top fantasy writers of all time

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The Best Fantasy Authors

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Fantasy literature has long served as a magical escape for readers, transporting them to worlds filled with enchanted creatures, epic adventures, and unforgettable journeys. Throughout history, numerous talented authors have shaped this genre into the captivating powerhouse it is today. By crafting immersive narratives that evoke wonder and astonishment, these best fantasy authors excel at weaving intricate plots, developing complex characters, and envisioning fantastical settings. 

These gifted writers have created mesmerizing tales that hold readers captive from beginning to end. The best fantasy writers construct enthralling stories that explore themes of heroism, power struggles, and morality while remaining anchored within unique fictional universes. 

Some prime examples of such extraordinary fantasy fiction authors include J.R.R. Tolkien, Bram Stoker, and Frank Herbert. Tolkien's legendary The Lord of The Rings series introduced us to Middle-Earth and its memorable inhabitants like Frodo Baggins and Gandalf. Bram Stoker redefined horror through his chilling Gothic tale Dracula , expertly blending elements of supernatural monsters with a spine-tingling setting. Frank Herbert revolutionized science-fiction with Dune , an epic space opera known for its intricate world-building and philosophical undertones challenging societal norms. These creative minds are just a glimpse into the pantheon of esteemed fantasy writers who have captured our imaginations throughout time. 

Reflecting upon the profound impact these best fantasy authors have had on the literary landscape highlights their importance within our culture. They breathe life into enchanting realms where anything is possible - transcending reality's boundaries for readers seeking otherworldly escapes. 

J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Roald Dahl

Joe Abercrombie


Rick Riordan

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert

Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey

Stephen King

Stephen King

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft

David Eddings

David Eddings

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss

Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks

Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher

Andrzej Sapkowski

Andrzej Sapkowski

George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick

David Gemmell

David Gemmell

Lists about films, TV series, novels & series, anime, and other media that explore imaginary universes and the characters and forces that live inside them.

The Greatest '80s Fantasy Movies

The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

This is one of the 300 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

One Thousand and One Nights by Unknown

Cover of 'One Thousand and One Nights' by

This is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories are told by a young woman, who must weave a new tale each night for her husband, a king, to delay her execution. The tales are filled with magic, adventure, love, and betrayal, and include well-known stories such as "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory

Cover of 'Le Morte d'Arthur' by Thomas Malory

This classic work is a compilation of stories and legends about the legendary King Arthur, his knights, and the Round Table. It tells of Arthur's rise to power, his quest for the Holy Grail, and his tragic downfall. The book, written in the 15th century, is considered one of the most influential pieces of Arthurian literature and has significantly shaped the modern perception of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, and other iconic characters.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Cover of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Cover of 'Through the Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll

This sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland sees the young protagonist, Alice, embarking on another whimsical journey after stepping through a looking glass. In this mirror-image world, Alice encounters talking flowers, living chess pieces, and a variety of eccentric characters, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Red Queen, and Humpty Dumpty. The narrative is structured around a game of chess, with Alice striving to become a queen. The book is filled with clever wordplay, riddles, and fantastical elements, reflecting the author's unique take on logic and language.

Five Children And It by Edith Nesbit

Cover of 'Five Children And It' by Edith Nesbit

The book follows the adventures of five siblings who, while exploring the English countryside, discover a sand fairy known as the Psammead, which has the power to grant wishes. The children are thrilled by the prospect of having their desires fulfilled but soon learn that magic comes with its own set of complications. Each wish granted by the creature only lasts until sunset and often leads to unexpected consequences, teaching the children valuable lessons about the perils of greed, the importance of being careful what you wish for, and the power of imagination and kindness.

Ozma Of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Cover of 'Ozma Of Oz' by L. Frank Baum

In this enchanting continuation of a beloved fantasy series, a young girl finds herself once again swept away from her seaside vacation to a magical realm, this time landing in the peculiar land of Ev. Accompanied by a talking chicken and familiar friends from her previous adventures, she embarks on a quest to rescue a royal family from the clutches of a wicked Nome King. Along the way, they encounter whimsical creatures, confront perplexing challenges, and discover the mysterious Ozma, the rightful ruler of a neighboring fairyland. Together, they must outwit the Nome King and restore peace and leadership to the kingdoms of this fantastical world.

Mary Poppins by PL Travers

Cover of 'Mary Poppins' by PL Travers

In this beloved classic, a magical and enigmatic nanny named Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks' household to care for their mischievous children. With her peculiar and extraordinary abilities, Mary Poppins takes the children on whimsical adventures, teaching them valuable life lessons along the way. As the family learns to appreciate the wonder and joy in everyday life, Mary Poppins proves that even the most ordinary moments can be extraordinary.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Cover of 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' by C. S. Lewis

Four siblings are evacuated from London during World War II and sent to live with an old professor in the countryside. In his house, they discover a magical wardrobe that serves as a portal to the land of Narnia, a world filled with mythical creatures and ruled by an evil White Witch. The children are soon caught up in a struggle to free Narnia from the witch's eternal winter, aided by the majestic lion Aslan. The story combines elements of fantasy, adventure, and Christian allegory.

The Palm Wine Drinkard And His Dead Palm Wine Tapster In The Dead's Town by Amos Tutuola

Cover of 'The Palm Wine Drinkard And His Dead Palm Wine Tapster In The Dead's Town' by Amos Tutuola

This novel follows the surreal and fantastical journey of an African man with an insatiable thirst for palm wine, who, after the death of his skilled tapster, embarks on a quest to the land of the dead in hopes of bringing him back to the world of the living. Along the way, he encounters a myriad of bizarre and supernatural obstacles, including ghosts, witches, and other mythical creatures, each presenting their own challenges and moral lessons. The narrative, rich with the oral tradition of Nigerian folklore and written in a distinctive pidgin English, weaves a tale that explores themes of desire, loss, and the intersection of the living and the spiritual realms.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Cover of 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia' by C. S. Lewis

The third installment in a fantasy series, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" follows the adventure of Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace, as they are magically drawn into a painting and onto a Narnian ship headed for the edges of the world. Alongside their old friend, King Caspian, they encounter sea serpents, dragons, and new lands filled with strange creatures as they journey to the end of the world. The novel explores themes of courage, friendship, and the struggle between good and evil.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Cover of 'The Lord of the Rings' by J. R. R. Tolkien

This epic high-fantasy novel centers around a modest hobbit who is entrusted with the task of destroying a powerful ring that could enable the dark lord to conquer the world. Accompanied by a diverse group of companions, the hobbit embarks on a perilous journey across Middle-earth, battling evil forces and facing numerous challenges. The narrative, rich in mythology and complex themes of good versus evil, friendship, and heroism, has had a profound influence on the fantasy genre.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola

Cover of 'My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts' by Amos Tutuola

The book is a phantasmagorical narrative that follows the harrowing journey of a young boy who, while fleeing from slave traders, becomes lost in a supernatural realm known as the Bush of Ghosts. This mystical forest is inhabited by a myriad of spirits and creatures drawn from Yoruba folklore. As the boy navigates through this eerie landscape, he encounters a series of ghostly domains, each ruled by its own peculiar entities. Throughout his surreal odyssey, which spans several years, he is subjected to bizarre and often terrifying experiences, all the while yearning for a return to his human family and the normal world. The story is a blend of traditional African folklore, myth, and the author's own rich imagination, offering a vivid exploration of the themes of survival, bravery, and the clash between the natural and supernatural worlds.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

Cover of 'A Hero Born' by Jin Yong

"A Hero Born" is the first installment in an epic martial arts saga set in the Song Dynasty of China, where the story follows the life of Guo Jing, a young boy from a humble background. After his father, a loyal Song patriot, is murdered, Guo Jing is raised by Genghis Khan in the Mongolian steppes. Throughout his adventures, he encounters a diverse cast of characters, learns from legendary martial arts masters, and is imbued with the values of honor, loyalty, and the complex moralities of warfare and brotherhood. His destiny is intertwined with the fate of his nation as he embarks on a quest to become a true hero and to confront formidable enemies that threaten the very fabric of the martial arts world.

The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Cover of 'The Once and Future King' by T. H. White

This novel is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, from Arthur's childhood tutelage under the wizard Merlyn to his eventual death. The story follows Arthur's journey from a naive boy to a wise and just king, his establishment of the Round Table, his marriage to Guinevere, and his complex relationship with his illegitimate son, Mordred. The narrative explores themes of power, justice, war, and human nature, offering a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of a well-known mythical figure.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Cover of 'James and the Giant Peach' by Roald Dahl

A young boy named James, after being orphaned and forced to live with his cruel aunts, embarks on a magical adventure inside a giant peach. Alongside a group of anthropomorphic insects who also reside in the peach, James navigates through a series of fantastical events, including battling pirate-like creatures and flying across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. This whimsical journey helps James escape his miserable life and find a new family amongst his insect friends.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Cover of 'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster

A young boy named Milo, who is always bored and uninterested in the world around him, unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth. When he drives through it in his toy car, he is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Here, he embarks on a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason, who have been exiled by the warring brothers, King Azaz of Dictionopolis (where words are supremely important) and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis (where numbers are most valued). Along his journey, Milo learns the value of learning and the excitement that can be found in the world around him.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Cover of 'A Wrinkle In Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

The novel follows the story of a young girl named Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they embark on a cosmic journey to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace's father. The father, a scientist, has been missing since he discovered a new planet using the concept of Tesseract, which is a wrinkle in time. Guided by three mysterious celestial beings, the children travel across different dimensions, face evil forces, and learn about the power of love and self-sacrifice.

The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez

Cover of 'The Wandering Unicorn' by Manuel Mujica Lainez

"The Wandering Unicorn" is a historical fantasy novel that weaves a tapestry of medieval legends, chivalric adventures, and magical realism. It follows the journey of a young unicorn who, under the guise of a beautiful page, seeks to protect Melusine, a cursed fairy who is half-woman, half-serpent. Set against the backdrop of the Crusades, the narrative intertwines the unicorn's quest for redemption and love with a rich cast of characters, including knights, sorcerers, and mythical creatures. The story delves into themes of immortality, transformation, and the enduring power of myth, all while painting a vivid picture of a bygone era filled with enchantment and intrigue.

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Cover of 'Dragonflight' by Anne McCaffrey

In a world where telepathic dragons and their riders protect the land from the destructive Thread that rains down from the sky, a young woman unexpectedly becomes the new Weyrwoman, bonding with the last queen dragon. As the traditional ways of the past clash with the urgent need to defend their world, she and her enigmatic dragonrider ally must rediscover ancient secrets and take to the skies in a perilous quest to unite the dragonriders and save their planet from annihilation. Their journey is fraught with challenges, both political and personal, as they strive to harness the full power of the dragons and ensure the survival of their way of life.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Cover of 'The Last Unicorn' by Peter S. Beagle

In this enchanting fantasy tale, a solitary unicorn, believing she is the last of her kind, embarks on a poignant journey to discover what has become of the other unicorns. Along the way, she is joined by a bumbling magician and a tough yet tender-hearted woman. Together, they face trials and confront an evil king to unravel the mystery of the missing unicorns. The unicorn must also grapple with the complexities of love, the loss of innocence, and the painful beauty of existence, as she seeks to restore her kind and witness the return of magic to the world.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Cover of 'A Wizard of Earthsea' by Ursula K. Le Guin

This fantasy novel follows the story of a young boy named Ged who lives in a world of islands called Earthsea. Ged discovers he has a natural talent for magic and is sent to a school for wizards on the island of Roke. As he grows and learns, his arrogance leads him to unleash a shadow creature that he must then spend years trying to defeat. The book explores themes of balance, power, and the danger of hubris, as Ged learns to control his abilities and accept responsibility for his actions.

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Cover of 'The Crystal Cave' by Mary Stewart

"The Crystal Cave" is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Merlin, the legendary wizard of King Arthur's court. The book follows Merlin's early life, from his birth as the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess to his discovery of his magical powers and his journey to become a wise and powerful advisor to the future King Arthur. Set against the backdrop of early medieval Britain, the novel explores themes of destiny, power, and the struggle between pagan and Christian beliefs.

The Tombs Of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Cover of 'The Tombs Of Atuan' by Ursula K. Le Guin

In this fantasy novel, a young girl named Tenar is taken from her home to become the high priestess of the Nameless Ones at the Tombs of Atuan, a labyrinthine and sacred underground complex. As she grows into her role, her life of solitude and ritual is disrupted by the arrival of Ged, a wizard from the archipelago of Earthsea, who seeks a lost treasure hidden within the tombs. The encounter challenges Tenar's beliefs and her allegiance to the Nameless Ones, leading her on a journey of self-discovery and liberation, as she begins to question the darkness that has defined her existence and contemplates the possibility of a life beyond the confines of the tombs.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Cover of 'Watership Down' by Richard Adams

This novel follows a group of rabbits as they flee their warren due to a foreseen catastrophe. The rabbits, led by Hazel and his psychic brother Fiver, face numerous challenges and adventures as they search for a new home. They encounter predators, hostile rabbit communities, and human threats. The book explores themes of leadership, survival, and freedom, all set within the natural world and its inherent dangers.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

Cover of 'The Dark Is Rising' by Susan Cooper

In "The Dark Is Rising," a young boy named Will Stanton discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is the last of the Old Ones, a group of immortal beings who must protect the world from the forces of darkness. As he embarks on a dangerous quest to find six powerful signs, Will must navigate a treacherous battle between good and evil, facing ancient magic, time travel, and his own inner demons along the way. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Will must embrace his destiny and harness his newfound powers to save humanity from the rising darkness.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Cover of 'The Princess Bride' by William Goldman

This book is an illustrated edition of a classic tale of true love and high adventure. It tells the story of a beautiful princess and her one true love. After he is reportedly killed, she agrees to marry a wicked prince instead, only to be kidnapped and face numerous dangers. The story is filled with humor, romance, and swashbuckling action, all brought to life by vivid illustrations.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Cover of 'Tuck Everlasting' by Natalie Babbitt

This novel explores the concept of immortality through the story of a young girl who stumbles upon a family that has inadvertently gained eternal life after drinking from a magical spring. The family, having lived for centuries, shares their experiences and the burdens of their unending existence with the girl, who must then decide whether to keep their secret and live a mortal life or join them in everlasting life. The narrative delves into themes of life, death, and the natural order of things, as the girl grapples with the profound implications of a life without end.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle

Cover of 'A Swiftly Tilting Planet' by Madeleine L'Engle

In this science fiction-fantasy novel, the protagonist embarks on a time-traveling quest to prevent a global catastrophe. Guided by a unicorn, the protagonist uses a powerful rune to mentally leap through time and space, inhabiting the lives of different people throughout history who are connected to the present-day threat. As the protagonist influences the actions of these individuals, the narrative weaves a complex tapestry of interconnected events, emphasizing themes of family, love, and the interconnectedness of all things. The story challenges the protagonist to understand the ripple effects of actions across time, ultimately aiming to alter the course of history to save the world from impending doom.

The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories by Angela Carter

Cover of 'The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories' by Angela Carter

"The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that reimagines and deconstructs traditional fairy tales. The narratives are filled with strong female characters, sexual exploration, and violent and gothic themes. Each story presents a unique spin on classic tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Bluebeard, challenging the typical gender roles and expectations found in the original stories.

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Cover of 'The BFG' by Roald Dahl

The book tells the story of a young orphan girl who befriends a benevolent giant, known as the Big Friendly Giant (BFG). Together, they embark on a mission to stop the other evil, man-eating giants from terrorizing the human world. With the help of the Queen of England and her armed forces, they manage to capture the evil giants and bring peace. The BFG and the girl then live happily in England, with the BFG delivering good dreams to children and the girl living in a new home at the palace.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Cover of 'Alanna: The First Adventure' by Tamora Pierce

In this fantasy novel, a young girl defies the expectations of her society by disguising herself as a boy to pursue her dream of becoming a knight. She swaps places with her twin brother and enters the rigorous training program at the palace, where she must prove her worth in combat and magic while keeping her true identity a secret. Along her journey, she makes both friends and enemies, confronts powerful adversaries, and discovers her own unique magical abilities, all while navigating the challenges of growing up and finding her place in a world that underestimates her because of her gender.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover of 'Howl's Moving Castle' by Diana Wynne Jones

In a magical land where witches and wizards exist, a young hat maker named Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch and transformed into an old woman. Determined to break the curse, Sophie seeks refuge in the mysterious moving castle of the feared wizard Howl. As Sophie navigates the castle's enchanting rooms and encounters its eccentric inhabitants, she discovers the power of love, friendship, and self-acceptance. Together with Howl and his apprentice Michael, Sophie embarks on a captivating journey filled with adventure, magic, and unexpected twists that will change their lives forever.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Cover of 'Redwall' by Brian Jacques

In the heart of Mossflower Woods stands Redwall Abbey, a place of peace and sanctuary for its animal inhabitants. However, their tranquility is shattered when the vicious rat, Cluny the Scourge, sets his sights on conquering the Abbey with his horde of vermin. The brave mice and their woodland friends must rally together to protect their home, led by the courageous young mouse Matthias. Drawing inspiration from the Abbey's legendary hero, Martin the Warrior, Matthias embarks on a perilous quest to find the lost sword of Martin, which is the key to defeating the malevolent invaders. Through a series of battles, riddles, and adventures, the inhabitants of Redwall fight for their freedom and the future of their home.

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Cover of 'Swordspoint' by Ellen Kushner

Set in a decadent city where the sharp edge of a blade can determine a person's fate, the narrative follows a skilled swordsman known for his prowess in duels that settle the disputes of the nobility. Living on the brink of society with his lover, a scholar with a mysterious past, the swordsman becomes entangled in a web of political intrigue, power plays, and romantic entanglements. As the elite's manipulative games escalate, the swordsman must navigate a dangerous path that tests his skills and his heart, all while trying to maintain his honor in a world where human life is often worth less than the secrets it can reveal or the alliances it can forge.

The Lives Of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover of 'The Lives Of Christopher Chant' by Diana Wynne Jones

In this enchanting fantasy novel, a young boy discovers his remarkable ability to travel between worlds while he sleeps. Unbeknownst to him, his gift makes him a valuable asset in the eyes of his uncle, who uses him to smuggle magical artifacts. As the boy grows, he learns more about his powers and the ethereal realm known as the Related Worlds. He must navigate the complexities of his family's expectations, his unique abilities, and an impending magical conflict. With the help of a talking cat and other peculiar friends he meets along the way, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and must decide where his loyalties lie and how to use his gifts for the greater good.

The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan

Cover of 'The Eye Of The World' by Robert Jordan

In a high fantasy realm woven with magic, prophecy, and conflict, a group of young villagers is thrust into an epic quest when their tranquil lives are shattered by the arrival of a mysterious stranger and a dark pursuing force. Guided by a wise and powerful mentor, they embark on a perilous journey, discovering that one among them might be the reincarnation of an ancient hero destined to confront a malevolent entity threatening the world. As they traverse diverse landscapes and face myriad dangers, they must come to terms with their own burgeoning abilities and the weight of fate upon their shoulders.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett , Neil Gaiman

Cover of 'Good Omens' by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

"Good Omens" is a humorous take on the biblical Apocalypse, following an angel and a demon who have grown fond of Earth and its inhabitants, and are not too keen on the impending end of the world. As they try to locate the misplaced Antichrist and prevent the Four Horsemen from bringing about Armageddon, they encounter an array of quirky characters, including witch-hunters, modern-day witches, and the Four Horsemen themselves. The novel combines comedy, fantasy, and philosophical themes, offering a satirical critique of religious prophecy and human nature.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Cover of 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' by Salman Rushdie

The book is a fantastical children's novel that explores the importance of storytelling. It follows the journey of a young boy named Haroun who sets out on a magical adventure to restore his father's ability to tell stories. Along the way, he encounters a vast array of colorful characters and strange lands, including a Sea of Stories. The narrative addresses themes of censorship, the power of storytelling, and the struggle between light and darkness.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Cover of 'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon

The novel follows a World War II nurse who accidentally time travels back to 18th century Scotland. There, she meets a handsome and brave Scottish warrior and is torn between her loyalty to her husband in her own time and her growing love for the warrior. As she becomes more entwined in the past, she must navigate the dangers of a time not her own, including political unrest and violence, while trying to find a way back home.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Cover of 'Tigana' by Guy Gavriel Kay

In a land where a ruthless sorcerer has erased the name and history of a once-proud province, a group of rebels fights to reclaim their identity and homeland. The story unfolds in a richly detailed fantasy world where magic and political intrigue intertwine, and the power of memory and the resilience of the human spirit are central themes. The rebels, each with their own personal vendettas and dreams, must navigate complex alliances and confront their own pasts as they strive to restore the name of their province and free it from the grip of tyranny. Their quest is fraught with challenges, as they face not only the sorcerer's formidable powers but also the difficulties of uniting a fractured people under a forgotten banner.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Cover of 'The Golden Compass' by Philip Pullman

The book follows the journey of a young girl in a parallel universe where people's souls exist outside of their bodies as animal companions, called daemons. When her friend is kidnapped by a mysterious organization, she sets off on a quest to rescue him, armed with a truth-telling device known as the golden compass. Along the way, she encounters a variety of characters, including witches, armored bears, and aeronauts, and uncovers a sinister plot involving the children of her world.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Cover of 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman

In this dark and imaginative fantasy, a young Londoner named Richard Mayhew finds his mundane life turned upside down when he stumbles upon a young woman named Door, bleeding on the sidewalk. After aiding her, he is thrust into the shadowy, parallel world of London Below, a realm of magic, danger, and intrigue that exists beneath the streets of London Above. As Richard journeys through this eerie underworld with a cast of bizarre and fantastical characters, he must confront malevolent forces and unravel a complex conspiracy to help Door discover why her family was murdered, all while trying to find a way back to his old life.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Cover of 'Ella Enchanted' by Gail Carson Levine

In this enchanting twist on the Cinderella fairy tale, a young girl named Ella is cursed with the "gift" of obedience by a well-meaning but misguided fairy. This compulsion forces her to obey any direct command, leading to a life of manipulation and frustration. Determined to reclaim control over her life, Ella embarks on a quest to find the fairy who cursed her and break the spell. Along the way, she encounters ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and a charming prince, weaving a story of self-discovery, resilience, and the power of true love. Her journey is not only about breaking the curse but also about finding her voice and the strength to stand up for herself in a world that tries to define her destiny.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Cover of 'The Subtle Knife' by Philip Pullman

In the second installment of a fantasy trilogy, a young boy discovers a magical knife that can cut through the fabric of reality, allowing him to travel between parallel worlds. As he learns to master the knife's powers, he meets a girl from another universe on a quest to understand a mysterious substance called Dust. Their paths intertwine with a war brewing across the multiverse, involving witches, armored bears, and shadowy organizations, as they uncover dark truths and face grave dangers in their journey to understand the knife's true purpose and the nature of their own destinies.

Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Cover of 'Brown Girl In The Ring' by Nalo Hopkinson

Set in a dystopian future Toronto that has been abandoned by the government and cordoned off from the rest of Canada, the novel follows a young, spirited woman of Caribbean descent who must navigate the perilous, gang-ruled cityscape while harnessing her newfound, ancestral spiritual powers. As she grapples with her identity and the demands of the community that relies on her, she is drawn into a dangerous quest to save her dying grandmother and confronts a malevolent spirit. The story is a rich tapestry of Afro-Caribbean culture, folklore, and tradition, exploring themes of resilience, heritage, and the transformative power of love and family.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J. K Rowling

Cover of 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban' by J. K Rowling

In this third installment of the popular fantasy series, the protagonist enters his third year at a magical school, only to find out that a notorious prisoner has escaped from a supposedly inescapable prison and is believed to be after him. As the school year progresses, he learns more about his parents' history, uncovers secrets about his professor, and discovers a magical map. He also learns to summon a powerful defensive spell, confronts the escaped prisoner, and uncovers the truth about his parents' betrayal and death. The book ends with him saving an innocent life and learning a valuable lesson about the complexity of human nature and the importance of true friendship.

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

In this enchanting retelling of a classic fairy tale, a princess is cursed by an evil fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and die on her twenty-first birthday. To protect her, the infant princess is spirited away by a young fairy and raised in a small village, unaware of her royal heritage. As her twenty-first birthday approaches, various forces converge to either save or doom her, leading to a journey of self-discovery, magic, and adventure. With the help of her friends, including animals she can communicate with, the princess must find a way to break the curse and embrace her true destiny.

A Storm Of Swords by George R. R. Martin

Cover of 'A Storm Of Swords' by George R. R. Martin

In this epic fantasy novel, the third installment of a series, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are engulfed in a brutal civil war with multiple factions vying for the Iron Throne. As treachery and magic intertwine, characters navigate complex political intrigues and battle for survival amidst a landscape where seasons can last for years. The narrative weaves together the fates of noble families, with key figures facing betrayals, forming alliances, and confronting supernatural threats. The book is renowned for its unexpected plot twists, including shocking deaths and strategic marriages, all leading to a climax that reshapes the power dynamics of the realm.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Cover of 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman

A recently released convict discovers that his wife and best friend died in a car accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who hires him as a bodyguard. As they journey across America, it is revealed that the stranger is an old god, traveling to rally his fellow forgotten deities to wage a war against the new American gods born from society's modern obsessions with media, technology, drugs, celebrity, and more. The story blends elements of fantasy, mythology, and Americana to explore themes of faith, belief, and the nature of American identity.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Cover of 'The Wee Free Men' by Terry Pratchett

In this humorous fantasy novel, a young witch named Tiffany Aching embarks on a quest to rescue her kidnapped brother, armed only with a frying pan and the assistance of the Nac Mac Feegle—a clan of rowdy, blue-skinned, six-inch-tall pictsies. As Tiffany ventures into the realm of Fairyland, she must rely on her wits, courage, and newfound magical abilities to navigate a world filled with dreams and nightmares, where nothing is as it seems. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about responsibility, the power of knowledge, and the importance of standing up for oneself and others.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K Rowling

Cover of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' by J. K Rowling

In the sixth installment of the series, the protagonist returns for his sixth year at a magical school, where he excels in potions class with the help of an old textbook once belonging to the mysterious "Half-Blood Prince". As he delves deeper into his enemy's past through private lessons with the headmaster, he learns more about the Dark wizard's history and his own destiny. Amidst this, the school is no longer the safe haven it once was, and danger lurks within the castle walls. The year ends with a devastating loss, setting the stage for the final showdown.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Cover of 'Mistborn' by Brandon Sanderson

In a grim, ash-covered world ruled by the immortal Lord Ruler, a young street urchin discovers she possesses unique magical abilities—Allomancy, the power to ingest and burn metals to enhance physical and mental capabilities. She joins a group of rebel skaa, the oppressed class, led by a charismatic criminal mastermind, to overthrow the centuries-old tyranny. Together, they devise an elaborate heist to infiltrate the noble houses and spark a revolution, uncovering dark secrets and unexpected truths about their world and the origins of the Lord Ruler's power along the way.

