15 Best Fantasy Authors To Read Today
The best fantasy books are written by authors who have taken them to the next level. Here are 15 of the best fantasy authors across the globe.
Fantasy is one of the most popular fiction genres, along with sci-fi (science fiction), horror, and romance. Finding a great title to read isn’t difficult because there’s an abundance of excellent work currently available. That said, making a choice can be hard. So, to help you out, here are 15 of the best fantasy authors and their books.
1. George R.R. Martin
2. j.r.r. tolkien, 3. brandon sanderson, 4. robin hobb, 5. robert jordan , 6. c.s. lewis, 7. j.k. rowling, 8. guy gavriel kay, 9. joe abercrombie, 10. n.k. jemisin, 11. steven erikson , 12. ursula k. le guin, 13. scott lynch , 14. stephen king, 15. neil gaiman, final word on the best fantasy authors and their books, faqs on the best fantasy authors and their books, best authors reading list.
George R.R. Martin is the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of the books that inspired the popular HBO television series, A Game of Thrones . Until its highly criticized ending, the show had won multiple Emmy, Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, and Golden Globe awards. While Martin has written children’s books, short stories, and other works of fiction, he is best known for the detailed fantasy world he created for his first book series A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire .
- A Game of Thrones , $8.99
- A Clash of Kings , $9.99
- A Storm of Swords , $9.99
- A Feast for Crows , $9.99
- A Dance With Dragons , $9.99
- A Song of Ice and Fire Series , $39.99
One of the most epic fantasy genre writers to this day remains J.R.R. Tolkien , bestselling author of the Lord of the Rings book series. Tolkien lived between 1892 and 1973, and in his works, he created a robust high fantasy world with elves, dwarves, hobbits,, and adventures. Although he was frequently criticized by other English literature professionals in his early career, Tolkien would eventually rise to fame with one of the most loved trilogies of all time.
- The Hobbit , $9.99
- The Fellowship of the Ring , $9.99
- The Two Towers , $9.99
- The Return of the King , $9.99
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy , $15.99
Brandon Sanderson is a well-known American author of science fiction and urban fantasy novels and is the creator of the popular Cosmere fictional universe. His fantasy books have landed him on the New York Times Bestseller list more than once. Although he avoided reading as a child, Sanderson fell in love with the fantasy genre in eighth grade after reading the book Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.
- The Way of Kings, Book 1 of the Stormlight Archive , $9.99
- Skyward, Book 1 of The Skyward Series , $9.99
- Mistborn: The Final Empire , $9.99
- A Memory of Light, Book 14 of The Wheel of Time Series , $10.99
Robin Hobb is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of the Farseer fantasy series and the critically acclaimed Realm of the Elderlings series. The Farseer trilogy has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a new copy beautifully illustrated by Magali Villeneuve. Robin Hobb also writes science fiction short stories under the pen name Megan Lindholm. To date, the fantasy author has sold more than a million copies of her books to audiences worldwide, and in 2021, Hobb was given a World Fantasy Award Lifetime Achievement.
- Assassin’s Apprentice , $4.99
- Royal Assassin , $7.99
- Assassin’s Quest , $8.99
Robert Jordan is the critically acclaimed author of The Wheel of Time book series. His real name was James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (1948 – 2007), and he was a Vietnam War veteran with a degree from The Citadel and another in physics. He lent his hand to the Conan the Barbarian series and penned works under the names Jackson O’Reilly and Reagan O’Neal, writing western and historical fiction.
- The Eye of the World, Book 1 of The Wheel of Time , $10.99
- The Great Hunt, Book 2 of The Wheel of Time , $10.99
- The Dragon Reborn, Book 3 of The Wheel of Time , $10.99
- The Shadow Rising, Book 4 of The Wheel of Time , $10.99
C.S. Lewis is a popular author in the young adult and fantasy genre with his unique fairytale-like stories. Although he has written dozens of books, including devotionals and adult spiritual literature, he is best known for his trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia. Born in 1898 , Lewis served as the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University and was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University just before that, until 1954. He died in 1963.
- The Chronicles of Narnia , $29.99
- Mere Christianity , $8.99
- The Screwtape Letters , $7.99
J.K. Rowling is a U.K. author who penned some of the best fantasy novels in the genre for children, young teens, and even older adults. She is most well known for her debut novel Harry Potter and its unique magic system, which has inspired eight major motion pictures and a theme park. Her work has since expanded into the Wizarding World series. That said, Rowling has faced social backlash recently from the LGBTQ+ community for alleged discrimination.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , $9.99
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , $9.99
Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian writer of modern fantasy and adult fantasy books. What makes Kay’s writing different than other authors in the fantasy genre is that instead of using typical tropes often seen in fantasy novels, he uses real-world settings from historical events. However, the author’s preference is that his works are not categorized as historical fiction. This new take on world-building makes Kay’s novels even more fantastical.
- All the Seas of the World , $14.99
- A Brightness Long Ago , $13.99
- The Summer Tree , $3.99
Joe Abercrombie is an acclaimed British writer and freelance film editor in the fantasy fiction genre. He is most well known for his works in the First Law trilogy and several standalone books set in the same fictional world. Abercrombie has also written the Age of Madness series, which canonically meshes with the First Law books to create an epic fantasy realm ripe with adventure.
- The Blade Itself, Book 1 of The First Law Trilogy , $9.99
- A Little Hatred, Book 1 of the Age of Madness Series , $9.99
- The Trouble With Peace, Book 2 of the Age of Madness Series , $9.99
- The Wisdom of Crowds, Book 3 of the Age of Madness Series , $14.99
New York Times has named author N.K. Jemisin , “the most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer of her generation.” Jemisin, a strong Black voice in the fiction community, is also a three-time winner of the Hugo Award. She is the first author to have won three of these awards consecutively and is one of the few recipients of the coveted MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
- The Fifth Season, The Broken Earth Book 1 , $9.99
- The Obelisk Gate, The Broken Earth Book 2 , $11.99
- The Stone Sky, The Broken Earth Book 3 , $11.99
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1 , $9.99
- The City We Became, The Great Cities Trilogy Book 1 , $9.99
Steven Erikson is a Canadian anthropologist, archaeologist, writer, and novelist best known for his ten-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen series. He is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author recognized by both Paste Magazine and Fantasy Book Review for best-in-class fantasy fiction. Erikson is also a past nominee for the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award for his literary works.
- Gardens of the Moon, Book One of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series , $9.99
- Deadhouse Gates, Book Two of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series , $9.99
- Memories of Ice, Book Three of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series , $10.99
- House of Chains, Book Four of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series , $10.99
Ursula K. Le Guin is the late author of 23 full-length books, 13 children’s books, 12 collections of short stories, 11 collections of poetry, five collections of written essays, and four translated works. Although Le Guin passed away in 2018, she is the seven-time winner of the coveted Hugo Award, the six-time winner of the Nebula Award, and was named Grand Master by the SWFA.
- A Wizard of Earthsea, The Earthsea Cycles Series Book 1 , $8.99
- The Toms of Atuan, The Earthsea Cycles Series Book 2 , $8.99
- The Farthest Shore, The Earthsea Cycles Series Book 3 , $8.99
- Lavinia , $9.99
- The Left Hand of Darkness 50th Anniversary Edition, Ace Science Fiction , $8.99
Scott Lynch is the global bestselling author of the Gentleman Bastard book series. He is the oldest of three children, born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978. His first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora , was immediately popular, and Lynch has enjoyed critical acclaim since. His wife, Elizabeth Bear, is also a science fiction and fantasy writer, who he married in 2016. The couple share an old Minnesota home with their cats, preferring to spend time on their property when not writing.
- The Lies of Locke Lamora , $3.99
- Red Seas Under Red Skies , $6.99
- The Republic of Thieves , $8.99
- The Gentleman Bastard Series , $18.99
Stephen King is arguably one of the most well-known fantasy writers in history, particularly in the sci-fi and horror genres. He has sold over 350 million copies of his books, several of them having been made into full-length motion pictures, including Pet Semetary, It, The Shining, and more. King also publishes his work under the pen name Richard Bachman and, to date, has a complete collection of more than 63 books, 20 novellas, and approximately 120 short stories.
For more books like the Stand, why not check out our list of the top dystopian novels.
- The Stand , $9.99
- Billy Summers , $15.99
- Later , $6.99
- The Shining , $8.99
Neil Gaiman is a beloved English author of several fantasy novels, including The Sandman comic book series and Coraline, the latter of which was later adapted to the big screen. His first book was a Duran Duran biography written in 1986, and more recently, his book The Ocean at the End of the Lane won the British National Book Awards Book of the Year. His work, The Graveyard Book, won a Newbury Medal in 2009 and is scheduled to be made into a motion picture directed by Ron Howard.
- American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition , $9.99
- Norse Mythology , $9.68
- Neverwhere: A Novel , $7.99
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel , $8.99
- The Graveyard Book , $8.99
If you love to read, grab one of these fantasy books by some of the best-known and most beloved authors in the genre. No matter which novel or short story you choose, good fantasy authors will know how to pull you into their unique stories and magical worlds.
What’s The Difference Between YA Fantasy And Adult Fantasy Books?
YA fantasy books typically have at least one protagonist who is a teen or young adult, while adult fantasy books feature characters older than 21-25 years of age.
What should I look for in a good fantasy author?
The best fantasy authors aren’t necessarily the writers who have the most published novels. Instead, look for authors that use overarching themes that interest you, such as a robust fantasy world or elements of science fiction. Read book reviews to find out what other readers have to say; just watch out for spoilers.
How do I pick a fantasy book to read?
First and foremost, don’t judge a book by its cover. You should also overlook the heavily curated recommendations on the book’s front, back, and inside covers. Instead, read the first few pages to make sure you like the fantasy author’s writing style and that they do a good job of drawing you into the content.
Who are the best-selling fantasy authors?
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is the best-selling fantasy series of all time, selling over 500 million copies so far. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is next on the list, with that series amassing over 150 million sales.
Which authors have won the Hugo Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel?
There have been 52 winners of the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Five authors have won it three times: Isaac Asimov and Fritz Leiber, and N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis, and Vernor Vinge. Hugo Awards were first given in 1953, at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention.
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- Weekly Picks
16 of the Best Fantasy Authors Ever
These brilliant fantasy authors will transport you to another world—whether a parallel universe or a post-apocalyptic version of Earth. Discover our top listens from the best in the genre.
July 13, 2020
There is no feeling quite like falling in love with a great fantasy listen, doing a little digging, and joyfully discovering that the author has an extensive catalog of audiobooks waiting for you to dive into. Fantasy offers its fans a wealth of diverse authors writing all different kinds of stories. From classic epics to the latest standalone novels, it's the perfect genre for losing yourself in a full day’s worth of listening.
With so many great fantasy authors out there with rich bibliographies filled with exciting adventures and epic worldbuilding, the conversation of who's the best naturally comes up. While there are far too many amazing writers in this genre to rank definitively, we’ve gathered up this list of some of our favorite fantasy authors. Read on and see how it matches up with your own!
George R. R. Martin
You know this New Jersey native as the author of the high fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire — the inspiration for the global phenomenon that is HBO's Game of Thrones . But Martin's work as a writer stretches all the way back to the 1970s, and his writings are an impressive testament to his status as one of the best fantasy authors of all time.
The World of Ice & Fire
By George R. R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia, Linda Antonsson
With the urban fantasy October Daye series, the Wayward Children series, and many other works of fantasy to her name, Seanan McGuire is one of the most prolific authors currently working in the genre. Spanning fantasy, sci-fi, and standalone volumes like Middlegame , McGuire's bibliography is packed with great listens.
Rosemary and Rue
By Seanan McGuire
From finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series to penning his wholly original works in the Cosmere universe, including the Stormlight Archive , Brandon Sanderson has a great talent for worldbuilding and epic fantasy. Beyondwriting novels, Sanderson promotes the art of storytelling through podcasts, teaching, and articles. That passion for constructing good tales is evident in his wide body of work.
The Final Empire
By Brandon Sanderson
Although Patrick Rothfuss has only a few books to his name to date, the Kingkiller Chronicle is such a sweeping, exciting adventure with a deeply imagined magic system that it's hard not to put him on this list. With The Name of the Wind , he established a name for himself as a seriously talented writer of heroic fantasy. The Doors of Stone , the third book in the series, is due out later this year, and should further solidify Rothfuss's status as a true great of the genre.
The Name of the Wind
By Patrick Rothfuss
One could credibly make the argument that no other author on this list would be here were it not for the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, his surname has gone on to become synonymous with epic fantasy. The Lord of the Rings built many of the genre's main characteristics, such as the concept of true heroism and how unlikely bonds are forged in the face of a great evil. Although Tolkien did not invent fantasy strictly speaking, it's difficult to imagine modern fantasy without the signpost of his monumental works.
By J. R. R. Tolkien
A Nigerian-American writer, Okorafor is a relative newcomer to the genre—but her fabulous fiction marks a new beacon in fantasy. Among her works, the historical-fantasy hybrid Who Fears Death is one of the finest, featuring magic and a revenge quest in a post-apocalyptic Sudan. Okorafor's stories are often inspired by the real-world conflicts in Africa, a perspective that brings a fresh outlook to the fantasy realm.
