Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday required participants to list the top upcoming books on their Fall (Spring down here in the Southern hemisphere) to be read list.  However, I addressed that a couple of weeks ago, so that leaves me with a bit of a free topic this week.  I decided to fill this extra list by looking at one of my absolute favourite series of all time, the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett.

I have long been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which, in my opinion, is one of the absolute best series of all time.  Made up of 41 separate novels and running from 1983 to 2015, the Discworld novels are a fantasy institution from one of the most talented authors ever.  Set on a flat world shaped like a disc that travels through space on the back of four elephants, who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle, this world is filled with all manner of crazy and over-the-top people, creatures, gods and monsters, and this results in an amazing number of stories.  All 41 books feature amazing and highly unique story that perfectly blends outrageous fantasy elements with clever and relentless humour and satire.  I have read every Discworld novel multiple times, and in my opinion, everyone is a masterpiece in their own way.  Heck, I am such a big fan of this series that I even named this blog after a location in the Discworld universe, that’s how much I love them.

While the Discworld novels are never that far from my mind, I have been thinking about them a lot more lately, mainly because I have been featuring some of them on my recent top ten lists.  My lists that highlighted my favourite Books with Magical Schools, Favourite Books Written More than Ten Years Ago and Hilarious Book Titles have all featured a few Discworld books, and it turns out I have a hard time not going on about Pratchett’s work on a weekly basis.  Naturally, this has gotten me thinking more and more about the Discworld books, and I will probably embark on a new re-read of them sooner or later.  However, before I get around to that, I thought I would have a go at listing my absolute favourite Discworld novels, as that will make an interesting list.

Now, why I deeply enjoy this entire series, not all Discworld novels are created equal.  Several shine above the rest in my opinion, whether because they have better jokes, a more compelling plot, or a more impressive and elaborate premise.  As such, I felt reasonably confident that I could choose the ten entries (with some honourable mentions) that I enjoy the most.  I have based this list on several factors, including humour, plot, world-building, characters and many other features.  This allowed me to determine my favourite Discworld books, although I had to make some hard choices to settle on a final top ten, as all of them are very good.  I was eventually able to whittle it down to my list, and I think the results match my overall preference rather well.  While most of them are from Pratchett’s golden years and are in the middle of the Discworld release back, I think there is a good variety here, and that the list below really showcases the outstanding and amazing depth that Pratchett always had.  So let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Interesting Times – 1994

Interesting Times Cover

A rambling good read that sees one of Pratchett’s most iconic protagonists visit this world’s version of Asia.  Loaded with some brilliant jokes (the multiple translations of a person’s scream), a ton of fun references to Asian culture, and some outrageous characters, Interesting Times is an excellent read that also offers a little closure for the first two Discworld books.

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Feet of Clay – 1996

Feet of Clay Cover

The third City Watch novel, Feet of Clay is a brilliant murder mystery novel that makes full use of its fantasy and comedy to create an epic read.  Featuring several great mysteries, including a series of murders committed by a Golem and the poisoning of the city’s ruler, you really get dragged into the story while loving Pratchett’s excellent solutions and hilarious inclusions.

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The Truth – 2000

The Truth Cover

Pratchett introduces print journalism to the Discworld in this clever standalone entry.  Following an ambitious reporter who creates Ankh-Morpork’s first newspaper, only to get dragged into a big conspiracy, The Truth is an ambitious and very exciting entry that perfectly parodies everything about newspapers.  Loaded with jokes about everything from dodgy advertisers, stupid human interest pieces, and even featuring a trashy alternate paper, this is perfect for anyone familiar with the crazy newspapers of London.

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Night Watch – 2002

Night Watch Cover

Another exceptional City Watch book is the later entry, Night Watch, which sees Vimes, transported back into the past by magic with a dangerous serial killer.  Forced to relive his traumatic early days on the watch, Vimes must keep his younger self alive while also navigating a dangerous revolution he remembers all too well.  With a compelling narrative that mirrors Les Misérables and some great time-travel elements, Night Watch is one of the more distinctive reads in the series.  While it gets a lot darker than some of the other Discworld novels, it is still extremely addictive, and fits into the rest of the series perfectly

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Top Ten List:

Pyramids – 1989

Pyramids Cover

The first entry on my top ten list is the classic Pratchett novel, Pyramids.  A standalone entry in the series, Pyramids tells the story of a young prince of a river valley kingdom, very similar to Egypt, who returns home after receiving training as an assassin in Ankh-Morpork (the biggest city on the Discworld and a major setting).  Upon claiming the throne, he tries to fight against the tradition of his kingdom, with limited effect, until the kingdom’s overuse of pyramids creates major temporal issues for the entire valley (its all down to bad geometry).  Loaded with so many jokes about ancient Egypt, this is a hilarious fish-out-of-water tale that is very hard to put down.  There are a ton of great moments in this novel, including the best look at the legendary Assassin’s Guild, an impromptu rugby game between the gods over the sun (with commentary from an overexcited priest), and an army of mummies pissed off at being buried without their organs.  I have probably read this Discworld novel the most out of any of them, and I get something new out of it every time I pick it up.  An exceptional, and extremely funny read.

