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'The Drenai Saga'
by David Gemmell (1984)


The first volume of the Drenai Saga is a heroic fantasy about a handful of men who defend a keep against a half-million barbarians. Druss, Captain of the Axe and a legend in his own time, comes out of retirement to save the day. Gemmell was expelled from school for organising a gambling syndicate and later worked as a Soho bouncer - which explains a lot.





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'The Chronicles Trilogy' (Dragonlance)
by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (1984)


First book in the long-running Dragonlance series and its Chronicles trilogy. The series is a manifestation of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. Like the game modules on which it is based, the book describes the coming together of the Companions and the initial stages of the War of the Lance. The need for a definite literary climax means that at times it departs from the game.





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Deed of Paksenarrion
by Elizabeth Moon (1988)


Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy kicked off with The Sheepfarmer's Daughter - the story of a woman who refuses to marry a pig farmer. This sets her on the road to becoming a famous knight when she joins up with a group of mercenaries. Moon is a capable writer and this should be a winner with fans of tough female heroes and straightahead military fantasy.





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'The Elenium'
by David Eddings (1989-91)


The Elenium follows the adventures of Sparhawk, a Pandion Knight, and his friends as they come to the aid of Queen Ehlana of Cimmuria. Fans of Eddings' epic sword and sorcery will probably love this, even though the settings are almost identical to earlier efforts. Begins with The Diamond Throne (1989) and continues with The Ruby Knight (1990) and The Sapphire Rose (1991).





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'Malazan Book of the Fallen'
by Steven Erikson (1999)


From the outset Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Canadian Steven Erikson was projected as a ten-volume epic. Each recounts a warring episode in the saga of the Malazan Empire. While it is possible to pick up the series in later volumes, starting with 1999's Gardens of the Moon is probably the best way to test the waters. The first five novels in the series can be read as stand-alones.





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The Lions Of Al-Rassan
by Guy Gavriel Kay (1995)


Lions almost qualifies as straightforward historical fiction rather than fantasy, although the Spanish medieval world depicted is for the most part a creation of Kay's imagination. In a world of religious conflict and holy war, the once-powerful kingdom of Al-Rassan is a prize for the taking. Very strong female characters throughout.





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'The Wayfarer Redemption' (aka Battleaxe)
by Sara Douglass (1995)


Somewhat confusingly, Australian author Sara Douglass had her Axis Trilogy integrated into the Wayfarer Redemption for a very successful six-book Stateside release. Basically, an Axe-Wielder military leader in a land facing annihilation by ice demons comes across a prophecy that sees him reluctantly allying with the hated Forbidden races. Pacey epic fantasy.





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'Crown of Stars'
by Kate Elliott (1997)


Writing under her Kate Elliott pen-name, Alis A Rasmussen finally hit the big-time with her Crown of Stars saga. Set in the continent of Novaria, which is largely drawn from early medieval Europe, the series kicks off with a savage civil war that introduces the main characters - the young prophet Alain and the magically gifted Liath. A planned trilogy that evolved into seven volumes.


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