When I was twelve, my step-grandfather's daughter-in-law gave me a printer-paper box full of fantasy novels. I barely knew her, but she knew that I was both a big ol' nerd and always on the hunt for something to read.
The first book I grabbed, The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly, was published in 1986. The cover was dated even by the standards of the late nineties, but I didn't care. I didn't even waste time reading the back copy. I intended to read every book in that box, and The Silent Tower was as good a place to start as any.
It was, in fact, the best place to start. The Windrose Chronicles, of which The Silent Tower is the first novel, is a complex character-driven page-turner bursting with wit, charm, adventure, and action. I've re-read it until the covers fell off.
I don't regularly re-read books. Only two other books/series have captivated me this way. The first is War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. Published in 1987, it's one of the first true urban fantasies. While similarly character-driven, War for the Oaks trades in the page-turning action for a languid, poetic beauty.
The final series that I find myself returning to time and time again is The Belgariad by David Eddings. It's just fun. The myriad characters create a unique dynamic and their constant travels expose them to countless interesting corners of their world. For my money, I wouldn't really care if he had skipped the overarching, if archetypal, plot about prophesies and chosen ones and just had his character questing for fun.
Every time I talk books with a fellow nerd, I mention The Windrose Chronicles. No one's ever heard of it. Then I mention that it was written by Barbara Hambly--you know, the prolific fantasy author from the 1980s? I get confused looks.
Then I segue into War for the Oaks. I'm met with pursed lips and raised brows.
Finally, I mention The Belgariad by David Eddings and, more often than not, a conversation springs to life. Among the right crowd, David Eddings is essentially a household name.
Which is great--he deserves his success and fame. But damn it, so does Barbara Hambly, and so does Emma Bull.
Which is why I'm here; there have to be more Emma Bulls and Barbara Hamblys, with impeccable work unfairly lost to time. And with the help of my local nerdy used book store, I'm going to find them.