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Cover of 'The Name Of The Wind' by Patrick Rothfuss

This fantasy novel follows the tale of a gifted young man who grows from a precocious child into a notorious wizard, known as the most notorious magician, musician, thief, and assassin. His life is one of hardship and danger, as he seeks knowledge and revenge following the tragic murder of his family by a group of supernatural beings. The story is told in retrospect as the protagonist recounts his past to a chronicler over the course of three days, revealing the truth behind the myths and legends that have come to surround his enigmatic persona.

City Of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Cover of 'City Of Glass' by Cassandra Clare

In this urban fantasy novel, the third installment of a series, the protagonist, a young Shadowhunter, travels to the titular city, a place of great significance to the secretive world of demon hunters, warlocks, vampires, and other supernatural beings. She is on a quest to find a cure for her poisoned mother, but her mission quickly becomes entangled with a larger conflict as she uncovers dark secrets about her family's past and the true nature of the Shadowhunters. As the city becomes a battleground, alliances are tested, and the protagonist must confront a powerful enemy who threatens to destroy everything she holds dear, all while grappling with her evolving feelings for her enigmatic companion.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin , Janet Song

Cover of 'Where the Mountain Meets the Moon' by Grace Lin, Janet Song

"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" is a children's fantasy novel about a young girl named Minli who lives in a poor village at the base of a mountain. She sets out on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon, hoping he can answer her family's prayers for a better life. Along the way, she meets a talking goldfish, a dragon who cannot fly, and other magical creatures. Through her adventures, Minli learns valuable lessons about gratitude, kindness, and the power of storytelling.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

Cover of 'The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' by N. K. Jemisin

In this fantasy novel, a young woman finds herself thrust into a volatile and treacherous world of politics and power when she is unexpectedly named an heir to the ruling family of a vast empire. As she navigates the dangerous court intrigues, she discovers her own latent magical abilities and forms complex relationships with the enslaved gods who are the source of the family's power. With the throne at stake, she must contend with deadly scheming, her own family's dark secrets, and the weight of her potential role in reshaping the kingdom's future.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Cover of 'Who Fears Death' by Nnedi Okorafor

This novel is a coming-of-age narrative set in a post-apocalyptic Africa. It follows the journey of a young woman born from a violent act, who is prophesied to bring an end to a brutal regime. As she grows, she discovers her magical abilities and must learn to control them in order to fulfill her destiny. The narrative explores themes of race, gender, and power, while incorporating elements of African mythology and culture.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Cover of 'Akata Witch' by Nnedi Okorafor

The novel follows the story of a young albino girl of Nigerian-American descent who discovers her latent magical powers and a connection to a secret, mystical world. Struggling with her identity and the challenges of adolescence, she is thrust into a journey of self-discovery, where she must learn to harness her abilities. Alongside a group of friends with their own unique talents, she navigates a world filled with dangerous creatures and dark adversaries, using her newfound magic to uncover her true destiny and combat the threats that loom over both the physical and supernatural realms.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Cover of 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern

The novel tells the story of two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are unknowingly bound to each other in a lifelong competition set up by their mentors. The stage for their contest is an enchanting, nocturnal circus that travels around the world, known as Le Cirque des Rêves. As the competition progresses, the pair fall in love, which leads to dangerous consequences and threatens the existence of the circus.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Cover of 'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller

The novel is a reimagining of the ancient Greek epic of the Trojan War, told from the perspective of Patroclus, an exiled young prince who becomes the beloved companion of Achilles, the greatest warrior of his age. Their deep bond and affection for one another transform into a powerful love that defies the expectations of their society and the will of the gods. As they grow into men, their fates become increasingly intertwined with the legendary conflict at Troy, where honor, sacrifice, and destiny culminate in a poignant and tragic conclusion. The story explores themes of heroism, glory, and the humanizing effects of love against the backdrop of war and the capricious whims of immortals.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Cover of 'Angelfall' by Susan Ee

In a post-apocalyptic world where angels have descended to Earth and unleashed destruction, a resilient teenage girl embarks on a perilous journey to rescue her kidnapped younger sister. With society in ruins and danger at every turn, she allies with a mysterious angel whose motives are unclear, navigating a landscape filled with roving gangs, gruesome creatures, and celestial warriors. As she fights to survive and uncover the truth behind the invasion, she confronts the blurred lines between good and evil, and the potential darkness within herself and her enigmatic companion.

A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar

Cover of 'A Stranger In Olondria' by Sofia Samatar

The novel explores the transformative power of literature through the eyes of a young pepper merchant from a remote island who, upon visiting the sophisticated and literate land of Olondria, becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate girl. As he navigates the complex cultural landscape, he finds himself embroiled in a political and religious conflict surrounding the nature of literacy, storytelling, and the written word. The protagonist's journey is a rich tapestry of sensory experiences and a poignant meditation on the ways in which stories define and give meaning to our lives.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Cover of 'The Bone Clocks' by David Mitchell

This novel weaves together the lives of diverse characters through a narrative that spans decades, centering on a teenage runaway with psychic abilities. As she becomes embroiled in a covert war between immortal factions, the story explores themes of mortality, power, and the interconnectedness of human lives. The intricate plot moves through different times and places, revealing a hidden world of mysticism and a looming apocalyptic crisis, all while examining the impact of our actions on the future of the planet.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Cover of 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro

In a mythical post-Arthurian Britain shrouded by a mist of collective amnesia, an elderly Briton couple, Axl and Beatrice, embark on a perilous journey to reunite with their estranged son. Their quest leads them through a landscape of fading memories, where they encounter knights, monks, and mythical creatures, all grappling with their own forgotten pasts. As they confront the remnants of a war between Saxons and Britons, the couple must also face the true nature of the mist and the buried giant it conceals, which holds the key to the fragile peace in their society. Their love and loyalty are tested as they delve into the depths of their own lost memories, revealing the power of forgetting and the cost of remembering.

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Cover of 'An Ember In The Ashes' by Sabaa Tahir

In a brutal, Rome-like fantasy world, a young Scholar girl named Laia goes on a dangerous mission to save her brother from the clutches of the oppressive Martial Empire. To do so, she infiltrates the Empire's premier military academy as a slave, where she meets Elias, one of the academy's finest soldiers, who is secretly as eager to escape the tyranny and corruption of the military as she is. Their fates become intertwined as they both seek freedom and justice, navigating a world rife with violence, betrayal, and dark magic. The story is a gripping tale of resistance, survival, and the quest for personal redemption.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Cover of 'The Fifth Season' by N. K. Jemisin

A woman searches for her kidnapped daughter in a world ravaged by a catastrophic climate change event known as the Fifth Season. Simultaneously, the narrative follows a young girl with destructive powers and a man struggling to control his own similar abilities. The story explores themes of oppression, survival, and the destructive power of nature, all set in a dystopian world where the earth is constantly in flux, and society is strictly divided and controlled.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Cover of 'Get In Trouble' by Kelly Link

"Get In Trouble" is a collection of short stories that delve into the fantastical, surreal, and darkly humorous aspects of human experience. The narratives are populated with a diverse cast of characters, including superheroes, ghosts, and astronauts, all of whom find themselves in bizarre and often unsettling situations. The stories blend elements of magical realism, science fiction, and gothic horror to explore themes of loneliness, desire, and the blurred lines between reality and imagination. With its unique voice and inventive storytelling, the book invites readers to confront the extraordinary lurking within the mundane and to question the nature of their own troubles.

The Grace Of Kings by Ken Liu

Cover of 'The Grace Of Kings' by Ken Liu

In a sweeping fantasy epic set in a world inspired by the historical legends of China, two unlikely friends, a bandit and a duke, lead a rebellion against a tyrannical emperor. Their successful revolution ushers in a new era of chaos and conflict as the two heroes, driven by vastly different visions of justice and governance, find themselves at odds. The novel weaves intricate themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the complexities of power and ambition, as the characters navigate a richly detailed world of gods, airships, and divine interventions. The story is as much about the cost of victory as it is about the bonds of friendship and the unpredictable nature of grace.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Cover of 'Shadowshaper' by Daniel José Older

In the urban fantasy novel, a young Afro-Latina girl from Brooklyn discovers her family's involvement in a supernatural legacy known as Shadowshaping, where they can infuse ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. However, her world is thrown into chaos when she realizes that a malevolent force is hunting the shadowshapers, aiming to destroy her family's cultural heritage and power. As she delves deeper into this mystical world, she must embrace her identity and heritage to harness her newfound abilities, navigate the complexities of her community and friends, and fight to protect the legacy passed down to her by her ancestors.

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Cover of 'Six Of Crows' by Leigh Bardugo

In a gritty and dangerous city, a notorious gang leader named Kaz Brekker is offered a life-changing heist that could make him unimaginably rich. He assembles a team of skilled outcasts, each with their own unique talents, to pull off an impossible mission. As they navigate through treacherous streets and face deadly enemies, the group must rely on their wits and trust each other to survive. Along the way, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested, and unexpected alliances are formed, all while the fate of their world hangs in the balance.

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Cover of 'The Wrath & The Dawn' by Renée Ahdieh

In this reimagined tale inspired by "One Thousand and One Nights," a young woman volunteers to marry a caliph known for taking a new bride each day only to execute her at dawn. She does this to avenge her best friend, one of his previous victims. However, as she weaves stories night after night to postpone her execution, she begins to see a different side to the ruler and uncovers secrets that could alter the course of the kingdom. Amidst a backdrop of magic, betrayal, and political intrigue, the woman finds herself torn between her mission for revenge and the unexpected feelings she develops for the man she intended to hate.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Cover of 'All the Birds in the Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders

This novel blends science fiction and fantasy, telling the story of two outcasts, a witch and a tech genius, who meet as children and then part ways, only to reunite as adults in a world teetering on the brink of catastrophe. As the planet faces environmental collapse and the threat of war, the pair must navigate their differences and their past to harness their extraordinary abilities. Their friendship becomes the key to survival, as they confront forces that could either save humanity or lead to its destruction, blurring the lines between magic and science in an uncertain future.

A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

Cover of 'A Torch Against The Night' by Sabaa Tahir

In this gripping fantasy sequel, two fugitives fight to survive and overthrow a tyrannical regime. The former scholar-turned-fugitive and her warrior ally, with the help of a spy and other unexpected friends, embark on a dangerous journey to free the former's brother from a notorious prison. As they navigate through political intrigue and dark magic, they must also confront their own inner demons and the growing feelings between them. With the empire's most brutal forces on their trail, the pair must use all their wits and courage to outsmart their enemies and fan the flames of rebellion, while a prophecy looms over them, threatening to shake the very foundations of their world.

The Wall Of Storms by Ken Liu

Cover of 'The Wall Of Storms' by Ken Liu

In this epic fantasy sequel, the realm of Dara is threatened by an invasion of powerful, dragon-like creatures from beyond the fabled Wall of Storms. The young emperor and his subjects must navigate political intrigue, complex family dynamics, and innovative magical technology to defend their land. With a rich tapestry of diverse characters, the story delves into themes of power, progress, and the cost of empire-building, as scholars and warriors alike confront the limits of their knowledge and the brutal realities of war.

Beasts Made Of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Cover of 'Beasts Made Of Night' by Tochi Onyebuchi

In a dark and fantastical city, the young and impoverished are employed as sin-eaters, known as aki, who consume the sins of the wealthy, manifesting them as beasts made of night. These sins take the form of Inisisa—sin-beasts that the aki must slay to absolve the guilt of the sin's original owner, at the cost of bearing the sin's tattooed image on their own skin. The story follows one such sin-eater, a talented but troubled young man, who finds himself embroiled in political intrigue and a deeper, more dangerous plot that threatens the very fabric of his society. As he grapples with his own identity and purpose, he must navigate a treacherous world of power, magic, and monsters—both human and created.

The Black Tides Of Heaven by Neon Yang

In a fantastical Asian-inspired world where the forces of magic and technology intertwine, two twins are born to the Protector, a tyrannical ruler with a powerful grip over the realm. The twins, Mokoya and Akeha, are gifted with prophetic and magical abilities, respectively, and are sent to a monastery to hone their skills. As they grow older, they find themselves at the heart of a rebellion against their mother's oppressive regime. The story explores themes of destiny, freedom, and the complex bonds of family, all while the twins grapple with their identities and the paths they choose to take in a society where gender is fluid and self-determined.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Cover of 'The Changeling' by Victor LaValle

The novel is a dark fairy tale that explores themes of parenthood, identity, and the impact of technology on modern life. It follows Apollo Kagwa, an antiquarian book dealer from New York City, whose life is turned upside down when his wife, Emma, commits a horrific act and then disappears. As Apollo searches for answers, he is drawn into a world filled with mythical creatures, secretive societies, and ancient folklore. Along his journey, he must confront his own past and the dark history of his family while navigating a city that seems to harbor magical secrets. The story blends the fantastical with the everyday to create a narrative that examines the fears and anxieties of being a parent in the 21st century.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Cover of 'Jade City' by Fonda Lee

In a bustling city ruled by powerful crime families, the Kauls, who possess the rare ability to harness the magical powers of jade, struggle to maintain their control amidst rising tensions and rivalries. As the city teeters on the brink of chaos, the Kaul siblings find themselves caught in a dangerous web of betrayal, loyalty, and ambition, where the fate of their family and their city hangs in the balance. With vivid world-building and intricate character dynamics, "Jade City" is a gripping tale of power, honor, and the price of maintaining control.

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

Cover of 'The Stone Sky' by N. K. Jemisin

In this concluding volume of a groundbreaking fantasy trilogy, the fate of a world hangs in the balance as a mother and daughter find themselves on opposite sides of an apocalyptic war. The mother, an orogene with the power to control seismic activity, embarks on a quest to end the perpetual disasters plaguing the earth by harnessing the power of an ancient, mythical obelisk. Meanwhile, her daughter, who possesses similar abilities, is manipulated by forces seeking to use her powers for their own ends. As their paths converge, the complex layers of oppression, survival, and the struggle for freedom are revealed, culminating in a climactic battle that will determine the future of their world.

Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Cover of 'Aru Shah And The End Of Time' by Roshani Chokshi

In this enchanting mythological fantasy, a young girl named Aru Shah discovers she is the reincarnation of one of the five legendary Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. When she accidentally unleashes an ancient demon, she must embark on a perilous journey to save the world from an apocalyptic freeze. Alongside a diverse cast of characters, including a talking pigeon and her newfound Pandava sister, Aru delves into her heritage, battles creatures from Indian mythology, and confronts her insecurities to find the courage within herself to prevent the end of time.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

In this enchanting tale, two sisters, Blanca and Roja, find themselves ensnared in a cruel family curse that has haunted generations: one sister is destined to become a swan. Their bond is tested when two local boys become entangled in their lives—one emerging from a strange transformation, and the other hiding his true identity. As the sisters grapple with the curse's grip, they must navigate a complex web of love, rivalry, and identity, challenging both societal expectations and their own deepest fears. The story weaves magical realism with themes of family, fate, and the power of self-acceptance, creating a lyrical narrative that explores the blurred lines between fairy tale and reality.

Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Cover of 'Children Of Blood And Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi

In a world where magic has been suppressed and the maji people have been oppressed, Zélie, a young maji girl, embarks on a dangerous quest to restore magic and bring justice to her people. Alongside her brother and a rogue princess, Zélie must confront her own powers and face formidable enemies, navigating a treacherous landscape of betrayal and sacrifice. As they race against time, Zélie discovers that she may hold the key to not only saving her people, but also to changing the destiny of their entire nation.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Cover of 'Circe' by Madeline Miller

The novel is a reimagining of the life of Circe, a minor goddess and witch from Homer's Odyssey. Born into the house of Helios, god of the sun, Circe is scorned by her family and turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover her powers of witchcraft. After transforming her mortal lover into a sea monster, she is banished to a deserted island by Zeus. Over the centuries, she hones her magical abilities, encounters famous mythological beings, and struggles with her immortality, loneliness, and desire for love and freedom.

Empire Of Sand by Tasha Suri

Cover of 'Empire Of Sand' by Tasha Suri

"Empire of Sand" is a captivating fantasy novel set in a world inspired by Mughal India, where the protagonist, a young woman of noble descent, possesses an extraordinary magical ability tied to the dreams of the gods. Her heritage draws the attention of the empire's religious leader, who seeks to control her power for his own ends. As she is forced into a cruel bargain to use her abilities to maintain the empire's control over its people, she must navigate treacherous court politics, forbidden romance, and her own conflicted desires. With the fate of the empire and the lives of those she loves at stake, she embarks on a journey of resistance, self-discovery, and a fight for freedom against the forces that seek to use her for their own ambitions.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

Cover of 'The Poppy War' by R. F. Kuang

The book is a fantasy novel set in a world inspired by China's 20th century history. The protagonist, a war orphan, defies societal expectations by acing the empire-wide examination and earning a place at the prestigious military academy. However, her triumph is short-lived as she becomes embroiled in a violent conflict, which forces her to delve into the depths of her own magical abilities, inspired by shamanism. The story intertwines the brutal realities of war, mythology, and the exploration of power in a deeply divided society.

Song Of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Cover of 'Song Of Blood & Stone' by L. Penelope

In a world cleaved by war and deeply entrenched racism, a young woman with a mysterious magical gift finds herself at the center of an epic struggle between two nations. She possesses the power to open magical gateways, a talent that could be the key to ending the longstanding conflict. When she rescues a spy from the enemy side, the pair must work together to thwart a villainous plot and unite their divided lands. As they journey through treacherous landscapes and confront their own prejudices, they discover that the true power lies in understanding and acceptance, and that love may be the most potent magic of all.

Trail Of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Cover of 'Trail Of Lightning' by Rebecca Roanhorse

In a post-apocalyptic world where rising waters have drowned much of the earth, the story unfolds on a Native American reservation that has survived the cataclysm. The protagonist, a monster hunter with supernatural abilities, navigates a landscape steeped in the lore and gods of her indigenous culture. As she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth behind a series of brutal murders, she is accompanied by an enigmatic medicine man with secrets of his own. Together, they confront not only malevolent creatures from legend but also the darker aspects of humanity and personal trauma, all set against the backdrop of a world struggling to rebuild from environmental and societal collapse.

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Cover of 'Witchmark' by C. L. Polk

In a world where magic is both a gift and a curse, a war veteran with secret healing powers must conceal his abilities to avoid being enslaved by his own family. When a fatally poisoned patient reveals a dire conspiracy, the healer is thrust into a dangerous investigation that exposes his hidden heritage and pits him against a powerful and oppressive magical elite. As he delves deeper, he must navigate a complex web of political intrigue, forbidden romance, and family secrets, all while trying to prevent a magical war that could destroy everything he holds dear.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Cover of 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' by Marlon James

"Black Leopard, Red Wolf" is a gripping and fantastical tale set in a mythical and ancient African world. The story follows Tracker, a skilled hunter with a keen sense of smell, who is hired to find a missing boy. As Tracker embarks on his dangerous journey, he encounters a diverse cast of characters, including witches, giants, and shape-shifters. Amidst the treacherous landscapes and political turmoil, Tracker's search for the truth becomes intertwined with his own personal quest for identity and redemption. With its richly imagined world and lyrical prose, this epic fantasy explores themes of love, power, and the blurred boundaries between good and evil.

Children Of Virtue And Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Cover of 'Children Of Virtue And Vengeance' by Tomi Adeyemi

In this fantasy sequel, the protagonists struggle to unite the kingdom of Orïsha and restore magic to the oppressed maji. After a brutal battle, the maji have regained their powers, but the monarchy and military now possess magical abilities as well. The heroine grapples with her role as a leader and her complex feelings for the enemy prince, while the kingdom is on the brink of civil war. As both sides fight for dominance, the characters must navigate betrayal, ancient mythology, and their own inner demons to bring peace and justice to their divided land.

The Dragon Republic by R. F. Kuang

Cover of 'The Dragon Republic' by R. F. Kuang

In this dark and gripping fantasy sequel, the protagonist, a young warrior and shaman, grapples with the aftermath of a brutal war and her own harrowing actions. Betrayed by allies and seeking redemption, she aligns with a new military force with the hope of transforming the corrupt empire into the titular republic. As she navigates political intrigue, battles monstrous forces, and confronts her inner demons, she must also contend with the destructive power of the gods and the weight of her burgeoning abilities. The novel explores themes of power, identity, and the cost of revolution in a richly detailed, war-torn world.

Gods Of Jade And Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Cover of 'Gods Of Jade And Shadow' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In this enchanting novel, a young woman's life is forever changed when she accidentally awakens the Mayan god of death, setting off on a transformative journey that blends Mexican folklore with the allure of the Jazz Age. As she travels with the deity to restore him to his throne in the underworld, she encounters demons, sorcerers, and otherworldly beings. Along the way, she discovers her own strength and independence, challenging the expectations of her traditional family and society. The story weaves together the rich tapestry of myth with the struggles of the mortal realm, creating a captivating tale of adventure, self-discovery, and unlikely romance.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

The book unfolds in a society that believes it has eradicated all monsters, but when a creature named Pet emerges from a painting, a young girl named Jam learns that monsters still exist. Pet has come to hunt a monster hiding in plain sight, and Jam must confront the reality that not all dangers are as visible as they seem. As Jam navigates this revelation with Pet's guidance, she embarks on a quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth in a world that prefers to deny the existence of such horrors. The story challenges the concepts of good and evil and the complacency that can arise in a community that believes it has overcome its darkest elements.

Queen Of The Conquered by Kacen Callender

Cover of 'Queen Of The Conquered' by Kacen Callender

Set on a Caribbean-inspired island, the narrative unfolds in a world where colonial powers have subjugated the native population. The protagonist, a woman of mixed heritage, possesses a unique ability to control minds—a power she plans to use to exact revenge on the ruling class that oppressed her people and murdered her family. As she maneuvers through a treacherous web of politics, rebellion, and personal ambition, she grapples with the moral complexities of her quest for vengeance and her own complicity in the brutal system she seeks to overthrow. The story is a gripping exploration of power, justice, and the cost of liberation in a society rife with inequality and prejudice.

The Rage Of Dragons by Evan Winter

Cover of 'The Rage Of Dragons' by Evan Winter

The book is a gripping fantasy tale set in a world inspired by African mythology, where a caste-driven society is locked in a perpetual war with hordes of dragons. The protagonist, born into the lowest caste, discovers an extraordinary ability to summon the power of dragons and seeks to use this power to avenge the injustices done to his people and to ascend beyond his preordained station. His quest for revenge and personal transformation is fraught with battles, political intrigue, and the challenge of overcoming a rigid social hierarchy, all while the fate of the kingdom hangs in the balance.

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Cover of 'We Hunt The Flame' by Hafsah Faizal

In a fantastical world inspired by ancient Arabia, a fierce hunter disguises herself as a man to provide for her people, while a tormented prince is tasked with assassinating those who defy his autocratic father's rule. Their paths converge when both are sent on a perilous quest to retrieve a magical artifact that can restore magic to their cursed world and stop the encroaching darkness. As they journey through treacherous lands and face insurmountable odds, they must contend with their own secrets and the growing attraction between them, all while navigating the complex politics and power struggles that threaten to tear their world apart.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Cover of 'Elatsoe' by Darcie Little Badger

In this young adult fantasy novel, we follow the story of a Lipan Apache teenager with the unique ability to awaken the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her family. When her cousin dies under mysterious circumstances, she sets out to uncover the truth behind his death, delving into a small town's dark secrets. Alongside her ghost dog sidekick, she navigates a world filled with magic, spirits, and creatures from folklore, confronting the intersection of her Indigenous culture and the supernatural realm. Her journey tests her courage and her ancestral gifts, as she seeks justice and upholds her family's legacy.

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Cover of 'Woven In Moonlight' by Isabel Ibañez

"Woven In Moonlight" is a vibrant young adult fantasy novel that immerses readers in a world inspired by Bolivian culture and politics. The story follows a young woman who serves as a decoy for the last remaining royal of her people. After her kingdom is overthrown, she is sent to the conqueror's palace as part of a peace treaty, where she secretly uses her magical weaving abilities to weave tapestries that come to life. As she navigates a complex web of political intrigue, rebellion, and romance, she must decide where her loyalties lie and how to use her unique powers to shape the future of her divided nation.

Time , 98 Books

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. *note* I combined some of the books here. All the Lord of the Rings books are combined.

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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.

16 of the best fantasy authors ever

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

The World of Ice & Fire

By George R. R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia, Linda Antonsson

Narrated by Roy Dotrice, Nicholas Guy Smith

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.

Seanan McGuire

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

Rosemary and Rue

By Seanan McGuire

Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

With the urban fantasy October Daye series, the Wayward Children series, and many other works of fantasy to his name, Seanan McGuire is one of the most prolific authors currently working in the genre. With works in fantasy, sci-fi, and standalone volumes like Middlegame , McGuire's bibliography is packed with great listens.

Brandon Sanderson

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

The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson

Narrated by Michael Kramer

What if the hero of prophecy fails? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn ....

Patrick Rothfuss

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

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss

Narrated by Nick Podehl

A tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend....

J.R.R. Tolkien

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.

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion

By J. R. R. Tolkien

Narrated by Martin Shaw

Nnedi Okorafor

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. 