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Guards! Guards! – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

One of the more interesting aspects of the Discworld series is the way that Pratchett featured several smaller sub-series which follow specific characters.  My favourite of these is easily the City Watch books, which follow the underpaid and constantly underestimated watchmen of the infamous, crime-ridden city of Ankh-Morpork.  Perfectly blending Pratchett’s typical humour and fantasy elements with hard-boiled detective narratives, the City Watch books are some of the best entries in this series, and I love the unique blend of characters and highly entertaining and enthralling narratives.  The first City Watch entry, Guards! Guards! is definitely one of Pratchett’s best novels, and I constantly rave about it when I do lists about funny books.  Not only does it do a great job introducing several iconic characters who Pratchett would reuse throughout the rest of the series, but it has an outstanding narrative to it.  Following the depleted and useless Night Watch, made up of a drunk captain, a hopeless sergeant and a criminally minded corporal as they attempt to solve a series of murders caused by a magically summoned dragon.  Joined by a new eager, if slightly oblivious new recruit, who definitely isn’t the city’s returning king, the Night Watch embark on an ambitious investigation against cultists, dragon hunters and city’s massive criminal class.  Guards! Guards! is fantastic on so many levels, and there is something for everyone in it.

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Moving Pictures – 1990

Moving Pictures Cover

One of the things that the Discworld novels excel at is parody and satire of certain social, historical or cultural elements, with everything from countries, ancient empires and entire trades lovingly mocked.  Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Moving Pictures, a mostly standalone read that sees the art of film appear on the Discworld, becoming an instant hit.  Soon an alternate version of Hollywood appears, and various characters jump at the chance to make over-the-top films, which are accompanied by a vast array of jokes and references about classic movies, film making tropes and actors.  Naturally for a Discworld book, nothing is what it seems, and the heroes are forced to face off against interdimensional monsters coming out of the screens.  In addition, the iconic Unseen University setting gets some stability as a new Arch-Chancellor arrives, shaking up the wizards.  I love this book on so many levels, especially as Pratchett has so much fun satirising the film industry here.  Everything is lampooned here, such as Gone with the Wind (accompanied with subliminal advertising), King Kong (except a giant woman kidnaps an ape), The Wizard of Oz (the dwarfs of the Discworld will never be the same again), and so much more.  I can’t even count the sheer number of movie references featured here, and I discover a new clever joke every time I read Moving Pictures.  Pratchett also manages to introduce or expand on several great secondary characters who will go on to have major roles in other books in the series, so it turns out to be a surprisingly key book.  Impressive and wonderful on so many levels, Moving Pictures was an easy inclusion for this list.

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Witches Abroad – 1991

Witches Abroad Cover

Another one of the top Discworld sub-series is the Witches books, which unsurprisingly follows a group of witches (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick), in several unique adventures.  Unlike the characters they are based on from Macbeth, the witches are a force for good and help the local villages primarily with headology (psychology and folk medicine parcelled up with mystical overtones) and the occasional magic.  The witches make for an excellent group of central characters, and Pratchett told some exceptional stories with them.  While Wyrd Sisters and Lords and Ladies are both pretty epic reads, my favourite Witches book is Witches Abroad.  As the name suggests, this book see the three protagonists embark on a holiday to a faraway kingdom (essentially New Orleans), to fulfil a fairy godmother’s last wish.  Along the way they are forced to confront a series of twisted fairy tale scenarios, their own internal bickering, and an evil fairy godmother from Granny Weatherwax’s past.  Armed only with a wand that is permanently set to pumpkin mode, the witches must deploy their usual trickery to save the day.  This entire novel is pretty epic, as it not only captures the protagonists in all their amazing glory, but it has a powerful story that expertly blends humour and drama.  A lot of the narrative focuses on the dark side of fairy tales, and Pratchett has fun satirising so many classic stories in very clever ways.  However, my favourite scene is the fantastic sequence where Granny Weatherwax uses headology to completely destroy a group of card sharks who had conned her friends.  Extremely inventive, memorable and oh so funny, I just had to feature Witches Abroad here.

