If you're a fantasy fan looking for something a bit on the lighter side, or if you're intimidated by serious tomes about orcs and chosen ones, check out some of these delightfully funny fantasy books that shake up the genre.
Most people don't read fantasy for the laughs. I mean, yes, Tyrion Lannister has some pretty great zingers, but what with all the death and snow zombies, I wouldn't call A Song of Ice and Fire a comedy. Same goes for most of the great fantasy novels. They might have their moments of levity, but the genre is more known for the dragons and geopolitical warfare between people with differently shaped ears.
I mean, I love serious fantasy as much as the next guy, but sometimes you need to take a step back and acknowledge that sometimes elves and magic and omens can come across as just a little silly. There are high fantasy parodies, taking on tropes of faux-medieval fantasy worlds, sometimes with a meta-fictional twist. Then there are satirical takes on urban fantasy and the paranormal, tongue-in-cheek updates of myths and fables, and books that are just plain funny and weird. So if you need a break from the grittier end of the fantasy spectrum, maybe consider one of these masterpieces of fantastical humor:
1. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett is the master of the fantasy humor genre, so it's hard to go wrong with any book from his Discworld series. The Discworld is, of course, a flat disc being carried on the back of a giant turtle, and it's populated with some of the funniest weirdos that fantasy has to offer. Small Gods is not the first book, but it's a stand-alone novel set in the Discworld, and it's got some of Pratchett's absolute sharpest wit. Because the Great God Om has run into a bit of a problem: How do you go about being a god if no one believes in you?
2. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones
So you've found yourself in Fantasyland, and you're not quite sure what to do. You don't know the difference between and amulet and a talisman, and you have no idea how to handle mercenaries or what to order at an inn (it doesn't matter, they're going to give you beer and stew). Well, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland has you covered, from the Forest of Doom to the Dark Citadel and back again. Diana Wynne Jones is well-versed in fantasy tropes, and she will make sure you make it out of Fantasyland with only minor injuries and psychological damage.
3. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Not only is The Princess Bride the greatest movie ever made (you can fight me on that), it's also one of the funniest, most romantic, most swashbuckling fantasy novels ever written. William Goldman has painstakingly abridged the S. Morgenstern classic (or so he claims) to create the "Good Parts Version." So this version gets right to the heart of things with revenge, fighting, true love, giants, swell escapes, monsters, miracles, and all related subjects.
4. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
If you somehow missed out on the Bartimaeus Sequence as a kid, now is the time to read it. If you read it as a kid, now is the time to read it again (and pick up on all the historical jokes that whizzed over your head the first time around). It all begins when a magician's apprentice decides to skip ahead in his studies and secretly summon a 5,000-year-old djinni for his own purposes. Unfortunately for him, this djinni happens to be the snarkiest magical being the world have ever known, and he is none too happy to be working for a bratty kid.
5. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
Maybe you're not so much into the swords and sorcery side of fantasy. Maybe you're more drawn to vampires, zombie cattle, and sadistic teen witches. If so, Gil's All Fright Diner (billed as "Funnier than The Texas Chainsaw Massare!") is a screamingly funny read about gruff werewolf Duke and whiny vampire Earl, two travel buddies just trying to grab a bite to eat without being torn apart by the living dead or sucked into hell. Easier said than done.
6. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
Humpty Dumpty, a known ladies' man, has been found dead next to a wall. Did he fall... or was he pushed? It's up to Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division, and his partner, Mary Mary, to find out all the dirty details. The Big Over Easy is brimming with wit and word-play, as well as clever references to pretty much every fairy tale or fable out there (and also there are aliens, somehow?). It's a smart, literary, pun-laden riot, with a genuine mystery as its heart.
7. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
This is the kind of book that'll make you say ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD. Whether you're a fan of the strange and upsetting Welcome to Night Vale podcast or you're new to Night Vale and its quaint desert conspiracies, it's never a bad time to visit Night Vale. As their tourism board says, "We'll show you the fun in a handful of dust!" Night Vale is the hysterical, paranormal Gothic novel you never knew you were looking for (but it's most certainly been looking for you).
8. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Someone has misplaced the Antichrist. But, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch the world is to end next Saturday. And only Aziraphale, a finicky angel, and Crowley, a chilled out demon, seem to have any problem with that. Comedic fantasy great Terry Pratchett teamed up with Neil Gaiman, another all-time master of the genre, to bring us some top-notch apocalyptic humor. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and it doesn't skimp on the plot, either. Plus, not only is the situation a hilarious, horrifying mess, but the characters are some of the most memorable in any genre.
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
If you haven't already read and re-read this in preparation for the new movie, it really is worth it. It's short, it was written for charity, and it's J.K. Rowling (or rather, Newt Scamander) at her silliest. The book is formatted as a textbook, complete with margin scribbles from Harry and Ron (who's sharing it because his fell apart, of course). And the beasts, of course, are a wild assortment of imaginative monsters you won't want to miss.
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