Binti: Home

Binti: Home

By Nnedi Okorafor

Narrated by Robin Miles

Okorafor is another of the less seasoned authors on this list, but to read one of her several fantastic fantasy books is to become familiar with a new beacon of the genre. Among her works, the science fantasy Who Fears Death is one of the finest, featuring magic and a revenge quest in a post-apocalyptic Sudan. A Nigerian-American writer, Okorafor's stories are often inspired by the real-world conflicts in Africa, a perspective that brings a fresh outlook to the fantasy genre.

Andrzej Sapkowski

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

The Last Wish

By Andrzej Sapkowski

Narrated by Peter Kenny

The Witcher is a sprawling enterprise at this point, generating novels, comic books, television shows, and even various iterations as video, tabletop, and board 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.

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

The Farseer: Assassin's Apprentice

By Robin Hobb

Narrated by Paul Boehmer

One of the best things about listening to fantasy is that it grants you the ability to fully immerse yourself into 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 Realm 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.

Naomi Novik

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

Narrated by Julia Emelin

Tamora Pierce

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

Alanna, The First Adventure

By Tamora Pierce

Narrated by Trini Alvarado

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 writing, she made it a point to include the characters she felt the books she loved were missing. Beginning with the Song of the Lioness series, Pierce's bibliography is a delight to listen to all the way through.

Katherine Arden

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

The Winter of the Witch

By Katherine Arden

Narrated by Kathleen Gati

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 the historical fantasy Winternight trilogy. Combining elements of fantasy and Russian folklore with a strong coming-of-age arc for protagonist Vasilisa, the trilogy is a thrill for reade

Brian Jacques

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

Narrated by Brian Jacques, Full Cast

Anne McCaffrey

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.



By Anne McCaffrey

Narrated by Dick Hill

Juliet Marillier

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

Narrated by Gemma Dawson

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

Throne of Glass

By Sarah J. Maas

Narrated by Elizabeth Evans

Robert Jordan

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

The Dragon Reborn

By Robert Jordan

Narrated by Kate Reading, Michael Kramer

SFF NL Banner

D.R. Baker is a writer and musician based in New York City. Their work has appeared at Book Riot, Submittable, HowlRound, and others.  

The best fantasy audiobooks to take you out of this world

The best fantasy audiobooks to take you out of this world

From mythical creatures to powerful warlocks, these audibooks have everything you need to be transported to a different realm. Here are the best fantasy audiobooks to listen to right now.

The top 100 fantasy listens of all time

The top 100 fantasy listens of all time

The surest bets to whisk you away on adventures to the most fantastical worlds that exist in audio.

The Best Fantasy Audiobook Series

The Best Fantasy Audiobook Series

From warlocks to wizards, this is our comprehensive list of must listens.

The top 100 screen adaptations of all time

The top 100 screen adaptations of all time

From heart-pounding thrillers and sci-fi epics to animated classics and true-to-life biopics, this collection spotlights our favorite stories that made it big in Hollywood.

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top fantasy writers of all time

Locus Online

The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field

top fantasy writers of all time

Time ‘s 100 Best Fantasy Books

top fantasy writers of all time

The list is presented in chronological order, starting with 9th-century  The Arabian Nights and ending with  Woven in Moonlight   by Isabel Ibañez (Page Street), released January 2020.

For the full list and an article by Jemisin “On the Timeless Power of Fantasy”, see the Time  website .

©Locus Magazine. Copyrighted material may not be republished without permission of LSFF.

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3 thoughts on “ time ‘s 100 best fantasy books ”.

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The list was interesting and contained many of the authors and works I expected to see. There were, though, some glaring omissions. I did not see the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake, Lyonesse by Jack Vance, Grendel by John Gardner, Little big by John Crowley, Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, The Dreamstone, by C. J Cherryh, Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, Where is the Bird of Fire by Thomas Burnett Swann, The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas, or Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delany. Of course, different people will have different opinions, but why list multiple works by single authors (often within the same series of books) when clearly there are other authors and works deserving inclusion on the list?

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Agreed. The list would have been much more productive – in terms of introducing readers to diverse writers – if limited to one book per author. Instead of two books by J.K. Rowling, two by LeGuin, two by Pullman, two by L’Engle – and so on, two by two by two throughout the list – we could have added “Night’s Master” by Tanith Lee, or “Nine Princes in Amber” by Roger Zelazny, or even “The Porpoise” by Mark Haddon.

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The Stand. The Dark Tower. On a Pale Horse. Weaveworld. The Talisman.

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top fantasy writers of all time

The 22 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

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Chris M. Arnone

The son of a librarian, Chris M. Arnone's love of books was as inevitable as gravity. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. His novel, The Hermes Protocol, was published by Castle Bridge Media in 2023 and the next book in that series is due out in winter 2024. His work can also be found in Adelaide Literary Magazine and FEED Lit Mag. You can find him writing more books, poetry, and acting in Kansas City. You can also follow him on social media ( Facebook , Goodreads , Instagram , Twitter , website ).

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The best fantasy books of all time? It’s a tall order. Some are set in fictional medieval worlds full of swords, sorcery, and creatures of myth. Some are set in the far future, though still with swords and sorcery. Some pull from mythologies that have existed for centuries, bringing them to life with new vigor. Even some are set in worlds not terribly unlike our own, at least, not until the greater mysteries are revealed.

All of these books are original, well-written, and foundational to the fantasy genre and its many sub-genres. These books have inspired generations of readers and writers and will continue to do so for generations to come. From the old and highly-influential to the new and popular, here are the 22 best fantasy books of all time.

Best Fantasy Books of All Time for Young Readers

cover of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Young adult and fantasy go so well together. Finding yourself in a world you barely understand is an easy allegory for the bildungsroman central to every YA story. Few do it as well as Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata series, in which a young woman living in Nigeria discovers that she and her friends have magic, and there’s a whole underworld to navigate.

Children of Blood and Bone cover

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This book is a big, epic doorstop of a novel in the classic tradition of epic fantasies. Magic used to be everywhere until a terrible king killed every maji he could find. Now Zelie, who lost her mother during the purge, has a chance to bring magic back. The world is dangerous, though, almost as dangerous as the king.

An Ember in the Ashes cover

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a scholar, going about her life doing scholarly things. But when her brother is arrested for treason, she has to go undercover as a slave in hopes of freeing him. Elias is an unwilling soldier, though undoubtedly one of the best in the Martial Empire. When Elias and Laia meet up, they find their destinies are bound together, as well as the destiny of the Martial Empire.

The Golden Compass Book Cover

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which begins with this book, is an atheistic retelling of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not only is it a compelling tale of Lyra’s adventures through her and parallel worlds, of gods and daemons, but it proves that YA fantasy can, in fact, be literary as well.

cover of Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This classic of children’s fantasy has turned into an Academy Award–winning animated movie. Sophie has long been told that misfortune will befall her if she ever leaves her village. Through tragic accident, a witch transforms her into an old lady. Now, Sophie must leave and find the moving castle of the Wizard Howl.

Cover of Percy Jackson the Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This novel and its sequels are a great example of one of YA fantasy’s best trope: teen who doesn’t realize that they’re magical. In this case, Percy is an Olympian. Or at least, the child of Olympians. And he’s not the only one. He’ll learn a great deal about himself and the magical world at a summer camp just for these special children.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe cover

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis’s classic of children’s fantasy is the ultimate in wish fulfillment. A group of bored children discover that through the back of a wardrobe in their home, there’s a portal to a magical world. Not only that, but these children are key to saving that world from a dark fate. This isn’t the only book from the Inklings that’s one of the best fantasy books of all time.

THE READER book cover

The Reader by Traci Chee

Sefia has been well trained as a survivalist. Her aunt Nin made sure of that after Sefia’s father was murdered. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia discovers that she needs more than these skills. She finds a strange object left behind by her father: a book. In an otherwise illiterate world, this object is a magic of its own, and might be the only way of saving her aunt and solving her father’s murder.

A Wizard of Earthsea cover

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Here’s another classic, this one of the YA variety before YA was really a defined genre. Ged used to be the greatest sorcerer on Earth back when he was called Sparrowhawk. But he made mistakes back then. Big mistakes. Now he will have to do everything in his considerable power to undo those mistakes and bring balance back to the world.

The Best Fantasy Novels of All Time for Adults

Book cover of American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I don’t care if this book is more than 20 years old, I refuse to call it a classic. Now a hit series, this book imagines that the old gods of every pantheon like Norse, Egyptian, and Greek are real. Without followers, their powers are diminished. And there are new gods: shopping, Internet, and technology. A war is coming between the old and new gods, and a man named Shadow is right in the middle.

the cover of A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas has taken the book world by storm with this series that starts right here in this magical, romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Faeries, enemies-to-lovers, and all sorts of other great fantasy staples populate this series. And there are much larger threats than close-minded villagers.

Dragonflight cover

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

On Pern, life has been good and peaceful for a long time. An ancient and terrible myth is about to rear its head, though, threatening to destroy and ruin everything. Lessa is an outcast, robbed of her birthright and her parents. As this huge threat rises, so does Lessa. Her deep telepathic bond with a dragon makes her a dragonrider, and maybe they can stop the rising evil.

Book cover of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Yes, I’m not a fan of the Wheel of Time series , as I’ve said before. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the huge influence that Robert Jordan’s seminal series has had on the fantasy genre. The darkness was long ago sealed away, but it’s threatening to emerge again. Now, only the Dragon Reborn can stop this evil, whoever that is. Maybe it’s one of the young people from Two Rivers.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin book cover

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This novel is absolutely incredible and starts a trilogy in which every book won the Hugo Award for best novel. In this world, magic users are enslaved and controlled. They’re feared for their ability to break the world, but needed for those same skills. A murdered son and stolen daughter will send one such woman on a quest of revenge and love, and lead to much bigger things.

A Game of Thrones cover by George RR Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Do I really need to give a setup for this novel and the series that follows? The HBO series of the same name is one of biggest cultural phenomenons ever. Even the recent follow-up, House of the Dragon , is huge. This fantasy novel of political machinations, huge battles, dragons, and white walkers is vast and intricate. It also seems like every modern fantasy writer is trying to replicate Martin’s magic.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu book cover

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Ken Liu coined the term “silkpunk” to describe this very series. Kuni and Mata seem thoroughly incompatible. Kuni is a smooth bandit. Mata is the adamant son of a deposed duke. When a rebellion begins against the emperor, though, they find kinship in one another as the battles start. In the aftermath of the rebellion, they rise up to lead opposing factions vying for power, and have to redefine their volatile relationship.

Book cover of Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Great writing, a cool Asian metropolitan setting, and a unique blend of magic and kung-fu make this one of the best fantasy books of all time. On the island of Kekon, jade is everything. It is not only the island’s most valuable resource, but a select few have the magical power to wield it. After a terrible war, the market for jade is worse than ever. When a new drug emerges that allows anyone to wield jade, what was once a cold war turns hot and violent.

cover of The Lord Of The Rings: One Volume by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

While this book isn’t the first fantasy book or even Tolkien’s first, it defined the modern fantasy genre. An epic quest in a medieval setting, grand magic, ancient lore, and overwhelming villains populate this lush world. One little Hobbit has the one item sought by great evil, and only he and his fellowship can save the world. Classic.


Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is synonymous with modern fantasy. While this wasn’t his first book, it’s the one that put him on the map and defined his approach to fantasy writing. For 1000 years, the world has been under the tyrannical rule of the Lord Ruler, the Skaa enslaved under the regime. Now, a half-Skaa orphan has discovered he has the powers of the Mistborn. He’s gathering a following, a talented group of allomancers to his side, all in the hopes of overthrowing the Lord Ruler.

cover of The Palm-Wine Drinkard

The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola

Here’s a classic of the fantasy genre that far too few people have heard of. Part autobiographical and heavily based in Yoruba folklore, it tells the tale of an alcoholic man searching for his dead palm-wine tapster. Wildly imaginative and deftly crude, it’s a classic and was the first novel that Tutuola had translated into English.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang book cover

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

This series is one of the best for blending classic tropes of epic historical military fantasy with racism, misogyny, and chosen-one problems. Rin is a poor, dark-skinned girl. There’s no expectation of her. But then she aces the Keju, the test for youth in the empire, which means she’s going to the most elite military school in the Empire. But once there, her gender, skin color, and poverty make her a target. The incredible power emerging in her, however, are about to more than balance those scales.

cover of The Shadow of the Torturer

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

This one is a personal favorite of mine, a book that starts a strange blend of fantasy and science fiction in a post-apocalyptic world. Severian is an apprentice in the torturer’s guild. But one day he commits the greatest crime in his guild: showing mercy. Banished with a deadly and specific set of skills, Severian wanders the countryside. He soon finding himself embroiled into the political machinations of the land and finds that war is as good a place as any to ply his trade.

Only 22 books, but they’re the best fantasy books of all time. Need more? How about the most influential fantasy , the top fantasy books on Goodreads , or a focus on the best fantasy books of the last decade?

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The 50 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

Fantasy is the oldest genre of literature, but its best release ever landed just six years ago.

Fantasy is the oldest genre of literature, pre-dating the invention of bound books by thousands of years thanks to mythology and folklore. Yet even now, readers and critics can’t always agree on what fantasy is and what it isn’t. For some, ancient poetry like Beowulf, The Odyssey, and The Epic of Gilgamesh is fair game. For others, the modern genre for adults began with George MacDonald’s Phantastes in 1858, the story of a thirsty 21-year-old who wakes up in Fairy Land and falls in love with a marble statue sculpted by Pygmalion.

Origins aside, most scholars agree on a basic definition: fantasy is when something we consider supernatural occurs that can’t be explained by technology (as in science fiction) or the macabre (as in horror). Of course, there are no strict borders between these genres, and many books could be reasonably shelved under all three. But for this list, we concentrated on novels that are primarily fantasy, which is why you won’t see genre-straddlers like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun .

To keep this lineup manageable, we only included books originally published as a bound book on paper—which ruled out classics like Journey to the West and One Thousand and One Nights —and ensured they were currently and easily available in print. We also limited the list to one book per author, to avoid crowding it with multiple titles in the same series.

While all lists are subjective, we emphasized books that brought something new and innovative to the genre—books that inspired other fantasy writers as well as readers. In ranked order, here are the best fantasy books of all time.

Harper Voyager The City of Brass, by S. A. Chakraborty

The first novel in Chakraborty’s trilogy is set in 18th-century Cairo, where a thief-slash-exorcist named Nahri accidentally summons a djinn warrior. Together, they travel to the “city of brass,” a magical metropolis called Daevabad. Nahri’s story continues in two fast-paced sequels, The Kingdom of Copper and The Empire of Gold, while a spinoff story compilation, The River of Silver, is forthcoming this October.

Anchor The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

The only book on this list written during National Novel Writing Month, Morgenstern’s debut novel is an atmospheric fairy tale about Le Cirque des Rêves —a traveling magical circus that only appears at night in Victorian England. The nonlinear story is full of surprising secrets that keep coming until the very end.

Vintage The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

The author of Never Let Me Go has only written one fantasy novel, but he knocked it out of the park. In the Dark Ages after the death of King Arthur, a mysterious “mist” prevents Britons from storing long-term memories. An elderly couple, convinced that a son they can barely remember is missing, journeys across the country to find him, where they stumble upon ogres, a dragon, and Sir Gawain.

Broadway Books The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

Carolyn and her eleven siblings live together in the house of their father, a seemingly immortal man whose library grants them special powers. To say anything else would spoil this riveting, one-of-a-kind novel full of surprises and paced like a thriller.

Tordotcom Ring Shout, by P. Djèlí Clark

In Clark’s harrowing novella, white supremacists summon demonic entities when The Birth of a Nation premiers in 1915. Seven years later in Georgia, three battle-ready Black women armed with a sword, a rifle, and explosives come together at Stone Mountain to stop a demon-infested Ku Klux Klan from bringing about an apocalypse.

Dalkey Archive Press The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz

Translated into English in 2009, The Other City is a challenging but immensely rewarding novel set in Prague, where an unnamed narrator discovers a purple book written in an indecipherable language; he then realizes that there’s another, surreal version of the city existing in the same space as the familiar one. His midnight travels through this “other city” are rich with Borgesian and Dalíesque imagery, resulting in a reading experience you’ll never forget.

Tordotcom The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson

Another strange forest is at the center of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Kai Ashante Wilson’s 2015 novella about two men descended from dead gods. They lead an expedition through the Wildeeps, where multiple worlds overlap and magical creatures stalk their party. It’s a captivating world, expanded upon even further in 2016 by a followup novella, A Taste of Honey .

Liveright Publishing Corporation The Unfinished World, by Amber Sparks

Amber Sparks plays with form, genre, and archetypes in this nuanced collection of short stories. An assortment of knights, werewolves, astronauts, librarians, time-travelers, and dinosaurs haunt these pages, but never as tropes—despite their fantastical premises, each story is grounded in emotional realism.

Tordotcom Witchmark, by C.L. Polk

Winner of the 2019 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, Witchmark is set in a secondary world similar to Edwardian England and ruled by noble families with magical powers. The setup is fantastic and the characters are nuanced, but the book really shines in the latter half, thanks to a series of revelations you’ll never see coming.

Penguin Books Tales of Falling and Flying, by Ben Loory

Ben Loory’s very short stories are almost a genre unto themselves, somewhere between fairy tales, fantasy vignettes, and absurdist sketches. They'll make you think, wonder, and laugh out loud. None of these 40 stories ends like you expect it to—not even the one about the Dodo.

Harper Perennial What Should Be Wild, by Julia Fine

Fine’s debut novel opens with one of the most stunning first lines of all time: “They grew me inside of my mother, which was unusual, because she was dead.” Born with the power to kill and revive living things with a single touch, 16-year-old Maisie Cothay embarks on an adventure through a mysterious forest to find her missing father.

Tor Books A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

Schwab’s Shades of Magic series begins with this blockbuster, where a few rare magicians have the power to travel between four versions of London—Red London, full of magic; Grey London, our own world in the Regency era; White London, a dying city; and Black London, destroyed by magic long ago. It’s as fascinating as it sounds.

Vintage The Vorrh, by Brian Catling

A dark, polarizing novel filled with passages of exquisite beauty and heartache. Shortly after World War I, an English soldier arrives in the African city of Essenwald—which was transported brick by brick from its original location in Germany—as a base camp for his journey across a vast unmapped forest, armed with a bow made from the bones and sinews of his dead wife. It gets even weirder from there.

Berkley Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay

In the 1970s, Guy Gavriel Kay helped Christopher Tolkien edit The Silmarillion after the passing of J.R.R. Tolkien. In the decades since, Kay has become one of the most prolific fantasy writers of his generation, often setting his novels in worlds that closely resemble historical places on Earth. His most impressive book, 1990’s Tigana , takes place on a planet with two moons, magic, and a culture inspired by medieval Italy’s warring provinces.

Tordotcom The Black Tides of Heaven, by Neon Yang

An epic novella in Yang’s Tensorate series, The Black Tides of Heaven was a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards in 2018. The twin children of a brutal empress, Mokoya and Akeha grow up in a monastery where they develop magical powers. After declaring their chosen genders as youths, they fall into opposing sides in the war over their mother’s empire.

Bantam A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

When the first book in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was published in 1996, no one could have predicted that Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow would become household names two decades later, courtesy of HBO. While the two most recent volumes have lost some of the momentum Martin built in the first three, there’s no denying that the original A Game of Thrones is a landmark event for turning so many well-worn genre tropes upside down.

Yearling The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman

It’s hard to pick the best book in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass is a fascinating if somewhat arduous introduction to Lyra’s world, full of daemons and airships and armored polar bears, while The Amber Spyglass takes the biggest narrative risks (not all of which pay off). But The Subtle Knife is a fast-paced romp through the multiverse, unburdened by the setup and windup duties that sometimes weighed down the first and third books in the series.

Orbit Queen of the Conquered, by Kacen Callender

A Black woman with the power to read minds, Sigourney Rose seeks revenge on the colonizers who killed her family in Callendar’s adult debut, set in an island world inspired by the Caribbean. It’s a remarkable story of royal intrigue, manipulation, and corrosive power that won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2020.

Small Beer Press Kalpa Imperial, by Angélica Gorodischer

The late Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer deserves far more attention for this novel-in-stories, translated by none other than Ursula K. Le Guin in 2003. Every chapter in Kalpa Imperial is narrated by a different storyteller and describes the rise and fall (and rise and fall again) of an unnamed empire. It’s a smart, whimsical take on the way power corrupts real and imaginary societies.

William Morrow & Company Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Inspired by England’s pre-Tolkien fantasy writers like Lord Dunsany and Hope Mirrlees, Gaiman’s 1999 novel Stardust feels like a timeless classic. A tale of faerie markets, witches, and feuding princes, it’s also a romance between a half-human, half-faerie young man and a fallen star in the shape of a young woman. Bright and breezy, it’s short enough to read in a single sitting.

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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 .

It's Prime Day 2023, so we've uncovered the top discounts. Check out the best Prime Day deals in the UK here.​​

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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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)

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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.

Published: 1983

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.

Published: 1954

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”.

Published: 2007

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.

Published: 1997

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.

Published: 2010

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.

Published: 1950

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.

Published: 2006

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.

Published: 1990

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. 

Published: 1958

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.

Published: 1982

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).

Published: 1968

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?

Published: 1972

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.

Published: 2009

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.

Published: 1965

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

Published: 1973

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.

Published: 2001

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.

Published: 2011

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.

Published: 1937

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.

Published: 1988

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.

Published: 1984

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?

Published: 1977

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.

Published: 1946

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."

Published: 0000

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’.

Published: 2018

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.

Published: 2000

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.

Published: 1961

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.

Published: 2016

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.

Published: 2017

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. 

Published: 2019

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.

Published: 2005

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.

Published: 1974

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.

Published: 1980

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.

Published: 1994

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.

Published: 1996

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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15 Best Fantasy Authors To Read Today

The best fantasy books are written by authors who have taken fiction  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 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.

Best Works 

2. j.r.r. tolkien, final word on the best fantasy authors and their books, what’s the difference between ya fantasy and adult fantasy books, what should i look for in a good fantasy author, how do i pick a fantasy book to read, who are the best-selling fantasy authors, which authors have won the hugo award for best science fiction or fantasy novel, best authors reading list.

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1. George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin

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

A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire)

  • A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) Hardcover
  • Hardcover Book
  • Martin, George R. R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 694 Pages - 08/01/1996 (Publication Date) - Bantam (Publisher)

J.R.R. Tolkien

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

The Hobbit

  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • 304 Pages - 09/19/1997 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)

3. Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

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

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive (The Stormlight Archive, 1)

  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Sanderson, Brandon (Author)
  • 1008 Pages - 08/31/2010 (Publication Date) - Tor Books (Publisher)

4. Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb

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 for Lifetime Achievement. 

  • Assassin’s Apprentice ,  $4.99
  • Royal Assassin , $7.99
  • Assassin’s Quest , $8.99

Assassin's Apprentice (The Illustrated Edition): The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

  • Hobb, Robin (Author)
  • 464 Pages - 10/01/2019 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)

5. Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan

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

The Eye of the World: Book One of The Wheel of Time (Wheel of Time, 1)

  • Jordan, Robert (Author)
  • 784 Pages - 10/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Tor Books (Publisher)

6. C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

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

The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7-Book Collection: The Classic Fantasy Adventure Series (Official Edition)

  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Lewis, C. S. (Author)
  • 1494 Pages - 11/05/2013 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)

7. J.K. Rowling


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

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1)

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Rowling, J.K. (Author)

8. Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay

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

All the Seas of the World

  • Kay, Guy Gavriel (Author)
  • 528 Pages - 05/17/2022 (Publication Date) - Berkley (Publisher)

9. Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie

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

Blade Itself

  • GARDNERS VI BOOKS AMS006 (Publisher)

10. N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin

The 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

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, 1)

  • Jemisin, N. K. (Author)
  • 512 Pages - 08/04/2015 (Publication Date) - Orbit (Publisher)

11. Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson

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

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, 1)

  • Erikson, Steven (Author)
  • 494 Pages - 05/12/2009 (Publication Date) - Tor (Publisher)

12. Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin

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

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle) (The Earthsea Cycle, 1)

  • Le Guin, Ursula K. (Author)
  • 240 Pages - 09/11/2012 (Publication Date) - Clarion Books (Publisher)

13. Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch

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, whom 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

The Lies of Locke Lamora: Collector's Tenth Anniversary Limited Edition (Gentleman Bastard) [Hardcover] Howard Hughes

  • 04/18/2024 (Publication Date) - Gollancz (Publisher)

14. Stephen King

Stephen King

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 Sematary, 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

The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition

  • Good versus Evil
  • Germ Warfare
  • End of the World

15. Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

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

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel

  • Gaiman, Neil (Author)
  • 560 Pages - 06/21/2011 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)

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.

FAQs on the Best Fantasy Authors and Their 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.

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. 

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. 

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.

There have been 52 winners of the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Five authors have won it three times: Isaac Asimov and Fritz Leiber, 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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top fantasy writers of all time

Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.