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Small Gods – 1992

Small Gods Cover

The next entry on this list is in my opinion, some of Pratchett’s best work.  The 13th Discworld novel, Small Gods has a standalone narrative which sees Pratchett examine religion and belief.  The story follows Brutha, a somewhat simple lad who lives in a vast imperial theocracy that is centred around the worship of the Great God Om.  However, Brutha is shocked when he discovers a talking tortoise only he can understand who claims to be the actual Om.  Forced to take the tortoise along on a great adventure, Brutha discovers the corruption at the heart of his empire and must fight to save it, himself, and his god.  This is a particularly clever novel from Pratchett and a very worth addition to this list.  The author pulls together a very thoughtful and captivating read that examines the various pros and cons of religion, worship and gods in a very thoughtful, but still humorous way.  The mixture of theological debate, adventure, and the brilliant satire of religion, results in a very impressive read, and it is guaranteed to leave you both laughing and pensive at the same time.  The book’s main strength is the outstanding interactions of the two main characters, and the growing relationship between an arrogant put powerless god, and his simple but deeply wise believer, sets an impressive tone for the entire book.  I would say that Small Gods is one of the most intelligent and compelling books of the entire Discworld series and I cannot hype it up enough.

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Men at Arms – 1993

Men At Arms Cover

After wowing everyone with Guards! Guards! Pratchett mercifully brought back the City Watch characters and storylines again with a fantastic sequel, Men at Arms.  This book sees a retiring Captain Vimes and his team try and stop a madman who is running around the city killing people with the Disc’s first gun.  Featuring another exceptional mystery that involves assassins, clowns and a literal species war between dwarfs and trolls, Pratchett switches the tone of this book from the hardboiled detective story of Guards! Guards! to a more typical police narrative like Dirty Harry.  Loaded with fantastic cop humour and introducing several great new characters, Men at Arms is just as good as the first City Watch book, while also expertly setting up some story elements for the rest of the series.  Guaranteed to appeal to both fantasy fans and crime fiction buffs, Men at Arms is one hell of a read.

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Hogfather – 1996

Hogfather Cover

All Pratchett fans will know that one of the most surprising loveable recurring characters in the entire Discworld series is Death, the literal grim reaper, who appears in pretty much every book.  Initially shown to as a resolute soul taker, Death evolves into quite a personable and likeable figure who is obsessed with the humans he’s tasked with reaping.  This obsession eventually compels him to adopt a daughter and take on an apprentice, which leads to the first Death book, Mort.  Pratchett wrote several Death novels over his career, many of which dealt with Death’s growing love of humanity, while also involving attacks on reality by outside forces.  While I have a lot of love for Reaper Man and Soul Music, my favourite Death novel is probably Hogfather.  After the Hogfather (this universe’s version of Santa) is murdered, Death steps into the role for unknown reasons.  This forces his granddaughter, Susan, to investigate the disappearance and try to bring back the Hogfather.  This results in an extremely entertaining and silly book that satirises all things Christmas and festive in one fantastic outing.  Most of the humour revolves around Death pretending to be Santa, which leads to all manner of confusion and fear, that is so much fun to see.  Throw in a very memorable villain and a great secondary storyline around the crazy wizards at the Unseen University accidently inventing gods, and this is one of the funniest books in the series.  A very entertaining and compelling Discworld novel, you will never look at Christmas the same again after reading it.

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Jingo – 1997

Jingo Cover

For the next entry on this list, Jingo, I must admit that my choice to include it here might be for more personal reasons, rather than purely on the quality of the book.  That is because Jingo was the first Pratchett book I ever properly read, and it has led to my subsequent lifelong obsession with all things Discworld.  I still have my first copy of Jingo, and it is extra special for me because I managed to get Terry to sign it for me.  So yeah, I might be a little biased when it comes to Jingo, but I maintain it is a worthy addition to this list as it has a brilliant and hilarious story to it.  The fourth entry in the City Watch sub-series, Jingo sees Commander Vimes and his men caught up in a brewing war between Ankh-Morpork and the rival empire of Klatch when both claim a mysterious new island that rose in the ocean between them.  After an attempted assassination of a Klatchian prince occurs on Vimes’ watch, he leads the city watch in an impromptu invasion of Klatch to find the killer and stop the war.  I deeply enjoyed Jingo’s brilliant and very clever story and it was a very worthy addition to the City Watch series.  The humour in Jingo is a bit more subtle than some of Pratchett’s other novels, with most of the jokes satirising British imperialism, diplomacy, politics, and its view of foreigners, with a ton of references to historical wars and conflicts that Britain had against its neighbours.  While some of the jokes are a tad obscure, they are all extremely well set up, and they always get a chuckle out of me.  Throw in some brilliant references about a lone bowman assassin, an espionage mission with Sergeant Colon and a cross-dressing Corporal Nobbs that has mixed success, and the always charismatic Captain Carrot turning into Lawrence of Arabia and arresting two entire armies for breaches of the peace, and you have a really entertaining narrative.  Jingo is always a must read for me whenever I revisit the Discworld universe, as well as being an essential entry in the deeply impressive City Watch books that comes highly recommended.

