Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Christian/Inspirational Fantasy 101

This week's Top Tuesday topic is a unique one from The Broke and The Bookish's blog. As the title suggests, if you were teaching a course or class on whatever book/literary topic or genre you wanted, what books would be on your syllabus?  I decided to do an overview of Christian Fantasy --I also included links to goodreads if you want to read the summaries of the first books in the series.

The Artist Librarian's Christian Fantasy 101 Top Ten Booklist
Christian Fantasy 101 Required Reading Booklist*

First, my "bonus entries" that I'm not counting as my top ten are The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
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I don't think I need to explain why these two great authors need to be on this list.  Lewis' allegorical series is arguably the best known Christian fantasy series and Tolkien is considered one of the founders of what we know as fantasy today thanks to his incredibly detailed world-building.

1.  The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson
--Unfortunately, I have not read a ton of Juvenile Christian Fantasy novels, but these were some of them.  I remember enjoying it even though as a teen, I wasn't the target age.  It has a Narnia-like premise (a child from the present discovers another world), however looking at goodreads reviews for the first novel, it seems there are mixed opinions on it.  The Rise of the Wyrm Lord (#2) is my favorite, but I do remember the allegory being a bit heavy-handed, especially in the final book, which I disliked [edit: to clarify, I didn't dislike the novel, but the heavy-handed allegory *wink*]. I would have my hypothetical class discuss these various topics, pros/cons, etc.
Start With: The Door Within (2007)

2.  The DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul
--Another series that has mixed reviews, but this series introduced me to the current Christian fantasy market.  Kale Allerion is my heroine!  I absolutely adore this series.  I call Donita the "Janette Oke of Christian fantasy" because her books have a wide age audience: upper elementary and up (no super  graphic depictions of violence, sweet romance, etc.) and I just picture her as a grandma telling her grandkids a story.  ;-) Also, this fantasy was unique for it's time because it was aimed at teen girls: "I thought my target audience would be young ladies. The heroine is fourteen and carries kitten-sized dragons in her pockets ..." Donita K. Paul interview.  I would probably assign DragonSpell (#1) and DragonQuest (#2) because DragonQuest is my favorite and DragonSpell takes a while to get started, so once you read the first two novels, you'll have a good idea on if you want to keep going with the series or not.
Star With: DragonSpell (2004)

3.  Auralia's Thread Quartet by Jeffrey Overstreet
--In my opinion, one of the most poetic, artful prose I've seen in Christian fantasy ... so much so that I kind of got lost when I first read it as a teen.  I'd like to re-read it (and actually, I don't think I ever finished the series)?  Again, there mixed opinions on the books (seems to be a common theme here).  Upper YA and older.
Start With: Auralia's Colors (2007)

4.  Tales from Goldstone Woods by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
--Stengl's fantasy stories borrow literary themes from fairy tales and other classic works.  While her first novel was a bit heavy-handed on the allegories, I've enjoyed slowly working my way through her series (I'm currently on #3).  Good world-building and I'm super intrigued by Golden Daughter (#7), which seems to have an Asian-inspired main character (the first I've seen in Christian fantasy)!
Start With: Heartless (2010)

5.  The Blood of Kings Trilogy by Jill Williamson
--One of my more recent discoveries, this is one of the first Christian fantasy novels I read that wasn't aimed at kids but an older audience.  Straight up medieval-styled fantasy world with echoes of other cultures made it a fascinating world to explore --I loved the fact that her novels were 400-500 pages!  This series taught me not to overlook smaller presses ...
Upper YA and older.
Start With: By Darkness Hid (2009)

6.  The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen R. Lawhead
--Combining King Arthur, Celtic mythology and the legend of Atlantis, the Pendragon Cycle is one of Lawhead's most famous works.  Despite having not yet any of his books, as one of the first contemporary Christian fantasy authors (he was first published in the 1980s), I feel his work has "historical" importance and would be included in my course syllabus.
Start With: Taliesin (1987)

7.  The Sword of Lyric Trilogy by Sharon Hinck
--A soccer mom is pulled into another world ... is she the prophesied Restorer?  The target audience (adult women, who are the main purchasers of Christian fiction) makes this a unique Christian fantasy title.  I need to get my hands on the last two books ...
Start With: The Restorer (2007)