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100 Best Epic Fantasy Books of All Time

We've researched and ranked the best epic fantasy books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more

top fantasy writers of all time

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

George R. R. Martin and Jeffrey Jones | 5.00

Elon Musk Best books in recent years imo are Iain Banks & George Martin. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

top fantasy writers of all time

J. R. R. Tolkien | 4.98

top fantasy writers of all time

Richard Branson Today is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Cressida Cowell The Hobbit is such a richly imagined fantasy that, especially as a child, you can live in it. It is so completely immersive. (Source)

Lev Grossman First up, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by JRR Tolkien. But you knew I was going to say that. This one book, which was published in 1937, defined so many variables for the fantasy tradition that are still in place today. Tolkien’s extraordinary achievement was to recover the epic landscapes of Anglo-Saxon myth, bring them back to life, and then to take us through them on foot, so we could... (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

Patrick Rothfuss | 4.93

top fantasy writers of all time

Chris Albon @WaltHickey I don’t really read fiction and randomly found that book, amazing. (Source)

Matt Schlicht @teej_m Read it. Love it. So amazing. Waiting for the last book and fear it may never come. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)

George R. R. Martin | 4.84

top fantasy writers of all time

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)

George R. R. Martin | 4.80

top fantasy writers of all time

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.77

top fantasy writers of all time

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien, Dramatization, Ian Holm | 4.71

top fantasy writers of all time

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

J.R.R. Tolkie | 4.68

top fantasy writers of all time

Reid Hoffman [The book] that I’ve most often read. (Source)

Elon Musk As a boy in Pretoria, Musk was un dersized and picked upon, a smart-aleck known as Muskrat. In his loneliness, he read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. “The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt a duty to save the world,” he told me. (Source)

Alan Lee His alternative world and mythological system is totally coherent–it’s a fantastic gift that he has given us. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)

J. R. R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis, et al | 4.68

top fantasy writers of all time

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)

Robert Jordan | 4.66

top fantasy writers of all time

Malcolm Tan The fiction series that got me hooked was The Wheel of Time series. Every time a new book was published in that LONG series, I immediately got hold of a copy from the bookstore and would spend the next few days reading the books since they were incredibly long. What appealed to me was the epic scale of the series, and how the various protagonists were very well characterised and captured my... (Source)

Mike Benkovich I'm cheating here (again) because this isn't a single book but a series. This is a 14 book fantasy epic written over DECADES! It took so long to complete and is so expansive the author died before he finished. The mantle was picked up by another author who finished the series in 2014. It's a story of massive scale featuring or launching any fantasy trope you can think of. If you think Game Of... (Source)

Don't have time to read the top Epic Fantasy books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

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  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
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top fantasy writers of all time

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)

George R. R. Martin | 4.66

top fantasy writers of all time

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.65

top fantasy writers of all time

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

J. R. R. Tolkien | 4.65

top fantasy writers of all time

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

George R. R. Martin | 4.64

top fantasy writers of all time

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.63

top fantasy writers of all time

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)

Patrick Rothfuss | 4.61

top fantasy writers of all time

The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time, #2)

Robert Jordan | 4.55

top fantasy writers of all time

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.54

top fantasy writers of all time

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time, #3)

Robert Jordan | 4.49

top fantasy writers of all time

The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time, #4)

Robert Jordan | 4.43

top fantasy writers of all time

The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, #5)

Robert Jordan | 4.38

top fantasy writers of all time

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)

Robin Hobb, Michael Whelan, John Howe | 4.37

Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, #6)

Robert Jordan | 4.37

top fantasy writers of all time

The Last Wish

Introducing the Witcher (The Witcher, #0.5)

Andrzej Sapkowski | 4.37

top fantasy writers of all time

Rachel Miner @tenoko1 @audible_com Feel ill equipped to answer as I have not read most of these, I am currently on book 4 of the Witcher series, I did enjoy book 1, I like the world and found some of the commentary of magic especially to be inspired, but it is flawed, you have to be forgiving to enjoy the journey (Source)

The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, #12)

Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson | 4.36

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.36

Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time, #13)

top fantasy writers of all time

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14; A Memory of Light, #3)

Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan | 4.35

top fantasy writers of all time

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

C. S. Lewis, Kenneth Branagh, et al | 4.33

top fantasy writers of all time

Chris Anderson As a child, they exploded my imagination. (Source)

Lev Grossman You win some Turkish delight. Everyone knows Lewis’s Narnia books are a foundational work of the modern fantastic. But I don’t think Lewis gets enough credit for his craft as a writer. Those books are deceptively simple. Look at the way he constructed the opening of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He puts the shadows of the war in the background, the excitement of a new house in the country... (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1)

Terry Goodkind | 4.31

A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, #7)

Robert Jordan | 4.31

top fantasy writers of all time

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle #1)

Christopher Paolini | 4.30

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, #11)

Robert Jordan | 4.28

top fantasy writers of all time

The Blade Itself (The First Law #1)

Joe Abercrombie | 4.27

top fantasy writers of all time

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)

Scott Lync | 4.27

top fantasy writers of all time

Blood Song (Raven's Shadow, #1)

Anthony Rya | 4.27

top fantasy writers of all time

Elantris (Elantris, #1)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.26

The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, #8)

Robert Jordan | 4.25

Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, #9)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Silmarillion

J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien | 4.24

Lucas Morales My favorite books are Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and the Silmarillion. In fact these book hold a special place in my memory. In highschool I was so into Tolkien that I delved into linguistics on my own time. I was obsessed with Quenya (Tolkien’s elvish language). I combined that obsession with my mediocre skills as a programmer, and made a sort of dictionary/translator program.... (Source)

Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1)

Brandon Sanderson, Alyssa Bresnahan, et al | 4.23

top fantasy writers of all time

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)

Frank Herbert | 4.23

top fantasy writers of all time

Jeff Bezos I’m a big science-fiction fan. I love [this book]. (Source)

Elon Musk Brilliant. [The author] advocates placing limits on machine intelligence. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Adam Savage If you haven't read it, just go read it. It is amazing! (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1)

Peter V. Brett | 4.22

top fantasy writers of all time

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)

Brent Weeks | 4.22

top fantasy writers of all time

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)

Steven Erikson | 4.21

top fantasy writers of all time

Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy, #2)

Robin Hobb, Stephen Youl, et al | 4.19

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

J. K. Rowling | 4.19

top fantasy writers of all time

Joe Lycett guys i just read this book called harry potter well worth checking out it’s about a really interesting magic lad (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2)

Joe Abercrombie | 4.17

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1)

Jim Butcher | 4.17

top fantasy writers of all time

Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle, #2)

Christopher Paolini | 4.16

Assassin's Quest (Farseer Trilogy, #3)

Robin Hob | 4.14

Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, #10)

Robert Jordan | 4.14

top fantasy writers of all time

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.14

top fantasy writers of all time

Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle, #3)

Christopher Paolini | 4.14

top fantasy writers of all time

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, #1)

David Eddings | 4.13

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

J.K. Rowling | 4.12

top fantasy writers of all time

Big Structural Change @siriusclaw Azkaban ftw! Goblet is the worst of the series. Great book though. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)

top fantasy writers of all time

Maude Garrett @GeekBomb Best use of time travel in a book or series to date (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #3)

Steven Erikson | 4.12

top fantasy writers of all time

New Spring (The Wheel of Time, #0)

Robert Jordan | 4.12

top fantasy writers of all time

Stone of Tears (Sword of Truth, #2)

Terry Goodkind | 4.11

top fantasy writers of all time

Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)

Steven Erikson | 4.11

top fantasy writers of all time

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel, #1)

Brent Weeks | 4.11

top fantasy writers of all time

The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer, #2)

Brent Weeks | 4.10

Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1-2)

Michael J. Sullivan | 4.10

top fantasy writers of all time

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)

Joe Abercrombie | 4.10

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)

J. K. Rowling | 4.09

top fantasy writers of all time

Shami Chakrabarti It’s all about the War on Terror as far as I’m concerned. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)

N. K. Jemisin | 4.09

top fantasy writers of all time

John Lilly @fredmcclimans First author to win 3 Hugos in a row. So: not bad! First book strongest imho, but all of it great. (Source)

Jacquelyn Gill @MaraWilson It’s such an amazing book. One of my all-time favorites—and the entire trilogy is that strong! (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Cursor's Fury (Codex Alera, #3)

Jim Butcher | 4.09

top fantasy writers of all time

A Song of Ice and Fire series

5-Book Boxed Set

George R. R. Martin | 4.08

Katie Keith My favorite non-business book is the Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I first got into this fantasy series when my daughter was very young. Escaping into such a complex, multi-faceted world was the perfect antidote to sleepless nights and other frustrations of having a young child! (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Academ's Fury (Codex Alera, #2)

Jim Butcher | 4.07

The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)

Tad Williams | 4.07

top fantasy writers of all time

A Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin | 4.07

Lev Grossman It was published in 1968 and it was a revelation for fantasy readers, and possibly a revolution…Le Guin brought fantasy back to its pagan roots. She used as the foundations of her story the building blocks of nature and sex and language. (Source)

Cressida Cowell The school on Roke, a school for magic where you can learn how to be a wizard, was such a glorious idea. (Source)

Scott Perry I don’t read much fiction these days, but favorites from my past are A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. All three are well crafted tales of the struggle to find meaning and one’s place in the world. (Source)

top fantasy writers of all time

Captain's Fury (Codex Alera, #4)

Jim Butcher | 4.06

Fool's Errand (Tawny Man, #1)

Robin Hobb | 4.06

top fantasy writers of all time

First Lord's Fury (Codex Alera, #6)

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

J. K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré | 4.06

top fantasy writers of all time

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Sarah J. Maa | 4.05

top fantasy writers of all time

Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle, #4)

Christopher Paolini | 4.05

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)

J.K. Rowling | 4.05

top fantasy writers of all time

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)

top fantasy writers of all time

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2)

Scott Lynch, Michael Page, et al | 4.05

top fantasy writers of all time

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

Sarah J. Maas | 4.04

top fantasy writers of all time

The Keeper Chronicles

The Complete Trilogy

JA Andrews | 4.04

top fantasy writers of all time

Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage, #1)

Brian McClellan | 4.03

Apprentice (The Riftwar Saga, #1)

Raymond E. Feist | 4.03

Temple of the Winds (Sword of Truth, #4)

Terry Goodkind, Dick Hill, et al | 4.02

top fantasy writers of all time

The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle, #2)

Peter V. Brett | 4.02

top fantasy writers of all time

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer, #3)

Brent Weeks, Simon Vance, et al | 4.01

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1)

Brian Staveley | 4.01

top fantasy writers of all time

House of Chains (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #4)

Steven Erikson | 4.01

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)

Mark Lawrence | 4.01

top fantasy writers of all time

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)

Sarah J. Maas | 4.01

top fantasy writers of all time

Shadow's Edge (Night Angel, #2)

Brent Weeks | 4.01

top fantasy writers of all time

Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)

Brandon Sanderson | 4.00

Blood of the Fold (Sword of Truth, #3)

Peter Clines | 4.00

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)

Robin Hobb | 4.00

top fantasy writers of all time

Faith of the Fallen (Sword of Truth, #6)

Terry Goodkind | 4.00

Magician's Gambit (The Belgariad, #3)

David Eddings | 4.00

top fantasy writers of all time

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)

Brandon Sanderson, Michael Kramer, et al | 4.00

100 Best Fantasy Series Ever

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Trust book recommendations from real people, not robots 🤓

Blog – Posted on Thursday, Jan 31

100 best fantasy series ever.

100 Best Fantasy Series Ever

Reading ( or listening to! ) fantasy is the ultimate escape: from stress, work, and indeed all of life’s more mundane realities. Because what’s the opposite of reality ? Fantasy!

That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive mega-guide of the 100 best fantasy series of all time: to enable your escapism as much as possible. With so many titles to choose from, you’re bound to find something you like — urban , paranormal, epic , and classic fantasy , we’ve got it all. Get ready to dive in!

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great fantasy books on hand, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized fantasy series recommendation 😉

Which fantasy series should you read next?

Discover the perfect fantasy series for you. Takes 30 seconds!

1. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Before the award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones , there was A Song of Ice and Fire . George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, and revolves around three central plotlines: familial feuds for control of Westeros, the looming threat of the northern-based “Others,” and of course the grand political ambitions of Daenerys Targaryen — perhaps better known as the “Mother of Dragons.”

2. The Abhorsen Trilogy Box Set by Garth Nix

The Abhorsen series centers around Sabriel, a girl from Ancelstierre (an alternate version of England) who becomes the protector of the mysterious, reality-bordering “Old Kingdom,” leading herself and her descendants down a path of dark, unpredictable magic.

3. Acacia by David Anthony Durham

When Leodan Akara, peaceful ruler of the “Known World,” passes away, his children must take up his responsibilities… and soon find that their father’s kingdom isn’t quite as harmonious as they thought. The Acacia series follows them in their attempts to preserve peace and keep the Known World from crumbling, not just for their own reputations, but for the good of the people.

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4. Alex Verus by Benedict Jacka

After a schism with the mages’ Council, future-seer Alex Verus just wants a quiet life, running his magic shop and staying out of trouble. But that’s not what fate has in mind for him — ironically, getting tangled up again in the world of Light vs. Dark magic is something this diviner never saw coming.

5. Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

The little-known but much-praised Amber Chronicles weaves tales within the two “true” worlds of the series, Amber and Chaos, as well the “Shadow” worlds in the middle, born from the tension between them. Zelazny’s incredible worldbuilding plus his fascinating characters — including superhuman royalty — make this series truly worthy of its “epic” label.

6. The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud

This imaginative four-book sequence follows a teenage magician named Nathaniel and his djinni (or genie), a lively spirit called Bartimaeus who enjoys disobeying his master above all else. Though technically a children’s series, the Bartimaeus Sequence will no doubt entertain readers of all ages with its skillful balance of speculative fiction and magical fantasy.

7. Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook

For those craving an out-of-the-box take on fantasy, these are the books for you. Glen Cook’s military fantasy series, Chronicles of the Black Company , deals with both an unusual branch of the genre and unusually nuanced questions of morality: the two sides of the main conflict have been described as “evil vs. evil,” and readers may be surprised who they end up rooting for.

8. The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan

The Black Magician trilogy tells the story of Sonea, a girl from the slums of the magical country Kyralia. Though normally only upper class-citizens have the capacity for magic, Sonea soon discovers she possesses magical gifts — leading to her capture by the Magician’s Guild of Kyralia and, once she escapes, the necessity of teaching herself how to control her abilities.

9. Boreal Moon by Julian May

Military and political tensions are high among the four kingdoms in Boreal Moon — but one Prince Conrig, in the kingdom of Cathra, plans to unite them with the help of his lover, Princess Ullanoth of Moss. However, are their motives purely diplomatic, or do they have something else up their sleeves?

10. The Bounds of Redemption by M. D. Ireman

As Tallos ventures to the north to recover what he believes will be the corpses of his friend’s children, he only hopes his mission will be swift. He never expects to find something worse than corpses: something that will unleash a much greater struggle for him and his people. Ireman is especially famous for his plot twists, and the flabbergasting turns that take place in this series are “bound” to leave readers gaping.

11. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

The title of this inventive series refers to a catastrophic climate change that wreaks havoc on the world every few centuries. The change is brought about by powerful “orogenes,” who can control energy and are persecuted in society for their impact. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy follows three prominent female orogenes throughout history, and how each of their destinies is intertwined with the others.

12. The Broken Empire Book by Mark Lawrence

Prince Jorg Ancrath lived a perfect life until his mother and brother were killed, prompting him to run away and join a band of savages — but he’s not done with the throne just yet. This series tracks Jorg’s dogged pursuit to re-ascend the throne of his “broken empire,” using his street-learned violence to change the rules of the monarchy game.

13. Cassandra Palmer by Karen Chance

Cassie Palmer can see the future and speak to the spirits of the past. But her skills don’t make her immune to danger: it still follows her everywhere she goes, especially in the form of a vampire mobster who wants her dead. Join Cassie on seven nail-biting adventures to elude and defeat her foes, prudently trading her wits and skills for help from the most unlikely of sources.

14. Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe Neill

When grad student Merit is transformed into a vampire, she has to seriously retool her five-year plan into, well, an immortality plan. A light alternative to some of the darker fantasies on this list, the Chicagoland Vampires series will still grip readers with the very real challenges of Merit’s life-adjustment crisis.

15. Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Even though you’ve all surely heard of it, we couldn’t leave this absolute legend off the list. An unassuming exploration of an old professor’s house leads to a fantasy saga of epic proportions: full of unforgettable moments , unexpected twists, and mind-bending questions about the universe’s infinite possibilities.

17. Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

Thomas Covenant is the emblematic antihero of the fantasy genre , reluctant to do anything that doesn’t directly benefit him. But he does have an “antihero’s journey” of sorts — over the three impressive trilogies in this series, he becomes much more altruistic and admirable. For those who tire of the standard “valiant hero swoops in and saves the day” storylines, this original series will reignite your fantasy-loving flame.

18. Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley

This debut trilogy from Staveley involves three royal children, separated at birth, who grow up to become a monk, a soldier, and a politician respectively. If that sounds like the beginning of a joke, they don’t all walk into a bar — rather, they reunite to get to the bottom of an inter-kingdom conspiracy, coming into contact with mysterious gods and unknown magic along the way.

19. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

From the author of the acclaimed Dresden Files (#30 on this list) comes Codex Alera , another coming-of-age series about a young man called Tavi. Interestingly, Tavi’s plight is the reverse of one of the most common tropes in fantasy: instead of being the “chosen one,” he’s more like the unchosen one. As in, everybody else in Alera has powers except for him. But that only makes his fight to protect his family from danger all the more a thrilling and courageous risk.

20. Coldfire by Celia S. Friedman

The Coldfire trilogy takes place on the planet Erna, where sorcery is conducted through a magical energy source called the Fae. The Fae is also extremely dangerous, however; it destroyed the first waves of colonists on Erna and still poses a constant threat. Priest Damien Vryce wants peace between humans and the Fae more than anything — but how can one man control such a potent force? You’ll find out in this dark and heart-pounding series.

21. Crimson Moon by L.A. Banks

Special Ops soldier Sasha Trudeau is a werewolf attack survivor, serving on an elite team with other survivors to keep paranormal activity out of the public eye. But what Sasha doesn’t realize is that some things are too powerful to be contained — both within herself and out in the world. Lycanthropy, vampirism, and other supernatural forces abound in the Crimson Moon series, as Sasha comes to terms with who she is and what she can do to help protect others.

22. Crown of Stars Book by Kate Elliott

Crown of Stars takes place in Novaria, a Westeros-esque alternative Europe in which tension persists from a long-ago rift between elf-like creatures and humans. The former (called “Ashioi”) have since been banished to another plane of existence by sorcerers, but Novaria continues to struggle. As our human heroes soon figure out, the Ashioi are still closer to them than anyone thinks… and they’re about to unleash a new cataclysm that may destroy all of Novaria in its wake.

23. Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham

Nations clash, factions struggle, and individuals strive in this mesmerizing tale of power and control. Though countless plotlines and themes are wrapped up in Abraham’s quintet, the question at the heart of it is: what truly wins wars, the militant (dagger) or monetary (coin)?

24. Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

This series brings together countless age-old sources, from Arthurian legends to Celtic and Norse mythology to English folklore. It features Will Stanton, who discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is an “Old One” and destined to battle forces of evil for the preservation of the “Light.” You might think of it as the 1970s precursor to Harry Potter — kids taking matters into their own hands, getting into trouble, and pretty much always magicking their way out just in time.

25. Dark Tower by Stephen King

This dark fantasy series from the indisputable king of horror follows Roland Deschain, the last member of an Arthur-descending knightly order called the gunslingers. Roland must find the “dark tower,” where all universes are said to meet, before his own crumbles into nonexistence. King really plays with the boundaries of reality and disbelief throughout the series so that both Roland and the reader must interpret and deconstruct the setting for themselves.

26. Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

In Elizabeth Moon's epic trilogy, Paksenarrion, aka Paks, finds herself locked into an undesirable arranged marriage. She has no choice but to flee — and what better way to protect herself than by joining a company of mercenaries? Paks soon realizes that she herself is a gifted paladin, and uses her skills to help her comrades and instate the rightful heir to the throne: her friend and commander Kieri.

27. The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett

The Demon Cycle has raged on for centuries: every night, supernatural demons called corelings arrive to attack and destroy humans, who shrink from them in fear. But humans once fought valiantly against the corelings, and so they will again. In this series, three young survivors of demon assaults stand to take back the realm of the living.

28. Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Just when you think there’s nothing else fresh in the fantasy genre, along comes Discworld . This series pokes fun at classic fantasy tropes : there’s a talentless, cowardly wizard who’s constantly forced into adventures, a skeletal personification of death who rides a horse named Binky, and the entire story takes place on a disc-shaped planet atop four elephants… which themselves stand on top of a turtle. So if you ever get tired of Chosen Ones and medieval-ish settings, just remember there’s always Discworld .

29. Dreamblood by N.K. Jemisin

Ehiru is a peacekeeper in the city of Gujaareh, amassing the city’s collective magic and using it as a shield against the corrupt. Yet when people start dying in their dreams, allegedly in sacrifice to the “dream-goddess” Hananja, Ehiru must go above and beyond the call of duty to discover who’s responsible and what their end goal actually is. Dreamblood is a powerful story by a master fantasist.

30. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Wizard Harry Dresden works with the Chicago P.D. to solve their most unsolvable, supernatural cases. From magically mutilated bodies to vampire and werewolf witnesses, this series is a unique whirlwind of hardboiled detective fiction and dark fantasy.

31. Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

From one of the most renowned fantasy and science fiction writers of all time comes the Earthsea series, a classic yet visionary tale. It tracks the journey of Ged, who grows from a young, immature boy to the greatest magician of his generation, and who must use his powers to save his home of Earthsea from imminent decline.

32. Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep

Gin Blanco may be a professional assassin, but her skills are by no means limited to stabbing and shooting. No, Gin is an Elemental Assassin ; she can control the elements of Ice and Stone, using them to kill when needed. And after a betrayal from one of her associates sets her down a road of vengeance, others would be wise to stay out of her way.

33. Empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts

The Empire trilogy takes place in a fascinating amalgam setting of medieval Europe and Asia, and stars Mara of the Acoma, the newest Ruling Lady of her empire. Not everyone is happy for her, however; many of those close to the throne want her dead. Even besides the juicy political drama and feminist overtones, there’s another great reason to read this series: it’s part of a mega-verse called The Riftwar Universe, which includes a whopping twenty-seven more books!

34. Farseer by Robin Hobb

Contrary to what his name would suggest, Fitz Farseer can’t see the future, but he does have other talents. Namely, he is an assassin in the land of the the Six Duchies, adjacent to a war being waged by his royal uncle. But who is truly in the right, and with whom will Fitz side in the conflict? The Farseer books answers these questions with wit, intrigue, and a touch of magic.

35. First Law by Joe Abercrombie

If you fast-forward through all the sex and dialogue in GoT to get to the battle scenes, First Law is definitely the series for you. This seriously bloody (and bloody good) trilogy focuses on barbarians and warriors fighting it out in an elaborate medieval European/Mediterranean world.

36. Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

Think Chronicles of Narnia, but older, and in Canada. The Fionavar Tapestry series involves five University of Toronto postgraduates who get sucked into the “first world of the tapestry,” Fionavar. There they discover that they are magical leaders, each based on different legendary figures and roles, and must determine what purpose they will serve within Fionavar — and whether that purpose is worth giving up all they had in the “real” world.

37. Folk of the Air by Holly Black

Jude and her sisters have lived among faeries (aka the Folk of the Air ) for years, but they’re still not accepted as part of their world — until Jude makes up her mind to boldly defy the beautiful, cruel Prince Cardan, and succeeds. Now Jude has just as much power as faerie royalty, but she has to figure out how to use it… with Cardan looming over her shoulder all the while.

38. Greywalker by Kat Richardson

This urban fantasy series stars Harper Blaine, a Seattle P.I. with unusual perceptive abilities, even for a P.I. That’s because she’s a “greywalker,” one who can traverse between the human and supernatural worlds and see things happening on both sides. But is being a greywalker a gift or a curse? Harper’s going to have to find out the hard way.

39. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

What more can be said about Harry Potter ? Rowling’s worldbuilding is wondrous to behold, her characterization so extensive that you’ll feel like Harry, Ron, and Hermione are your very own best friends. Not to mention that her stories involve some of the most masterful plot twists you’ll see in any book, from any genre (Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?). So if for whatever reason you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, just know that it’s never too late to experience the magic .

40. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

And for those who have read Harry Potter and are itching for something similar, you could do much worse than His Dark Materials . Twelve-year-old Lyra Belacqua and her spiritual “dæmon” travel across the many different worlds of this series, on a variety of imaginative missions that will ultimately help save the entire multiverse.

41. The Hollows by Kim Harrison

The Hollows is full of alternative history combined with magical elements, so try to keep up: genetic engineering gone wrong has killed off much of the human population, and supernatural species now live openly among them. Half-mortal, half-magic detective Rachel Morgan is a partner at “Vampiric Charms,” a security/bounty hunting service for this unpredictable new world — and indeed, the assignments she receives are anything but ordinary.

42. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Fun fact: Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon when he was just a teenager, and initially self-published the book — so it’s a testament to youthful determination if nothing else! The series ' plot is also pretty exciting, however: farm boy Eragon finds a mysterious stone in the mountains near his home, only to realize when it starts to crack that it’s actually a dragon egg. And when you’ve just hatched an unexpected dragon, there’s bound to be trouble ahead.

43. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Not to be confused with Paolini’s series, Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy details the story of Yeine, a powerful woman of the Darre tribe, who becomes heir to the throne of all the Arameri people. However, despite her power, she’s still forced to battle the expectations and ill wishes of those against her. Not to mention the struggle to hold on to herself, when the soul of a mystical god is placed inside her mind.

44. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

This accompaniment to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (#67 on our list) is just as imaginative and action-packed as its predecessor, if not more so. Infernal Devices follows Tessa Gray, an orphan girl who discovers she can shape-shift and goes to live at the Shadowhunter Institute in nineteenth-century London, where she must learn to control her abilities.

45. Georgina Kincaid Book by Richelle Mead

Georgina Kincaid 's titular star may be a succubus, but that doesn’t mean her job doesn’t suck — if she’s not dreading her repulsive clients, she’s arguing with the middle-manager demon who’s her boss. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), there’s always a bit of deadly drama to be found in the realm of the supernatural… and it usually finds Georgina first.

46. Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch

The titular “gentleman bastards” of this series start off pretty much true to their name: Locke Lamora is their gang leader, and thieving and trickery is all he’s ever known. But what happens when someone else tries to con the con man? As their battles of wits and wiles escalate, Locke and his fellow bastards take a journey of both worldly and personal discovery.

47. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

The widely praised Gormenghast series has oft been called a “fantasy of manners.” Rather than a life-or-death battle between massive forces, the books centers around the bizarre dynamics of the Groan family, who live in Gormenghast Castle. It’s The Addams Family meets a Jane Austen novel! In any case, if you’re looking for a total break from the sometimes-exhausting tropes of epic fantasy, you’ll be delighted to pick up Gormenghast .

48. Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston

If Gormenghast is dark fantasy Jane Austen, Joe Pitt is vampire Mario Puzo. Joe Pitt is a New York City vampire living among factions of other vamps, unwilling to commit to a single clan — but being pressured by each of them to join, since he has exclusive underworld connections they all want. In any case, Joe had better watch his back, because their tolerance could turn into suspicion at any moment… and things get messy pretty quickly when you have fangs.

49. Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Carter and Sadie Kane have been raised apart all their lives. But when their Egyptologist father is captured by Set (the Egyptian god of evil), the two siblings must band together to try and understand their shared history, as well as how they can use it to save their family. The Kane Chronicles offer another spellbinding tale from the celebrated author of the Percy Jackson series.

50. Kan Savasci Cycle by Chase Blackwood

This ongoing cycle details the exhilarating journey of Kan Savasci, the “Bane of Verold” (his native land) who steps into his fate as the most powerful, feared warrior of his time — only to disappear when the world needs him most . If you’re looking for a not-too-daunting intro to epic fantasy, this series is the way to go, as only two books have been released so far and you can easily catch up before the next comes out.

51. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels has magic in her blood, but she doesn’t want anyone to know. Not least because the world she lives in has been wrecked by it: other humans resent magic for taking down their technology in the “magic apocalypse,” while supernatural creatures hunt humans whom they see as a threat. However, after Kate’s guardian is killed, she realizes she can no longer remain passive in her world, and sets off with her sword on her back to become a ruthless mercenary.

52. Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix

Keys to the Kingdom , by the same author as the Abhorsen series, similarly focuses on a young mage coming into their destiny. However, in this case it’s Arthur Penhaligon, who’s to become the heir of “the House” — the focal point of the universe. Arthur must quickly grow into his role as heir and in the process defeat the “Morrow Days” council, who wish to corrupt the House.

\n I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. \n \n

\n You may have heard of me. \n \n

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature--the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

53. Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

An unusual format, the Kingkiller Chronicle consists of its protagonist, Kvothe, narrating his life to the scribe who will record it. Kvothe delves into the trauma that befell his childhood and the many battles that wore him down in adulthood… but all the while, his scribe (dubbed “the Chronicler”) takes a slyly active role in the story, knowing it’s not over yet.

54. Kitty Norville by Carrie Vaughn

Closeted werewolf Kitty Norville starts “The Midnight Hour,” a late-night radio show devoted to dissecting supernatural phenomena — not realizing that by shining the spotlight on things that go bump in the night, she’s leading her enemies closer and closer to finding her.

55. Phèdre Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey

Phèdre nó Delaunay is born with a red mote in her eye, marking her as one pricked by “Kushiel’s dart,” an anguissine who derives pleasure from pain. As Phèdre matures, she must figure out how to balance her personal relationships with her cosmic purpose: to provide balance to the universe. This original and provocative trilogy is also just the beginning of the Kushiel's Legacy series, which comprises nine books in total.

56. Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi

Though only one book in this anticipated trilogy has been released so far, Children of Blood and Bone was no doubt the breakout YA fantasy of 2018. It tells the story of Zélie, a young diviner who must restore magic to the land of Orïsha — before its tyrant ruler King Saran destroys her, just as he did her magical ancestors.

57. Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks

Another ongoing series, Lightbringer centers around “the Prism,” the most powerful man in the world of the Seven Satrapies, where magic is channeled through light and color. The Prism of this series, Gavin, contends with stormy relations between the Satrapies, a treacherous brother trying to undercut him, and a secret son whose existence threatens Gavin’s way of life.

58. Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham

The Long Price Quartet begins in the wealthy, seemingly utopian city-state of Saraykeht, where a sorcerer called Heshai stokes the fire beneath the surface. But Heshai grows weak, and Saraykeht becomes vulnerable to attack; the fate of the metropolis now rests in the hands of outsiders, who will use unknown forms of magic to protect it.

59. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The revolutionary magic of Lord of the Rings has united generations, incited epic movies, and probably inspired every series on this list in one way or another. Join Frodo, Sam, Aragon, Gandalf and the rest of the glorious gang in their quest to obliterate the One Ring — facing massive questions of friendship, morality, and what truly lies within each of them along the way.

60. Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinderella’s a cyborg, Rapunzel’s a hacker, Snow White has “Lunar Sickness,” and they all hang out in space. If steampunk interstellar princesses is your thing, the Lunar Chronicles are just the series you’ve been looking for. (Plus, for a dose of writerly inspiration, the whole thing started out as a NaNoWriMo project !)

61. Lyonesse Trilogy by Jack Vance

In this Dark Ages-era trilogy, King Casmir is the ruthless and twisted ruler of Lyonesse, intent on marrying his own daughter to consolidate his power. But Princess Suldrun is just as sly as her father, and finds the perfect accomplice to thwart him when a mysterious prince washes up on her shores. Together, they embark on a plan to unite and stabilize all of the Elder Isles, and push Casmir off the Lyonesse throne.

62. Magic Ex Libris Book by Jim C. Hines

If you loved Inkheart as a kid, you’ll love Magic Ex Libris as an adult. It follows the adventures of Isaac Vainio, a “Libriomancer” who can summon objects and other elements from books into the real world. But when Isaac is attacked by fictional vampires brought to life, he sees firsthand how dangerous libriomancing can be, and must learn how best to control it — even if that means giving up his abilities forever.

63. Magicians by Lev Grossman

Another great mature alternative to a popular kids’ fantasy series is the Magicians trilogy, often described as “grown-up Harry Potter.” Quentin Coldwater attends Brakebills, a magical university where he and his classmates learn the grueling theory and practice of sorcery. Yet despite Quentin’s excitement to become a full-fledged magician, a lurking threat jeopardizes not only his success at Brakebills, but his whole life.

64. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

Malazan Book of the Fallen is another deeply iconic fantasy series, often cited as one of the best high fantasies in recent years. Its exhaustive narrative spanning multiple continents and thousands of years is too complex to effectively describe here, but all eventually comes back to the Malazan Empire and who gains (as well as who deserves) power within it.

65. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams

Young kitchen worker Simon becomes an apprentice to the League of the Scroll, and dedicates himself to protecting his land of Osten Ard from its formidable enemies. This masterfully plotted, impressively detailed trilogy is also one of George R.R. Martin’s greatest influences, so if you’re looking to write your own HBO-worthy fantasy series , you might want to start here.

66. Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is just your average mechanic — who also happens to be a shapeshifter in a world full of vampires, werewolves, and other such creatures. When Mercy realizes that some of her supernatural fellows are in danger, she jumps into action, using both her human and superhuman skills to save their lives as well as her own.

67. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn trilogy commences with a prophecy about a hero, as so many fantasies do… only this hero, after repelling “the Darkness” centuries ago, has now come to embody it himself in the form of a tyrant king. Now it’s up to our dark horse champion, Kelsier the Mistborn, to reclaim the world of Scadrial in the name of the Light — but will he be able to resist the pull of darkness, or will he suffer the same fate as the first hero?

68. Modern Faerie Tales by Holly Black

Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series imagines modern heroines in mythical situations. Such as sixteen-year-old Kaye, who accidentally becomes entwined in an age-old conflict between two rival faerie kingdoms. Both darkly themed and written with a light touch, this series is perfect for YA readers who love getting lost in Black’s enchanting world of faeries.

69. Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney

This fast-paced series details a violent war among five nations, with a central narrator who’s at sea, trying to sway the battle in his nation’s favor by colonizing a lost land. Kearney injects a great deal of his own sailing knowledge into the narrative, resulting in vivid descriptions that will make the reader feel like they’re practically at sea themselves.

70. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Perhaps the best-known urban fantasy series of the twenty-first century, Mortal Instruments follows the path of NYC teenager Clary Fray, who discovers she’s a Shadowhunter — one with the power to hunt demons. Clary is plunged into an underground world full of magical secrets, with demonic danger around every corner and other Shadowhunters who may or may not be trying to sabotage her missions.

71. Night Angel by Brent Weeks

From the author of Lightbringer comes the Night Angel trilogy, another inventive tale about a world of hierarchies and life-defining positions. Over the course of this series, protagonist Azoth rises from lowly “guild rat” to assassin and finally to the destructive Night Angel, ultimately using his immense power to punish those who deserve it.

72. Oath of Empire by Thomas Harlan

Four colorful stories come together in this intricate series about Rome in 600 AD, but with sorcery. Brutal battles are being waged for control of the empire, fought through both military and magical force, and our four central characters each play a surprisingly vital role in the final outcome.

73. October Daye Book by Seanan McGuire

This urban fantasy series is full of suspense. When an old faerie friend is murdered under strange circumstances, jaded October “Toby” Daye is forced to return to the world she once resolved to leave behind, renewing former alliances and wondering who among them she can really trust.

74. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson has become one of the best-known children’s fantasy series in recent years, and with good reason. Between kids finding out they’re related to Greek gods and having to go on modern-day odysseys to save themselves (and also the world, no big deal), what’s not to like? Even if you’re long past childhood, you’ll still enjoy every minute of Percy and his friends’ mythologically inspired adventures.

75. Powder Mage by Brian McClellan

The Powder Mage trilogy is a “flintlock fantasy,” meaning it’s set during the early stages of the industrial revolution. The titular powder mage, Taniel, is able to extract magic from gunpowder, and uses his supernatural abilities to aid his father in overthrowing the monarchy. But Taniel has no idea about the true consequences of his father’s plans — especially when an ancient curse called “Kresimir’s Promise” comes into play.

76. Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

“If Blue ever kisses her true love, he will die.” Such is the prophecy that kicks off the Raven Cycle : a four-book series revolving around young Blue and the mysterious “Raven boys,” an alluring quartet of private school boys on a highly unusual mission.

77. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

In the Red Queen series, people are divided by blood: red is common and lower-class, while silver blood indicates royal lineage. Mare Barrow is a red-blooded commoner, but with powers that threaten the control of the Silvers. To placate her, they allow her into their upper ranks, calling her a “lost princess” and bettrothing her to a prince. But Mare isn’t in it for the celebrity; little do the Silvers know, this Red princess is about the become the queen of insurrection.

78. Redwall by Brian Jacques

Another landmark children’s fantasy series, Redwall revolves around the animals of Mossflower Woods.These mice, squirrels, badgers, foxes, ravens, snakes and more must live together in harmony, or else fight for the fate of the forest and their own lives. This lively, detailed portrait of the animals’ many generations will delight anyone who’s ever imagined kingdoms out there in the wilderness.

79. Riddle-Master by Patricia A. McKillip

In this Celtic-inspired world of lands ruled by mystical leaders, an evasive figure called “the High One” binds all kingdoms together. This trilogy follows the quest of Morgon of Hed and Raederle of An, two other land-leaders, as they attempt to discover the High One’s identity and how his purpose intertwines with theirs.

80. Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist

The Riftwar Cycle originated with Feist and his friends creating a Dungeons & Dragons alternative: a tabletop/role-playing game based on their own world, Midkemia. Later, Feist expanded the stories of Midkemia and another land, Kelewan, into the Riftwar Universe. The thirty books (yes, you heard that right) of the cycle detail the escapades of people and creatures in many different lands, with all the rollicking excitement and suspense of a live-action game.

81. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This inventive series mixes fantasy with police procedural. After witnessing a ghost on the job, Peter Grant of the London Metropolitan Police joins their supernatural specialty branch, becoming an apprentice wizard in the process — the first one in seventy years. As he discovers more about the supernatural realm, he understands that with his new position comes great responsibility, to both humans and the gods and creatures they fear.

82. Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan

Riyria Revelations centers on Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, partners in crime. One of their greatest talents is flying under the radar — until they’re swept up in an assassination plot and sentenced to death. In order to escape, they must run, and the unwitting journey they embark upon is both mythic in scale and very intimate in human emotion.

83. Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

In the Recluce universe, magic exists in two forms: order and chaos. “Black” mages can channel order, “white” mages can channel chaos, and “gray” mages can do both, though they are extremely rare. This series, which spans two thousand years, involves a variety of heroes and villains trying to harness their powers and find their fortunes as mages — despite the grave personal costs that magic accrues.

84. The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker

Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing series is fascinating because the main character’s powers aren’t derived from a magical source, but rather from logic and reasoning. Warrior Anasûrimbor Kellhus has incredible abilities of prediction and persuasion, leading him to be labeled a diviner. But as Kellhus’s influence grows, those close to him realize that he may not be a force of benevolence after all, and indeed may bring about the “Second Apocalypse” of their universe.

85. Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Told from the perspectives of several generations’ daughters, the Sevenwaters series is a refreshingly female-focused fantasy series. It begins with Sorcha, daughter of Lord Colum, who must save her father and brothers from the spell of an evil enchantress — even after being kidnapped herself. From there Sorcha’s legacy multiplies, with each of the Sevenwaters books focusing on a new daughter and her own unique challenge to fulfill her destiny.

86. Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

In Shades of Magic , magician Kell has the ability to travel among four different parallel Londons: Grey, Red, White, and Black. His life has always been one of transition, always relying on a variety of Londons to serve him… until one day he meets pickpocket Delilah Bard. The two of them soon become embroiled in a plot that could either save or dismantle not just one, but every London they know.

87. Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

Another epic series from the man who inspired George R.R. Martin, Shadowmarch is full of great detail and even more dramatic action. It depicts the struggling province of Southmarch: the true king is imprisoned, his son has just been killed, and his twin children have no idea how to handle their new duties. Things only become more difficult as the twins, Briony and Barrick, learn more about their true ancestry and old enemies who threaten their already-tenuous rule.

88. Shannara by Terry Brooks

In the post-apocalyptic world of the Four Lands, the Sword of Shannara wields ultimate power. Young Shea Ohmsford is the only living descendant of Shannara blood, meaning he is the only the one who can use it — and use it he must, if he is to defeat the Warlock Lord and save the Four Lands from imminent destruction. This pentalogy chronicles Shea’s quest, as well as those of his descendants, to protect their nation with mysterious age-old magic.

89. Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

If Mulan lived in the kingdom of Tortall, she and Alanna of Trebond would be best buds. Alanna may be a young lady, but she knows it’s her destiny to become a knight — so when her twin brother gets sent to knight school against his will, they hatch a plan to secretly switch places. “Alan” then begins the long uphill battle of proving herself to her peers and countrymen: first in disguise, but eventually as her true self, the lioness with a battle cry in her heart. The series that recounts her journey is full of wonder and excitement.

90. Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris

A Song of Ice and Fire may have inspired Game of Thrones , but what inspired the equally dramatic (if perhaps less critically acclaimed) HBO series True Blood ? The answer is the Sookie Stackhouse series. Charlaine Harris weaves an intricate saga of bloodlust and actual lust in the American South, centering around telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who gets caught up in the many complexities of the supernatural world.

91. SPI Files by Lisa Shearin

This series centers on the Supernatural Protection & Investigation agency, which handles New York’s most sensitive cases — supernaturally sensitive, that is. From subway monsters to hellfire designer drugs to dragon eggs at the Met, there’s never a dull moment in the life of Detective Makenna Fraser and her SPI associates.

92. Swan's War by Sean Russell

Not to be confused with Proust, though almost as elaborate, Swan’s War is about a kingdom in turmoil. One king’s failure to name his heir has resulted in a War of the Roses-type scenario, with two families brutally battling for control… yet some still desire peace, believing the houses can be united. What they don’t know is that there are much deeper, malevolent forces at work that conspire to keep the people dying and the kingdom in chaos. And if no one puts a stop to them, not only will peace be impossible, but so will survival in this realm.

93. Sword of Shadows by J. V. Jones

In Sword of Shadows , Ash March and Raif Sevrance have always known they are different — not least because their abilities prevent them from connecting with their families and clans, leaving them perpetual outsiders. But it’s these abilities that will ultimately bond them together, allowing them to rescue each other and potentially save everyone in their land from the wrath of the horrific “Endlords.”

94. Temeraire by Naomi Novik

The Temeraire series reimagines the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century upon the backs of — what else? — dragons. The true feat of this series, however, is not imagining the dragons themselves but the societal milieu surrounding them: where they’re based, how they’re viewed in different cultures, and most importantly, the delicate individual relationships between dragons and humans, especially when it comes to working with each other.

95. Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

These twenty-one epic fantasy novels are absolutely perfect for readers looking to really dive into the classic fantasy experience. The heroes of Sword of Truth are on a continuous quest: that quintessential pursuit of evil’s defeat — evil that appears in countless incarnations but is always slain in one thrilling way or another. Though it may not be the most unpredictable series, it’s a great romp to return to time and time again.

96. Theatre Illuminata by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare has grown up in the Theatre Illuminata , where all the world literally is a stage. And while Beatrice has always enjoyed her lifestyle of drama and entertainment (again, a very literal description), in this series she realizes that dark magic plagues the theatre, and that she may be the only one who can sate it.

97. Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

The Red Knight is the hero of this medieval-era series, and a worthy one at that: not only is he genetically gifted and expertly trained, he’s also notoriously lucky and shrewd when it comes to picking his battles. Or at least he always has been — until the day he and his company venture to protect a nunnery from wyverns, which sets off a sequence of dark disasters.

98. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

While it may not be the most sophisticated of fantasy plots, the Twilight saga still has a place on this list for its mesmerizing character dynamics and surprisingly lyrical prose. You all probably know the classic “girl meets vampire” story by now, but if you haven’t read the books, just know they hold up better than you think.

99. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

In this fantasy series, the stakes are personal. After being imprisoned for a year, young assassin Celaena Sardothien has the chance to get her life back — if she’s willing to risk her death first. She’ll be pitted against other assassins in a competition to serve the king, and if she wins, her crimes will be pardoned. If not, however, she’ll wind up six feet under. Celaena’s just desperate enough to take the deal… but does she have a chance at winning, or is someone out to sabotage her before the contest even begins?

100. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

We’ve really saved one of the best for last with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The colossal cast of characters, masterfully developed magic system, and creative timeline (or should we say time-wheel) of these books make for an absolutely unforgettable read, even if you’re already a seasoned fantasy enthusiast. Wheel of Time is often ranked next to a A Song of Ice and Fire as one of the most iconic epic fantasy series ever — and it’s especially poignant knowing that, after Jordan passed away in the midst of writing the last installment, friend and fan Brandon Sanderson took over for him in order to finish the series with justice.

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Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

top fantasy writers of all time

F or years, Brandon Sanderson spent his nights behind the desk at a Provo, Utah hotel, churning out manuscripts that he hoped one day might take their place on shelves. Mistborn: The Final Empire wasn’t Sanderson’s first novel to find a publisher—that was 2005’s Elantris —but it was the book that defined his approach to writing fantasy and set him on a path toward widespread recognition. Now, he’s one of the genre’s most beloved—and prolific—authors. With Mistborn: The Final Empire , Sanderson popularized his approach to crafting complex magic systems, in which the rules that govern the extraordinary have more in common with a chemical equation than with a wave of a wand. The 2006 epic fantasy follows a pair of allomancers—individuals who ingest small amounts of metal to fuel magical abilities—as they rebel against an immortal ruler’s thousand-year reign. The detail with which Sanderson explores the hows and whys of allomancy in the novel, setting up a crescendo of action and adventure by its end, is a solid illustration of his own “First Law of Magics,” which posits that a writer’s capacity to resolve a story’s conflict using magic is directly correlated with readers’ understanding of how that magic works. — Cate Matthews

Buy Now : Mistborn: The Final Empire on Bookshop | Amazon

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Literary Sorcerers: Best Fantasy Authors of All Time

Find Your LitJoy: General Bookish Fun 07/24/2023 10:00am 11 minute read

In a world where imagination knows no bounds, fantasy literature reigns supreme, weaving tales of magic, adventure, and wonder. From epic sagas to whimsical realms, the genre has captivated readers for generations, transporting them to extraordinary worlds beyond their wildest dreams. Join us as we explore the impact and influence of the best fantasy authors of all time, celebrating their contributions to the realm of literary sorcery.

Pioneers of Fantasy:

C.s. lewis: the magical realms of narnia.

One cannot discuss the pioneers of fantasy without mentioning the enchanting worlds created by C.S. Lewis. Through his beloved Chronicles of Narnia , Lewis introduced readers to a land brimming with talking animals, mythical creatures, and unforgettable adventures. His seamless blend of Christian symbolism, captivating storytelling, and moral lessons has made Narnia a timeless masterpiece in the realm of fantasy literature.

Masters of Epic Fantasy:

J.r.r. tolkien: the architect of middle-earth.

No discussion of epic fantasy would be complete without paying homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, the visionary architect of Middle-earth. With his monumental work, The Lord of the Rings , Tolkien pioneered the genre, introducing readers to a meticulously crafted world teeming with rich history, diverse cultures, and epic battles between good and evil. His intricate storytelling, mythical languages, and deep-rooted themes of heroism and sacrifice have forever shaped the landscape of fantasy literature.

George R.R. Martin: The Intricate Saga of Westeros

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (known to non-fantasy readers as its HBO adaptation Game of Thrones ) has become synonymous with gripping storytelling, impressive worldbuilding, and intricate character arcs. Set in the treacherous world of Westeros, Martin weaves a web of political intrigue, power struggles, and moral ambiguity, where no character is safe from the unpredictable twists and turns of fate. With his complex narrative structure and morally gray characters, Martin has redefined the boundaries of epic fantasy, captivating audiences worldwide.

Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series stands as a testament to the grandeur and scope of epic fantasy. Spanning fourteen volumes, Jordan's magnum opus follows a sprawling cast of characters as they navigate a world on the brink of apocalypse, where prophecies, ancient legends, and a mystical Wheel shape the course of destiny. Jordan's meticulous worldbuilding and intricate plotlines have enthralled readers, making him a true master of the genre.

Brandon Sanderson: The Master of Epic Magic Systems

Brandon Sanderson has emerged as a prominent figure in epic fantasy, renowned for his detailed magic systems and intricate worldbuilding. From the sweeping Stormlight Archive series to the compelling Mistborn series, Sanderson's works are marked by innovative and logical systems of magic, where readers can immerse themselves in the intricacies and rules that govern these fantastical realms. His ability to balance complex worldbuilding with compelling storytelling has solidified his place among the masters of epic fantasy. One of which, The Wheel of Time’s Robert Jordan thought enough of Sanderson to handpick him to finish the epic series upon his passing.

Influential Female Fantasy Authors

Ursula k. le guin: redefining fantasy narratives.

Ursula K. Le Guin stands as a trailblazer in the realm of fantasy literature, challenging traditional narrative structures and societal norms. Through works like A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness , Le Guin explores themes of identity, gender, and power, offering nuanced and thought-provoking perspectives. Her imaginative worlds, strong character development, and philosophical depth have left an indelible mark on the genre.

Marion Zimmer Bradley: Feminist Themes and Mythic Retellings

Marion Zimmer Bradley infused her works with feminist themes and mythic retellings, breathing new life into fantasy literature. With The Mists of Avalon , Bradley reimagined the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the women, giving voice to characters who had long been overshadowed. Her exploration of female empowerment, spirituality, and the complexities of human relationships paved the way for a new generation of feminist fantasy authors.

Robin Hobb: Emotional Journeys in the Realm of the Elderlings

Robin Hobb, with her The Realm of the Elderlings series, has earned a dedicated following through her poignant and emotionally charged storytelling. Hobb's ability to dive deep into the psyche of her characters, exploring their flaws, growth, and relationships, creates a deeply immersive reading experience. Her skillful portrayal of human emotions within a richly imagined world has captivated readers, establishing her as a master of character-driven fantasy literature.

Nnedi Okorafor: African-Inspired Worlds and Magical Realism

Nnedi Okorafor's works blend African culture, folklore, and magical realism to create vibrant and unique worlds. With novels like Who Fears Death and Akata Witch , Okorafor explores themes of identity, cultural heritage, and the clash between tradition and modernity. Her storytelling is imbued with lush descriptions, compelling characters, and a sense of wonder that draws readers into her captivating narratives.

Enchanting Worlds and Unforgettable Characters:

Neil gaiman: mythology and modern fantasy collide.

Neil Gaiman weaves together mythology, folklore, and contemporary settings to create a distinct brand of modern fantasy. With works like American Gods and Stardust , Gaiman explores the intersection of the supernatural and the mundane, blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination. His lyrical prose, atmospheric storytelling, and enigmatic characters have earned him a dedicated following and critical acclaim as one of the best fantasy authors of all time. And LitJoy is teaming up with Gaiman to create special editions of several of his books, starting with Stardust . You can sign up to get notified of any new releases by filling out the email form below.

R.A. Salvatore: The Legendary Adventures of Drizzt Do'Urden

With a prolific career spanning several decades, R. A. Salvatore has delighted readers with his thrilling adventures and vibrant characters. Best known for his iconic The Legend of Drizzt series set in the Forgotten Realms, Salvatore has created a vast and immersive world populated by elves, dwarves, monsters, and magic. The exploits of the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do'Urden have captivated readers with their intense action, intricate plotting, and exploration of themes such as identity, honor, and redemption. Salvatore has also penned numerous other fantasy novels and series, including The DemonWars Sag a , The Crimson Shadow series, and The Highwayman , showcasing his versatility and mastery of the fantasy genre.

Terry Pratchett: Discworld's Witty Wizardry

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is a testament to his unparalleled wit, sharp social commentary, and inventive world-building. Set on a flat disc carried on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle, Pratchett's satirical and humorous tales delve into the quirks of human nature and the absurdities of society. His endearing characters, including the bumbling wizard Rincewind and the formidable Granny Weatherwax, have become icons of the genre, making Pratchett an enduring presence in fantasy literature. Of course, we also very much love his collaboration with Neil Gaiman in creating the humorous and clever Good Omens  that follows the misadventures of an angel and a demon working together to prevent the apocalypse with delightful wit and satire.

Laini Taylor: Lyrical Prose and Captivating Mythical Realms

Laini Taylor's writing is a tapestry of lyrical prose, lush descriptions, and enchanting worlds. Through her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and Strange the Dreamer duology, Taylor paints vivid landscapes filled with whimsical creatures, forbidden love, and profound themes of identity and destiny. We, at LitJoy, love both these series so much that we worked with Taylor to create special edition box sets for both. Take a peek inside the pages of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Special Edition Box Set . Taylor’s ability to blend fantasy and romance with evocative storytelling has garnered widespread acclaim and a place on our best fantasy authors list as she captivates readers with her spellbinding narratives.