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The Last Continent – 1998

The Last Continent Cover

Another Pratchett book that I have a little bias for is The Last Continent, which is probably one of my absolute favourite Discworld novels.  The sixth book to feature the cowardly wizzard (not a typo) Rincewind as its protagonist, The Last Continent takes place on the lost continent of XXXX, which is essentially the Discworld’s version of Australia (despite certain assurances from the author that any similarities to Australia are coincidental at best).  This book follows Rincewind after he is tricked into another heroic quest that sees him traverse the continent, often mimicking various Australian folk heroes or cultural icons.  At the same time, the wizards of Unseen University, in an attempt to find Rincewind, get themselves trapped back in time and must escape from an enthusiastic god of evolution with their usual chaotic shenanigans.  Pratchett has a lot of fun with The Last Continent, and there isn’t a single piece of Australian culture or history that he doesn’t make fun of here.  As an Australian myself, I can’t help but laugh at all his fun and well-written Australian jokes and it was interesting to see his British take on my country.  I also have a lot of love for the evolution centred jokes that occur during the secondary storyline, many of which I didn’t fully appreciate until after I studied biology at university.  This is probably one of the better Rincewind novels as well, especially as the character now full appreciates his role in the universe, and his resentment at being dragged into a heroic quest is quite hilarious.  Him, plus the fantastically written Unseen University wizards, make for a sensational cast, and their two storylines come together perfectly.  There is no way that I can exclude Pratchett’s love-letter to Australia from this list, and it will always have a very special place in my heart.

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Going Postal – 2004

Going Postal Cover

The final entry on the list is Going Postal, which I feel is one of Pratchett’s best later books.  Featuring a very different tone from some of his previous books, Going Postal is a very distinctive read that is very hard not to enjoy.  Introducing a new protagonist in Moist von Lipwig, a notorious conman who is captured by Ankh-Morpork’s tyrannical leader, Lord Vetinari, and given two options: death or running the city’s post office.  Reluctantly choosing the later, Lipwig soon lives to regret his decision, as everyone and everything associated with the post office is absolutely crazy.  Forced to use all his talent, skill and instincts as a conman to save the post, Lipwig tries to rise to the occasion, only to contend with the ruthless chairman of a rival company who is determined to kill him.  It is a testament to Pratchett’s writing skill that he could make anything, even the post office, ruthlessly entertaining, as you swiftly fall in love with the hilarious over-the-top employees and associates of this crazy establishment.  Lipwig himself is the perfect protagonist for this book, and Pratchett wrote a brilliant redemptive storyline around him as he attempts to save his new friends with all his old tricks.  While this book is extremely funny, I also felt that Going Postal benefited from a somewhat darker tone than the preceding books, while  Pratchett also examines the benefits and costs of progress and new technology.  This darker tone would persist for the rest of Pratchett’s adult Discworld novels, and I have often thought that Pratchett included it in response to his growing health issues.  As such, I often look on Going Postal with a little sadness, especially as it was probably the best book he wrote towards the end of his career.  However, despite that, Going Postal is probably one of the Discworld books I have read the most and I would strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in this outstanding series.

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So, as you can see from this exceptionally long list, I have a lot of love for the Discworld series and can write a ton about all the books.  While I deeply enjoy all the Discworld novels, the ten featured above are my absolute favourite now, and I cannot recommend them enough, especially if you want a laugh or an uplifting tale to brighten your day.  This is a list I might come back to in the future, especially if I do another reread and re-evaluate my positions.  I have been thinking about trying to read all of them again soon, especially as I recently found out that the Discworld audiobooks have all been re-released, this time with an amazing voice cast, including Colin Morgan, Peter Serafinowicz, Billy Nighy, Andy Serkis and Indira Varma.  As such, stay tuned for more reviews of the Discworld books soon, and I look forward to returning to my ultimate comfort book series.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite Discworld book is in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books with Magical Schools

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants are given a School Freebie to with what they will.  That means its up to me to come up with any sort of list about a school, which left me pretty open to list the best books with one of my favourite settings, a magical school.