8.  The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker
--One of the best contemporary/alternate world concepts I've read.  It's fast-paced and keeps you turning pages.  The inclusion of Green, the prequel/sequel 4th novel kind of dulled my love for the series for it's controversial "ending," but I heard there is a revised, alternate ending in existence.  There are also graphic novel/comic book adaptations, for those curious.
Start With: Black (2004)

9.  The Staff and the Sword Trilogy by Patrick W. Carr
--Chalk this one up as, "examples of current Christian fantasy." I haven't read anything by Carr yet, but I'm excited that more adult Christian fantasy titles are hitting the market.  Most of the titles I was familiar with are aimed at the Juvenile or YA age group.  Making this list made me realize I need to get this high up on my TBR pile, since I keep hearing rave reviews about this one.
Start With: A Cast of Stones (2013)

10.  Books of the Infinite by R.J. Larson
--Featuring a Biblical-esque fantasy world.  Again, another author that I haven't read, but the premise sounds unique and like Patrick W. Carr, from a relative newcomer to the Christian fantasy realm.
Start With: Prophet (2012)

So do you agree or disagree with my picks?  Is there anything I'm missing?  Who are your favorite Christian fantasy authors or titles (or general market fantasy) --I'm always looking for more.  Let me know! [Edit: Also, if you've participated in this week's link up, feel free to share your list as well!]

*Cover images copyrighted by their respective publishers and owners.

[Edit: Formatting and expansion on final three titles]
Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Christian/Inspirational Fantasy 101 Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Christian/Inspirational Fantasy 101 Reviewed by The Artist Librarian on 8/25/2015 11:59:00 PM Rating: 5

14 comments:

  1. I really want to read the DragonKeeper Chronicles now. I always need more dragon books in my life ;) Thank you for that.
    And after seeing you list, i really think that you will enjoy the Dark Tower series. And Talon. And Tiger Lily. :) What can i say i do love those books and want to push them on everyone when ever i can.
    Fantastic list :)

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    1. Hope you enjoy --the little kitten-sized dragons (minor dragons) are adorable. I really liked her world-building too! =)

      Your summaries made them sound awesome and I'm a sucker for fantasy novels ... though I've been reading more historical fiction the past several years. Definitely going to hit up the library for them soon!

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  2. Awesome list! I have read and loved all of the DragonKeeper Chronicles, Tales of Goldstone Wood (LOVE!), The Staff & Sword (LOVE!). I enjoyed the Prophet and By Darkness Hid, and I've wanted to read Aurelia's Colors. I might add Blaggard's Moon and A Time to Die and Merlin's Blade. There are so many to choose from, it would be hard!

    Also, Golden Daughter is amazing!! And I love that it features an Asian-inspired character as well. The cultural difference between that book and the rest in the series is very cool.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Jennette! I just finished "A Time to Die" and wow. Intense dystopian for sure. I was curious about Treskillard's "Merlin's Blade" --will have to check that out (along with Moon, which I hadn't heard of).

      I might just have to skip over to "Golden Daughter" afterwards. I shuffled some of my books around after doing some spring cleaning, so I need to figure out where I stashed #4 & 5 of the Goldstone books. =)

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  3. Oh! I noticed there is no Science-Fiction. Maybe A Star Curiously Singing or Numb? Or the Lamb Among the Stars series? I've not read much sci-fi...

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    1. I haven't read a lot of sci-fi either, so I decided to do fantasy rather than speculative fiction. I'll have to look up those titles!

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  4. Thanks for the List! I will be teaching a class on writing speculative fiction at an upcoming writers' conference and I will add these to my list of recommended reads.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Linda! Glad I could help. =)

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  5. Prophecy of the Heir by JC Lamont. It is breathtaking.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Robert! I haven't really read much Biblical fiction yet. Also, I love your Star Wars EU Chronology! The "Legends" books made me a fan of Star Wars, so I like that you include them along with the new "canon."

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  6. I need to read the alternate ending to Green! I was totally not content with that "ending." But yeah, the Circle Series and Tales of Goldstone Wood are definitely musts.

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    1. Me too! I think it's in the 4-in-1 edition? I need to look it up. =)

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  7. Oh great books here! Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. No problem, it was fun! Thanks for stopping by, Emilie!

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Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! Comments are always welcomed and appreciated. In respect for others, please keep your comments PG/"family friendly" =)

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