Imaginative Storytellers and Genre Blenders:

C.s. friedman: the mistress of dark fantasy.

C.S. Friedman has established herself as a prominent figure in the realm of dark fantasy, captivating readers with her atmospheric worlds and morally complex characters. With a penchant for exploring the shadows of the human psyche, Friedman delves into themes of power, sacrifice, and the blurred boundaries between good and evil. Her celebrated Coldfire Trilogy introduces readers to a mesmerizing blend of science fiction and fantasy, where the enigmatic anti-hero, Gerald Tarrant, walks a treacherous path between darkness and redemption. Friedman's skillful worldbuilding, intricate plotting, and evocative prose create a hauntingly immersive reading experience. In addition to the Coldfire Trilogy, Friedman has crafted other gripping works such as the Magister Trilogy and This Alien Shore , solidifying her status as the mistress of dark fantasy and earning her a devoted following among fans of the fantasy genre.

Philip Pullman: The Complex and Philosophical Worlds of His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy challenges the boundaries of fantasy literature, infusing it with philosophical depth and intricate worldbuilding. The first two of the trilogy even made it on our Must-Hear Best Audiobooks list . Through his exploration of parallel universes, daemons, and the battle between authority and free will, Pullman tackles complex themes of religion, morality, and the power of storytelling. His narrative prowess, coupled with multidimensional characters, has earned him a place among the most influential and best fantasy authors of all time.

Ken Liu: Asian-Inspired Fantasy and Historical Retellings

Ken Liu's works bridge the realms of fantasy and historical fiction, drawing inspiration from Asian culture and mythology. With his Dandelion Dynasty series and acclaimed short stories, Liu crafts complex narratives that explore political intrigue, family legacies, and the human condition. His diligent research, poetic prose, and nuanced storytelling showcase his ability to blend genres seamlessly, captivating readers with tales that transcend time and place.

Haruki Murakami: Magical Realism and Surreal Landscapes

Haruki Murakami's unique blend of magical realism and existentialism has made him a literary sensation. In his novels such as Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84 , Murakami transports readers to surreal landscapes where cats talk, wells lead to parallel worlds, and characters navigate the boundaries between reality and dreams. His introspective narratives, infused with melancholy and a sense of the absurd, invite readers into a mesmerizing realm of imagination.

Fantasy with a Touch of Science Fiction:

Anne mccaffrey: dragons and space adventures in the pern series.

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series combines elements of fantasy and science fiction, creating a captivating fusion of dragons and space exploration. With books like Dragonflight and Dragonsong , McCaffrey introduces readers to a planet where telepathic dragons bond with their human riders to protect against a deadly threat. Her skillful worldbuilding, memorable characters, and the interplay between fantasy and technology have made the Dragonriders of Pern series a cornerstone of speculative fiction.

Guy Gavriel Kay: Historical Fiction with a Touch of Magic

Guy Gavriel Kay's works blur the boundaries between historical fiction and fantasy, transporting readers to richly detailed worlds inspired by real historical periods. From Tigana to Under Heaven , Kay weaves intricate tales of political intrigue, love, and war, infused with a touch of magic. His evocative prose and detailed research transport readers to bygone eras while exploring themes of power, identity, and the human spirit.

Emerging Voices in Fantasy:

Sarah j. maas: epic romance and thrilling fantasy worlds.

If you know us here at LitJoy, you know we couldn’t leave Sarah J. Maas off this best fantasy authors list! Sarah J. Maas has emerged as a prominent voice in fantasy literature, known for her epic romance and immersive worlds. With series like Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses, Maas introduces readers to fierce heroines, high-stakes conflicts, and complex political webs. Her ability to blend romance, action, and fantastical elements has earned her a dedicated following and widespread acclaim. We might be a *little* obsessed, and we think you should be, too, so go ahead and take a look at our officially licensed Sarah J. Maas Collection .

N.K. Jemisin: Groundbreaking Works of Afrofuturism

N.K. Jemisin has garnered critical acclaim for her groundbreaking works of Afrofuturism, challenging conventions and expanding the boundaries of fantasy literature. Through her The Broken Earth trilogy, Jemisin weaves a tale of a post-apocalyptic world where the earth itself is a sentient being. Jemisin’s thought-provoking themes of systemic injustice and resilience pushes the boundaries of the fantasy genre and sparks important conversations. Her exploration of power, oppression, and resilience, combined with richly drawn characters and evocative prose, has solidified her position as a leading voice in contemporary fantasy, making her one of the best fantasy authors to follow.

From the pioneers who laid the foundations to the emerging voices that continue to shape the fantasy genre, each of the above authors brings their unique storytelling craft to their works, captivating readers with imaginative worlds, unforgettable characters, and thought-provoking themes. The impact of these best fantasy authors extends far beyond the pages of their books, influencing generations of readers and opening portals to new realms of possibility. As readers, we are fortunate to go on these literary journeys where the boundaries of reality are transcended and the limitless possibilities of fantasy literature continue to inspire and enchant us.

Who would be on your list of best fantasy authors of all time?

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Books You Love

We asked, you answered: your 50 favorite sci-fi and fantasy books of the past decade.

Petra Mayer at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2019. (photo by Allison Shelley)

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Deborah Lee for NPR

The question at the heart of science fiction and fantasy is "what if?" What if gods were real, but you could kill them ? What if humans finally made it out among the stars — only to discover we're the shabby newcomers in a grand galactic alliance ? What if an asteroid destroyed the East Coast in 1952 and jump-started the space race years early?

Summer Reader Poll 2021: Meet Our Expert Judges

NPR Books Summer Poll 2021: A Decade Of Great Sci-Fi And Fantasy

Summer reader poll 2021: meet our expert judges.

Click If You Dare: 100 Favorite Horror Stories

Summer Reader Poll 2018: Horror

Click if you dare: 100 favorite horror stories.

We Did It For The LOLs: 100 Favorite Funny Books

Summer Reader Poll 2019: Funny Books

We did it for the lols: 100 favorite funny books.

This year's summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of "what ifs" — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll , we focused only on what has happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that's truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, "Alive."

As always, a pretty extensive decision-making process went into the list, involving our fabulous panel of expert judges — but we know you eager readers want to get right to the books. So if you're inclined, follow these links to find out how we built the list (and what, sadly, didn't make it this year ). Otherwise, scroll on for the list!

We've broken it up into categories to help you find the reading experience you're looking for, and you can click on these links to go directly to each category:

Worlds To Get Lost In · Words To Get Lost In · Will Take You On A Journey · Will Mess With Your Head · Will Mess With Your Heart · Will Make You Feel Good

Worlds To Get Lost In

Are you (like me) a world-building fanatic? These authors have built worlds so real you can almost smell them.

The Imperial Radch Trilogy

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Breq is a human now — but once she was a starship. Once she was an AI with a vast and ancient metal body and troops of ancillaries, barely animate bodies that all carried her consciousness. Poll judge Ann Leckie has created a massive yet intricate interstellar empire where twisty galactic intrigues and multiple clashing cultures form a brilliant backdrop for the story of a starship learning to be a human being. Your humble editor got a copy of Ancillary Justice when it came out and promptly forced her entire family to read it.

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The Dead Djinn Universe (series)

A Master of Djinn, by P. Djélì Clarke

What a wonderful world P. Djélì Clarke has created here — an Arab world never colonized, where magic-powered trams glide through a cosmopolitan Cairo and where djinns make mischief among humans. Clarke's novella Ring Shout also showed up on our semifinalists list, and it was hard to decide between them, but ultimately our judges felt the Dead Djinn Universe offered more to explore. But you should still read Ring Shout , a wild ride of a read where gun-toting demon-hunters go up against Ku Klux Klan members who are actual, pointy-headed white demons. Go on, go get a copy! We'll wait.

The Age of Madness Trilogy

A Little Hatred, by Joe Abercrombie

One of my pet peeves with fantasy novels is they sometimes don't allow for the progression of time and technology — but in Joe Abercrombie's Age of Madness series, the follow-up to his debut First Law trilogy, industrialization has come to the world of The Union, and it's brought no good in its wake. More than that — machines may be rising, but magic will not give way, and all over the world, those at the bottom of the heap are beginning to get really, really angry. This series works as a standalone — but you should also read the excellent First Law series (even though it's old enough to fall outside the scope of this list).

The Green Bone Saga

Jade City, by Fonda Lee

This sprawling saga of family, honor, blood and magical jade will suck you in from the very first page. Poll judge Fonda Lee's story works on every conceivable level, from minute but meaningful character beats to solid, elegantly conveyed world-building to political intrigue to big, overarching themes of clan, loyalty and identity. Plus, wow, the jade-powered martial arts sequences are as fine as anything the Shaw Brothers ever put on screen. "Reviewing books is my actual job," says fellow judge Amal El-Mohtar, "but I still have to fight my husband for the advance copies of Fonda's books, and we're both THIS CLOSE to learning actual martial arts to assist us in our dueling for dibs."

The Expanse (series)

Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey

Yes, sure, you've seen the TV show (you HAVE, right? Right?) about the ragtag crew of spacers caught up in a three-way power struggle between Earth, Mars and the society that's developed on far-off asteroid belts. But there's much, much more to explore in the books — other planets, other characters, storylines and concepts that didn't make it to the screen. Often, when a book gets adapted for film or TV, there's a clear argument about which version is better. With The Expanse , we can confidently say you should watch and read. The only downside? Book- Avasarala doesn't show up until a few volumes in.

The Daevabad Trilogy

The City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri is a con woman (with a mysteriously real healing talent) scraping a living in the alleys of 18th century Cairo — until she accidentally summons some true magic and discovers her fate is bound to a legendary city named Daevabad, far from human civilization, home of djinns and bloody intrigues. Author S.A. Chakraborty converted to Islam as a teenager and after college began writing what she describes as "historical fanfiction" about medieval Islam; then characters appeared, inspired by people she met at her mosque. "A sly heroine capable of saving herself, a dashing hero who'd break for the noon prayer," she told an interviewer . "I wanted to write a story for us, about us, with the grandeur and magic of a summer blockbuster."

Teixcalaan (series)

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine

The Aztecs meet the Byzantines in outer space in this intricately imagined story of diplomatic intrigue and fashionable poetic forms. Mahit Dzmare is an ambassador from a small space station clinging desperately to its independence in the face of the massive Teixcalaanli empire . But when she arrives in its glittering capital, her predecessor's dead, and she soon discovers she's been sabotaged herself. Luckily, it turns out she's incredibly good at her job, even without her guiding neural implant. "I'm a sucker for elegant worldbuilding that portrays all the finer nuances of society and culture in addition to the grandness of empire and the complexity of politics," says judge Fonda Lee. "Arkady Martine delivers all that in droves."

The Thessaly Trilogy

The Just City, by Jo Walton

Apollo, spurned by Daphne, is trying to understand free will and consent by living as a mortal. Athena is trying to create a utopia by plucking men and women from all across history and dropping them on an island to live according to Plato's Republic. Will it all go according to plan? Not likely. "Brilliant, compelling, and frankly unputdownable," wrote poll judge Amal El-Mohtar , "this will do what your Intro to Philosophy courses probably couldn't: make you want to read The Republic ."

Shades of Magic Trilogy

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab has created a world with four Londons lying atop one another : our own dull Grey, warm magic-suffused Red, tyrannical White, and dead, terrifying Black. Once, movement among them was easy, but now only a few have the ability — including our hero, Kell. So naturally, he's a smuggler, and the action kicks off when Grey London thief Lila steals a dangerous artifact from him, a stone that could upset the balance among the Londons. Rich world building, complex characters and really scary bad guys make Schwab's London a city — or cities — well worth spending time in.

The Divine Cities Trilogy

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

On the Continent, you must not, you cannot, talk about the gods — the gods are dead. Or are they? Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy builds a fully, gloriously realized world where gods are the source of power, miracles and oppression, and gods can also be killed. But what happens next, when the gods are gone and the work of running the world is left to regular human men and women? What happens in that unsettled moment when divinity gives way to technology? This series spans a long timeline; the heroes of the first volume are old by the end. "And as ancient powers clash among gleaming, modern skyscrapers, those who have survived from the first page to these last have a heaviness about them," writes reviewer Jason Sheehan , "a sense that they have seen remarkable things, done deeds both heroic and terrible, and that they can see a far and final horizon in the distance, quickly approaching."

The Wormwood Trilogy

Rosewater, by Tade Thompson

Part of a recent wave of work celebrating and centering Nigerian culture, this trilogy is set in a future where a fungal alien invader has swallowed big global cities, America has shut itself away and gone dark, and a new city, Rosewater, has grown up around a mysterious alien dome in rural Nigeria. It's a wild mashup of alien invasion, cyberpunk, Afro-futurism and even a touch of zombie horror. "I started reading Rosewater on vacation and quickly set it down until I got home, because Tade Thompson's work is no light beach read," says judge Fonda Lee. "His writing demands your full attention — and amply rewards it."

Black Sun (series)

Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

Author Rebecca Roanhorse was tired of reading epic fantasy with quasi-European settings, so she decided to write her own . The result is Black Sun , set in a world influenced by pre-Columbian mythology and rich with storms, intrigue, giant bugs, mysterious sea people, ritual, myth and some very scary crows. (They hold grudges, did you know?) This is only Book 1 of a forthcoming series, but we felt it was so strong it deserved to be here, no matter where Roanhorse goes next.

Words To Get Lost In

If you're one of those people who thought genre fiction writing was workmanlike and uninspiring, these books will change your mind.

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke at last returns to our shelves with this mind-bendingly glorious story — that's a bit hard to describe without spoiling. So we'll say it's about a mysterious man and the House that he dearly loves, a marvelous place full of changing light and surging tides, statues and corridors and crossings, birds and old bones and passing days and one persistent visitor who brings strangely familiar gifts. Clarke "limns a magic far more intrinsic than the kind commanded through spells," wrote reviewer Vikki Valentine , "a magic that is seemingly part of the fabric of the universe and as powerful as a cosmic engine — yet fragile nonetheless."

Circe, by Madeline Miller

Imagine Circe, the fearsome witch of the Odyssey, as an awkward teenager, growing up lonely among scornful gods and falling for what we modern folks would call a f***boy, before coming into her own, using her exile on the island of Aiaia to hone her powers and build an independent life. Circe only shows up briefly in the Odyssey, but Madeline Miller gives her a lush, complex life in these pages. She has worked as a classics teacher, and as our reviewer Annalisa Quinn noted , Miller "extracts worlds of meaning from Homer's short phrases."

Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A sharp young socialite in 1950s Mexico City travels to a creepy rural mansion to check on her cousin, who has fallen ill after marrying into a mysterious family of English landowners. What could possibly go wrong? Silvia Moreno-Garcia "makes you uneasy about invisible things by writing around them," said reviewer Jessica P. Wick. "Even when you think you know what lurks, the power to unsettle isn't diminished." Not to be too spoilery — but after reading this stylishly chilling novel, you'll never look at mushrooms the same way again.

The Paper Menagerie And Other Stories

The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu

"I taught Liu's 'The Man Who Ended History' in a graduate seminar one semester," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi, "and one of the toughest tasks I've ever faced in adulthood was crafting a lesson plan that went beyond me just going 'wtf wtf wtf wtf wtf' for the whole two hours. Some story collections are like those albums where the artist or record label just threw a bunch of songs together and said 'here,' and some collections arrive as a complete, cohesive, emotionally catholic whole. The Paper Menagerie is that."

Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

Judges had a hard time deciding between Spinning Silver and Uprooted , Novik's previous fairy tale retelling. Ultimately, we decided that this reclamation of "Rumpelstiltskin" has a chewier, more interesting project, with much to say about money, labor, debt and friendship, explored in unflinching yet tender ways. Judge Amal El-Mohtar reviewed Spinning Silver for NPR when it came out in 2018. "There are so many mathemagicians in this book, be they moneylenders turning silver into gold or knitters working to a pattern," she wrote at the time . "It's gold and silver all the way down."

Exhalation: Stories

Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang

"I often get the same feeling reading a Ted Chiang story as I did listening to a Prince song while he was still with us," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "What a glorious privilege it is that we get to share a universe with this genius!" This poll can be a discovery tool for editors and judges as much as audience, so hearing that, your humble editor went straight to the library and downloaded a copy of this collection.

Olondria (series)

A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar

In Olondria, you can smell the ocean wind coming off the page, soldiers ride birds, angels haunt humans, and written dreams are terribly dangerous. "Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you'd be content to just sit and watch the light around it change for a whole day because every passing moment reveals even more unbearable loveliness and transforms you in ways you can't articulate?" asks judge Amal El-Mohtar. "You will if you read these books."

Her Body And Other Parties: Stories

Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado

These eight stories dance across the borders of fairy tale, horror, erotica and urban legend, spinning the familiar, lived experiences of women into something rich and strange. As the title suggests, Machado focuses on the unruly female body and all of its pleasures and risks (there's one story that's just increasingly bizarre rewrites of Law & Order: SVU episodes). At one point, a character implies that kind of writing is "tiresome and regressive," too much about stereotypical crazy lesbians and madwomen in the attic. But as our critic Annalisa Quinn wrote , "Machado seems to answer: The world makes madwomen, and the least you can do is make sure the attic is your own."

The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Axl and Beatrice are an elderly couple, living in a fictional Britain just after Arthur's time, where everyone suffers from what they call "mist," a kind of amnesia that hits long-term memories. They believe, they vaguely remember that they once had a son, so they set out to find him — encountering an elderly Sir Gawain along the way, and long-forgotten connections to Arthur's court and the dark deeds the mist is hiding. Poll judge Ann Leckie loves Arthurian legends. What she does not love are authors who don't do them justice — but with The Buried Giant , she says, Kazuo Ishiguro gets it solidly right.

Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente

Do you love space opera? Alternate history? Silent film? (OK, are you me?) Then you should pick up Catherynne M. Valente's Radiance , which mashes up all three in a gloriously surreal saga about spacefaring filmmakers in an alternate version of 1986, in which you might be able to go to Jupiter, but Thomas Edison's death grip on his patents means talkies are still a novelty. Yes, Space Opera did get more votes, but our judges genuinely felt that Radiance was the stronger book. Reviewing it in 2015, judge Amal El-Mohtar wrote , " Radiance is the sort of novel about which you have to speak for hours or hardly speak at all: either stop at 'it's magnificent' or roll on to talk about form, voice, ambition, originality, innovation for more thousands of words than are available to me here before even touching on the plot."

Will Take You On A Journey

Sure, all books are some kind of journey, but these reads really go the distance.

The Changeling

The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

It's easy(ish) to summarize The Changeling : Rare book dealer Apollo Kagwa has a baby son with his wife, Emma, but she's been acting strange — and when she vanishes after doing something unspeakable, he sets out to find her. But his journey loops through a New York you've never seen before: mysterious islands and haunted forests, strange characters and shifting rhythms. The Changeling is a modern urban fairy tale with one toe over the line into horror, and wherever it goes, it will draw you along with it.

Wayfarers (series)

Wayfarers (series), by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers writes aliens like no one else — in fact, humans are the backward newcomers in her generous, peaceful galactic vision. The Wayfarers books are only loosely linked: They all take place in the same universe, but apart from that you'll meet a new set of characters, a new culture and a new world (or an old world transformed). Cranky space pacifists, questing AIs, fugitives, gravediggers and fluffy, multi-limbed aliens who love pudding — the only flaw in this series is you'll wish you could spend more time with all of them.

Binti (series)

Binti (series), by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at the legendary Oomza University, finest institution of learning in the galaxy — and as if leaving Earth to live among the stars weren't enough, Binti finds herself caught between warring human and alien factions. Over and over again throughout these novellas, Binti makes peace, bridges cultures, brings home with her even as she leaves and returns, changed by her experiences. Our judges agreed that the first two Binti stories are the strongest — but even if the third stumbles, as judge and critic Amal El-Mohtar wrote, "Perhaps the point is just having a Black girl with tentacles for hair possessing the power and freedom to float among Saturn's rings."

Lady Astronaut (series)

Lady Astronaut (series), by Mary Robinette Kowal

What would America's space program have looked like if, say, a gigantic asteroid had wiped out the East Coast in 1952 — and started a countdown to destruction for the rest of the world? We'd have had to get into space much sooner. And all the female pilots who served in World War II and were unceremoniously dumped back at home might have had another chance to fly. Mary Robinette Kowal's Hugo Award-winning series plays that out with Elma York, a former WASP pilot and future Lady Astronaut whose skill and determination help all of humanity escape the bonds of Earth. Adds judge Amal El-Mohtar: "Audiobook readers are in for a special treat here in that Kowal narrates the books herself, and if you've never had the pleasure of attending one of her readings, you get to experience her wonderful performance with bonus production values. It's especially cool given that the seed for the series was an audio-first short story."

Children of Time (duology)

Children of Time (duology), by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Far in the future, the dregs of humanity escape a ruined Earth and find what they think is a new hope deep in space — a planet that past spacefarers terraformed and left for them. But the evolutionary virus that was supposed to jump-start a cargo of monkeys, creating ready-made workers, instead latched on to ... something else, and in the intervening years, something terrible has arisen there. Poll judge Ann Leckie says she can't stand spiders (BIG SAME), but even so, she was adamant that the Children of Time books deserve their spot here.

Wayward Children (series)

Wayward Children (series), by Seanan McGuire

Everyone loves a good portal fantasy. Who hasn't looked in the back of the closet hoping, faintly, to see snow and a street lamp? In the Wayward Children series, Seanan McGuire reminds us that portals go both ways: What happens to those children who get booted back through the door into the real world, starry-eyed and scarred? Well, a lot of them end up at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children. The prolific McGuire turned up on our semifinalists list A Lot. We had a hard time deciding between this and her killer stand-alone Middlegame , but the Wayward Children won the day with their shimmering mix of fairy tale, fantasy and emotional heft — not to mention body positivity and solid queer and trans representation. (As with a lot of the also-rans, though, you should really read Middlegame too.)

The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds, by Micaiah Johnson

There are 382 parallel worlds in Micaiah Johnson's debut novel, and humanity can finally travel between them — but there's a deadly catch. You can visit only a world where the parallel version of you is already dead. And that makes Cara — whose marginal wastelands existence means only a few versions of her are left — valuable to the high and mighty of her own Earth. "They needed trash people," Cara says, to gather information from other worlds. But her existence, already precarious, is threatened when a powerful scientist figures out how to grab that information remotely. "At a time when I was really struggling with the cognitive demands of reading anything for work or pleasure, this book flooded me with oxygen and lit me on fire," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "I can't say for certain that it enabled me to read again, but in its wake, I could."

Will Mess With Your Head

Do you love twisty tales, loopy logic, unsolved mysteries and cosmic weirdness? Scroll on!

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James

Poll judge Amal El-Mohtar once described Black Leopard, Red Wolf as " like being slowly eaten by a bear ." Fellow judge Tochi Onyebuchi chimes in: " Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a Slipknot album of a book. In all the best ways." Set in a dazzling, dangerous fantasy Africa, it is — at least on the surface — about a man named Tracker, in prison when we meet him and telling his life story to an inquisitor. Beyond that, it's fairly indescribable, full of roof-crawling demons, dust-cloud assassins, blood and (fair warning) sexual violence. A gnarly book, a difficult book, sometimes actively hostile to the reader — yet necessary, and stunning.

Southern Reach (series)

Southern Reach (series), Jeff VanderMeer

The Southern Reach books are, at least on the surface, a simple tale of a world gone wrong, of a mysterious "Area X" and the expeditions that have suffered and died trying to map it — and the strange government agency that keeps sending them in. But there's a lot seething under that surface: monsters, hauntings, a slowly building sense of wrong and terror that will twist your brain around sideways. "If the guys who wrote Lost had brought H.P. Lovecraft into the room as a script doctor in the first season," our critic Jason Sheehan wrote , "the Southern Reach trilogy is what they would've come up with."

The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey

Part sci-fi cautionary tale, part murder mystery, The Echo Wife is a twisty treat . At its center are a famed genetic researcher and her duplicitous husband, who uses her breakthrough technology to clone himself a sweeter, more compliant version of his wife before ending up dead. "As expertly constructed as a Patek Philippe watch," says poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "Seamlessly blends domestic thriller and science fiction," adds fellow judge Fonda Lee. "This book is going to haunt my thoughts for a long time."

The Locked Tomb (series)

The Locked Tomb (series), by Tamsyn Muir

This series is often described as "lesbian necromancers in space," but trust us, it's so much more than that. Wildly inventive, gruesome, emotional, twisty and funny as hell, the Locked Tomb books are like nothing you've ever read before. And we defy you to read them and not give serious consideration to corpse paint and mirror shades as a workable fashion statement. There are only two books out now, of a planned four-book series, but Gideon the Ninth alone is enough to earn Tamsyn Muir a place on this list: "Too funny to be horror, too gooey to be science fiction, has too many spaceships and autodoors to be fantasy, and has far more bloody dismemberings than your average parlor romance," says critic Jason Sheehan. "It is altogether its own thing."

Remembrance of Earth's Past (series)

Remembrance of Earth's Past (series), Liu Cixin

Liu Cixin became the first author from Asia to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, for The Three-Body Problem , the first volume in this series about one of the oldest questions in science fiction: What will happen when we meet aliens? Liu is writing the hardest of hard sci-fi here, full of brain-twisting passages about quantum mechanics and artificial intelligence (if you didn't actually know what the three-body problem was, you will now), grafted onto the backbone of a high-stakes political thriller. Poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi says, "These books divided me by zero. And, yes, that is a compliment."

Machineries of Empire (series)

Machineries of Empire (series), by Yoon Ha Lee

In the Hexarchate, numbers are power: This interstellar empire draws its strength from rigidly enforced adherence to the imperial calendar, a system of numbers that can alter reality. But now, a "calendrical rot" is eating away at that structure, and it's up to a mathematically talented young soldier — and the ghost of an infamous traitor — to try to repair the rot while a war blazes across the stars around them. " Ninefox Gambit is a book with math in its heart, but also one which understands that even numbers can lie," our critic Jason Sheehan wrote . "That it's what you see in the numbers that matters most."

