I stumbled upon my old stash of fantasy novels I had read in middle school recently, while helping my parents move out. I can't emphasize more just how much they influenced me and my work (I made an art piece and blog post about reading through Tamora Pierce's The Immortals series). I was never a very bright or motivated kid in school--pretty average, and one point I even lagged heavily behind in math and reading skills and needed special attention. It wasn't until I was in seventh grade that, hanging around the school library during lunch time, I picked up 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and found that a quarter of a way through I didn't have to force myself to keep reading; it was engrossing. From then on I ended up reading a couple of novels a week, yearning to escape from the isolation at school, like Philip Pullman's Golden Compass (yeah, [insert Hipster meme] I read that before it was popular) and Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel, which is still my ultimate favorite.
I just read Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown and drew a scene from it where Aerin clumsily slays her first dragon:
I mean, these novels are no Game of Thrones in terms of complexity and depth, but they were and still are my guilty pleasure!