By Nnedi Okorafor
The Witcher is a sprawling enterprise at this point, generating novels, comic books, television shows, and even various iterations as video and tabletop games. It all originates from the mind of one writer: Andrzej Sapkowski. The Polish author has written many books—including another trilogy and a standalone novel set during the Soviet-Afghan War—but the Witcher is where gold was struck. It's among the most well-known fantasy franchises out there, and that alone makes Sapkowski one of the most significant fantasy authors working right now.
The Last Wish
By Andrzej Sapkowski
One of the best things about listening to fantasy is that it grants you the ability to fully immerse yourself in an intricately imagined other world. For a great example of this, look no further than the works of Robin Hobb, including five separate series set in the Realms of the Elderlings . From the Farseer Trilogy to the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, it's an impressive collection of stories that bring Hobb's imagined universe fully into being.
The Farseer: Assassin's Apprentice
By Robin Hobb
Dragons are one of the fantasy genre's most iconic creatures, and with good reason—dragons are super cool. In the Temeraire series, Naomi Novik creates a historical fantasy in which the Napoleonic Wars are fought not only at sea, but also in the air—aboard dragons. Novik is also the author of the excellent standalone high fantasy Uprooted , about a plain and ordinary teenage girl’s tense yet symbiotic relationship with a wizard (known as the Dragon) who controls the evil of a forest that encroaches her village.
By Naomi Novik
Tamora Pierce is the kind of writer who’s practically impossible to dislike. Her YA fantasy books are not only well-imagined and enticing, but also provide representation for young girls and women in the genre. Pierce has said that while she loved well-known fantasies like The Lord of the Rings, she couldn't understand why the books lacked teenage girls as warriors and heroes. So, when she began gravitating toward fantasy writing, she made it a point to include the types of characters missing from books she loved: strong and brave young women. Beginning with the Song of the Lioness series, Pierce's bibliography is a delight to listen to all the way through.
Alanna, The First Adventure
By Tamora Pierce
Among the youngest writers on this list, Katherine Arden is one fantasy author you will want to keep your eyes on in the coming years. This is largely due to her historical fantasy, Winternight . Combining elements of fantasy and Russian folklore with a strong coming-of-age arc for protagonist Vasilisa, the trilogy is a thrill for fans of any genre, but in particular for those passionate about fantasy.
The Winter of the Witch
By Katherine Arden
Brian Jacques famously wrote the vast majority of his Redwall series while sitting in his garden, inspired by the foliage around him and the creatures within it, with a typewriter. Jacques wrote the Redwall books non-sequentially, giving the world of Mossflower and Redwall Abbey a limitless feeling and an ongoing, complex chronology in which events of some stories affected the history of others. No other fantasy author writes quite like Jacques did; his work has a truly enduring legacy.
By Brian Jacques
There is some debate as to whether Anne McCaffrey wrote fantasy or science fiction. While the Pern novels feature dragons and other fantastical elements, the dragons specifically are created through scientific means. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the author herself have described her work as science fiction, while one critic listed her books as among the best fantasy novels ever. Either way, McCaffrey deserves consideration on the lists of all-time greats in both genres.
Dragonquest: Dragonriders of Pern
By Anne McCaffrey
Mariellier's most recent novel, Beautiful , released in 2019, shows that this author of historical fantasy is still writing to the highest caliber. Known widely for the Blackthorn & Grim series, as well as the Sevenwaters books, Marillier writes stories that are wide-ranging and emotionally resonant, while also being very fun to be absorbed in. She places great emphasis on the importance of human connections to the natural world. With elements of folklore, romance, and family sagas, each of Marillier's books is an unforgettable experience.
By Juliet Marillier
Sarah J. Maas
Having written the earliest drafts and ideas of her Throne of Glass series when she was still a teenager, Sarah J. Maas is a young voice in the genre who has already released several modern classics of the YA fantasy canon. With the recently released debut volume of House of Earth and Blood , the author's signature blend of exciting fantasy settings, romance, and intrigue is showcased in an adult fantasy series for the first time.
Throne of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas
You can debate until the sun comes up about the most significant fantasy series of the last 30 years, and there are good cases to be made on behalf of many of them. The conversation would be incomplete, though, without consideration of The Wheel of Time . Robert Jordan's 15-book series, which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after the author's death in 2007, is the epitome of high-concept high fantasy. Taking place on an unnamed planet that is simultaneously past and far-future Earth, The Wheel of Time is, simply put, one of the best fantasy series of all time. By that measure alone, Robert Jordan is one of the best fantasy authors ever.
The Dragon Reborn
By Robert Jordan
D.R. Baker is a writer and musician based in New York City. Their work has appeared at Book Riot, Submittable, HowlRound, and others.
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The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time
With a panel of leading fantasy authors—N.K. Jemisin, Neil Gaiman, Sabaa Tahir, Tomi Adeyemi, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin, Cassandra Clare and Marlon James—TIME presents the most engaging, inventive and influential works of fantasy fiction, in chronological order beginning in the 9th century
N.k. jemisin on the timeless power of fantasy.
The Arabian Nights
Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Hero Born by Jin Yong
The Once & Future King by T.H. White
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Angelfall by Susan Ee
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Jade City by Fonda Lee
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Circe by Madeline Miller
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
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The 25 Best Fantasy Books & Novels of All Time: Our Top Picks
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Have you ever thought about writing your own fantasy novel? One of the best things you can do is take inspiration from others and get to know your genre. So without further ado, here's our pick of the 25 best fantasy books ever written.
Note: All the links below go to bookshop.org . Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on the map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop).
1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
The popularity of this fantasy book has exploded over the last several years, so what list wouldn’t include A Game of Thrones as one of the greatest fantasy series? If you like multiple, intricate story lines, a cast of characters where none is safe from death, and a world full of lords, knights, bastards, wizards, ladies, and more, then you’ll like this series. It has magic, intrigue, mystery, and lots of romance; in essence, a world unlike any you’ve ever encountered. While the movie adaptation has sparked several conversation, the series itself is no doubt one of our picks for top fantasy books.
2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
One ring rules them all. The Dark Lord put all of his powers in One Ring that was taken from him. After years in Middle-earth, Bilbo Baggins ends up with the ring. After he reaches his eleventy-first year, he disappears, and the ring becomes the property of Frodo, his cousin. Thus starts the epic quest to destroy the ring and everything it stands for.
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The land where children tumble out of a wardrobe, a secret country where only Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund are known. Lucy finds it first, followed by Edmund and the others. There they discover magic and Aslan, the Great Lion. And it changes their lives forever. If you're trying to inspire a sense of wonder in your kids then this is one of the top fantasy books to introduce to them.
4. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
What would happen if characters in a fantasy world grew up and discovered they had modern anxieties and problems? What would be the best job for a troll in the city? The Colour of Magic explores the answers to questions everyone has but is afraid to ask about fantasy heroes.
5. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Fitz is born a bastard of royal blood with a magical link to animals called Wit. When he is eventually adopted into the royal household, he must give up his link to animals and embrace a new way of living and being—he trains to become a royal assassin. The Assassin's Apprentice has complex characters and an excellent plot; making it one of the best adult fantasy novels.
6. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
In a fantastic world of criminals and nobles, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an adventure, loyalty, and survival guide along the lines of Robin Hood and Ocean’s Eleven. Locke Lamora dodges death, slavery, and more only to fall in the hands of a con artist known as Chains.
7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A coming-of-age story in a fantasy world, The Name of the Wind tells the story of a young man who grows to become a notorious wizard. With beginnings that start in a troupe of traveling players, Kvothe finally enters a school of magic. Plenty of high action and adventure turns Kvothe into a fugitive sought for murder.
8. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Goodreads description starts: "HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?" Lessa, who most think of as an inconsequential kitchen girl, determines it’s time to take back her stolen birthright. But then she meets the queen dragon, forming a quick and strong bond. Dragons and their riders must protect the planet from Thread, but at what price?
9. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
As the Wheel of Time continues to turn, Ages come and go leaving behind legends that fade to myth, which is long forgotten. It’s not until the Third Age, the Age of Prophecy, that the world and time both hang in balance. Now, what was, what is, and what will be can fall under the Shadow.
10. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie combines an unlikely cast of characters: a philosophical Barbarian who abhors killing, a dashing hero afraid to fight, and a crippled torturer who has a heart of gold. This unlikely cast, coupled with an interesting plot and a wizard, treads a line between hero and villain that may cost them everything.
11. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
An epic fantasy where mystical swords and suits of armor transform ordinary men into invincible warriors, kingdoms are won and traded for Shardblades. An interesting cast of characters from around the fantasy world fight their own battles, sometimes with motives less than pure.
12. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The fantasy world of Malazan is full of discontent thanks to innumerable wars, bitter infighting, and gory confrontations. Empress Laseen’s imperial legions, thought inured to the bloodshed, are looking for a break. But her rule is absolute, enforced by her dreaded Claw assassins. As the Empress turns her site to new battles, the gods themselves are getting ready for a little interference.
Why are these books so successful?
We're halfway through our list of the best fantasy books of all time – but why are these books so great?
All the books on this list completely immerse their reader in their stories. Their plots aren't simple by any means, but they are written in a way that allows their readers to ease themselves in to complex new worlds without overwhelming them with information.
This might seem effortless, but a lot of work goes into producing fantasy writing that works. If you've got a whole world in your head just waiting to spill onto the page, you might have thought about writing a fantasy book. If you construct a world that readers can't help but want to step into, maybe one day that book will even be one of the best fantasy book of all time.
Before we get there though, your writing has to be fantastic. Using an editing tool like ProWritingAid will help you learn as you write, teaching you how to make your writing readable, well-paced and, of course, grammatically correct!
Did you know that your pacing can have a big impact on readability? You may have every detail of your world planned out, right down to the types of fork each character uses at dinner, but does your reader need to know every detail all at once?
ProWritingAid's pacing report will highlight areas where your writing is a little too introspective or description heavy, so that you can balance it our with some action. Being able to see an overview of your writing allows you to keep track of your novel as a whole to make sure that every part is doing the work it needs to to put your world into the heads of your readers.
Even if you're not writing fantasy novels, you can use ProWritingAid to check all of the writing you produce to make sure your written communication is as effective as possible.
Now, back to the list!
13. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Roland Deschain of Gilead is the Last Gunslinger. He is a mysterious figure on a quest through a desolate fantasy world in pursuit of the man in black. Roland is a good man, yet he leaves death in his wake. The man in black, on the other hand, can bring the dead back to life.
14. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ged is the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but he was called Sparrowhawk in his youth. It was as Sparrowhawk that the terrible shadow was loosed upon the world. Ged must master the mighty word of power, tame an ancient dragon, and cross death’s threshold to restore balance to his world.
15. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Over 800 pages of world-building, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell tells the tale of English magicians who have lost their ability to perform magic. That is, until a reclusive magician regains some powers. He is soon in demand for his powers and all is fine until a rival magician shows up—Jonathan Strange.
16. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Lyra rushes to the cold North where witch clans and armored bears rule—and where Gobblers take children, including her friend Roger. Lyra’s fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world, but Lyra is one small girl. Can she make a difference in this great and terrible endeavor?
17. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
In a world where the king’s evil is unending, can Eragon and the fledgling dragon navigate the treacherous terrain and the vast, dark enemies? Can Eragon take up the fight of the legendary Dragon Riders? Thrust into a world of destiny, magic, and power, Eragon realizes the fate of the empire may rest in his hands.
18. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
The first in the Sword of Truth series, Wizard’s First Rule starts with the murder of Richard Cypher’s father. Suddenly a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard’s forest. She needs help—and more. Will Richard find the courage to challenge those who hold dominion?
19. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Who doesn’t love the mystical, magical legend of King Arthur? In The Once and Future King , a young lad called "Wart" comes under the tutelage of Merlyn the wizard to create an amazing future. Wart will ally himself with the greatest knights of the realm, love a legendary queen, and unite a country under chivalrous values. He will be Arthur, King of the Britons.
20. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
In the Kingdom of Isles, to the forest on the shore comes an orphan, Pug, to study with the magician, Kulgan. He may have won the heart of the lovely Princess, but normal wizardry leaves him cold. However, his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who open space-time to begin again an old battle between Order and Chaos.
21. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Jorg Ancrath, who was once a privileged royal child raised by a loving mother, has become the Prince of Thorns, an immoral boy who leads a band of outlaws. The entire fantasy world is in chaos, and Jorg can rule the living and the dead, but something even more horrifying confronts him. He must face the horrors of his childhood and carve a better future for himself.
22. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Featuring a cast of gods who are almost washed up, American Gods tells the tale of power waxing and waning in the modern age. When war with modern gods crops up its evil head, Shadow Moon encounters Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee, a former god, and the king of America.
23. The Black Company by Glen Cook
The Black Company was an influence in Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice and just for that reference deserves to be read. Is the newly risen Lady the force standing between humankind and evil—or is she evil itself? The stoic, hard men of the Black Company do their job until the prophecy is proven: The White Rose has been reborn, embodying good once more.
24. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
The one real world, Amber, casts infinite shadow worlds of itself those with royal blood can manipulate. But when the royal family is torn apart by the disappearance of patriarch Oberon, the crown is up for grabs and amnesia strikes Corwin, the Crown Prince of Amber—even the fact he is the rightful heir to the throne.
25. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A discussion about fantasy fiction books would not be complete without the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Harry discovers he has magical powers and is sent to the wizarding school Hogwarts to develop them. Once there, he uncovers a secret object hidden in the castle walls, which Harry must prevent from falling into evil hands.
