Everything You Know About the Irons
The Viriconium series
by M. John Harrison
I hope I get time to update this entry later, because this series is brilliant. It's a sort of anti-fantasy, or maybe just a run-of-the-mill dystopia, but one that is so much better than any I've read...

Essentially it's a standard post-apoc fairy tale, but the whole thing is just suffused in meloncholy in the most remarkable way. It's never tragic, but every sentence is almost unbearably sad. No lovers die.

It is like listening to stories from your great-aunt about her time in Paris, or like reading a series of legends from the future. Names and places and facts change from one story to the next... in the first novel, tegus-Cromis the Poet (who is also the best swordsman in the city) sets out to save the Queen. Tomb the Dwarf uses his robotic exoskeleton to fight by his side. In a later story, tegus-Cromis is forgotten, and a reference is made to the Iron Dwarf, saviour of Viriconium. A different story refers to the arch-rivals tegus-Cromis and the Giant Dwarf, who fought over the city...

Certainly this is a sad series of books, but it is haunting. Probably one of my ten favorite science-fiction / fantasy novels, along with The Princess Bride (perhaps its spiritual antonym) and the works of Stephen Brust.
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