Will Mess With Your Heart

Books that'll make you cry, make you think — and sometimes make you want to hide under the bed.

The Broken Earth (series)

The Broken Earth (series), by N.K. Jemisin

In the world of the Stillness, geological convulsions cause upheavals that can last for centuries — and only the orogenes, despised yet essential to the status quo — can control them. N.K. Jemisin deservedly won three back-to-back Hugo awards for these books, which use magnificent world building and lapidary prose to smack you in the face about your own complicity in systems of oppression. "Jemisin is the first — and so far only — person ever to have won a Hugo Award for Best Novel for every single book in a series. These books upheaved the terrain of epic fantasy as surely and completely as Fifth Seasons transform the geography of the Stillness," says poll judge Amal El-Mohtar.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Author Emily St. John Mandel went on Twitter in 2020 and advised people not to read Station Eleven , not in the midst of the pandemic. But we beg to disagree. A story in which art (and particularly Shakespeare) helps humanity come back to itself after a pandemic wipes out the world as we know it might be just the thing we need. "Survival is insufficient," say Mandel's traveling players (a line she says she lifted from Star Trek ), and that's a solid motto any time.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War, Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar

Enemies-to-lovers is a classic romance novel trope, and it's rarely been done with as much strange beauty as poll judge Amal El-Mohtar and co-author Max Gladstone pull off in this tale of Red and Blue, two agents on opposite sides of a war that's sprawled across time and space. "Most books I read are objects of study. And more often than not, I can figure out how the prose happened, how the character arcs are constructed, the story's architecture," says judge Tochi Onyebuchi. "But then along comes a thing so dazzling you can't help but stare at and ask 'how.' Amal and Max wrote a cheat code of a book. They unlocked all the power-ups, caught all the Chaos Emeralds, mastered all the jutsus, and honestly, I'd say it's downright unfair how much they flexed on us with Time War , except I'm so damn grateful they gave it to us in the first place." (As we noted above, having Time War on the list meant that Max Gladstone couldn't make a second appearance for his outstanding solo work with the Craft Sequence . But you should absolutely read those, too.)

The Poppy War Trilogy

The Poppy War Trilogy, by R.F. Kuang

What if Mao Zedong were a teenage girl? That's how author R.F. Kuang describes the central question in her Poppy War series . Fiery, ruthless war orphan Fang Runin grows up, attends an elite military academy, develops fire magic and wins a war — but finds herself becoming the kind of monster she once fought against. Kuang has turned her own rage and anger at historical atrocities into a gripping, award-winning story that will drag you along with it, all the way to the end. "If this were football, Kuang might be under investigation for PEDs," jokes judge Tochi Onyebuchi, referring to performance-enhancing drugs. "But, no, she's really just that good."

The Masquerade (series)

The Masquerade (series), by Seth Dickinson

Baru Cormorant was born to a free-living, free-loving nation, but all that changed when the repressive Empire of Masks swept in, tearing apart her family, yet singling her out for advancement through its new school system. Baru decides the only way to free her people is to claw her way up the ranks of Empire — but she risks becoming the monster she's fighting against. "I've loved every volume of this more than the one before it, and the first one was devastatingly strong," says judge Amal El-Mohtar — who said of that first volume, "This book is a tar pit, and I mean that as a compliment."

An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

The Matilda is a generation ship, a vast repository of human life among the stars, cruelly organized like an antebellum plantation: Black and brown people on the lower decks, working under vicious overseers to provide the white upper-deck passengers with comfortable lives. Aster, an orphaned outsider, uses her late mother's medical knowledge to bring healing where she can and to solve the mystery of Matilda 's failing power source. Poll judge Amal El-Mohtar originally reviewed An Unkindness of Ghosts for us , writing "What Solomon achieves with this debut — the sharpness, the depth, the precision — puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars."

The Bird King

The Bird King, by G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson's beautiful novel, set during the last days of Muslim Granada, follows a royal concubine who yearns for freedom and the queer mapmaker who's her best friend. "It is really devastating to a critic to find that the only truly accurate way of describing an author's prose is the word 'luminous,' but here we are," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "This book is luminous. It is full of light, in searing mirror-flashes and warm candleflame flickers and dappled twists of heart-breaking insight into empire, war and religion."

American War

American War, by Omar El Akkad

This was judge Tochi Onyebuchi's personal pick — a devastating portrait of a post-climate-apocalypse, post-Second Civil War America that's chosen to use its most terrifying and oppressive policies against its own people. "It despairs me how careless we are with the word 'prescient' these days, but when I finished American War , I truly felt that I'd glimpsed our future," Onyebuchi says. "Charred and scarred and shot through with shards of hope."

Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi

Poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi centers this story on the kind of person who's more often a statistic, rarely a fully rounded character: Kevin, who's young, Black and in prison . Born amid the upheaval around the Rodney King verdict, Kevin is hemmed in by structural and individual racism at every turn; meanwhile, his sister Ella has developed mysterious, frightening powers — but she still can't do the one thing she truly wants to do, which is to rescue her brother. This slim novella packs a punch with all the weight of history behind it; fellow judge Amal El-Mohtar says, "I've said it in reviews and I'll say it again here: This book reads like hot diamonds, as searing as it is precise."

On Fragile Waves

On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu

Every year, we ask our judges to add some of their own favorites to the list, and this year, Amal El-Mohtar teared up talking about her passion for E. Lily Yu's haunted refugee story On Fragile Waves . "I need everyone to read this book," she says. "I wept throughout it and for a solid half-hour once I had finished it, and I know it's hard to recommend books that make you cry right now, but I have no chill about this one: It is so important, it is so beautiful, and I feel like maybe if everyone read it the world would be a slightly less terrible place."

Will Make You Feel Good

Maybe, after the year we've just had, you want to read a book where good things happen, eventually? We've got you.

The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

In a far corner of an elven empire, young half-goblin Maia learns that a mysterious accident has left him heir to the throne. But he has been in exile almost all his life — how can he possibly negotiate the intricate treacheries of the imperial court? Fairly well, as it turns out. Maia is a wonderful character, hesitant and shy at first, but deeply good and surprisingly adept at the whole being-an-emperor thing. The only thing wrong with The Goblin Emperor was that it was, for a long time, a stand-alone. But now there's a sequel, The Witness for the Dead — so if you love the world Katherine Addison has created, you've got a way back to it. "I just love this book utterly," says judge Amal El-Mohtar. "So warm, so kind, so generous."

Murderbot (series)

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

Oh Murderbot — we know you just want to be left alone to watch your shows, but we can't quit you. Martha Wells' series about a murderous security robot that's hacked its own governing module and become self-aware is expansive, action-packed, funny and deeply human . Also, your humble poll editor deeply wishes that someone would write a fic in which Murderbot meets Ancillary Justice 's Breq and they swap tips about how to be human over tea (which Murderbot can't really drink).

The Interdependency (series)

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

John Scalzi didn't mean to be quite so prescient when he started this trilogy about a galactic empire facing destruction as its interstellar routes collapse — a problem the empire knew about but ignored for all the same reasons we punt our problems today. "Some of that was completely unintentional," he told Scott Simon . "But some of it was. I live in the world." The Interdependency series is funny, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful, and packed with fantastic characters. To the reader who said they voted "because of Kiva Lagos," we say, us too.

The Martian

The Martian, by Andy Weir.

You don't expect a hard sci-fi novel to start with the phrase "I'm pretty much f****d," but it definitely sets the tone for Andy Weir's massive hit. Astronaut Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars after an accident, is a profane and engaging narrator who'll let you know just how f****d he is and then just how he plans to science his way out of it. If you've only seen the movie, there's so much more to dig into in the book (including, well, that very first line).

Sorcerer to the Crown/The True Queen

Sorcerer to the Crown/The True Queen, by Zen Cho

A Regency romp with squabbling magicians, romance and intrigue, with women and people of color center stage? Yes, please! These two books form a wonderful balance. Sorcerer to the Crown is more whimsical and occasionally riotously funny despite its serious underlying themes. The True Queen builds out from there, looking at the characters and events of the first book with a different, more serious perspective. But both volumes are charming, thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable.

How We Built This

Wow, you're some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn't a straight-up popularity contest, though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers — y'all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some and hammers out a final curated list.

What Didn't Make It — And Why

As always, there were works readers loved and voted for that didn't make our final list of 50 — it's not a favorites list if you can't argue about it, right? Sometimes, we left things out because we felt like the authors were well known enough not to need our help (farewell, The Ocean at the End of the Lane , Neil Gaiman, we hope you'll forgive us!), but mostly it happened because the books either came out before our cutoff date or already appeared on the original 2011 list. (Sorry, Brandon Sanderson! The first Mistborn book was actually on this year's list, until I looked more closely and realized it was a repeat from 2011.)

Some books didn't make it this year because we're almost positive they'll come around next year — next year being the 10th anniversary of our original 2012 YA poll, when (spoiler alert!) we're planning a similar redo. So we say "not farewell, but fare forward, voyagers" to the likes of Raybearer , Children of Blood and Bone and the Grishaverse books; if they don't show up on next year's list I'll, I don't know, I'll eat my kefta .

And this year, because we had only 50 titles to play with, we did not apply the famous Nora Roberts rule, which allows particularly beloved and prolific authors onto the list twice. So as much as it pains me, there's only one Seanan McGuire entry here, and Max Gladstone appears alongside poll judge Amal El-Mohtar for This Is How You Lose the Time War but not on his own for the excellent Craft Sequence . Which — as we said above — you should ABSOLUTELY read.

One Final Note

Usually, readers will vote at least some works by members of our judging panel onto the list, and usually, we let the judges themselves decide whether or not to include them. But this year, I put my editorial foot down — all four judges made it to the semifinals, and had we not included them, the final product would have been the less for it. So you'll find all four on the list. And we hope you enjoy going through it as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Screen Rant

25 amazing standalone fantasy books to read.


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  • Standalone fantasy novels allow authors to focus on characters and magic systems without the constraints of a long series.
  • Notable standalone fantasy novels include The Song of Achilles, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Princess Bride .
  • Authors like Madeline Miller, Neil Gaiman, and V. E. Schwab have crafted impactful standalone fantasy works.

Even die-hard fans of epic fantasy series, awaiting the most anticipated fantasy book series of 2024 , sometimes want to enjoy an amazing standalone fantasy novel. Some of today's most popular fantasy authors have built their careers solely through standalone works, or endeavored to write one or more as a departure from their usual long-running stories. Without the burden of building a conflict big enough to take up several books, standalones can direct more focus to characters while still depicting fascinating magic systems.

These magic systems found in standalone novels may be just as complex and stratified as those in popular fantasy series, or they may be vaguer as the writer does not think sacrificing time to explain everything is worthwhile. Standalone novels tend to have much more focused stories and everything that makes it into the final book must be in service of the main premise. However, standalones are still an amazing way to discover new fantasy worlds.

25 The Song Of Achilles (2011)

By madeline miller.

The runaway smash hit novel The Song of Achilles was one of the earliest books endorsed by BookTok. Madeline Miller recounts the events of the Trojan War like never before, emphasizing the longevity of the war and the role of average soldiers, exploring the conflicting emotions of the mythological Greek hero Achilles, and making Achilles’ relationship with his “friend” Patroclus explicitly romantic. Miller wrote an instant modern classic that anyone who considers themselves interested in fantasy or revisionist mythology needs to read. Readers might then find themselves on the path to reading Miller’s Circe and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad .

15 Most Anticipated Romance Books Coming Out The Rest Of 2024

There are many exciting romance books coming out throughout 2024, and some of the most-anticipated new releases haven’t even hit shelves yet.

24 The Once And Future Witches (2020)

By alix e. harrow.

In The Once and Future Witche s, witchcore aesthetics and mythology meet the history of women’s suffrage. A trio of sisters with strained relationships find themselves in a small New England town and lead a secret circle of women to use magic against those who oppress them. The Once and Future Witches shows how women are divided by perceived slights and misunderstandings, usually constructed by a patriarchal enemy. Yet when these women come together, they are unstoppable. This book also illustrates power found through kinship that is accessible to anyone, no matter their race, sexuality, or gender.

23 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004)

By susanna clarke.

Susanna Clarke and Donna Tartt are perhaps collectively responsible for the modern conception of dark academia, with stories centering around secret societies that study and practice magic, often hidden within a prestigious academic institution. Readers eager to know what happens in Leigh Bardugo’s third Alex Stern novel can pass the time with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell . In Clarke’s debut novel, 10 years in the making, two magicians in 19th-century England are drawn to each other out of mutual curiosity and passion, but their tentative partnership soon spirals into an intense rivalry.

22 One Last Stop (2021)

By casey mcquiston.

One Last Stop is more of an urban rom-com with some elements of fantasy. The second novel by Casey McQuiston, author of Red, White & Royal Blue , One Last Stop follows cynical August Landry when she moves to New York City and falls in love with Jane, who is displaced in time from the 1970s and eternally stuck on the subway. One Last Stop is the only novel by McQuiston (so far) that can loosely be considered fantasy, but it is as heartwarming of a story and romance and community as their other works, with LGBTQ+ history expertly woven in.

21 To Kill A Kingdom (2018)

By alexandra christo.

Alexandra Christo blends the idea of mermaids presented by Hans Christian Andersen and Disney and the mythology of Sirens into a violent retelling of The Little Mermaid . In To Kill a Kingdom , the Siren princess Lira is cursed by her mother to be a human until she kills the human prince. Meanwhile, Prince Elian has little interest in inheriting the throne and leads a found family of a crew of seafaring Siren hunters. Lira and Elian’s conflicting missions conflict with their inevitable romance, but along the way, they make conscious decisions about the kind of leaders they want to be.

20 American Gods (2001)

By neil gaiman.

Make no mistake — Neil Gaiman is one of the masters of fantasy of the modern age.

Make no mistake — Neil Gaiman is one of the masters of fantasy of the modern age. American Gods contemplates what people “worship” in the modern day, with deities from all cultures losing their power to mass media and consumerism. At the center of this is the protagonist, ex-convict Shadow Moon, who is introduced to the labyrinth of modern gods by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Gaiman writes a world that is bizarre and sometimes disturbing, but vibrant and alluring at every unexpected turn. American Gods is perfect for readers who loved Percy Jackson and the Olympians as children.

Yet another Neil Gaiman writingproject is coming to the small screen, and this one in particular can make up for American Gods’ 2017 failure.

19 Heartless (2016)

By marissa meyer.

Marissa Meyer made a name for herself with The Lunar Chronicles , a sci-fi fantasy series comprising intertwined retellings of the Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White stories. Readers who love alternative fairy tales but don’t want to commit to a whole series can check out Meyer’s standalone Heartless , a reimagining of the life and times of the Queen of Hearts. Meyer recounts the story of Catherine, a beautiful young woman and aspiring baker who has no interest in marrying the King of Hearts — yet — in an engaging prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland .

18 Circe (2018)

Following up the groundbreaking Song of Achilles , Miller published a feminist retelling of the myth of the witch Circe (and is working on a retelling of The Tempest ). Miller paints a riveting picture of Circe, the future lover of Odysseus, as she grows up ostracized in her father’s household, finds a strange new home when she is banished to her remote island, and eventually makes peace with the events of her life. Of all the storylines that Percy Jackson season 2 must cover , Miller has given Disney a lot to live up to concerning the show’s depiction of Circe.

17 The Spear Cuts Through Water (2022)

By simon jimenez.

The Spear Cuts Through Water might be considered an experimental fantasy, following two warriors who aid a freed goddess in traversing their country to save them all from a tyrannical dynastic regime. The Spear Cuts Through Water is a must-read for those interested in inventive modes of storytelling because of how it weaves together first, second, and third POV, as well as multiple framing devices. It is theatrical and dreamlike, and Simon Jimenez’s many literary devices are effectively used to convey to the reader the effect of storytelling on the life of an unnamed second-person character.

16 The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1890)

By oscar wilde.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a dark and twisting classic that everyone should read. In perhaps Oscar Wilde’s most famous novel, a young aristocrat devoted to a hedonistic lifestyle expresses a wish that a portrait of himself withers and ages while he remains young. The Faustian bargain plot is much older than Wilde, but the great author gave it new life with this philosophical novel. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a macabre character study, illustrated by Dorian’s inner turmoil and the devastating consequences for the people who are unlucky enough to cross paths with him.

15 The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue (2020)

By v. e. schwab.

V. E. Schwab has written many breathtaking fantasy novels, but her recent standalone The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue still stands out. Schwab tells the story of a young French woman in early 18th century France who desires to see the world and makes a Faustian bargain to escape an arranged marriage. However, she is cursed so that everyone she meets will forget her. Still, Addie’s story is compelling: Even though she is painfully lonely, she lives life to its fullest, achieving her wish to see as many places and things as possible, before a bittersweet but satisfying ending.

Adapting a book into a movie is a tricky business where a lot can go wrong, but these novels deserve a shot at getting a second life on the screen.

14 The Shadows Between Us (2020)

By tricia levenseller.

Tricia Levenseller is a dark horse of young adult fantasy, delivering short and snappy adventure novels that are just as engaging as a seven-book series. Following her massively popular pirate duology, she returned with The Shadows Between Us , which she describes as a “Slytherin YA romance.” In this novel, an ambitious young woman plots to marry the king before killing him and taking the kingdom for herself. That is until other assassins and a romantic subplot get in the way. Levenseller’s The Darkness Within Us is expected in summer 2024, relating the events of The Shadows Between Us from another character’s perspective.

13 The Sword Of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story (2019)

By m. l. wang.

“Better to die sharp in war than rust through a time of peace” has the same vibes as one of Two-Face’s best quotes from The Dark Knight . It is hard to achieve the feel of an epic fantasy in a standalone novel, but M. L. Wang does just this with The Sword of Kaigen . In this standalone, a teenage boy strives to uphold his family’s legacy of defending their homeland but is about to discover that this mission is in vain, while his mother struggles with deciding whether to take up her sword and become a warrior once again.

12 The Last Unicorn (1968)

By peter s. beagle.

The Last Unicorn is a beautifully heartrending animated movie that delivers an evocative fantasy depiction of environmental destruction and the loss of innocence. The movie flies under the radar of the barrage of animated Disney classics, meaning even fewer people are likely to know that it is based on a novel. Peter S. Beagle’s story boasts a poignant cast and narrative ahead of its time. The short book also has a larger font, and readers used to dense epics can probably get through it in a couple of hours. It’s perfect for fans of the bittersweet simplicity of The Tale of Despereaux.

11 The Night Circus (2011)

By erin morgenstern.

Fans of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices who love a Victorian fantasy setting will find an even deeper and more surreal story with notes of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus has been held up in comparison to the great fantasy works of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the works of Gaiman, Clarke, and Ray Bradbury. Described as a “phantasmagorical fairy tale,” Morgenstern’s debut novel follows the star-crossed romance of the two protégés of rival magicians, all participants in a magical traveling circus in Victorian London. Fans of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices who love a Victorian fantasy setting will find an even deeper and more surreal story with notes of a Shakespearean tragedy.

10 The Priory Of The Orange Tree (2019)

By samantha shannon.

In The Priory of the Orange Tree , Samantha Shannon, the bestselling author of The Bone Season , creates an intricate world inspired by various mythologies and cultures. The story primarily follows two women at either end of a divided world, navigating different politics and dangers, while tensions between their worlds’ kingdoms are on the rise and an ancient evil is gradually awakening. The Priory of the Orange Tree can be read as a standalone but has an incredibly rich lore, justifying Shannon’s (also standalone) prequel A Day of Fallen Night , returning to the setting five centuries earlier.

The coming-of-age subgenre is more popular than ever with keen book readers, and in 2024, there are plenty of highly anticipated titles released.

9 The Hobbit (1937)

By j. r. r. tolkien.

Middle Earth fans whose only encounter with The Lord of the Rings franchise is the movies and TV shows might not realize what a succinct and charming prequel The Hobbit really is, comprising around 300 pages. As The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published first, it can be considered the true foray into J. R. R. Tolkien’s world. The Hobbit touches upon quite a lot for such a short story, depicting a kingdom that needs to be reclaimed, main characters sacrificing their lives to do so, and the ever-looming presence of Gollum and the One Ring.

8 The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (2013)

There are many excellent standalones to choose from Gaiman’s stunning career in fantasy; Stardust and Coraline are also highlights. However, fans cannot stop raving about the relatively recent The Ocean at the End of the Lane more than 10 years later. Gaiman weaves a tale of a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood home for a funeral and is prompted to remember long-forgotten events from his youth, primarily surrounding his acquaintance with the mysterious and magical Lettie Hempstock and the women of her family. A character study and dark fantasy, it is a worthy addition to Gaiman’s repertoire.

7 Spinning Silver (2018)

By naomi novik.

Another fascinating fairy tale retelling, Spinning Silver presents a new take on the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. While the original story is about a young woman doomed by her father’s follies and narrowly saved by the enigmatic Rumpelstiltskin, Naomi Novik’s novel puts even more emphasis on the female characters’ experiences. Told from the perspective of Miryem, Wanda, and Irina, Spinning Silver depicts a complex and resonant world of wealth, politics, and arranged marriages that these women navigate as they strive to make their own destinies. With greedy royals, scheming faeries, and plenty of magic mixed in, this is the reimagining the Rumpelstiltskin story needs.

6 The Beginning Place (1980)

By ursula k. le guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin is also one of the great names in fantasy literature of the past few decades, and a standalone novel may be the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with her work. Her novel The Beginning Place has been compared to The Chronicles of Narnia and Through the Looking-Glass ( Supernatural Fiction Writers by Elizabeth Cummins). Two young people wanting to escape their lives in the real world discover an alternate realm they call “the beginning place.” However, as they move past initial hostility to a budding romance, a dark force threatens their escapist reality.

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top fantasy writers of all time

10 best Fantasy book series of all time

Image of Jonathan Wright

Do you also randomly find yourself craving a new fantasy book series to lose yourself in, on the off-chance that it might turn into your next big obsession? Because we certainly do!

Fantasy, as a subgenre of literary fiction, has been around for quite a while now. The better part of a century, to be precise. But suppose you’re not particularly inclined to echo what snobs say about speculative storytelling and extend that definition to cover the real breadth of the subject matter. In that case, fantasy has existed for as long as people have.

Where once we would call on The Epic of Gilgamesh , or Homer’s Iliad , or The Poetic Edda to read humanity’s collective chronicle, this tradition is now being carried forward by authors who tap into the wellspring of their imagination to speak of worlds hitherto unseen, characters defiant against the calamity of their doom, and stories lost in the whirlpool of time.

The rise of High Fantasy literature in the mid-20th century, spurred by the enormous success of The Lord of the Rings , has led to the creation of hundreds of imaginary worlds and thousands of fantasy novels. But among all these innumerable tales of love and tragedy, only a few have reached the same heights as J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless tale, let alone surpass it in quality.

So, gather ye around this imaginary hearth, and let us leaf through the pages of the speculative genre’s rich history to find works that not only build on that mountainous legacy but also subvert it in clever ways.

What follows are some of the best fantasy book series of all time, and your only thought by the end of this list will not be whether to pick up another fantasy series, but which of them to pick up first.

'Discworld' covers

10. Discworld by Terry Pratchett

If you’re looking for a bit of light reading, or are fresh off a grimdark fantasy series and can’t possibly stomach any more of the gloomy stuff, then Discworld by Terry Pratchett is the story for you. Discworld is a book series that spends half of its time not taking itself seriously, and the other half making fun of cliché fantasy tropes. But don’t let Pratchett’s light and absurdist tone trick you into thinking that Discworld isn’t here to discuss important themes, even if it happens to take place on a flat, disc-shaped world resting on the backs of four giant elephants, who in turn are standing on a giant space turtle. Yes, you read that correctly. No, it’ll never get old, not even after reading the series in its entirety.

top fantasy writers of all time

9. The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

There have been many attempts in history to subvert J.R.R. Tolkien by going in the opposite direction and doing exactly the reverse of everything he did with his work. As you’d expect, most of them have failed. But if there’s one person who can pull off that dark, gritty fantasy storytelling and not come off as an unoriginal try-hard, it’s the Lord Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie.

If you love Game of Thrones , you’re going to love The First Law trilogy as well. The story takes place in a world where the only rule is the rule of morally ambiguous, philosophically conflicted characters; a war-torn wasteland of a society that eerily and compellingly mirrors our world. And did I tell you about the prose? Joe Abercrombie is one of the greatest wordsmiths of our time, even if he himself is usually too humble to admit it.

'The Earthsea Cycle' covers

8. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

Speaking of great prose, The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin definitely deserves a spot on this list, if for nothing besides the fact that it has influenced so many writers over the years. Le Guin is known for her brilliant character work and amazing, lyrical prose. The Earthsea Cycle is a must-read for every fantasy fan out there, as it inherits Tolkien’s legacy and bears it forward with a sense of reverence and simultaneous autonomy that few authors have managed to imitate over the decades. Another great thing about Earthsea is its reasonable length. If you’re not a fan of those chunky, 1000-page fantasy novels, then Le Guin’s narrative structure of mostly 200 to 300-page tales will not disappoint.

'Malazan Book of the Fallen' covers

7. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

As Erikson himself writes in the prelude to Malazan Book of the Fallen , this entire series has been written with only one question in mind: How ambitious can a fantasy author aspire to be before his own artistic volitions get in the way of a good time? Erikson’s fictional world is vicious, complex, and unforgiving. But Malazan is, above all else, challenging.

Those who’ve read through the 10-book behemoth describe it as a life-changing experience, but only if you fight your way through an uphill battle of confusion in the first three novels. Unlike most authors out there, Erikson doesn’t hold your hand. He thrusts you into the middle of his tale, trusting you to pick up the pieces of the puzzle as they move along. And while some may find that notion appealing, others are understandably put off by it. Still, there’s no denying that Malazan has a place in the High Fantasy Hall of Fame.

'Farseer' trilogy covers

6. The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

If you love fantasy and tragedy, then The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb is the perfect mixture of those two elements. Beginning with the acclaimed Farseer trilogy and taking place in the fictional Six Duchies, this story mostly revolves around a royal bastard called FitChivalry Farseer. It is also narrated in the first-person, with Fitz telling his story to an unspecified audience in the future. Hobb is a master of her craft, and her storytelling chops can give most fantasy authors a run for their money. And that’s not even to mention her brilliant prose.