What are Your Best Fantasy Series?
So many other titles should be on the list but weren’t. What’s your favorite fantasy novel we left off? Let us know in the comments below so we can get the definitive list going.
Note: the links on this page are affiliate links, so if you buy any of the books, you are supporting the evolution of ProWritingAid at no extra cost to you - whoop!
Want to see which novels made our other lists?
- The Best Mystery Novels of All Time
- The Best Dystopian Novels of All Time
- The Best Sci-Fi Novels of All Time
- The Best Historical Fiction Novels of All Time
- The Best Horror Novels of All Time
- The Best Thriller Novels of All Time
- The Best Romance Novels of All Time
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Top 100 Fantasy Books
The 100 fantasy books that we - and other readers - simply cannot recommend highly enough; books that we've all loved reading. Click on a book title to read the full review.
1. A Game Of Thrones by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire)
A Song of Ice and Fire is the history lesson you wish you’d had in school. An immense, incredible work of epic fantasy written by a hugely talented author who has created an effortless, enchanting read that is rich, rewarding and completely enthralling.
Published: 1996 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2012 (A Dance With Dragons), 1997 (A Game of Thrones) | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 2012 (A Dance With Dragons), 2006 (A Feast for Crows)
- Buy on Amazon
2. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (The Discworld Series)
Carnegie Medal Winner: 2002 (The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents)
In his Discworld Series, Terry Pratchett, one of Britain’s best and funniest authors created a true delight of modern fiction. Satirical, clever and hilarious the forty-one books that make up the series are a pure and fantastic joy.
3. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
International Fantasy Award Winner: 1957
The Lord of the Rings is unquestionably one of the greatest works of imaginative fiction of the twentieth century. J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic, written using a beautifully descriptive narrative, tells an enchanting tale of friendship, love and heroism. Steeped in magic and otherworldliness, this sweeping fantasy is beautiful, perfect and also timeless. A must read for every fantasy fan.
4. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a genuinely original story, beautifully told. The Telegraph succinctly says it all with 'an elegant and witty historical fantasy which deserves to be judged on its own (considerable) merit'. It is unquestionably one of the finest historical fantasy books ever written.
Published: 2004 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2005 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 2005
5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
David Gemmell Award for Fantasy Winner: 2012 (The Wise Man’s Fear)
The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are the very finest examples of first-person storytelling. It’s comparable to sitting across from someone, in a comfy chair, before a log fire, listening to them recount one of the most intricate and fascinating stories you’ve ever heard. To quote Ursula Le Guin: “It is a rare and great pleasure to find a fantasist writing... with true music in the words”.
6. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (The Gentleman Bastard Sequence)
Scott Lynch’s trilogy features wonderful characters, plot and camaraderie, all set within a setting beautifully inspired by ancient Venice. It is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, often shocking but ultimately – and frequently - heart-warming. If you are looking for fantasy novels with relatable thieves and rogues then the Gentlemen Bastards are perfect for you.
Published: 2006 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2007 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 2007
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre. The end result is very much like creating a new species of rose; you take those qualities from other roses that you want, and then splice them all together. The outcome is beautiful.
Published: 2001 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2002 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 2002
8. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (The Broken Earth)
Reading the Broken Earth trilogy can be a brutal, painful experience. There is much tragedy, despair and the characters’ futures often look nothing but bleak. But these ambitious, heartbreaking books mark a new stage in the evolution of the fantasy genre and their complexity, world-building and themes break new ground.
Published: 2015 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2017 (The Obelisk Gate), 2016 (The Fifth Season)
9. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin (Earthsea Saga)
The Earthsea books can be read by children and enjoyed simply for the magic, wizards, adventure and beautifully imagined world. They can also be read by adults and enjoyed for the thought-provoking ideas and themes that the books conjure. They are truly timeless, exploring human behaviour without being preaching or judgmental, encouraging readers to think deeply and form their own opinions. To quote a reader review: “The wisdom and the quiet ancient beauty of these books grow every time I reread them.”
Published: 1993 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2002 (The Other Wind)
10. Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (The Farseer Trilogy)
The Realm of the Elderlings is a glorious, classic fantasy combining the magic of Le Guin's The Wizard of Earthsea with the epic mastery of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is a master class of characterisation, imbued with the richest of narratives, all combining to produce one of the very finest fantasy series ever written.
Published: 1995 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 1997
11. Gardens Of The Moon by Steven Erikson (A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen)
The ten novels that make up A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen are works of great skill, imagination, ambition, depth and beauty. But not for the faint-of-heart, Erikson throws you in at the deep end and encourages you to swim. This series is one of the greatest fantasy literature achievements of the past one hundred years.
Published: 1999 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2000 (Gardens of the Moon)
12. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials)
Carnegie Medal Winner: 1995 (Northern Lights)
Imagine a world that is as alike as it is dissimilar to our own. Where huge zeppelins litter the skyline and a person’s soul is a living breathing animal companion, or 'daemon'. This is the wonderfully engrossing world of Lyra Belacqua. Although written for children it is equally as absorbing for any adult reader, enthralling from its very first page.
Published: 1995 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2001 (The Amber Spyglass)
13. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (New Crobuzon)
Perdido Street Station is a work of art. At times horrific, beautiful, tragic, comic and even uplifting, with a plot which takes unexpected turns and twists and revelations, one of the most unique settings imaginable and above all a style of dark poetry that is truly exceptional.
Published: 2000 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2005 (The Iron Council), 2003 (The Scar), 2001 (Perdido Street Station) | British Fantasy Award Winner: 2003 (The Scar), 2000 (Perdido Street Station)
14. Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson (Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever)
Thomas Covenant is arguably one of the most famous characters in fantasy, but not all who know it love it. Whether it is due to the Covenant character himself, or simply as a response to the series as a whole, readers find themselves divided in their opinions: Some love it, some hate it. But few dismiss it. The Chronicles are a very complex piece of work but at heart a good old-fashioned tale of epic fantasy deserving of being labeled classic.
Published: 1977 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2005 (The Runes of the Earth), The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever (1978) | British Fantasy Award Winner: 1979 (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 1981 (The Wounded Land)
15. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling (Harry Potter)
Nestlé Smarties Book Prize Winner: 1999 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), 1998 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), 1997 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)
The seven Harry Potter books are very well-written and laugh-out-loud funny, and it makes for an intoxicating combination. The Philosopher’s Stone is where, for young Harry Potter, it all begins. The Potter books are infused with charm and wit and adored by readers of all ages, the wizarding world a wonderful place for any reader, of any age, to escape to.
16. The Gunslinger by Stephen King (The Dark Tower series)
Many who have read and enjoyed the Dark Tower series have found a companion for life. The journey for many has been one of years, if not decades. And many will have found within the series parallels to their own lives: It’s not always gone the way they would have liked, many parts were better than others (though upon re-read these conceptions can change). This is King’s magnum opus, he poured everything into its writing and it is a towering achievement.
Published: 1982 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2005 (The Dark Tower)
17. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive)
With The Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson clearly stamps his authority as the master of the "Hollywood" style of epic fantasy. It is hard to comprehend just how much stuff is going on and how this book impacts the wider Cosmere (the universe that ties all of Sanderson's books together). Big action set pieces of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things is exactly what many want from their epic fantasy.
18. The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe by CS Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Carnegie Medal Winner: 1956 (The Last Battle)
With the Chronicles of Narnia cemented himself as a master story teller and perfected writing novels that would survive the test of time and still entertain and educate children and adults everywhere to this day. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is arguably one of the finest stories in English literature from the 20th century.
19. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (The First Law)
The First Law trilogy was a real game changer for the fantasy genre. It worked in shades of grey. It makes the reader like characters they should possibly, really dislike. And dislike characters they should possibly, really like. The dialogue is witty and often the cause of out-loud laughter. It’s a captivating read and has everything a fantasy fan could wish for. Any books that can add humour to torture scenes has something special going on.
20. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time)
The Wheel of Time is one of the most popular and influential fantasy epics ever written. It puts the epic in epic fantasy, a hugely ambitious undertaking that redefined a genre. This skillfully written fourteen book series is filled with unforgettable characters and set in a world steeped in rich history and legend.
21. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
Good Omens is one of the funniest works of fiction ever. Pratchett and Gaiman have managed to create a story that weaves together large doses of satire, cynicism, slapstick and wacky unconventional humour into a cohesive yet surprisingly accurate observation of human life all over the world. The characters, one of the biggest strengths in this book, bring a lot of charm and humour to the book. This collaboration between two fine fantasy authors is nothing short of brilliant.
Published: 1990 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1991
22. The Once And Future King by TH White
Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn’t possibly imagine. A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values... The Once and Future King is a serious work, delightful and witty, yet very sombre overall. The volume published as The Once and Future King is actually four works separately composed over about 20 years.
23. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Under Heaven, inspired by the Tang Dynasty of Ancient China, is as beautiful and enriching a novel as you could possibly wish for. Kay is an expert storyteller, his writing style strong and fluid, his exposition always necessary and worked seamlessly into the narrative. He has successfully re-imagined Ancient China in the same accessible and absorbing way that he previously achieved with medieval France, Ottoman Spain and Renaissance Italy.
Published: 2010 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2011
24. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin (The Inheritance Trilogy)
N.K. Jemisin has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Nebula Award for Best Novel, Audie Award for Science Fiction and the Crawford Award. Enough said. You want more? Okay, every now and again books comes out that deserves all the hype they get. N.K. Jemisin writes books that are at times smart, at times funny, and at times downright heartbreaking, all wrapped up in the the most original stories. This is a must for your bookshelf. This book is flat out 10 out of 10.
Published: 2010 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2011 (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms)
25. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn)
In his Mistborn series Brandon Sanderson has written one of the seminal fantasy stories of his generation. Compelling and flawlessly executed with exquisite skill, the enormous magnitude of the story being told showcases the breathtaking imagination at work here. Themes like religion and death are dealt with, power and helplessness, corruption and goodness. Weaved together like a master basket maker, this story lets you grow attached too, love, and lose, characters that you never thought would be lost.
26. The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolf (Book of the New Sun)
The Book of the New Sun is a science fantasy classic that improves with every read. Too often overlooked, possibly due to being dense in allegory and symbolism, the joy of coming to understand Wolfe’s craft is part of the joy of reading it. The lead character Severan, is an unreliable narrator, and this adds another layer of complexity. If you’re a fan of both science fiction and fantasy, it is a must-read.
Published: 1980 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1983 (The Sword of the Lictor), 1982 (The Claw of the Conciliator), 1981 (The Shadow of the Torturer) | British Fantasy Award Winner: 1983 (The Sword of the Lictor)
27. Jade City by Fonda Lee (The Green Bone Saga)
Emotionally shocking moments, intricate and otherworldly fight scenes, and lots of loyalty, honour and tradition. Jade City is an epic, unique and often unforgiving gangster fantasy narrative intertwined with glimpses of hope and goodness. The haunting nature of the world is also mixed with betrayals and a huge death toll. Recommended.
Published: 2017 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2018 (Jade City)
28. Magician by Raymond E Feist (Riftwar Saga)
Feist's Magician is one of the best known and well read fantasy books; it is a powerful and memorable book that any reader who derives pleasure from reading epic fantasy should read being classic fantasy imbued with many elements of originality. The character development is excellent and the reading experience effortless. In 2003 Magician was voted the 89th most popular book of all time in the BBC's Big Read Top 100. I found the first read of this book to be one of those special moments when you are reading a book that has shaped the fantasy fantasy landscape as it now appears.
29. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
I once read an interview with Guy Gavriel Kay where he explained his approach to writing. He said that he wrote what he needed to write and then went over it a second time, adding layers and textures, making improvements, rather like a painter. And then he repeated the process for a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and then eighth time. And this is why his writing is so good, it's not just natural talent, which he has in abundance, but attention to detail and hard, painstaking work. It pays off and in Tigana he wrote a book that influenced me as much as The Lord of the Rings when I was a youngster. It is a book I hold very dear. But Kay is the second Canadian on this list and although they may appear the nicest, politest people on the planet I secretely fear plans for world domination, so I'll keep on eye of the Empire of Canadia's ratio.
30. The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
The Last Unicorn is one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time. Its lyrical writing, it’s memorable and very human characters, and its exploration of mortality, immortality, and the meeting of the two never fail to move. The novel deals in a very deep and profound way with love, and loss, and the value of love; which in the case of the unicorn becomes important enough to surrender immortality to possess. There are also recurring themes of loss and grief, and the contemplation of the meaning and purpose of life (and death).
31. Watership Down by Richard Adams
Watership Down is a book which will always hold a special place in my heart. It has captivated and moved me for over three decades and I do not believe this will change for what I hope will be a further three. It has the elements that I enjoy in a story: a quest, the journey, plus the bravery, belief and inability to accept defeat. The rabbit characters are glorious: the nerviously intelligent Fiver and his kind, loyal brother Hazel. The no-nonsense Bigwig, the controlling Woundwort and the ingenious Blackberry - all are rich and wonderful to spend time with. Is it fantasy? Google lists it as Fairy tale, Fantasy Fiction, Adventure fiction. Good enough for me. How many talking rabbits have you met?
32. The Magicians by Lev Grossman (The Magicians series)
The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done with The Magicians. He has injected sexual tension and questionable morals into a school for wizards and the result is a rousing, perceptive and multifaceted coming of age story that is both bright and beguiling. The Magicians is a perfect fantasy book for older teens that will find that the author understands them, and their feelings, possibly better than they do themselves.
33. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland was Lewis Carroll’s first novel and its fantasy plot, humorous rhymes and brilliant use of nonsense was revolutionary. Nineteenth-century children’s writing usually served moral or educational purpose, but Alice was written firmly and purely for the amusement of children. Critical response was lukewarm, but the book was still a great success, and remains a hugely influential classic of children’s literature.
34. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
"One of the most laconic, tightly-plotted tales of mythical morality you'll ever read, an anti-establishment satire disguised as a love story, more of a scary tale than a fairy tale" Uncut
"There's nothing fluffy about The Princess Bride. The rocket-powered narrative tricks you without being merely tricksy, and is both modern and timeless" Neon
"A funny thriller for readers who are about ten years of age or wish they were ... Readers of a nervous disposition should be prepared to skim rapidly over the Zoo of Death episode or stick to fiction meant for grown-ups" Spectator
35. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy)
Within Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy books we find a complex, refined work of fantasy. This skillfully written trilogy stars an unforgettable heroine who finds herself mixed up in a dangerous world of politics, magic and romance. The trilogy begins with Kushiel’s Dart, a tale that will enthrall readers of fantasy fiction.
36. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
You have to ask yourself… Wouldn’t it be great to believe in magic? I found this book extraordinary, with so much thought put into the story which unfolds like a carefully constructed maze.
37. Dune by Frank Herbert
Hugo Award Winner: 1966
Nebula Award Winner: 1966
One of the most layered works of fiction produced during the twentieth century. If you are a fan of epic fantasy or large-scale science fiction (and are not afraid to examine weighty issues such as religion and politics) Dune cannot be strongly recommend enough. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of this genre must read it at some point in their lives.
38. Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay (The Sarantine Mosaic)
The Sarantine Mosaic and Lord of Emperors, inspired by ancient Byzantium, tell a magnificent, sweeping story of empire, conspiracies and journeys, both physical and spiritual. One of the very best examples of alternate history merged with fantasy.
Published: 2000 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2001 (Lord of Emperors), (1999) Sailing to Sarantium
39. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (The Divine Cities)
The Divine Cities trilogy is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It treats its audience with the same respect and consideration as it shares with its cast. It is a rich, lovingly-crafted world that is both thematically complex and wonderfully entertaining. Shara, Mulaghesh and Sigrud have all been ensconced in my personal Fictional Character Hall of Fame, and I will miss them dearly. If you’re looking to discover something new, something original, and something memorable, then this is the series you’re looking for.
Published: 2014 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2015 (City of Stairs)
40. The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
Helene Wecker writes elegantly and fluently, her characters are constantly fascinating and exploring their histories is a joy. The main setting and the narrative evoke wonderful images of nineteenth century New York and we, as the fortunate reader, get to experience Jewish and Arabic folklore fundamental to the book’s being. Many authors have written about a golem, many have written about a djinni, but few have brought them both together in a story so seamlessly. The Golem and the Djinni is first rate historical fantasy fiction that consistently delights; a charming love story with pleasing emotional depth.
Published: 2013 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2014
41. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (The Dragon Rider's Saga)
If you want to see how the Pern saga began, and indeed see how a young writer converted two Hugo winning novellas to form her first steps into a historical world of alien dragons, Dragonflight is for you. Wonderfully descriptive narrative, impressive world building and above all a great story.
42. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
One drowsy summer's day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for 'asylum'. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking....
Published: 2014 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2015
43. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
One of the best known and best loved fantasy books, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit introduced the reading world to the unforgettable hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard, and Smaug the dragon. A book that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike it is a tale full of adventure, heroism, song and laughter. Many who read this magical tale will find their inner-hobbit.
44. The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (Memory Sorrow and Thorn)
Epic, traditional fantasy of a high standard. At nearly 800 pages it is excellently paced and brings together all the elements that are found in many a fantasy book and re-produces them in a beautiful and endearing way.
45. The Black Company by Glen Cook (Chronicles of the Black Company)
The Black Company by Glen Cook is the first book of the nine that make up The Black Company series. First published in 1984 this book was responsible for taking the fantasy genre and turning it on its head with his introduction of realistic characters and its complete disregard for fantasy stereotypes and the age-old battle of good versus evil.
46. The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
If you've not read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings this may not be for you. But I honestly don't know, it's such a brilliant book, a book about creation really, that maybe it will work for you regardless. But if you have read Tolkien's masterpieces this is a must-read. If you are as captivated by them as most of the reading world is – the Silmarillion will give you the extra information you crave and answer the questions that the two prior books threw up – Who exactly are Gandalf and Sauron? How did the Orcs come into being? Why are the Elves leaving Middle-earth and where are they going?
47. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (The Gormenghast Trilogy)
Deliciously dark, Titus Groan is the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy. The book is written in the third person, which allows the characters and events unfold simultaneously. The land of Gormenghast is described in enough detail for you to realise that this is a land unlike any other.
48. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (The Shannara Trilogy)
Long ago, the world of the Four Lands was torn apart by the wars of ancient Evil. But in the Vale, the half-human, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford now lives in peace - until the mysterious, forbidding figure of the druid Allanon appears, to reveal that the supposedly long dead Warlock Lord lives again. Shea must embark upon the elemental quest to find the only weapon powerful enough to keep the creatures of darkness at bay: the fabled Sword of Shannara.
"And while I will agree that Brooks draws inspiration from Tolkien, he doesn't copy him. The reason I linger on this is to hopefully, impress upon you an open mind to reading this book. Do not cross this book off your “to read” list because you've heard people knock it. Similarly, do not go into reading this book attempting to cross reference everything back to some other work. This is a book that deserves being critiqued on its own merit."
49. Circe by Madeline Miller
A 10/10 book. Sean: ‘This is a beautiful book; it is flawless and intelligent. I do not have a single criticism for this fantastic piece of writing. I loved it! I could not recommend it more highly. I really liked The Song of Achilles though this surpassed it in every way. I really hope to see more from this author in the future’.
50. The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (The Night Angel Trilogy)
Another reader favourite, The Way of Shadows is one of the most entertaining fantasy books available, a rich, engrossing and creative novel. The action sequences are awesome and the plot and characterisation also. If you're looking for all of the above within the framework of a great story, look no further.
51. Storm Front by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)
Take your standard noir detective with a sarcastic frame of mind and a weakness for helping damsels in distress, add in wizardry, vampires, werewolves, talking skulls, pizza loving fairies and all things paranormal and this is what you get. A quirky, fast paced and thrilling ride through a Chicago you never thought possible. Great characters, a mystery that twists and turns like a corkscrew and above all, Harry, a wizard with a world weary sense of humour, who takes life on the chin.
52. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London series)
There is something eminently satisfying about coming across a new author and finding that he is utterly brilliant. That is exactly what happened when I received Ben Aaronovitch’s book ‘Rivers of London’. You have to read this book. Whether you like good writing, good fantasy or urban fantasy, good characters, or simply a breath-taking story set in a breath-taking world, this book is for you. Because it is all of those things, and much much more. Aaronovitch has written a book that will surely become a favourite on many shelves the moment they’ve finished it at 3 in the morning.
53. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement: 1983
When Dahl made up James and the Giant Peach as a bedtime story for his daughters Olivia and Tessa, little could he have know that half a century later millions of parents would have read exactly the same story to their own children; a book that fully deserves the accolade of children’s classic.
54. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire)
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence was a book steeped in controversy - a book that seemed to have divided the Science Fiction and Fantasy community with regards to what is acceptable for people to like and enjoy. A confronting story, deliberately so, that follows a 13 year old boy named Jorg who leads a gang of marauders as they pillage their way across the countryside. Jorg is a sociopath, a willing participant, and readers get to experience the world through his damaged viewpoint. Readers get to see, through Jorg's eyes, the cold apathy with which he dispatches his enemies. It is discomforting. But Prince of Thorns is a fantastic tale of one boy’s fight for control in a world threatening to engulf him.
55. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
I would give it a 12 out of 10 if I could. If you could only read one book about the apocalypse this should be it. I have read every post apocalypse book I could get my hands on, old ones, new ones, Kindle only ones. Nothing compares to Swan Song. The hardest part of reading Swan Song was the knowledge that there was no book to follow. But it didn't need one. Thank you Robert, it is the best book I ever read, and about every 5 years I pick it up ad read it again... (Reader review by Lisa from Canada)
Published: 1987 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1988
56. The Stand by Stephen King
If you call yourself any kind of reader of speculative fiction and can appreciate a truly rich and complex book, The Stand is a must read. Even if you’ve never read Stephen King before, even if neither horror nor post-apocalyptic are your usual genre choice, you won’t be disappointed. The writing is excellent, the imagery horrifying and the atmosphere hypnotic. After the first few pages you will either find yourself hooked or repelled… it’s that kind of book. But if you want to read one of the greatest examples of dystopian fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy thrown in then look no further.
Published: 1978 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1979
57. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Ryan: An intimate trip down memory lane to a time when things were much more fantastical than what they are now. This a story that is simple on the surface, but with a depth of immersion that depends entirely on how much you connect with the story. My guess is that the further you are away from your childhood, be it through age or experience, the more you will connect with this story and the more you will fall in love with it.
58. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky is an intense emotional roller-coaster that flits between genres, using both sci-fi and fantasy to get its message across and although it does pit them against each other, the novel never says one is better than the other, each has its place in this story and it is by both of these working together that the best outcome will be found. All the Birds in the Sky is also a very human story focusing on the confusion and mistrust that can come from not understanding the unknown.
59. It by Stephen King
It is the children who see - and feel - what makes the town so horribly different. In the storm drains and sewers "It" lurks, taking the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. As the children grow up and move away, the horror of "It" is buried deep - until they are called back.
"As an exploration of childhood, growing up, friendship and facing both real and supernatural fears I still hold It up as a great book. But the ending, and the book’s length in general, will be unpalatable to many readers."
One of the greatest storytellers of our time - The Guardian
A writer of excellence... King is one of the most fertile storytellers of the modern novel - The Sunday Times
Published: 1986 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1987
60. The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy)
Jen Williams “The Ninth Rain” is unlike anything I have ever read. For a fantasy lover, it’s one of those rare books that pulls at your heartstrings but also at the knowledge that it’s okay to be imperfect, inquisitive and slightly mad.
61. The Poppy War by R F Kuang (The Poppy War)
Simply put, R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is a towering achievement of modern fantasy. Kuang writes in a descriptive and narrative style that presents many sides of an issue without trying to persuade the reader into thinking which path is the “correct” one, if one such exists. As the book descends into its bleak final act, the connection we’ve built with Rin and her companions is put to the test. It is a testament to Kuang’s skill as a writer to establish such a strong connection with her protagonists that the impact of the events in third act hit as hard as they do.
Published: 2018 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2019
62. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers. This story is shocking, devastating, and beautiful. Kay’s language is elegant in its simplicity, yet painstakingly profound as it cuts to the core of what makes us think, and act, and remember.
63. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
The “feminist successor to The Lord of the Rings” - Laura Eve. The Priory of the Orange Tree is a story told with grace and infused with rich history and lore in its gloriously huge scope: it is magnificent in every regard. It’s all about the girl power here! I recommend this to readers who enjoy female driven fantasy that is also carefully paced like the works of Robin Hobb, Tad Williams and Chris Wooding.
64. The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Another 10/10 book and the most recently published book to appear on this list, published as it was in 2019. Ann Leckie first came to our attention with her highly-regarded science fiction books. When she turned her hand to fantasy she produced, in the words of the book's reviewer, Joshua: A magisterial tour de force of subverted narrative expectations that wrestles with what it means to find identity as a human, and as a god. Unlike anything being written, Ann Leckie will likely be remembered as a literary pioneer, and not as similar to someone else. A masterpiece of storytelling that leaves a willing reader humbled, The Raven Tower is quite simply the best book of the year – mighty, subtle, captivating, unputdownable.
Published: 2019 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2020
65. The 10,000 Doors of January by Alix E Harrow
It is a rare thing to relate to a book’s character in such a way that similar situations evoke empathy across your lives. Enough parallels can be drawn to feel almost as if the book is catered specifically toward you in some existential way. I have not read much portal fantasy, but I have always felt a feeling of smothered repression through my youth that has tamped down my will to explore. Instead, my portals to elsewhere revealed themselves in books and stories at an early age, and they’ve been with me ever since. Alix Harrow captures this feeling of finding oneself through the stories we share in her stunning and unforgettable debut novel The 10,000 Doors of January. It is a beautifully written and lovingly crafted adventure about the strength of love, the importance of stories, and the timeless power of words.
66. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
I can’t remember the last time I wanted to step into a book so much, be part of a world so desperately. Even with all the danger, with the pain and darkness and death, it’s a place that feels like possibility…
67. Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
Twenty years ago , sixteen year old Tara Martin took a walk into the mysterious Outwoods in the Charnwood Forest and never came back. Extensive searches and police investigations find no trace and her family is forced to accept the unthinkable. Then on Christmas day Tara arrives at her parents' door, dishevelled, unapologetic and not looking a day older than when she left. It seems like a miracle and Tara's parents are delighted, but something about her story doesn't add up. When she claims that she was abducted by the fairies, her brother Peter starts to think she might have lost her sanity. But as Tara's tale unfolds, those who loved and missed her begin to wonder whether there is some truth to her account of the last two decades.
