I am imposing no rules here, so go ahead and be a J.R.R. Tolkien fanboy if you insist, but I encourage you to give consideration to someone who is not a NYT bestseller with 500 reviews on Amazon.
I offer three names:
Jessica Amanda Salmonson
You probably have never heard of her. She's published very little in the past couple of decades. She's a quirky, genteelly obscure author with a love of pulp fiction, exploitation films, and ghost stories. Most of what she's written is gothic horror and epic fantasy. She has her own website: Violet Books.
My favorite epic fantasy series of all time is her Tomoe Gozen trilogy. You can find my other reviews of her books here. Most of them are out of print; you'll have to buy them used. But they are well worth seeking out. Besides Tomoe Gozen, I particularly recommend The Swordswoman and Ou Lu Khen and the Beautiful Madwoman.
Earlier this year I posted a glowing review of her YA epic fantasy poem Thaliad. Her MG fantasy novels The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove are also underrated works of American fantasy literature.
Youmans has written other books of poetry and adult fiction, which are my TBR list, but if you are looking for something for a young reader who likes Harry Potter, Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jone, that sort of thing, then these are marvelous books by an author who doesn't have nearly their name recognition.
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
The Dyachenkos are bestsellers in Russia, but still almost unknown here. So far only two of their books are available in English, and I have reviewed them both. The Scar was translated and published by Tor (and is also available as an audiobook). It's a very good epic fantasy moral fable with a slightly non-Western feel. But Vita Nostra was mind-blowing. It's still only available as an ebook on Amazon (for the very modest price of $2.99). Buy it (and The Scar) so that more of their books will be translated.
Those are my recommendations. Now it's your turn: what underappreciated books would you like to put in the hands of bookish readers?
Note: If you post links, LJ tends to filter them as spam. Just be patient and I will unspam them when I see them.
Previous Saturday Book Discussions.