featured in my fiction, though it may.

I wrote...

Enchantment's Reach: The Orb Undreamed

By Martin Ash,

Book cover of Enchantment's Reach: The Orb Undreamed

What is my book about?

Enchantment’s Reach is a land torn apart by internal and external conflict. Secrets from the past resurface, religious factions and fanatical cults revive ancient feuds. An unfathomable non-human warrior race musters at the border. A mysterious, powerful being materializes from somewhere deep within the Reach and an enigmatic child seems to hold the key to an extraordinary mystery.

Via intrigues and desperate quests, Issul and Leth, rulers of Enchantment’s Reach, discover their world is not as they had perceived it. Journeying deep within mysterious Enchantment, where no human has ever been, they begin to uncover the true nature of the awakening universe into which they have been born.
Mystery and magic, conflict, intrigue, love, and suspense, all woven into a spellbinding fantasy saga. This book is Volume 1 of 6.

The books I picked & why

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Titus Groan

By Mervyn Peake,

Book cover of Titus Groan

Why this book?

I love the vivid characterisation and rich, intricate prose. In the crumbling, stultifying world of Gormenghast castle obscure rituals, unchanged for centuries, are reenacted at times on a daily basis, though no one seems to quite know why. There dwells Lord Sepulchrave, melancholy and mad; the formidable, self-indulgent Lady Gertrude with birds nesting in her hair; their sulky, impulsive daughter, Fuchsia. Then there’s Abathia Swelter, the loathsome chef with a taste for cruelty; his arch-foe, the skeletal Flay. Steerpike, an ambitious, manipulative kitchen boy who escapes his world of drudgery, seeking influence and power in the world of Gormenghast. And so many more…

And finally there is Titus, the baby whose birth will change everything.

Titus Groan is magnificent. For me, a fantasy of a wholly different species.

Lyonesse Book 1

By Jack Vance,

Book cover of Lyonesse Book 1

Why this book?

I was instantly transported by this epic saga of high fantasy steeped in legend and myth. The beautiful descriptions of the rugged, dreamlike, and sometimes sinister lands and fabulous otherworld dimensions of the Elder Isles, make Lyonesse an incomparable read. I love Vance’s stunning prose style, his razor-sharp dry humour, and the complexity of his characters. It is boundary-defying fantasy, mercifully devoid of elves, dwarves, and dragons but brimful with intrigues and subplots, unexpected twists, sudden violence, acts of heroism, and scenes of tragedy, love, strangeness, and betrayal. Lyonesse is magic from beginning to end.

Alice in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll, Illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer,

Book cover of Alice in Wonderland

Why this book?

Inimitable, surreal, nonsensical, logic-defying, disorienting, and absolutely wonder-filled. I love the craziness of the characters. They talk in riddles or nonsense, some are playful or possibly wise, some are ill-mannered, some despotic and cruel. Time, space, and identity cease to have meaning in any conventional sense. The child Alice, boundlessly curious, drops down the rabbit hole into a fantasy world that makes no sense at all and yet somehow mirrors our own world. With John Tenniel’s original illustrations, it delighted me as a child and continues to do so as an adult.

Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

Why this book?

Gothic horror and prototypical science fiction rather than fantasy, but a masterpiece of the genre, written by Shelley when she was just eighteen. Ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein, in his quest to discover the secret of life and death, creates a sapient ‘monster.’ Horrified by his creation, he abandons it. The creature escapes… 

I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

What appeals to me, apart from the wonderful storytelling and tension is the way Shelley deftly and wisely explores the complexity and depth of human emotions, the consequences of overreaching ambition and our attempts to play god and corrupt nature, how we respond to the ‘Other,’ the awesome yet restorative power of Nature itself…

The Metamorphosis

By Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold (translator),

Book cover of The Metamorphosis

Why this book?

"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking from troubling dreams, he discovered he had been changed into a monstrous verminous insect."

What an opening sentence! In my teens I was captivated by the strangeness, the absurdity, the sense of sacrifice, and the surreal, deeply unsettling nature of this tale, and re-reading it again now, I still am.
Gregor loathes his dull job – something so many of us can relate to – but is bound to support his debt-ridden family. Transformed into something monstrous, he is freed of family obligations but has now become a burden.

Despite his metamorphosis, Gregor’s thoughts remain on somehow getting to work and the difficulties his absence will create. His relatives largely respond as if he is ill, with a mix of sympathy and revulsion but no great sense of shock or surprise.

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