Published: 2012 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2013
68. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (The Locked Tomb Trilogy)
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
Published: 2019 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2020 (Gideon the Ninth)
69. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Although The Book Thief is set in such dark times, when almost unimaginable atrocities were being commited, it manages, by its end, to be an uplifting, life-affirming book due to the kindness, love and bravery of its many characters.
70. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
The characterisation is excellent, creating well-formed, sympathetic and most importantly, realistic characters. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea masterpiece, the writing of this generation contains a magic that few modern authors have managed to successfully retain. This is a beautiful, thought-provoking book that will stay with the reader forever.
71. Duncton Wood by William Horwood (The Duncton Chronicles)
Some authors write beautifuly and can induce an almost meditive state in the reader. Tolkien, Hobb, Le Guin, Martin can achieve this, and so can William Horwood. There are two books on the site that generate an effusive outpouring of love from readers, two books which will be well know to some but perhaps not as widely known as many books on this list, they are Swan Song by Robert McCammon and Duncton Wood. It is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. Read my review and the reader reviews below it if you want to get a real sense of how highly this book is regarded.
72. Legend by David Gemmell (The Drenai Novels)
David Gemmell is unquestionably one of my favourite fantasy authors. For the past 30 years his books have been read and re-read and I am still not weary of them, and I hope that will always be the case. I personally do not think that this is Gemmell's finest but it surely has to be his most important, as without it nothing may have followed. Legend is a great place to start if you have not read any of his work before and a great blend of sword, sorcery and heroism. A MUST read for any heroic fantasy fans.
73. Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (The Sword of Truth Series)
Terry Goodkind has created a consice, intelligent book that is believable from the start. This is fantasy that is definately aimed at the adult. It is evident that Terry Goodkind has strong political and social views that he is keen to get across in his books. Rather than finding this spoilt the narrative, I found it healthy reading a book that makes you think about what the author is trying to say. I found that Ursula Le Guin's works had the same effect on me.
74. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
If you are a fan of trains, history, or London, then this book is definitely for you. Gaiman once again, just like he did in American Gods, shows an uncanny research ability, matched with his inimitable writing style. We are soon introduced to a mass of underground railway stations, and a group of people that, unbeknownst to London Above, are living rather content lives beneath their feet. A bit of mythology, a bit of fantasy, a bit of urban drama and a whole lot of London makes this book a definite must read.
75. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book won the Carnegie medal for children’s fiction, and it deserved to win. The writing style, though easy enough for children, is very descriptive and distinctive.
"If asked to put The Graveyard Book into a genre, I'd have to say: this is a Neil Gaiman book. It's in the Genre of Excellence" Fortean Times
Published: 2008 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2009
76. The City and the City by China Mieville
This is a great story. Mieville has delivered and lived up to the hype generated by his early work, in particular the Bas-Lag series. While this is a vastly different book to that epic series, there is no change in quality.
Published: 2009 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2010
77. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Liga raises her two daughters in the safe haven of an alternative reality, a personal heaven granted by magic as a refuge from her earthly suffering. But the real world cannot be denied forever and when the barrier between the two worlds begins to break down, Liga’s fiery daughter, Urdda, steps across it…
"Tender Morsels never once tries to show that life has a happily ever after ending. It shows that life is full of hardship; you will experience hurt, you will watch loved ones die and you will often be afraid. It also shows that live can be full of love, caring and kindness and that it is better to experience something, be it good or bad, than to experience nothing at all." Fantasy Book Review
78. Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente
Sei, November, Ludov, and Oleg -- four people unknown to each other but united by grief and their obsession with the city of Palimpsest. Located beyond the human realm, Palimpsest is accessible only by those who sleep after generating the energy which comes from sex. Once anyone arrives in the city, they indulge in sense pleasures and are able to obtain their innermost desires -- two things which ensure that Palimpsest visitors return.
"Like other Cathryn Valente books (Orphan's Tales, In the Garden of Coin and Spice), this poignant poetic work is a feast for the mind. Palimpsest is the gift of a fairy tale wrapped in an allegory and tied with a mystical ribbon. A gift that readers can enjoy again and again." Fantasy Book Review
79. The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
Jeffrey Ford throws genuine easy gas with this little semi-autobiographical gem. The book pulls you in, keeps pulling you, yanking you, in fact, but you never feel anything but a slight trace of a tug. So familiar is he with his world - the south shore of western Suffolk County (NY) in the late sixties - and so skilled is he at drawing you into it, that you scarcely notice the creepy, dark water leaking in under your mental door.
Published: 2008 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2009
80. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
Published: 1991 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 1992
81. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
The leading man, one Meyer Landsman, is a festival of flaws and possibilities. The characters are alive, dynamically three-dimensional, and refreshingly complicated. Chabon’s world and its collapsing-star reality you completely buy. The analogs of human behaviour are poetic, tenderly ironic and brilliantly designed. Chess is key, but not in such a fashion that it bans the non-chess playing reader. And there is a seemingly self-perpetuating sense of devilish humour that had me choking every other page.
82. The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N McIntyre
A winner of the 1997 Nebula award for best novel, Vonda N McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun is a sumptuous work of alternate history. Set in 17th century France, at the court of the Sun King, the book’s attention to detail and flowing narrative help create an absorbing tale of fantasy, romance, science and history.
83. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles)
In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life - the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood. Anne Rice's compulsively readable novel is arguably the most celebrated work of vampire fiction since Bram Stoker's Dracula was published in 1897. As the Washington Post said on its first publication, it is a 'thrilling, strikingly original work of the imagination ...sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, always unforgettable'.
Published: 1976 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1986 (The Vampire Lestat)
84. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (Anno Dracula series)
It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel tells the story of vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders. Anno Dracula is a rich and panoramic tale, combining horror, politics, mystery and romance to create a unique and compelling alternate history. Acclaimed novelist Kim Newman explores the darkest depths of a reinvented Victorian London. This brand-new edition of the bestselling novel contains unique bonus material, including a new afterword from Kim Newman, annotations, articles and alternate endings to the original novel.
"Kim Newman's Anno Dracula is back in print, and we must celebrate. It was the first mash-up of literature, history and vampires, and now, in a world in which vampires are everywhere, it's still the best, and its bite is just as sharp. Compulsory reading, commentary, and mindgame: glorious." Neil Gaiman
"The book succeeds not just as horror but also as a thriller and detective novel combining politics, romance and history. Newman has produced an excellently crafted, well-plotted, fast-paced, sure-footed, incident-packed and macabre thrill fest." Fantasy Book Review
Published: 0000 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1993
85. The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
A brilliant story which from the first chapter is hard hitting and the bleakness of the story brings the action to the fore. Graham Joyce has created in the first chapters a sense of uncertainty that makes it a real page turner. A very good read; a mix of fantasy and love story. It flows well and is well worth reading at least twice.
Published: 2010 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2011 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 2011
86. 11.22.63 by Stephen King
WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11/22/63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless... King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
"11.22.63 finds Stephen King on top form. A compelling tale of alternate history and time travel showcasing King’s skill as a storyteller as he effortlessly weaves together fact and fiction, highlighting the benefits of meticulous research." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review
Published: 2011 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2012
87. The Killing Moon by NK Jemisin (Dreamblood duology)
In the first of her Dreamblood duology, N K Jemisin presents a vivid world of dreams and reality, sanity and insanity, and the stories of the people caught up within it. It’s a compelling tale of corruption and justice and the lengths people will go to in pursuit of both.
88. Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
He calls himself Alif - few people know his real name - a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocratic Intisar, he believes he has found love. But their relationship has no future - Intisar is promised to another man and her family's honour must be satisfied. As a remembrance, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious book. Entitled The Thousand and One Days, Alif discovers that this parting gift is a door to another world - a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked amongst us. With the book in his hands, Alif finds himself drawing attention - far too much attention - from both men and djinn. Thus begins an adventure that takes him through the crumbling streets of a once-beautiful city, to uncover the long-forgotten mysteries of the Unseen. Alif is about to become a fugitive in both the corporeal and incorporeal worlds. And he is about to unleash a destructive power that will change everything and everyone - starting with Alif himself.
"I would highly recommend this book to anybody who like a ripping yarn, whether they are into fantasy or not because this is more of a thriller with echoes of the computer acrobatics seen in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which I find really interesting, but set against an exotic landscape that really comes to life. You can feel and smell the duststorm as it sweeps over the houses, seeping its way in through the cracks, the panic as The Hand, an unbending, alien force, closes in, and the awkwardness of a young American scholar who tries to help Alif but is so clearly out of place. Overall, a sumptuous, colourful and many-layered novel." Fantasy Book Review
Published: 2012 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2013
89. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
This is a book written about the cusp of the 20th century, where so many things were promised and hoped for and so many changes happened. This story focuses on two people, bound together because of a newspaper story: Jack Walser, the journalist sent to write a story on Sophie Fevvers the “aerialiste extraordinaire”, to find out whether she is fact or fiction, as instead of being a typical trapeze artist she has wings that allow her to fly through the air. Angela Carter has written a fantastical microcosm of life.
Published: 1984 | British Fantasy Award Nominee: 1985
90. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
An intriguing “what if?” urban fantasy story that gives a twist to the contemporary world we live in. This story involves animals and magic, that fits into the world of Zoo City. As well as inviting questions as to why people who are different from the norm are treated in different circumstances.
91. The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
Susan Cooper is a natural storyteller, and all five The Dark is Rising novels grip the reader tightly, helped in this with copious amounts of mythology and spectacular prose. The prose of the second book in the series, The Dark is Rising, is some of the best in its genre. The sequence is an absolute classic, and should be required reading for children between the ages of seven and fifteen. Those who are older who haven't read them yet are really missing out on something wonderful. Highly recommended.
92. Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Weaveworld is a true epic of a story – a whirlwind of base instincts and heights of imagination that brings together fantasy and horror, whilst grounding the fantastical in a recognisable, mundane, suburban England.
93. A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic)
Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers - magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London...
"Like the best books I have read, V. E. Schwab has left me wanting to read more about these characters that have come alive in my mind."
94. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
From the quietly sad story of a lonely young man out of his depth, to the equally quietly triumphant story of a hero who has accepted himself, learned to cope and promises to do a great deal of good for others, this is a story with magic, airships and elves set around a very ritualistic royal court. In some ways The Goblin Emperor is one of the most grittily hopeful books I’ve read for quite a significant while, and one I’d definitely agree deserves its accolade.
Published: 2014 | World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2015
95. The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an excellent novel, one that looks at complex themes with much more depth before providing a biased social commentary. There is barely any escapism to be found here. This book will engage you with the prevalent social issues of today (mid-2016), making you pause and think about our pursuit of perfection as defined by Hollywood and the mainstream media.
Published: 2016 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2017
96. Blackwing by Ed McDonald (The Raven’s Mark)
This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree.
97. Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (Founders)
It’s rare that a story catches me off guard with so many inventive and thrilling ideas, yet still only scratches the surface of the directions it could take. The potential here is so vast; I see these ideas as prime material to turn into its own RPG world, or spinoff novels, or fill-in-the-blank. Great writing, characters of substance, and thoughtful exploration of original ideas elevates Foundryside into rare territory.
98. The Chimes by Anna Smaill
The Chimes is one of the most difficult, and yet most rewarding books I’ve read for quite some time. Breaking so many rules of writing to explore its central premise, yet blending together dark poetry, a truly unique post-apocalyptic world, love, music and memory into one great symphonic whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts, and an experience which you won’t easily forget.
Published: 2015 | World Fantasy Award Winner: 2016
99. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (The Burning)
The Rage of Dragons explodes at a breakneck pace. Complex characters, dragons, revenge, ALL THE STABBY-STABBY-STAB-STAB. I adored everything about this book! The cover, the chapter titles, the maps, the wee dragon on the spine, the notes from Winter at the back.,. it was just phenomenal. Truly. What a brilliant debut!
100. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Alternate timelines, manifestations, Hands of Glory, alchemy, Doctrine of Ethos and immortality and and and GODDAMN. McGuire provides a clinic in storytelling with Middlegame. This is her magnum opus (so far!) It’s magical... truly magical. I could not love it more!!!
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Check out our picks of the most exciting new fantasy novels of 2023, the best of 2022, as well as the top fantasy books of all time..
Fantasy books offer readers the perfect escape into another world. Here we share some of the top fantasy books to give you some inspiration for your literary bucket list. From Megan Giddings dystopian The Women Could Fly , to the magical multi-dimensional universe of Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, and the dark academia world of The Atlas Six – if you’re a fantasy fiction fan we’ve got you covered.
The best new fantasy books of 2023
The thousand eyes, by a. k. larkwood.
The epic sequel to The Unspoken Name – could you sacrifice your dreams to escape a nightmare? Csorwe, Shuthmili and Tal survey abandoned Echentyr worlds to make a living. The empire’s ruins seem harmless but fascinating. Yet disaster strikes when they stumble upon ancient magic during a routine expedition. This revives a warrior who’d slept for an age, reigniting a conflict thousands of years old. And the soldier binds Csorwe to her cause. Shuthmili is desperate to protect the woman she loves. However, as events escalate, she’s torn. Can she help Csorwe by clinging to her own humanity or by embracing her eldritch powers?
One For My Enemy
By olivie blake.