I have long had a great love of the magical school setting in fantasy fiction (just check out the name of this blog).  In many ways, magical schools are the absolute backbone of some of the better examples of fantasy out there, and who doesn’t love a fun and wonderful story set within the halls of a magical environment.  There are so many cool stories and scenarios that can be imagined in these sorts of scenarios, and I have always had an amazing time with these sorts of settings from some of the earliest fantasy books I have read.  As such, I thought it only fitting to examine the absolute best examples of this setting here.

In order to appear on this list, the book in question needed to have either a school, academy or university of some description magic is taught or the school itself is magical and fantastic in nature.  This school must be a major setting of a descent part of the plot and must feature some sort of magical teaching or some variety of magical education in it.  I have been a little lenient in places throughout this list and I have included a few examples where rather than the traditional magical school, you have a bit of an interesting or dark reimagining, which can often be quite fun.  I ended up with an interesting collection of books in the end that I was able to whittle down to my top ten.  All these books are really fun, and I think that they use their magical school setting extremely well.

Honourable Mentions:

The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth

Dragonclaw Cover

All the books in Kate Forsyth’s fantastic The Witches of Eileanan series featured some cool magical learning and school elements in them, and the author sets some impressive storylines around them.  However, I would probably recommend the first book in the series, Dragonclaw, as the best example of this magical training.  Not only are their multiple scenes of the protagonist learning magic, but it also features a fantastic magical trial scene at her initial place of learning.

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Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Master of Sorrows Cover

Features an interesting ninja school where the participants learn to recover magical items.

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Magician by Raymond E Feist

Magician Cover

Many of Feist’s Riftwar Cycle books featured a magical school of some description, but nothing compares to the various magical learning scenes that occur in the fantasy classic Magician.  The protagonist learns from several schools and teachers in this book before starting the path to create his own magical school.

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The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

The Tethered Mage Cover

A fun recent fantasy book that revolves around a fantasy nation where all magicians are captured and leashed so that they aren’t in complete control of their faction.  Known as Falcons, these mages are sent to the Mews, where they learn to control their magic for the greater good of the nation.  An interesting, if darker, take on the magical school system that worked really well.

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Top Ten List:

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

Let’s face it, it would be impossible to write a list about magical schools without featuring the Harry Potter books here.  J. K. Rowling created something very special with Hogwarts, and it is now the magical school setting that all others are measured up against, for very good reasons.  All seven books in this series used the Hogwarts setting extremely well, from the introduction in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the epic final battle in Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows.  It is honestly very hard to single out one in particular for their use of the magical school setting, however, if I had to, I would probably go with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, because it had some great scenes where the protagonist took over teaching, as well as the extended sequence with the O.W.L.S test.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss gets a lot of credit from fantasy fans for many of its elements, but one of my favourites is the setting of the University, where the protagonist winds up is as a teenager.  The centre of knowledge for this fantasy world, the university teaches many subjects, including various forms of magic, including runic metalworking, sympathy (magic that links one object to another for manipulation), and the ultimate magic, naming, where one calls something’s true name (for example the wind) and takes control of it.  This proves to be an exceptional setting for much of this book, and the protagonist spends a substantial amount of time with some great narrative results.  While the University is also a major setting of the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, I think that it was used a little better in The Name of the Wind and is one of the better magical school settings out there.

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Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

Yeah, there was no chance I wasn’t going to feature a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett here.  So many of his books feature the epic and entertaining setting of the Unseen University, where the world’s wizards gather to learn magic and get up to all manner of other shenanigans.  Most of the books feature the Unseen University as a setting, however, I’m going to limit myself to two entries on this list, the first of which is Moving PicturesMoving Pictures is one of the more entertaining Discworld novels Pratchett wrote, and part of the reason is how he utilises the Unseen University in the plot.  After several books with a rotating cast of senior wizards, Pratchett settles on a permanent staff for the university in Moving Pictures (helped by the introduction of an unkillable Archchancellor) and starts strongly developing their various members here.  There are many brilliant scenes set around the university, especially ones that show the eccentric new Archchancellor setting in and upsetting the delicate wizards with his wild ideas.  This book has some of the funniest scenes set in the Unseen University, and this book is a major favourite of mine.