But I’ll be honest with you; reading the Farseer trilogy left me broken, spiritually and emotionally. In fact, a part of me remains broken to this day thanks to Hobb, but I guess at the same time, the biggest commendation I could give her is that I don’t regret it one bit.

'A Song of Ice and Fire' covers

5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

It would not be an overstatement to suggest George R.R. Martin is the most influential High Fantasy writer after Tolkien. While A Song of Ice and Fire was mostly unheard of before the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones , those in the community had sung Martin’s praises for years, long before his books became a sensation in the public eye. Martin’s strength is in his ability to weave overtones of real-world history into his work, often citing the War of the Roses as a huge inspiration for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and all the in-fighting that takes place within it. If fantasy is still relevant in today’s landscape, we have George R.R. Martin to thank for it.

'Kingkiller Chronicle' cover

4. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

Poetic, inspirational, and intimate. The Kingkiller Chronicle is the tale of a burgeoning hero trying to make his way in a cruel and uncaring world. With nothing to help him but his own wits, Kvothe has to find a footing in society after his fate goes awry and his life gets upended on its head. We sit in a cozy inn in the middle of a town that is in the middle of nowhere, listening to the tale of a man who has fought with angels, befriended demons, and written songs that make minstrels weep. Now that man is merely a shadow of his former self, broken and forgotten after dooming the world in his folly. Need you a more compelling premise?

The Kingkiller Chronicle is one of the best works of fantasy literature in the past two decades. Patrick Rothfuss’ amazing storytelling chops, combined with his flowery and poetic prose, turn The Name of the Wind, the first book in the trilogy, and The Wise Man’s Fear , its sequel, into a majestic journey reminiscent of some of the greatest works of drama. The Tempest , Don Quixote , Cyrano de Bergerac ; Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle has it all.

'The Stormlight Archive' covers

3. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Having written dozens of books in less than two decades, Brandon Sanderson is probably the most prolific writer currently alive. Sanderson has gained acclaim for his amazing stories and outrageously brilliant ideas, not to mention for coming up with rich and detailed fictional worlds you could lose yourself in. And though he has a list of great novels to his name, it’s the planned 10-book saga titled The Stormlight Archive that will become his crowning achievement in the future.

The Stormlight Archive is intricate, mysterious, and probably unlike anything you’ve read to this day. If you’re looking for an epic fantasy series with large-scale battles and conflicts, a host of chill-inducing character moments, and detailed, unique worldbuilding, then The Stormlight Archive is the book series to pick up. Just start on The Way of Kings and read a few chapters; before you know it, you’ll have reached the fourth and most recent release, The Rhythm of War . At least that’s how I remember the fevered days of binge-reading this series.

top fantasy writers of all time

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

As I mentioned earlier, the entire genre traces its roots back to Tolkien, and it’s not without reason that the British linguist has often been referred to as the “father of High Fantasy.” I once heard another novelist describe Middle-earth’s legacy as “Mount Tolkien,” under whose long shadow reside most of the other prominent authors out there. But even Tolkien’s unavoidable reputation aside, Middle-earth (or Arda, the planet on which Middle-earth is found) remains one of the greatest feats of imaginative worldbuilding ever attempted.

The 10,000-year history of Middle-earth, the sheer breadth of its rich chronicle, and all the wonderful characters that have spun their heroics and tragedies within it, still hold their own against the rivals of this day and age. And frankly, even if its beats have been ripped off so many times that the story is now all too familiar even to those who know nothing about it, The Lord of the Rings remains a great tale of love, friendship, courage, honor, and camaraderie, unbowed by the weight of the multitudes of ideas and philosophies it tries to get across.

'The Wheel of Time' book covers

1. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

Eulogizing Tolkien in the manner I did above, one would be forgiven for thinking that he should’ve made it to the top of this list. In fact, he probably would’ve been here, if not for an ambitious American author who, through the sweat and tears of his scholarly toil, ended up writing one of the greatest works of High Fantasy —nay, of fiction— in the world.

Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time is a 14-volume behemoth of a book series that took two decades, more than ten-thousand pages of prose, and two authors to tell in its entirety. That’s right; Jordan himself succumbed to illness before finishing the last novel, and the task befell Brandon Sanderson — then an up-and-comer of the genre — to finish what his literary hero had started many years ago.

The Wheel of Time is not just one of the most popular fantasy book series of all time; it is also the perfect bridge connecting J.R.R. Tolkien’s traditionalist tropes to Martin and Abercrombie’s new, grittier take. The Wheel of Time has a host of amazing characters, led by its timeless protagonist Rand al’Thor — who could very well be, as I’ve argued countless times, one of the best-written characters in the English canon. And while at first The Wheel of Time may come off as another spin on the “good vs. evil” tale that’s as old as time itself, Jordan will soon disabuse you of that mistaken notion, and show how he has intended his work to be a reflection of all of humanity and its story, time without end.

top fantasy writers of all time

More From Forbes

The 30 best classic novels everyone should read.

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"The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison is one of the best classic novels ever written.

Classic books stand the test of time by capturing readers’ attention generation after generation. They focus on themes that people across continents, religious backgrounds, socioeconomic circumstances and education levels can all relate to, such as love and loss. Many classic novels explore familial relationships and how life circumstances can change on a dime. The best classic literature endures because it is well-written and appeals to a wide swath of readers who want to travel to far-away locations, laugh at the improbable, or feel heart-pumping excitement—all vicariously. A list of the best classic novels should transport the reader to times in the past, future or present that give them new things to aspire to and ponder.

Must-Read Classics

The best classic novels remain relevant and accessible decade after decade. Classic literature is not a genre—it encompasses romance , science fiction, humor and any other type of book. Instead, what makes a book a classic is expressing something fundamental about the human condition. These novels are relatable.

Some of the best-known authors of classic literature wrote more than a century ago, including Mary Shelley, Daniel Defoe and Miguel de Cervantes, who penned the oldest book on the list. More contemporary authors include Toni Morrison, Alex Haley, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This list covers 30 books representing the best in literature. While most of these must-read classics are older, a few are just a couple decades old and have already become beloved by multiple generations.

Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian-born novelist and poet, poses at his home on the campus of Bard College in ... [+] Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where he was a professor. He wrote one of the best classic books, "Things Fall Apart."

30. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s first novel explores the colonization of Africa through the eyes of Okonkwo, a young Igbo man whose world changes for the worse as his culture is eradicated. The book deals with themes of decolonization, nationalism and family, which remain relevant today.

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You can read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

29. Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)

The author of the acclaimed memoir Black Boy first published this novel about Bigger Thomas, a young Black man in Chicago who accidentally kills a white woman, then commits another murder to cover up the crime. The book deals with racism and classism, forcing Bigger to confront the consequences of his violent acts.

You can read Richard Wright’s Native Son by ordering through publisher HarperCollins .

28. Roots by Alex Haley (1976)

Before the hugely successful Roots miniseries came Alex Haley’s bestselling novel, which follows Kunta Kinte, a man brought from Africa to America to be enslaved. The book also follows his descendants, including Haley. Roots reckons with the U.S.’s shameful history of slavery and examines how it continues to impact race relations centuries later.

You can read Alex Haley ’s Roots by ordering through publisher DaCapo Press .

The film adaptation of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976.

27. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962)

Ken Kesey’s novel, which became an Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson, follows what happens when a rebellious patient named Randle Patrick “Mac” McMurphy is sent to a psychiatric hospital ruled by the iron will of Nurse Ratched. The book is told from the perspective of an observant (and supposedly mute) Native American patient.

The book questions the wisdom of authority amid an era of deinstitutionalization, and it sparks questions about individualism and who deserves power. You can read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

26. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)

The precursor to modern-day young adult novels , The Outsiders presents the conflict between teenage gangs from differing socioeconomic backgrounds: the wealthy Socials (Socs) and the blue-collar Greasers. One of the Greasers, Ponyboy, narrates the book, which perfectly captures the pain, confusion and frustration of being a teenager. It also explores dysfunctional families and friendship ties.

You can read S.E. Hinton ’s The Outsiders , which she published when she was only 18, by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

25. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Like so many Jane Austen novels, Pride and Prejudice relies on humor and a relatable protagonist to critique social norms of the day, including marriage, the class system and morality. This work of historical fiction tells the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who nearly remain estranged due to their pride and prejudices.

Some famous quotes from the book include, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” and “My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” You can read Jane Austen ’s Pride and Prejudice by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

24. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein is one of the most influential novels ever published. Its gothic and romantic elements combine with the science fiction-style plot for a book that appeals to all types of readers. Scientist Victor Frankenstein’s experiments yield a man made of others’ parts—or is he a monster?

The book is a classic man vs. nature tale, raising questions about morality as well as mortality and what we owe those we leave behind. You can read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by ordering through publisher Dover Publishing .

23. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

A searing depiction of the psychological and societal consequences of racism, Invisible Man follows an unnamed Black protagonist as he navigates the world in both the South and the North, where he suffers from “invisibility”—not a physical condition but one rendered when others willfully fail to see him. The societal observations hold true today.

You can read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

President Bush, left, presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author Harper Lee, the elusive ... [+] author of best-seller "To Kill a Mockingbird," one of the best classic books.

22. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Another book dealing with the entrenched racism in the United States, To Kill a Mockingbird follows attorney Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defends a Black man, Tom Robinson, charged with raping a white woman. The book is told through the eyes of Scout, Atticus’s 8-year-old daughter, offering a child’s perspective on harsh societal realities.

You can read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird by ordering through publisher Hachette Book Group .

21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

J.D. Salinger gave voice to teenage angst and anger in this tome about Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teen recently expelled from boarding school. Holden rails against the phonies while struggling to connect with others despite his loneliness. The book is a classic coming-of-age tale turned on its head, since Holden doesn’t mature.

You can read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye by ordering through publisher Hachette Book Group .

20. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)

The phrase “tilting at windmills” comes from Miguel de Cervantes’ novel about a man who decides to become a knight-errant in order to live out his fantasies—which he has a difficult time separating from reality. It pokes fun at outdated beliefs and embraces the value of all people rather than just the upper class.

You can read Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" was a Broadway play starring James Franco, Chris O'Dowd, Leighton ... [+] Meester and Jim Norton in 2014.

19. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)

Farm workers Lennie and George deal with their tough lot in life by dreaming of purchasing a farm. Lennie’s intellectual disability presents additional challenges. John Steinbeck questions the validity and wiseness of pursuing a dream in a nation that, the author argues, doesn’t value everyone equally.

You can read John Steinbeck ’s Of Mice and Men by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

Joseph Heller’s insightful book about war coined the phrase “catch-22.” It describes the inescapable situation that pilot Yossarian finds himself in when he pretends to have mental issues to get out of flying missions—but his scheming proves his sanity because who would want to fly dangerous missions? The book explores why war is hell.

You can read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 by ordering through publisher Simon & Schuster .

17. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (1967)

Colombian author and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia-Marquez uses magical realism to trace the evolution of the town of Macondo as experienced by generations of the Buendiá family. Garcia-Marquez plays with the constructs of time and the supernatural to probe themes like love and family.

You can read Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude by ordering through publisher HarperCollins .

16. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

A brilliant combination of love story, remembrance of coming of age, and critique of American gender roles and race relations, Zora Neale Hurston’s dialogue is written in dialect, giving the characters believability. Her insights on masculinity and femininity continue to be discussed by scholars almost a century later.

You can read Zora Neale Hurston ’s Their Eyes Were Watching God by ordering through publisher HarperCollins .

Sir Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Reeve during the filming of "The Remains of the Day" in 1992.

15. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

British author Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel listens in on a longtime servant recounting the events of his life with a former colleague, offering a post-war critique of British manners and dignity. The novel, which won the Booker Prize, asks where you should aim your focus, on the past or on the future.

You can read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

14. My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)

During the Great Migration, orphan Jim and immigrant Antonia move west, where they become pioneers on differing life paths. Cather’s novel was one of the first to center the American West and make it a character of itself in a book, which also features the author’s thoughts on women’s rights.

You can read Willa Cather ’s My Antonia by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

13. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

The four precocious March daughters (Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth) use their talents to help their mother while their father is away. They come of age with a purpose and goals. The book plays with the 1800s idea of domesticity and explores different paths to love.

You can read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

12. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945)

A sharp takedown of religion using irony and wit, Brideshead Revisited follows Charles Ryder’s obsession with the family who owns the Brideshead estate. He is especially drawn to classmate Sebastian, who appears to be gay but never confirms it. Their relationship has been the subject of endless literary speculation.

You can read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited by ordering through publisher Hachette Book Group .

11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

When middle school boys become stranded on an island with no supervision, anarchy reigns and paranoia follows. The tale has become a touchstone for the unfortunate tendencies of human behavior, exploring themes of groupthink and the end of innocence.

You can read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

Actress Sofia Boutella and executive producer/director/co-writer Ramin Bahrani discuss the TV ... [+] adaptation of "Fahrenheit 451" in 2018.

10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

With the recent rise of book bans , Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel couldn’t feel more relevant. It predicts a future where books are illegal and any found are burned by fire fighters, including one who grows a conscience and begins fighting censorship. Book burnings in Nazi Germany and the McCarthy hearings in the U.S. inspired the plot.

You can read Ray Bradbury ’s Fahrenheit 451 by ordering through publisher Simon & Schuster .

9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

Sparking not one but two hit movie adaptations , The Color Purple is Alice Walker’s meditation on race and gender dynamics through the eyes of Celie, a poor Black woman navigating a nightmarish upbringing and abusive marriage in the 1900s. It won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.

You can read Alice Walker ’s The Color Purple by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

8. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)

After British sailor Robinson’s years of adventuring, his boat crashes on a remote island, where he learns to survive by his wits and using nature. He battles the elements, cannibals and loneliness. Defoe’s book spawned the realistic fiction genre and was an early bestseller.

You can read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)

The wise spider Charlotte teaches prized pig Wilbur lessons about life and found family in this beloved, insightful children’s book. Charlotte’s Web earned a Newbery Honor and remains one of the most popular kids’ novels for its enduring themes of sacrifice and compassion.

You can read E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web by ordering through publisher HarperCollins .

Actors Richard Dempsey, Sophie Wilcox, Jonathan R. Scott and Sophie Cook in a scene from "The Lion, ... [+] the Witch and the Wardrobe," part of the BBC television serial "The Chronicles of Narnia."

6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

Another classic children’s tale, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a Christian parable wherein mighty lion Aslan must sacrifice himself to end the endless winter brought on by the evil White Witch. It’s the first in a series of books about the Pevensie children and others set in the magical land of Narnia.

You can read C.S. Lewis ’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by ordering through publisher HarperCollins .

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Emily Brontë helped birth the gothic novel with this story of the doomed love between Catherine and Heathcliff, whose tortured life amid the moors culminates in avenging those who kept them apart by acquiring the home of Thrushcross Grange from Catherine’s husband. The novel illustrates the good and evil living inside all of us.

You can read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

4. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871)

Subtitled “A Study of Provincial Life,” this novel follows the lives of characters in the fictional town of Middlemarch over a three-year period that includes a clear-eyed look at real-life British events. George Eliot’s characters address gender roles, political reform, self-interest vs. idealism and more.

You can read George Eliot’s Middlemarch by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)

Set in New York’s high society during the Gilded Age, The Age of Innocence became the first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. It follows May and Newland as they ready to marry, a match thwarted by May’s scandalous cousin Ellen. The novel explores class expectations, reputation and social mores.

You can read Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

One of the greatest fantasy novels ever, The Hobbit is nominally a children’s book but appeals to people of all ages. It is a classic quest novel: Bilbo Baggins sets off on a journey with the wizard Gandalf to help some dwarves get their homes back from a fierce dragon named Smaug.

The critically lauded book earned the Carnegie Medal and has been adapted into hit movies . You can read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by ordering through publisher Simon & Schuster .

"The Bluest Eye" author Toni Morrison attends the Carl Sandburg literary awards dinner at the ... [+] University of Illinois at Chicago Forum on October 20, 2010.

1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970)

Any of Toni Morrison’s novels could easily make the list, but her first, delving into issues of race, socioeconomics and socialization, is unrivaled. The story of Pecola, a Black girl growing up during the Great Depression who’s abused by her father, is both heartbreaking and so believable it hurts.

You can read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye by ordering through publisher Penguin Random House .

Toni Fitzgerald

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The 10 Best Fictional Writers in Movies, Ranked

"Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin."

Writing a good movie character can be a tough task. More often than not, the characters that go down in history as audience favorites have an emotionally resonant arc, a vivid personality that makes them feel truly alive, and a compelling motivation that audiences can relate to. What's particularly fun, however, is when a screenwriter writes a character who's a writer, adding something of a meta angle, even if the film isn't necessarily meta itself.

Plenty of fun and interesting characters from movies are in the magical profession of coming up with rich worlds that feel lived-in and stories that audiences look forward to. From movies that are directly about writing, like The Wife , to ones that are about something else entirely but have a writer involved, like Stalker , these characters' work is often used as a vehicle for themes about the very nature of storytelling itself. These are the best fictional writers in movies , allowing a unique perspective for audiences and giving their stories a bit of an extra kick.

10 Thelonious "Monk" Ellison (Jeffrey Wright)

'american fiction' (2023).

The recent Oscar-winning American Fiction is about a novelist, Thelonious "Monk" Ellison ( Jeffrey Wright ), who's tired of the establishment's habit of profiting from Black entertainment. So, under a pen name, he writes a book that he intends as a mockery of contemporary American society, but which instead propels him into the heart of the hypocrisy he claims to disdain.

At the heart of American Fiction lie two films. One is a poignant family drama, and the other is one of the best satires in recent memory. The character of Monk perfectly transitions from one area to the other . As funny as he is compelling, full of interesting layers and with a complex motivation that evolves throughout the story, he has a magnetic presence that viewers can't get enough of. Wright's Oscar-nominated performance further elevates this curious character, making him one of the best fictional writers.

American Fiction

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9 T.S. Garp (Robin Williams)

'the world according to garp' (1982).

The World According to Garp is one of Robin Williams 's best movies , but it's most certainly also one of his weirdest. It's full of absurdist comedy and the most random gags, from a plane crashing into a house in the suburbs out of nowhere to Robin Williams biting a dog's ear off. It's the story of Garp, a young writer who lives in the shadow of his mother, whose autobiography accidentally made her the leader of a feminist revolution.

Garp is a complicated character with dreams, ambitions, frustrations, and sadness . The casting of Robin Williams in the role was genius; this was only his third film and his first somewhat dramatic role, and he nailed even the deepest nuances of his complex part. Particularly as the story keeps moving along and the film starts growing more and more tragic, Williams slowly transitions from dramedy to pure pathos without sacrificing his signature charm.

Rent on Amazon

8 William Forrester (Sean Connery)

'finding forrester' (2000).

Its story isn't exactly groundbreaking, and its white savior tropes haven't aged all that well, but even then, Finding Forrester is a pretty good and endearing film. It stars Sean Connery in one of his best roles , playing the part of a famous writer named William Forrester. He decides to help Jamal ( Rob Brown ), a 16-year-old student, discover his innate writing talent by mentoring and enrolling him in a prestigious school.

Forrester starts the film as a bit of a conflict-avoiding recluse. When he meets Jamal, however, it's not only him that takes on the role of a teacher. While he shows Jamal how to discover and make the best of his skills, so too does Jamal force him to come out of his shell and have the courage to live life to the fullest. Even when their stories closely stick to the genre's tropes, there's always something irresistibly charming about good movies about inspirational teachers. Connery fully embodies the reclusive writer tropes , playing Forrester as wise, somewhat conceited, and slightly eccentric.

Finding Forrester

Watch on Starz

7 The Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn)

'stalker' (1979).

Although it had a brutal production process , reportedly being indirectly responsible for the death of many crew members and even director Andrei Tarkovsky , Stalker will always be remembered as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. It's the story of a man who leads two men, one professor and one writer, through a mysterious area called the Zone to find a Room that grants visitors' innermost desires.

Common Tarkovsky collaborator Anatoly Solonitsyn plays the Writer, a man who embodies Stalker 's themes of faith, how it's founded on human connections, and what happens when it's lost. Tarkovsky always had a unique way of writing characters, which helped him make some of the best foreign arthouse films of all time . They have a deeply dreamlike way of speaking, and their personalities match his stories' surreal tone. The Writer is no exception, his layered motivations and Solonitsyn's exceptional performance making him one of Tarkovsky's most interesting characters .

6 Paul Sheldon (James Caan)

'misery' (1990).

One of the best adaptations of Stephen King 's terrifying work that the silver screen has ever seen, Misery ditches the author's usual taste for the supernatural in favor of a much more human and much scarier horror thriller. In it, a famous author experiences a car crash and is rescued by a recluse fan of his. He soon realizes that the care he's receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Kathy Bates is transcendental as the horrifying Annie Wilkes, a role for which she deservedly got an Oscar, and the late James Caan is an interesting casting choice for the role of the writer Paul Sheldon. It's always easy to empathize with someone going through horrors like the ones Paul has to endure, but he's far from just a simple victim. There's a rugged texture to his personality, and his flaws make his desperate attempts at escape all the more gripping. As a writer attempting to venture out from his usual brand, Paul is also relatable , especially amidst the ongoing debate of commercialism versus art.

5 Joan Castleman (Glenn Close)

'the wife' (2017).

Led by a jaw-dropping turn by the legendary Glenn Close , The Wife is one of the actress's best movies . It's an understated character drama about a wife (Close) questioning her life choices as she travels to Stockholm to see her husband (a magnificent Jonathan Pryce ) receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. The truth? For decades, she has been ghostwriting all of her husband's work.

The Wife is a tremendously powerful study of the nature of toxic marriages and the destructive power of narcissism meeting selflessness. Director Björn Runge 's subtle approach lends the story a much more potent emotional punch, allowing Close and Pryce to shine. The character of Joan Castleman is brilliantly written, and mixed with Close's ability to make great characters even more nuanced and complex, she becomes one of the most interesting protagonists of any film of the 2010s . The Wife could've gone deeper in its exploration of the true nature of artistry, but Close's depiction of a frustrated writer will ring true to many out there.

4 Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)

'the shining' (1980).

It's not rare to see Stanley Kubrick praised as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and his adaptation of Stephen King's iconic novel of the same title, The Shining , as one of the best horror movies ever made. It's the tale of a family heading to an isolated hotel for the winter, where the husband has agreed to become the temporary caretaker, seeking peace and quiet to write his novel. However, a sinister presence in the hotel starts influencing him into violence.

One of the most stylized horror movies of the '80s , The Shining intelligently and terrifyingly explores one of Kubrick's favorite themes: the nature of violence and the duality of man. This theme is embodied in the character of Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson at the top of his game. The reason why Jack is such a good villain is because, deep down, audiences know that he's a good family man who has been unfortunate enough to be possessed by the spirits of the Overlook Hotel. Jack embodies the inherent frustrations of being a writer , struggling with one's inner conflicts while trying to produce work that matters. His issues manifest as supernatural threats, but his struggle to find inspiration before succumbing to darkness remains relatable.

The Shining

3 jesse wallace (ethan hawke), the 'before' trilogy (1995-2013).

Richard Linklater 's Before Trilogy is probably the best romance film franchise of all time, exploring the concept of relationships and romantic love unlike anything else the genre has ever seen. Before Sunrise —one of the best romantic films of the 90s —depicts the poetic and idealized nature of young love. Before Sunset poignantly explores the feeling of regret and looking back that many people experience in their thirties. Finally, Before Midnight caps things off with one of the most raw and realistic depictions of love cinema has ever seen.

The series charts the romance between Jesse Wallace ( Ethan Hawke ) and Céline ( Julie Delpy ), two people brought together by fate. Each installment's script is phenomenal, giving Jesse a unique and charming way of talking, along with an enchanting yet complicated personality. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family, his outlook on life and relationships is dosed with just a hint of cynicism, a perspective which evolves greatly throughout his relationship with Céline. Jesse is the ultimate bohemian writer, a romanticized take that might be slightly unattainable but is no less compelling .

Before Sunrise

2 jo march (saoirse ronan), 'little women' (2019).

Louisa May Alcott 's seminal novel Little Women has seen a number of adaptations in both movies and TV over the years. The best one, though, is arguably Greta Gerwig 's 2019 revision of the story, about a young woman named Jo March reflecting on her life. She tells the story of the March sisters, four women determined to live life on their terms.

One of Gerwig's best films , Little Women is particularly strong because it's unafraid to explore the story's feminist overtones a lot more openly and deeply, something that the novel wasn't quite able to do due to the time when it was published. Allowing Jo to be fully dedicated to her literary work made her even stronger and more interesting without negating her need for love, thus denying the trope that true artistry requires full sacrifice . Jo is a timeless heroine, and Gerwig found the perfect actress to play her in the incredible Saoirse Ronan .

Little Women

Watch on Hulu

1 Charlie and Donald Kaufman (Nicolas Cage)

'adaptation.' (2002).

Simply put, Charlie Kaufman is one of the most creative and brilliant screenwriters in the Hollywood system. His personal experiences in the industry are perhaps best exemplified in Adaptation. , one of his best scripts and one of director Spike Jonze 's best movies. Kaufman was hired to adapt Susan Orlean 's The Orchid Thief for the big screen, finding the task nothing short of impossible. In his struggle, he instead wrote an exceptionally meta film about him trying to write the adaptation when his fictional twin brother Donald ( the only Oscar nominee who doesn't actually exist ) crashes at his house.

Adaptation. is nothing short of genius, a delightfully earnest and hilariously neurotic meditation on writer's block , inspiration, and how stories reflect reality in all its chaos. Kaufman's self-insertion, flawlessly embodied by a career-best Nicolas Cage , is an incredibly fun character to follow around. His dynamic with Donald, who's just as interesting a character (largely because he's a figment of Charlie's subconscious), is the beating heart of the film. There's no writer like Charlie Kaufman, and there are no two characters like him and his brother.


NEXT: The Best Movies About Writing, from 'Adaptation' to 'The Shining'


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