I just finished a good book, a Really good book. It's called Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I had read one other book by Gaiman previously. It was okay. Good enough that I wanted to read other things by him, but I didn't rush right out to the library. This book, though, I pretty much want to shake it at a librarian while screaming "I Need All the Books!!!" I will try to restrain myself.
It's fantasy, but if I were to recommend a book to someone who had never read fantasy, I'd have them start with this (or The Night Circus). So many fantasy books are either huge tomes or long series. This is neither. It's a single book. I love a series as much as the next person, but I have a lot of respect for an author who can tell the story they want to tell in 300ish pages. That's a skill.
So what makes this book good? The characters are good. Richard is the main character and the reader proxy. His bumbling idiocy is endearing. The other characters-Door, Hunter, the Marquis, etc-are all winningly eccentric. The setting is even better. Neverwhere is set in London Below which is comprised of the sewers and the Underground. I love London. I love it like a fat kid loves cake, or more appropriately for this book, like a rat loves cheese. I like that the fantasy world is superimposed on the real one. Not only does it make it easy to picture, it is fun to imagine that there is another realm just barely beyond what we are seeing. The best part of this book, in my opinion, are the fantasy elements. I like that Gaiman included so many of the traditional elements (a quest, a trio, specific beasts) but does it in a way that doesn't seem trite and cliched. It all combines together in this fantastic read that sent me to my computer to learn more...
Where I learned there was a six episode tv series about the book. Thunk. That was me dying of excitement. Aaaahhh! Also, if mine eyes doth not deceive, the Owner of the Most Glorious Cheekbones Ever to Grace the Planet is in it so I'm practically jumping up and down. (That's Benedict Cumberbatch if you didn't know.) I'm a teensy bit hesitant because tv never lives up to what's in my mind, but six episodes has a lot more promise than a single movie, so I'll reserve judgement.
Moral of the story: Like fantasy? Winner winner chicken dinner. Never tried fantasy? Start here. Unsure? Pick it up, read 50 pages, if you don't like it you've at least opened your mind to new things.