In New York City, two rival witch families fight for the upper hand in Olivie Blake's new fantasy fiction. The Antonova sisters and their mother, Baba Yaga, are the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants while the Fedorov brothers and their crime boss father, Koschei the Deathless, dominate the shadows of magical Manhattan. For twelve years, the two families have been in stalemate, but that is about to change. While fate draws together a brother and sister from either side, the siblings still struggle for power, and internal conflicts could destroy each family from within.
Under the Whispering Door
By tj klune.
TJ Klune brings us a warm hug of a story about a man who spent his life at the office – and his afterlife building a home. When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own sparsely-attended funeral, Wallace is outraged. But he begins to suspect she’s right, and he is in fact dead. Then when Hugo, owner of a most peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace reluctantly accepts the truth. Under the Whispering Door is a witty, haunting and kind love story from TJ Klune – the master of queer fantasy.
The best fantasy books of 2022
Guns of the dawn, by adrian tchaikovsky.
For generations, peace reigned over Denland – until revolutionaries assassinated their king. Next, they clashed with Lascanne, their neighbour. Both countries are now locked in fierce war, pitching war machines against warlocks. Genteel Emily Marshwic has lost much to the war. Then the call for more soldiers comes for her. Alongside other conscripted women, she finds herself on the battlefield, braving the harsh reality of warfare. But she begins to doubt her country’s cause, and her choices could determine the fate of these two nations.
The Atlas Six
Dark-academia fantasy novel The Atlas Six was originally self-published by Olivie Blake, and was then snapped up for re-publication after it shot to fame on TikTok. The story follows six young magical practitioners as they compete to join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places. Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.
The Atlas Paradox
Six magicians were offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Five are now members of the Society. And two paths lie before them. In the second installment in the Atlas Six series, the secret society of Alexandrians is unmasked. Its newest recruits realize the institute is capable of raw, world-changing power. It’s also headed by a man with plans to change life as we know it – and these are already under way. But the cost of this knowledge is as high as the price of power, and each initiate must choose which faction to follow.
The Atlas Six books in order
Stone blind, by natalie haynes.
At last, Medusa's story is told. The sole mortal raised in a family of gods, Medusa lives with an urgency that her family will never know, and is alone in her ability to experience change and to be hurt. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest . . .
This retelling of the famed myth of Medusa asks who the real monsters are, after all.
The Discord of Gods
By jenn lyons.
The unmissable conclusion to the epic A Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons, containing the final battle between gods, demons and dragons. As Kihrin seeks an eleventh-hour reprieve for the universe – with Relos Var and the demon Xaltorath continuing to wage war on each other – his body threatens to betray him. Reeling from the aftereffects of a corrupted ritual, one that twisted both him and the last dragons. Worse, he’s now bound to the avatar of a star, a form that’s becoming catastrophically unstable. All of which means he's running out of time. One curse. One man. One destiny.
By susan dennard.
Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling fantasy series continues – with the story of Iseult, the Threadwitch. The Witchlands have been on the brink of war, and in the fourth book in this epic fantasy series, it arrives. Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.
The Witchlands series books in order
By frances hardinge.
In a world where anyone can cast a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his unique gift, but helps those who are cursed, like his friend Nettle who was trapped in the body of a bird for years. She is now Kellen's constant companion and his closest ally. But the Unraveller carries a curse himself and, unless he and Nettle can remove it, Kellen is a danger to everything – and everyone – around him . . .
Legends & Lattes
By travis baldree.
After decades of adventuring, Viv the orc barbarian is finally hanging up her sword for good to open the first coffee shop in the city of Thune. Even though no one there knows what coffee actually is . But old rivals and new stand in the way of success, and Thune’s shady underbelly could make it all too easy for Viv to take up the blade once more.
A Taste of Gold and Iron
By alexandra rowland.
Kadou, the modest prince of Arasht, has no plans to wrestle for imperial control with his sister, the queen. Yet he is in conflict with the father of queen's new child, who is a powerful ambassador at the court. Then a hunting expedition goes badly wrong, and Kadou finds himself accused of murder. This sensual tale of courtly intrigue, backstabbing politics and romance set against the backdrop of an Ottoman Empire-inspired world, is a must-read.
A Marvellous Light
By freya marske.
For fans of Bridgerton who'd like to welcome magic into their lives. Set in an alternative Edwardian England, this is a comedy of manners, manor houses, and hedge mazes: including a magic-infused murder mystery and a delightful queer romance. Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he's actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society, and he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his adversarial magical-society counterpart, as together they discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.
A Restless Truth
In the thrilling follow-up to A Marvellous Light, Maud Blyth longs for adventure and finds exactly that when she agrees to serve as an old lady's companion on an ocean liner, and on the very first day of the voyage, her companion is found dead. Then, she meets Violet, who is everything Maud has been trained to distrust, yet can’t help but desire: a magician, an actress and a magnet for scandal. Surrounded by open sea and a ship full of suspects, Maud and Violet must work together to locate a magical object worth killing for – and unmask a murderer. All without becoming dead in the water themselves.
When Ox Matheson was twelve his father taught him that he was worthless, destined to be misunderstood, and then he left him. Four years later, the energetic Bennett family moved in next door, harbouring a secret that would change his life forever: they are shapeshifters, and can transform into wolves at will. Drawn into an unimaginable new world, Ox found a friend in Joe, the youngest Bennett brother, but when the pack was pulled apart by tragedy and murder, Joe left town . But now, he has returned, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.
The Women Could Fly
By megan giddings.
Part fantasy, part dystopia, The Women Could Fly is a powerful novel that speaks to our times. In a world where witches are real and unmarried women over the age of thirty must be monitored by the state, Josephine Thomas is twenty-eight, ambivalent about marriage and on the cusp of losing autonomy over her own life. It's been fourteen years since her mother's disappearance, and Jo has heard ever possible explanation from kidnapping to murder . . . to witchcraft; but all these years later, she feels she's never understood her mother more. So when she's offered an opportunity to honour one last request from her mother's will, she takes it . . .
Origins of The Wheel of Time
By michael livingston.
This companion to Robert Jordan's internationally bestselling series, The Wheel of Time, will delve into the creation of a masterpiece, drawing from interviews and an unprecedented examination of his unpublished notes. Michael Livingston tells the behind-the-scenes story of who Jordan was (including a chapter that is the very first published biography of the author), how he worked, and why he holds such an important place in modern literature.
She Who Became the Sun
By shelley parker-chan.
A Number One Sunday Times Bestseller, this absorbing historical fantasy novel from Shelley Parker-Chan reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule, and when a bandit raid wipes out her home and her brother perishes, Zhu resolves to overcome her destiny by taking her dead brother’s identity. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?
Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments
By t. l. huchu.
Ropa Mayo finds herself embroiled in another magical crisis in T. L. Huchu's sequel to the much-loved The Library of the Dead . Ropa thought her life would change forever after she discovered an underground occult library, in modern-day Edinburgh. But she's still unsuccessfully chasing a prized magical job with the city's secret societies, until her friend Priya offers her a job at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies – a very specialised hospital. Here, a dangerous new illness is resisting both magical and medical remedies. If Ropa can solve this case, she might stand a chance of impressing her mentor, Sir Callander.
Black Water Sister
Broke, jobless and just graduated, Jessamyn is abandoning America to return ‘home’. But as she packs to return to Malaysia, a country she hasn't seen since she was a toddler, she starts to hear a bossy voice in her mind, which belongs to her late grandmother Ah Ma who in life, and apparently in death, worships a local deity, the Black Water Sister. When a business magnate dared to offend her goddess, Ah Ma swore revenge, and she isn't afraid to blackmail her granddaughter into helping her to make mischief . . .
Fury of a Demon
By brian naslund.
The third and final instalment in Brian Naslund's Dragons of Terra trilogy has come to paperback this year. Osyrus Ward has subdued most of Terra, but to finish the job and annihilate the dragons he must add to his huge army of skyships and create a machine that possesses unheard-of power. Rebels Bershad and Ashlyn are doing every everything they can to prevent this, but they have been captured in Dainwood by Ward's mercenaries. Ashlyn employs her dark magic against the terrifying forces massing around them, and Bershad summons his history of victory in battle. But will their combined energies be enough to save the world?
The House of Always
The House of Always is the fourth book in Jenn Lyons’ epic fantasy series A Chorus of Dragons. As the novel opens, the Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies. Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they had all sworn to destroy?
Jenn Lyons on world-building in her fantasy novels
The empire's ruin, by brian staveley.
In the first book in Brian Staveley's epic fantasy trilogy, Ashes of the Unhewn, the great Annurian Empire is on its last legs, and its elite soldiers – the Kettral – are dwindling. Kettral soldier Gwenna Sharpe is given a quest, in order to restore the hawk-riding battalion. She must travel beyond the known world, to the place where the mighty war hawks nest. She will face obstacles along the way, from poisoned land to a monk turned conman to sinister forces massing against the empire. Gwenna's quest to save it is fraught with danger, but full of potential for recovery and renewal.
by Lucy Holland
This folklore-inspired tale of betrayal, magic and murder is a 2022 must read. King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure. All three fear a life confined within the hold, protected from Saxon invaders. But when Myrdhin, meddler and magician, arrives, the siblings discover the power within themselves and the land.
Best fantasy books of all time
The brilliantly imagined coming-of-age fantasy series, Witchlands, continues with Bloodwitch . The Bloodwitch Aeduan and Iseult the Threadwitch race for safety, desperate to evade the Raider King. His attempts to subdue the Witchlands are gaining momentum, as his forces sow terror in the mountains, slaughtering innocents. Despite differing goals, Aeduan and Iseult have grown to trust one another in the fight to survive. Yet trust is a tenuous bond . . .
We Free the Stars
By hafsah faizal.
We Free the Stars is Hafsah Faizal's spellbinding conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology. The battle is over, but the war is just beginning. Low on resources and allies alike, Zafira and Nasir are determined to finish their mission; to restore magic to their kingdom. But time is running out and if order is to be restored, sacrifices will have to be made. Both hopeful and devastating, this is YA fantasy at it's best.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
By tomi adeyemi.
In this thrilling sequel to Children of Blood and Bone , Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they imagined, reigniting the powers of the maji and some nobles with magic ancestry. With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must find a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is the perfect read for young adult fantasy fanatics.
Empire in Black and Gold
This epic fantasy novel is the first book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s critically acclaimed fantasy series The Shadows of the Apt. The Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades, but now an ancient Empire is conquering city after city, and the Lowlands are next . . . Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, sees the threat, but can he convince his people of the danger that is coming?
Adrian Tchaikovsky's books in order
The star-touched queen, by roshani chokshi.
Maya's world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges her marriage for political advantage. She becomes the Queen of Akaran and the wife of Amar despite a horoscope that promised a marriage of death and destruction. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire. But Akaran has its own secrets. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger, but who besides her husband can she trust? Steeped in Indian folklore and mythology The Star-Touched Queen is an enthralling fantasy read.
The Lost City
By amanda hocking.
The Lost City is the first book in Amanda Hocking's Omte Origins trilogy, an adventure set in her magical Trylle universe. When Ulla Tulin was abandoned as a baby, like many half-blood trolls she was raised by strangers who hid her away. But she never stopped wondering about her birth parents, and so when she hears about a project to help half-blood trolls she's determined to discover her true heritage. She enlists the help of the resourceful Pan and must contend with the mysterious Eliana. But as she and Pan fight to unravel the truth they realise that someone – or something – is determined to stop them . . .
The Fifth Season
By n. k. jemisin.
The Fifth Season is the first fantasy novel in N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. In a far-future Earth, a continent known as the Stillness is plagued by apocalyptic natural disasters known as Seasons, that can last for generations. Book one follows the story of Essun, a woman living an unremarkable life in a quiet town until three tragedies strike in one day. Her husband murders their beloved son in cold blood and kidnaps their daughter, a world-spanning empire falls, and a great rift has been torn into the Stillness throwing ash into the sky and blocking the sun's light for years to come. And so Essun's fight to save her daughters in this dying land, begins . . .
Blood of an Exile
In Brian Naslund's must-read debut fantasy novel we meet Bershad, an adventurer sentenced to kill dragons for a living after being caught trying to assassinate a fellow noble. When the king who sentenced Bershad offers him a way out of his forced occupation and exile, Bershad sees a way to earn redemption, but it won't be easy. Blood of an Exile , the first book in the Dragons of Terra series is packed with adventure and of course, lots of dragons.
Sorcerer to the Crown
Sorcerer to the Crown is the first book in Hugo Award-winning author Zen Cho’s fantasy series. In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England's first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, whose duty it is to keep the levels of magic stable – but they're failing. The supply of magic is being disrupted by the Fairy Court, and war with France means the government wants to drain this scarce resource even further. When Zacharias meets ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman they find that her recent magical discovery might just change the nature of sorcery forever.
The Invisible Library
By genevieve cogman.
The Invisible Library is the astounding debut fantasy book by Genevieve Cogman, and the first novel in The Invisible Library series. Professional spy Irene works for the mysterious Library, along with her enigmatic assistant Kai. Their mission is to steal a dangerous book from an alternative London. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. And to make things more complicated, this alternative world is infested with chaos, full of supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic.
The Invisible Library books in order
By john gwynne.
Malice is the first book in John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen series , from bestselling author Conn Iggulden. Set in the Banished Lands where armies of men and giants clash in battle, Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.
