Below are my favourite authors and/or my favourite books by them. Author's websites are included, when they have them.
My new favorite writer. I started with her Rai-Kirah series, the tale of Seyonne, a slave, and how he helps to alter the world he lives in, and save his own magical race of people, through his friendship with his former master, Aleksander. Then followed with every book by Carol Berg that i could get my hands on. The Song of the Beast is really enjoyable, a new way of looking at dragons, and is easily one of my favourites. As is the Lighthouse Duet.
Carol Berg is an amazing writer. Her characters have flaws and are very vivid and the plots aren't your average fantasy quest, or even, good verses evil, type thing. They're written in first person, which i prefer, and her protagonists aren't perfect men, but have very human flaws. They become thrust into situations and become heroes in the way that they deal with them.
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
A childhood classic and still one of my favourites. The poetry is brilliant, i love the fact that children and adults both get something out of it, it's probably one of the first fantasy stories ever. It's certainly something that I have read time and again, and still enjoy.
Lynn Flewelling: The Tamir Trilogy
This is probably one of the most dark series I have ever read. It's the tale of Tamir, the rightful queen of Skala, who is disguised by magic, and the skin of her murdered twin brother, to be a boy, so that her uncle would not kill her, as he killed all the females in his family who should have sat on his throne. Tamir grows up, believing she is a boy, haunted by the twin who was murdered so that she could live and tormented by her mother, who was driven mad by that murder. It's really dark and it's really sad. I recently finished the last book in the series, and I was crying. It's a great series, dark and melancholy, and the ending is simple and effective and lingers with you.
My only complaints are the lack of description and the over heavy (in my opinion) use of Tamir missing her boy's bits, when she is finally revealed as a girl, not a boy. Overall, though, it's really great and one of the few unique fantasy ideas i have come across.
Lynn has another series, 'The Nightrunners', but i think that is very poor in comparison. I wouldn't have read this series, if I hadn't read that one first.
This series begins with the Bone Doll's Twin.
David Gemmell was one of the first fantasy authors I ever read. I started with Legend, which is still one of my all time favourite, because of the way that he portrays war and the brilliant characterisation. I'm usually in tears by the end of one of his books as a character that I've come to love dies. His later books often fall into a similar pattern, a man fights with his own inner demons to do what is right for others, but I still find these books enjoyable because they are so well written. I also like how the books tackle various issues, including war and rape, sensitively, showing insight that is often lacking from other writers.
David Gemmell sadly died the summer 2006. I think Britain lost a great writer.
Keren Gilfoyle: Shadow on the Skin
This is a mostly unknown fantasy book and i don't think she ever wrote anything else, but it is one of my favourites. A boy, Tobias, tries to escape his malicious, incestuous, magical family and the evil he associates with that magic, only to find that it's impossible as a different sort of magic has become part of him.
This is no longer available new, so you will need to try and find it in a second handbook store, or Abebooks.com.
Ellen Kushner: Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword
Swordspoint is probably my favorite out of the two. It's not fantasy, in the strictest sense, more a period tale in a nonexistent land, where men fight to the death for the honor. I think that's what helps makes it so good. It isn't a quest, it isn't about good verses evil, its just a story about a swordsman and his boyfriend.
The sequel, Privilege of the Sword, features Alec's niece, Katherine, who goes to stay with Alec, the Mad Duke, and shows her coming to realize that life doesn't have to be all pretty dresses and balls, that a woman can have a real place in the world.
Louise Lawerence: Children of the Dust
Another book I read as a child, but one that still haunts me to this day. The effects of a nuclear bomb on three generations of children. The first, Sarah, when the bomb hits, the second, Ophelia, a girl born in a bunker, and the third, Simon, Ophelia's son, and his experience of the changed world outside, and the realisation that humans have now given way to a new race of people. It's moving, it's sad and it's just brilliant.
Patrick Rothfuss: The Kingkiller Chronicles
The best book I read in 2008. It's just great, the story of Kvothe, a very smart cookie, and his quest to learn more about who killed his parents. It's vivid, well written, and rather sad, and, so far, lacks quests or pointless violence, which often fills other fantasy novels. The main bulk is in first person, which I prefer, as Kvothe tells his story to a visitor to the tavern which he now runs.
The first book in the series is the Name of the Wind. Well deserving of the awards that it won.