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Writers Read Fantasy

Welcome to Friday and our new series, Writers Read. Congratulations to Barbara Bruneau who won a copy of Bob Sitze’s book on hope.

Today’s guest blogger is my friend and colleague, Maggie Lux Cumings. She blogs at Never Done It That Way Before and stopped by our blog to recommend Witch and Wizard Fantasy Novels. Enjoy!

Writers Read Fantasy by Maggie Lux Cumings

When I heard the retreat leader’s question, I laughed so hard I had to sit down.

“Someone said you would be a great person to give the presentation on pastoral administration,” she said earnestly. Since one of the things I appreciate most about the congregations I serve is how very little administration they require, I could not imagine who had made this suggestion.

When Rochelle invited me to tell you about my five favorite fantasy novels, I had a similar reaction (luckily, I was already sitting down). It’s not that I don’t like fantasy novels—I like them a lot—it’s just that I would never call myself an expert on the subject.

However, I am pretty good at making lists. I decided to narrow the playing field (Pro Tip: This may not be an actual expression), so here is my list of Top Five Witch and Wizard Fantasy Novels:

1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne-Jones: I just finished this one, and I am pretty seriously in love with it. Written for age 12 and up, it’s one of those books I wish I had read when I was 12, because I know I would have loved it even more. It features three sisters, a wicked Witch of the Waste, a charming young wizard, a comical fire demon, an enchanted scarecrow, and a castle that, as the title suggests, moves. This book is playful and compelling, and I am absolutely forcing it upon my daughter in eight years or so.

2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: I won’t lie to you. This book is long. Really long. And its imitation of 19th century prose style is so good that, if you are not a Victorian novel fan, you may want to scream. But give it a try, and stick with it, because the tale of magicians and fairies, reason and madness, love and England, is well worth your time.

3. Wicked by Gregory Maguire: Darker and more complicated than the musical version (Pro Tip: This is probably obvious), this alternative history of Oz is a captivating read. Warning: You might cry a little the next time you watch the Witch get melted in The Wizard of Oz.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis: Technically, this is seven books. I was going to choose The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because it’s my favorite, but then I thought The Magician’s Nephew might fit the theme a little better. In any case, you should certainly read all seven books. They are delightful, and will prepare you to love (or hate) . . .

5. The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman: These books are like a mash-up of Narnia, Tolkien, The Secret History, and Bright Lights, Big City, with some Harry Potter riffs thrown in for good measure. So, if that sounds like fun, you will probably enjoy these novels despite their flaws.

My Summer Witch and Wizard Fantasy List:

*More Diana Wynne Jones: I’ll start with Dark Lord of Derkholm, which looks like quite a romp.

*Another Series with Siblings: This time it’s the Drew children in the first book in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence, Over Sea, Under Stone.

*Something by Neil Gaiman: I haven’t read a single one. Who has a recommendation?

Your Turn: Are you a fantasy fan? What are your favorites? If you’re not a fan, what would make you give fantasy novels a try?


About the Author: Maggie Lux Cumings is the pastor of two country churches in rural Minnesota, the wife of a theology PhD student, the mother of a hilarious three-year-old, the reader of all kinds of books, and the eater of lots of Dairy Queen treats.  Maggie blogs at

8 Responses

  1. Jan Veseth

    I have long been a fan of Rochelle’s summer read lists, a loyal, steadfast, can’t wait for it fan. But, Maggie, you’ve convinced me and I will request all these (with the except of Narnia since I read them to Kate when she was young) from my local library. Thanks, and thanks to Rochelle for inviting you!

    1. You’re welcome, Jan! I hope you like them! I just finished the first Dark is Rising book (Over Sea, Under Stone), and it is delightful. The kids are a little slow on the uptake at times, but you will forgive them.

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  3. I also loved the Chronicles of Narnia and The Dark Is Rising series when I read them to my children. My other favorite is Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain–a series of five books beginning with The Book of Three. The second book, The Black Cauldron, was made into a very bad movie–the books are much better.

    1. Ooooh, Lloyd Alexander! Thank you for reminding me of him! When I made my list, I said to myself, “What were those Lloyd Alexander books I loved so much in my youth?” I don’t know if this series is the one I loved, but I will absolutely read it!

  4. Emily

    I think the first Neil Gaiman I read was American Gods which can be a bit dense but is ultimately good. Stardust is mostly a sweet fairy tale that I’m fond of. The movie version may be even more delightful.

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