I’m not saying that it being cliche means that it is bad… It is on my top three list actually.
So far Sword of the Samurai is the most voted… interesting as I had never thought it was so highly rated. What makes it good compared to others? (thinking about trying to buy it now, if it is still in print…)
I imagine it might partly be due to it not being a regular “western fantasy” setting. Though it’s still set on the world of Titan like most in the series. Just a different continent.
The book also does a few things different.
One is you get the option to pick from four different skills to start with. Archery with different types of arrows, quick draw, dual welding, and super jump. These all either give you extra options in the book or help you directly in combat.
The other major bit is you get an Honor stat. Do honorable things and it goes up, act dishonorably and it goes down. And you need to keep it above zero or else you have to immediately turn to a special passage where it states that you realize that you have acted dishonorably at every turn and you commit seppuku. Game over.
So sort of like House of Hell’s Fear stat, but you at least get a nice death passage to read rather than just dropping dead. The honor stat also sometimes affects a few events that occur in the book for good or ill.
Amusingly, there is also a “pokemon” like bit in the story (and this was before pokemon was even a thing) where you have to fight these different monsters in an arena, but you have to use allies/creatures that you’ve managed to recruit in previous areas. You have to choose them wisely since certain ones only work on certain enemies.
I still like some of the other FF books better, but it’s probably one of the better ones.
I’d vote for Moonrunner. Very interesting gothic fantasy atmosphere instead of the usual generic quasi-D&D, complete with magic items that feel like dark relics of power, not +4 swords. Also has solid pacing, excellent writing, and what I would consider a fair difficulty level - you probably won’t solve it your first time reading, but it’s not an item hunt that drives you crazy by forcing you to make every choice according to a single preset pattern.
I’ll have to read that one.
Moonrunner’s author, Stephen Hand, worked on two other FF books - Dead of Night and Legend of the Shadow Warriors. If you like Moonrunner both of those are also good.
One other FF I’ll recommend is Night Dragon. That one is written in a generic D&D knockoff setting, but it’s a good generic setting, with loads of extra rules not found in most of the series which I found mostly entertaining, not tedious, and one of the best end boss fights in the series. Feels like a true epic, with huge numbers of high stat monsters and combat boosting items.