The Ruin of Kings
The hugely anticipated debut by Jenn Lyons is the first fantasy book in the A Chorus of Dragons series. Brim-full of big ideas – body-swapping, prophecy, rich worldbuilding and grim commentaries on many aspects of empire – to name but a few, this is the tale of Kihrin, a young prince cursed with bad luck and worse prophecy. The Ruin of Kings is a fantastically complex and multi-layered fantasy book, and characters like Doc and Galen, alongside Kihrin's own well-balanced set of talents and flaws make this a promising new fantasy series.
The Tiger and the Wolf
The Tiger and the Wolf is the British Fantasy Award-winning novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky and the first book in his Echoes of the Fall fantasy fiction series. Maniye is an outcast, the daughter of the chieftain of the Wolf clan and the queen of the Tiger clan, clans which have been deadly enemies for generations. Hiding a deadly secret, the power to shapeshift into the form of both a wolf and a tiger, she escapes. But Maniye is crucial to her father’s plan to rule the north, and he is determined to get her back. As she flees, priests foresee danger and rumours of war spread . . .
by China Miéville
Blending eerie Pied Piper-influenced fairy tale with the ‘90s South London Drum and Bass scene, China Miéville’s debut is a thrilling urban fantasy novel. When Saul’s father is murdered, in a London where mysterious forces prepare for a showdown, Saul is left to pay for the crime. But help comes in the unlikely form of King Rat, who leads him to freedom where he confronts his inheritance at the gathering of the Junglist Massive.
Children of Blood and Bone
Tomi Adeyemi’s YA fantasy book is the first in her West African-inspired fantasy fiction series Legacy of Orisha. Zélie remembers when Orisha was full of magic. When different clans ruled with unique powers, including her Reaper mother who could summon forth souls. But everything changed when the ruthless king had anyone with powers killed. Now only a few people still have the power to use magic, and they must stay hidden. Zélie is one of those people, but now she has the chance to bring magic back to her people and strike against the monarchy . . . Tomi Adeyemi is the author of some on the best fantasy books for YA readers in recent years.
The Lord of the Rings
By j. r. r. tolkien.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy is a classic of fantasy fiction and is a must-read for all fantasy fans. The story of the hobbit Frodo and his epic quest to reach Mount Doom and defeat the Dark Lord, Sauron, by destroying the One Ring, Tolkien’s epic fantasy was adapted into three of the most popular films of the 2000s. One of the best fantasy books ever written.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
By marlon james.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first fantasy novel in Marlon James's Dark Star Trilogy. A New York Times bestseller, National Book Award finalist and Ray Bradbury Prize winner, it's no stranger to accolades. Set in an African-inspired fantasy world, the first book in the series follows Tracker, a mercenary with an extraordinary ability to follow scents, as he hunts down a missing boy. On his journey Tracker's crosses paths with strange companions, from shapeshifters to giants, who seek the same child and hide their own secrets . . .
A Game of Thrones
By george r.r. martin.
No list of the best fantasy fiction is complete without George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy fiction series, universally acknowledged to be some of the best fantasy books of all time. The first book in the series gave its name to the TV series that became one of the most talked-about in history. In a world where summers span decades and winter can last a lifetime, the battle for the Iron Throne has begun. The breakout success of A Game of Thrones means the series will feature on best fantasy books lists for years to come.
Books series to read if you love Game of Thrones
The colour of magic, by terry pratchett.
Terry Pratchett’s wonderfully inventive fantasy fiction series Discworld begins with The Colour of Magic . Set in a flat world resting on the back of four elephants who are balanced on the shell of a giant turtle, this is a parallel time and place full of magic. When the first-ever tourist arrives, their survival is charged to a comically inept wizard who must face robbers, mercenaries and Death himself. Terry Pratchett is the author of some of the most-loved fantasy books of all-time.
The Lie Tree
When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. As she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. Frances Hardinge's wonderfully evocative YA fantasy novel was the Costa Book of the Year 2015, and is one of the best fantasy books for younger readers.
by Neil Gaiman
In the tiny town of Wall, young Tristan Thorn is madly in love with the beautiful Victoria Forrester. When she agrees to marry him if he retrieves a fallen star he doesn’t hesitate. But to find the fallen star he’ll need to cross the ancient wall which the town is named for, into a world of magic and danger. This charming fairytale fantasy will delight fans of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver .
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36 of the best fantasy books everyone should read
Are you looking for your next fantasy must-read? From wizards and werewolves to weird happenings underground, we've pulled together some of the WIRED team's favourite fantasy series. Some are set in strange and fantastic worlds, while others start a little closer to home. And, if you'd like more reading ideas, try our guide to the best sci-fi books or our picks of the best books on Audible .
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Piranesi is a wondrous, genre-defying book, but if it had to fit somewhere, 'fantasy' would be the label we'd give it. The less you know about Piranesi , the better, but as a taster, it follows the life of a man who lives within the spectacular, statue-filled halls of a vast, labyrinthine house. Waves roll into the halls, birds and sea creatures come and go, but he has no idea why he's there or how he got there. He's more concerned with writing journal entries and documenting things he encounters.
It's a twisting novel that's both beautiful and deeply unsettling. It's one you could read in a single sitting because the narrator seems so unnervingly naive, and the more you discover, the more you itch for what secrets are hiding beneath the surface. Released in 2021, Piranesi was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and won a massive amount of critical acclaim for author Susanna Clarke. If her name rings a bell, it's because she's already well-known for her first novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell , which was published in 2004 and adapted into a TV series.
By Yashraj Sharma
Price: £7.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial
Described as Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven , Six of Crows is set in the Grishaverse – like the award-winning Shadow and Bone trilogy, which is now a major Netflix show. In fact, the show might be called Shadow and Bone , but it draws from the cast of characters in Six of Crows , too. Six of Crows begins in Ketterdam, a raucous, busy hub of trade with an underbelly of crime. Kaz Brekker is a criminal mastermind who’s offered the chance to carry out a risky heist with a considerable reward. He handpicks a team to help, including a convict, excellent sharpshooter, and a spy – six outcasts in total, all trying to pull off the ultimate heist. Bardugo is brilliant at world-building, which is a treat if you’re entering the Grishaverse for the first time and a welcome return for anyone who’s read the Shadow and Bone trilogy or her latest duology set in the same universe, King of Scars . Yes, Six of Crows and the other Grishaverse books are technically YA, but don’t let that put you off.
If anyone deserves to be on this list twice, it’s Neil Gaiman. Stardust is a magical fantasy novel that’s a delight to read at any age. It’s about a young man called Tristran Thorn, who vows to find a star for the woman he loves after they see it fall from the night sky.
What follows is a fairy tale that weaves in stories, characters and settings that are already embedded in our cultural make-up, like pirates, spells, curses, witches, power struggles, falling stars, otherworldly beings and much more. Gaiman said: “I wanted to write a story that would feel, to the reader, like something he or she had always known” – and that’s the enduring appeal of Stardust. The book was adapted into a movie in 2007 with a star-studded cast, including Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Claire Danes. Once you’ve read the book, you should find it on your go-to streaming service, as it does Neil Gaiman’s original tale justice.
Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial
Another award-winning entry, Jade City bagged The World Fantasy Award in 2018 and was shortlisted for many others, including the Nebula Awards and the Locus Awards. It’s an epic story that many have said is reminiscent of classic Hong Kong gangster movies. However, the twist here is that it’s set in Janloon, a fantastical metropolis that Lee describes incredibly vividly.
The central premise of Jade City is, as you might guess, all about Jade. This is a stone that’s the lifeblood of the city and has magical properties as it can enhance a person’s natural abilities. That’s why it’s so precious and controlled by two warring families. But when a new drug emerges that gives anyone the power to take advantage of the mystical energies of Jade, tension rises, and violence ensues. It’s stylish, full of beautiful, gritty descriptions and, despite being a fantasy book, touches on all kinds of relatable themes, like family honour and tradition.
Price: £8 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial
Considered one of the best fantasy books ever written, The Last Unicorn is a magical story about a unicorn living in a forest. One day, hunters arrive in the forest and believe it must contain a unicorn because of the magic protecting the creatures there. One of the hunters shouts a warning to the unicorn that she might be the last of her kind, which urges her to embark on a quest to find more unicorns – or learn what’s happened to them.
What comes next is full of sadness, adventure and wonder, with talking animals, witches, a harpy, spells, a magician, and much, much more. It’s another book that’s a trip back into the world of magic and fairy tales for adults, but a firm favourite for children of all ages, too. The Last Unicorn has since been adapted for the screen. In 1982, it was made into a movie featuring the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee.
Price: £16 | Amazon | Waterstones
Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor (2018)
Written by award-winning science-fiction and fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death is set in Sudan in a far off, nuclear holocaust-ravaged future. There’s genocide and suffering between two warring tribes and, amidst this immense pain and violence, Onyesonwu is born – her name means “who fears death?” in an ancient language. Onyesonwu is special, displaying all manner of magical powers from an early age. This book is a mesmerising blend of magic, folk tradition, love and spirituality. But read it soon before it hits your TV screen if you’re a book-before-adaptation kind of person. Who Fears Death is being made into a TV series for HBO and George R. R. Martin is set to be an executive producer.
Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible
A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas (2020)
Imagine Beauty and the Beast but ramp up the romance and fantasy even more, transform Beauty into a huntress and Beast into some kind of fantastical faerie lord and that’s A Court of Thorns and Roses . Sara J. Maas might have used the classic fairytale as a starting pont for this epic fantasical romance, but it’s a brilliant story in its own right. So much so that it’s the first in a best-selling series of the same name. A Court of Thorns and Roses begins with Feyre, a huntress who kills a wolf to feed her family. But this was no ordinary wolf. In fact, it wasn’t a wolf at all and Feyre has to face the consequences of her violent actions. This is, technically, a YA (young adult) novel, but don’t let that put you off, it has a huge adult fanbase.
Price: £7 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible
The Power, by Naomi Alderman (2017)
The Power could also be classed as science-fiction, but we’re including it in our fantasy recommendations because what’s more fantastical than every woman in the land suddenly being able to electrocute men Palpatine-style with their fingertips? That’s the searingly smart and brilliantly-explored premise of The Power , which allows us to imagine what would happen if the present balance in the world – or, more rightly so, imbalance, – was reversed in favour of women. Would we be living in a calm utopia within a fortnight? Would we face the same problems we always have? Or would there be a whole host of new challenges to contend with?
The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin (2016)
It doesn’t feel like there’s a right way to begin explaining the truly monumental premise and proportions of The Fifth Season , so let’s just dive in. This book takes place on a planet with one massive supercontinent called Stillness. Every few hundred years the ‘fifth season’ occurs – a period of catastrophic climate change. The world-building prowess of Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is epic, there are different ethnicities, species, areas and castes with all kinds of powers and conflicts, and plenty of other details that won’t make sense until you read the book – be prepared to be a little overwhelmed when you’re first introduced to this new universe. This award-winning tome is the first in the Broken Earth series, with later books also scooping up prestigious Hugo Awards in their own right.
Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi (2020)
Set in the near future, Riot Baby might be a story with fantastical elements weaved throughout it, but it explores very real, pertinent and important issues of race and bias algorithms. The riot baby in this book is Kev, a young Black man who’s in prison. His sister, Ella, has a number of special powers – like being able to see into the future. Riot Baby is novella length (perfect for anyone whose concentration span isn’t what it used to be) and written in a fast-paced style that makes us, as readers, feel as if we’re witnessing flashes of memories in a manner that’s wedded to some of the central themes of anger and injustice.
Price: £14 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible
Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler (2018)
Some might say Octavia E. Butler’s fantastic Kindred is a work of science-fiction or speculative fiction, but it’s in our list because Butler herself called it “a kind of grim fantasy”. This is a time travel narrative, but we’d bet it’s quite unlike any you’ve read before. Kindred follows the story of a woman called Dana who’s transported from 1976 Los Angeles to a Maryland plantation in 1815, where she’s assumed to be a slave. Like all good fantasy and science-fiction, the magical, surreal, time-travelling elements act as a way into a raw exploration of race, power and gender that’s as relevant and urgent now as it was when Butler first published it in 1979.
Price: £7.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch (2006)
Renaissance Venice meets fantasy meets the twists and turns of a well crafted crime novel. Scott Lynch builds a fascinating fantasy city with real detail and real grit. No shining heroes and wistful princesses here. Instead criminal gangs, corrupt officials and the high likelihood of being mugged in a back alley. There is almost a sense of Oceans 11 meets venetian masquerade, blink and you’ll miss the sleight of hand! Fantasy is almost an afterthought in this novel and it is really about the character building and storytelling. Sure there are shark matadors and alchemical alcoholic fruits, not to mention the mysterious Elderglass, but these are more a backdrop rather than plot driving and all combine to make, subtle and intriguing read. There are plenty of twists and turns as Locke navigates the underworld of Camorr, but it’s unlikely you’ll see all of them coming!? This is the first book of a trilogy and although it stands alone you’ll want to read the other two to see what happens next in Red Seas Under Red Skies and A Republic of Thieves .
Earthlings, by Sayaka Murata (2020)
Not one for the faint hearted, this dark fantasy comedy from the author of Convenience Store Woman is tricky to pin down into any one category and the final pages will probably leave you gobsmacked. Natsuki and Yuu are cousins who have long prepared to be abducted back to their home planet. So far, so childhood but then they grow up and the plan persists. In the meantime they have to try to function in regular society, securing partners and jobs and not drawing attention to themselves. No taboo is left unturned with Earthlings encouraging minor acts of rebellion from what 'society' tells us we have to do.
