Top 100 Fantasy Books
The 100 fantasy books that we - and other readers - simply cannot recommend highly enough; books that weve all loved reading. Click on a book title to read the full review.
A Song of Ice and Fire is the history lesson you wish youd 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)
Carnegie Medal Winner:2002 (The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents)
In his Discworld Series, Terry Pratchett, one of Britains 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.
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. Tolkiens 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.
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
David Gemmell Award for Fantasy Winner:2012 (The Wise Mans Fear)
The Name of the Wind and Wise Mans Fear are the very finest examples of first-person storytelling. Its 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 youve 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.
Scott Lynchs 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
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
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)
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)
The Realm of the Elderlings is a glorious, classic fantasy combining the magic of Le Guins The Wizard of Earthsea with the epic mastery of Tolkiens 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
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)
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 persons 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)
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)
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)
Nestl 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 Philosophers Stone)
The seven Harry Potter books are very well-written and laugh-out-loud funny, and it makes for an intoxicating combination. The Philosophers 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.
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: Its 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 Kings magnum opus, he poured everything into its writing and it is a towering achievement.
Published: 1982 World Fantasy Award Winner: 2005 (The Dark Tower)
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 Sandersons books together). Big action set pieces of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things is exactly what many want from their epic fantasy.
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.
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. Its 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.
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.
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
Once upon a time, a young boy called Wart was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldnt 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.
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
N.K. Jemisin has won theHugo Award for Best Novel, Nebula Award for Best Novel, Audie Award for Science Fiction and theCrawford 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 attimes 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)
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.
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 Wolfes 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 youre 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)
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)
Feists Magician is one of the best known and well read fantasy books; itis a powerful and memorable book that any reader who derives pleasure from reading epic fantasy should read beingclassic 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 BBCs 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.
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, its 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 Ill keep on eye of the Empire of Canadias ratio.
Published: 1990 World Fantasy Award Nominee: 1991
The Last Unicorn is one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time. Its lyrical writing, its 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).
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 asFairy tale, Fantasy Fiction, Adventure fiction. Good enough for me. How many talking rabbits have you met?
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.
Alice in Wonderland was Lewis Carrolls first novel and its fantasy plot, humorous rhymes and brilliant use of nonsense was revolutionary. Nineteenth-century childrens 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 childrens literature.
One of the most laconic, tightly-plotted tales of mythical morality youll ever read, an anti-establishment satire disguised as a love story, more of a scary tale than a fairy taleUncut
Theres nothing fluffy about The Princess Bride. The rocket-powered narrative tricks you without being merely tricksy, and is both modern and timelessNeon
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-upsSpectator
Within Jacqueline Careys Kushiels Legacy books we find a complex, refined work of fantasy. This skillfully written trilogy stars an unforgettable who finds herself mixed up in a dangerous world of politics, magic and romance. The trilogy begins with Kushiels Dart, a tale that will enthrall readers of fantasy fiction.
You have to ask yourself Wouldnt it be great to believe in magic? I found this book extraordinary, with so much thought put intothe storywhich unfolds like a carefully constructed maze.
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.
The Sarantine Mosaic and Lord of Emperors,inspired by ancient Byzantium,tella 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
The Divine Cities trilogy is quite unlike anything Ive 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 youre looking to discover something new, something original, and something memorable, then this is the series youre looking for.
Published: 2014 World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2015 (City of Stairs)
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 books 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
If you want to see how thePernsaga 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.
One drowsy summers 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
One of the best known and best loved fantasy books, J. R. R. Tolkiens 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.
Epic, traditional fantasy of a high standard. Atnearly 800 pagesit 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.
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.
If youve not read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings this may not be for you. But I honestly dont know, its such a brilliant book, a book about creation really, that maybe it will work for you regardless. But if you have read Tolkiens 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?
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.
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 doesnt 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 youve 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.
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.
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 youre looking for all of the above within the framework of a great story, look no further.
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.
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 Aaronovitchs 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 theyve finished it at 3 in the morning.
World Fantasy Award forLifetime 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 childrens classic.
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 Jorgs eyes, the cold apathy with which he dispatches his enemies. It is discomforting. But Prince of Thorns is a fantastic tale of one boys fight for control in a world threatening to engulf him.
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 didnt 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
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 youve never read Stephen King before, even if neither horror nor post-apocalyptic are your usual genre choice, you wont 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 its 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
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.
Published: 2013 World Fantasy Award Nominee: 2014
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.
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 ones 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 books 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
Jen Williams The Ninth Rain is unlike anything I have ever read. For a fantasy lover, its one of those rare books that pulls at your heartstrings but also at the knowledge that its okay to be imperfect, inquisitive and slightly mad.
Simply put, R.F.Kuangs The Poppy Waris a towering achievement of modern fantasy.Kuang writes in a descriptive and narrative stylethat 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 weve built with Rin and her companions is put to the test. It is a testament toKuangs 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
Guy Gavriel Kays A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the worlds greatest living storytellers. This story is shocking, devastating, and beautiful. Kays language is elegant in its simplicity, yet