…if you haven’t already: 12 favorite 20th century fantasy novels/series from Allan Yeh, along with some musings on the origins of fantasy literature. Some of these books are also on my list, such as the Narnia Chronicles, The Lord of the Rings, and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—at least the first two books. I had to wait so long for the next two that I literally “lost the plot” and haven’t had time to re-read, but I’m sure they’ll all be worthwhile when I do!
Yeh includes Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series as his “favorite,” and that’s his prerogative, of course. In my opinion, any series that “bogs down” for five—five—books (vols. 7-11) is out of control. Many friends recommended WoT to me, but I got bored after book two. Nevertheless, these books have their appeal, obviously, or there would not be so many.
As a medievalist, I’m required to note that in his comments on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Yeh says:
Tolkien wanted to write the first British mythology. Some may object that King Arthur should rightfully fill that spot, but actually the Camelot legend began with Sir Thomas Malory, a Frenchman, who wrote Le Morte d’Arthur.
A couple of errors here: The Camelot legend did not begin with Malory (late 15th c.), but long before him in Britain (before the Anglo-Saxons), Wales (5th-10th c.), and France (12th c.). Also, though we don’t know much about Sir Thomas Malory, most scholars are pretty sure he was English, born in Warwickshire (Le Morte Darthur, Norton Critical ed., Stephen H.A. Shepherd). Like many an upper-class person of his day, he seems to have been able to read/speak French well enough to use several French versions of Arthurian legends as sources for his compilation.
If you can, read Malory before reading T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. If not, White will probably influence the your reading of Malory, which may not be a bad thing.