Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell when I read it a few years ago, but I was mostly indifferent to The Lord of the Rings when I read it as a teen, and otherwise I've mostly steered clear of fantasy, especially anything specifically involving the word "quest." I will admit a weakness for the Dungeons and Dragons game, at least in electronic versions, but I think that might be beside the point really, a different animal. The only thing encouraging me to stick with the series one more round is because it's Stephen King, mainly, and then because he has claimed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as a primary source. The potential for an epic fiction, by Stephen King, riffing on that movie is just too appealing. I also hope to get a sense for whether it's even necessary to read this first book at all. No Amazon reviewer that I could see even entertained the idea of skipping it, so maybe it's necessary. We are introduced to what I suspect are the main figures in Roland (aka the gunslinger), "the man in black" (who may or may not end up with a name, but doesn't have one yet here), and Jake Chambers, a young boy who becomes Roland's sidekick, Robin to his Batman. They are walking and walking and walking. There's a lot of that. There are some promising monsters in the "Slow Mutants," reminiscent of the zombie style now, tormented homicidal slow-moving creatures. I think we have seen the basic good / evil dynamic from King already in The Stand, and I'm not sure how interested I even am in that. But I'll take the advice, given the benefit of the doubt, and try the second one. See how that goes.
In case it's not at the library.