Price: £10.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
Circe, by Madeline Miller (2018)
Circe, daughter of Titan sun god Helios, finds herself overshadowed in the halls of the gods until she discovers her own, different power: witchcraft. Banished to a deserted island for abusing her magic, and repeatedly let down by the men she puts her trust in, Circe must forge her own path: as a goddess, a witch, and a woman. Miller’s novel offers a new perspective on tales of Greek myth, with Circe’s centuries-long story seeing her appear at the birth of the Minotaur, face off with goddess of war Athena, and host hero Odysseus on his long return from Troy. An accessible read with larger-than-life characters and an adventurous plot, Circe is mythology as you’ve never known it before.
Price: £7 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams (1988 to 1993)
The three books in this trilogy, The Dragonbone Chair , Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower , are beautifully crafted fantasies that deftly interweave almost comically simple tropes with a rewarding complexity and depth. Game of Thrones fans will find much to enjoy – George R. R. Martin readily admits they were a big inspiration for him – as Williams takes a similarly methodical approach to creating the fictional continent Osten Ard and the races that inhabit it. His tales of the humble kitchen scullion who has great things ahead of him are full of joyful and sorrowful moments that will have you laughing and crying, making them a delightful diversion from life's ups and downs.
Price: £6 | Amazon | Abe Books | 30-day Audible trial
Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson (1999 to 2011)
Spanning 10 books and over 9,000 pages of brutal, beautiful and complex fantasy writing, Steven Erikson's series delivers world building on a larger scale than Tolkien and Jordan put together. Erikson will have you laughing and crying as you follow the lives of disparate heroes and anti-heroes across a sweeping vista of worlds peopled by a unique set of races and animals. You will fall in love with his characters and you will hate them, either way you will want to know what happens next. Beginning with the Gardens of the Moon , Erikson’s ability to write epic convergence is unparalleled and will leave you unable to stand the tension leading up to the major events he depicts.
The First Law Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie (2006 to 2008)
Joe Abercrombie writes brilliant characters. Be it the story of an ageing berserker, a crippled torturer or a pompous noble, his The First Law Trilogy immerses you in a bloody mire of violent, visceral and gritty adventures. You will see the glory of battle in all its bowel spilling ineptitude and hopelessness, but there is always someone to root for even if it is not the god blessed heroes and heroines you might usually expect. As an added bonus there are also three standalone books and a collection of short stories that revisit some of the First Law characters and world, something you will be eager to devour once you’ve read the first trilogy.
Price: £17 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker (2013)
Helene Wecker's debut novel is an eerie tale of two magical creatures set loose in 19th century New York. A golem – a mythical creature of Jewish lore – awakens during a sea voyage, and is taught to pass as human among the diverse groups of people living in the city. At the same time, a tinsmith in New York accidentally frees a genie from a flask after centuries of imprisonment, but he's trapped in human form seeking a way to return to his full power. The pair meet and become friends, and must team up to counter an evil sorcerer who wants to enslave them both.
Price: £10 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
Dune, by Frank Herbert (1965)
Welcome to a desert planet where water is more precious than gold, everyone wears moisture-preserving jumpsuits and giant worm creatures can come out of the earth's floor that can kill you at any moment. This is Dune, a stark wasteland where warring houses scheme against each other in bloody battles that can alter the course of human history. Although it's science-fiction on the surface, Frank Herbert's epic tome features the fantasy tropes of betrayal, redemption and freedom in spades, and is rightly considered one of the most important of the genre. Herbert's masterpiece not only helped to inspire Star Wars – it still resonates today, tackling environmental concerns, the rise of superpowers and rebellion of people exploited on their own land.
The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King (1998)
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." This iconic line kicks off Stephen King's iconic The Dark Tower, which mashes together fantasy, westerns and elements of science fiction. The first of seven books follows gunslinger Roland as he pursues a mysterious, malevolent presence across a strange world that's linked to our own. From there, it sprawls into a rambling epic that highlight's King's imagination as well as his touch for horror.
Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin (1996)
Fans of the television series have been distancing themselves from Game of Thrones in droves since that disastrous final season, but George R.R. Martin's books remain relatively untainted. A Game of Thrones , the first in the A Song of Ice and Fire Series, sets the tone – with violence and adult themes rarely seen in a lot of mainstream fantasy up to that point. Each chapter follows an individual character's point of view, and although the series does becomes slightly bogged down in later entries, it is gripping – and the ending is still to come.
Price: £8.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (1990)
Both Pratchett and Gaiman feature in their own right on this list and Good Omens , composed in part over answerphone messages three decades ago, delivers on the promise of a fantasy literature titan team up. It's the extremely silly story of an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, played with glee by Michael Sheen and David Tennant in this year's Amazon Prime Video series, trying to stop Armageddon. Most fantasy books ask for a serious commitment but Good Omens is a fully formed, read-in-an-afternoon treat.
Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (2011)
Set in a lovingly described version of present-day London, the Rivers of London series charts the adventures of Detective Constable Peter Grant, one of two wizards in the Metropolitan Police. It grounds its fantastical elements in the scientific method, and the mixture of flying spells and police jargon gives the ongoing series a unique and enjoyable tone. The first book, Rivers of London describes an encounter with a malevolent spirit that draws Grant into the capital's magical underworld.
Price: £8 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
The Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan (1990-2007)
An epic fourteen novel saga, (as well as a prequel novel and two companion books), the author James Oliver Rigney Jr. (pen name Robert Jordan), published the first entry in 1990 and was still writing on his death in 2007. Too vast to summarise, the fantasy world – actually a distant version of Earth – is epic and magical, with a gigantic cast of characters. The series has spawned a video game, a roleplaying game, a soundtrack album and a forthcoming TV series, and the books have sold more than 80 million copies, making it one of the bestselling fantasy series since Lord of the Rings .
Price: £20 | Amazon | Blackwells | 30-day Audible trial
The Gormenghast series, by Mervyn Peake (1946-56)
The first instalment of Mervyn Peake’s epic fantasy series, which features three books and a novella, was published in 1946. It follows the residents of Castle Gormenghast – a giant, gothic castle. In the first book, we meet title character Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the castle and its kingdom. Populated with a host of fantastical creatures, Gormenghast is like a Lord of the Rings that didn’t blow up. Unlike much of the fantasy genre gets high praise in literary circles too: Harold Bloom called the series best fantasy novels of the twentieth century.
Price: £20 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman (1995)
Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights is a children’s book with a depth and complexity that can satisfy adults. We follow Lyra Belacqua and Pantalaimon, her daemon – her inner self given animal form – as she investigates rumours of children being separated from their own spiritual companions. Over the three-book series, this transitions into a battle between humanity and heaven. It functions in part as a retelling and inversion of John Milton's epic Paradise Lost . The second entry of a three-part sequel trilogy was published in late 2019.
The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman (2018)
Philip Pullman has returned with a follow-up to the His Dark Materials trilogy. The Book of Dust is a second trilogy set in the world of Lyra Belacqua and her inner self in animal form, Pantalaimon. At the point of writing two of the trilogy have been released: La Belle Sauvage (2018) and The Secret Commonwealth (2019). The first of these is set before the tumultuous events of His Dark Materials. But the second fast forwards to a decade after their conclusion. There's espionage, spies and frantic attempts to stop the world from vanishing into darkness.
Price: £7.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher (2000)
Harry Dresden is a professional wizard in a version of modern-day Chicago where fantastical creatures lurk just underneath the surface. He makes his living as a private detective, solving cases that bridge the worlds of the real and the uncanny. In Storm Front , the first book in long-running series The Dresden Files, he finds himself duelling with vampires, werewolves, and the mob.
Price: £40 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville (2000)
China Miéville's work falls more accurately under the banner of Weird Fiction, an amalgamation of fantasy and horror pioneered by HP Lovecraft. This work, one in a series of books set in the world of Bas-Lag, lies closer to the fantasy genre. As Mieville describes it "it's basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian-era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it's an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind”.
Price: £11 | Amazon | Waterstones | 30-day Audible trial
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (2001)
The Amazon Prime series failed to spark, but Neil Gaiman's richly described novel is well worth a read. American Gods pits the abandoned folk deities of the old world against the modern idols we worship now. It follows Shadow Moon, a convict who finds out – days before his release – that his wife has died in a car accident, and falls into the surreal orbit of Mr Wednesday (Odin) and a looming showdown between the old gods and the new.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin (1968)
Ursula Le Guin is one of the titans of fantasy and sci-fi – her books explore political and feminist themes in fantastical settings. The Left Hand of Darkness focuses on an androgynous civilisation, and The Dispossessed is set in anarchist Utopia. The Earthsea series is more traditional but still brilliant – we follow Ged, a teenager at magic school, who causes a disaster dabbling in the dark arts. Readers have pointed to the similarities between Ged’s school and Hogwarts.
The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobbs (1995-1997)
Robin Hobbs' epic fantasy series hero follows FitzChivalry Farseer, or Fitz for short, the bastard son of the crown prince. Raised in a stable and trained as an assassin, the story charts his adventures through the kingdom of The Six Duchies: magic, murder, and political intrigue abound, as well as a zombie curse. Sound familiar? Definitely a good choice for those suffering from Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms.
Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | start a 30-day Audible trial
The Accursed Kings, by Maurice Druon (1955-77)
A curveball: not fantasy (the books cover the French monarchy in the 14th century), but a book for fans of fantasy. Its author Maurice Druon is the hero of George RR Martin, who penned the series that became Game of Thrones . As Martin wrote in the Guardian: “ The Accursed Kings has it all: iron kings and strangled queens, battles and betrayals, lies and lust, deception, family rivalries, the curse of the Templars, babies switched at birth, she-wolves, sin and swords, the doom of a great dynasty and all of it (or most of it) straight from the pages of history."
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (2004)
One of the more recent publications on this list, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The book’s premise is that magic has returned: two men, Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange, wield it. Written in a comedy of manners, Jane Austen style, it took its author British writer Susanna Clarke (see Piranesi above) ten years to write and was widely acclaimed on its release in 2004.
Price: £11 | Amazon | Waterstones | start a 30-day Audible trial
Mort, by Terry Pratchett (1987)
One of the best entries in Terry Pratchett’s inimitable Discworld series, Mort focuses on a teenager who is taken under the apprenticeship of Death. Appearing in nearly every one of the Discworld books, Pratchett’s Death is one of the author’s greatest creations, and the source of some of the series’ most famous quotes ("Don’t think of it as dying, just think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush.”) It’s in Mort that Death grows into a sympathetic and likeable character, who loves cats and curry and is continuously baffled by the irrationally of humans.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (2019)
Marlon James, who won the Booker prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings , is not traditionally a fantasy writer, but he dubbed his latest book the African Game of Thrones . (Although he later revealed the comparison was a joke). This book focuses on the political tensions between warring states, in a world populated by a host of magical creatures: cannibals, vampires, witches, ghosts and sorcerers.
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The Best Fantasy Authors
The best fantasy authors of all time, ranked by readers and fans. This list include some highly recognizable names, like J.R.R. Tolkein and George R.R. Martin, along with some contemporary fantasy writers who are just beginning to make their mark on the genre. This list of the best fantasy authors includes some science fiction writers , horror writers and young adult fiction authors. Fans of fantasy know that there is always some overlap. All of the authors on this list have one thing in common: They've written fantastic, magical, mystical works of fantasy for fans to enjoy for years to come. Vote for your favorite fantasy authors here and add your own personal faves if you don't see them listed!
I've listed what I believe are some of the most well-known, popular fantasy authors ever, and I've added a few that may not always show up on a 'best of' list. Disagree with a choice? Vote it down. I'll be interested to see who wins the Tolkein vs. Martin battle for votes, too! The aforementioned (brilliant) writers are responsible for some of the best fantasy novel series' of all time - but I'd be remiss if I didn't also include authors like Robert Jordan ('The Wheel of Time' series), Ursula K. Le Guin ('Earthsea'), Tad Williams ('Memory, Sorrow and Thorn') and yes, J.K. Rowling ('Harry Potter') as well. All of these authors, in my opinion, deserve a place of honor on this list.
Hopefully, this list will grow and become totally comprehensive. Readers who are new to fantasy can use it as a great guide to find new favorite fantasy authors and books.
George R.R. Martin is the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of the books that inspired the popular HBO television series, A Game of Thrones. · Brandon
List of fantasy authors · Joan Aiken. Ben Aaronovitch, (born 1964) author of Peter Grant (book series) · Jack L. · L. · David Eddings, (1931–2009) author of
16 of the Best Fantasy Authors Ever · George R. R. Martin · Seanan McGuire · Brandon Sanderson · Patrick Rothfuss · J.R.R. Tolkien · Nnedi Okorafor.
The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time · The Arabian Nights · Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory · Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll · Through the
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The 25 Best Fantasy Books & Novels of All Time: Our Top Picks
A Song of Ice and Fire is the history lesson you wish you'd had in school. An immense, incredible work of epic fantasy written by a hugely talented author who
The Thousand Eyes. by A. K. Larkwood. Book cover for The Thousand Eyes.
Released in 2021, Piranesi was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and won a massive amount of critical acclaim for author Susanna
The best fantasy authors of all time, ranked by readers and fans. This list include some highly recognizable names, like J.R.R. Tolkein and George R.R.