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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education Cover

Easily the series that has been featuring magical schools the best recently is the Scholomance books by acclaimed author Naomi Novik.  This series in the deadly Scholomance, an automated enchanted school where vulnerable magical teenagers are educated and partially protected from various monsters who want to eat them.  Introduced perfectly in the first book, A Deadly Education, you soon get to know all the unique quirks of this fantastic school, as the protagonist tries to survive the lethal lessons, killer fellow students, and multiple monsters living within.  I have so much love for the setting in A Deadly Education, and the exquisite story that Novik set around it made it one of my favourite books of 2020.  The sequel, The Last Graduate, also featured the school extremely well, but I think that A Deadly Education is the best example for this list.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter

Van Horstmann Cover

You can’t be too surprised that I managed to slip a Warhammer novel in here somewhere.  Van Horstmann was an awesome Warhammer Fantasy novel that explore the origin and problems of the human magical colleges that sprouted up in the heart of the Empire.  In particular, Van Horstmann explores the College of Light through the eyes of enigmatic new student, Egrimm van Horstmann, who has his own nefarious reasons for journeying to the school.  This is an excellent and captivating take on the classic magical school setting, as you get to watch this obvious villain learn everything about the school, all so he can gain ultimate power and gain revenge for a past wrong.  A very clever Warhammer Fantasy novel that makes perfect use of its magical school setting.

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Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron Cover 1

Another great fantasy book from recent years that featured a cool magical university setting is Cold Iron by Miles Cameron.  Much the narrative of Cold Iron takes place in The Academy and its surrounding city and follows the protagonist as he excels as a student, while also attempting to unravel a massive conspiracy that threatens the lands.  I deeply enjoyed the use of the Academy setting in Cold Iron, and while there is a substantial focus on learning sword work, the character does spend time learning magic, which comes in help during this book.  I loved many of the more classic fantasy elements featured in Cold Iron, especially the cool school setting, and this is a must-read book for all fantasy fans.

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Homeland by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland Cover

I had to slip something in from R. A. Salvatore on this list, and naturally that book ended up being one of my favourite Salvatore novels, Homeland.  Set in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan, Homeland follows the childhood of Salvatore’s long-running protagonist Drizzt Do’Urden.  While there are a lot of excellent settings and locations in, I loved the multiple scenes that take place in the combat school of Melee-Magthere.  While technically not a magical school per say, it is filled with dark elves with inherent magical talent, who often use magical techniques to complement their swordcraft, so I think it deserves to be on this list.  Personally, I just love the various tournament scenes set in this school, and it was a fantastic and epic setting for this great fantasy book.

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It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

Another fantasy book that had a great alternate take on the magical school concept is It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts.  Featuring a compelling fantasy world where wizards rule over the non-magical, this book follows a rebellious young magic user who infiltrated the premier magical school, Blackwater Academy, to burn it down from the inside.  This was a fun and compelling read with many fantastic homages to Hogwarts, and it was an outstanding book to check out.

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Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather Cover

The other Discworld book that I had to include here was Hogfather, which makes fun of many aspects of Christmas.  While there is a focus on Death and his granddaughter, quite a lot of the book takes place in the Unseen University and shows the eccentric faculty attempting to understand the constant creation of multiple new minor gods around their grounds.  The outrageous antics of the senior faculty blends well with the more education focused ambitions of the students, all with the Archchancellor watching on in exasperation.  I loved all the university scenes in Hogfather and it was one of the better uses of it in the Discworld series.

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Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Eldest Cover

The final book I want to include on this list is Eldest by Christopher Paolini, the second book in his Inheritance Cycle.  While the first book from Paolini, Eragon, featured a lot of magical tutelage, it didn’t really feature a school setting.  The sequel though, Eldest, does, as it shows the protagonist journey to the homeland of the elves to learn magic there.  The protagonist spends a substantial chunk of the book there expanding his magical knowledge and skills.  While most of this tutelage does occur one-on-one, there is enough alternate teachers and characters to qualify it as a magic school in my mind, and I feel that Paolini did a great job introducing it and using it to expand the character’s knowledge.  An overall epic book that made really great use of the magic school concept.

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Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  As you can see there are some great books out there that feature a fun magical school concept in their plot.  It is no surprise that many of my favourite books of all time feature a magical school in some capacity and there are so many exceptional stories that can be set around it.  All the above books come very highly recommended and if you love magical schools, all of them are worth checking out.