Blog: Books

7 Essential Fantasy Series

My hope is that if you’re a lifetime fantasy fan like myself you’ll recognize some solid pillars of the genre while discovering a few new and promising titles too.

The Hobbit was the first real novel I read as a kid and ever since I’ve been on a steady reader’s diet of magic and adventure. Which is why a list of essential fantasy series makes perfect sense as my first official reading list.

The series I chose are a combination of well-known and established “fantasy pillars” and exciting new additions to the genre. I avoided children’s books (with the exception of The Hobbit) and I limited myself to epic fantasy as opposed to other sub-genres and off-shoots.


My hope is that if you’re a lifetime fantasy fan like myself you’ll recognize some solid pillars of the genre while discovering a few new and promising titles too. And if you’re new (or relatively new) to reading fantasy you’ll get to experience some of the very best this genre has to offer right out of the gate.

1. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Any list of essential fantasy series would be utterly incomplete without the mention of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; no matter how much their popularity might tempt one to let them go without mention. The fact of the matter is that without these books it is quite possible that fantasy as we know it today would simply not exist.

In 1937 when The Hobbit was published, public interest in fantasy literature had waned dramatically. It was Tolkien’s unique brand of storytelling and insanely detailed fictional mythology – fully realized in The Lord of the Rings and later in The Silmarillion – that re-ignited world-wide interest in fantasy literature and firmly established many treasured fantasy tropes.

If you are a fantasy veteran then you know why these books are so important to the genre, but you also know that independent of their place at the foundation of modern fantasy – they’re just plain awesome. If on the other hand you happen to be one of the lucky few interested in reading this series for the first time, here is what you’re in for.

The Hobbit:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. He lives a comfortable life in a comfortable hole, in a quaint part of Middle-earth known as The Shire. That is until Gandalf – a very old and very mysterious wizard – appears with a company of dwarves who seem to be under the impression that Bilbo is a burglar and expert treasure hunter. In the course of an evening (and a flurry of events that Bilbo can scarcely comprehend) he is swept off on an exciting – and life threatening – adventure full of trolls and spiders, elves and goblins, dwarves and dragons, and many other surprises; not the least of which is his own remarkable capableness in the face of death and danger.

The Lord of the Rings:

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron’s fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

(LOTR Description via Amazon)

Related Reading:

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien

Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Histories of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler

2. The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time (WoT) by Robert Jordan tops a short list of fantasy series that can safely claim to be in the same league as The Lord of the Rings. In fact, with Tolkien’s work more than half a century old many new fantasy readers will find WoT much more engaging and entertaining.

Begun in 1984, the first book of WoT – The Eye of the World – was published in 1990 and for the last 23 years (and fourteen novels!) has dominated the genre and captivated millions of readers all over the world.

A complex story with over 1,000 named characters WoT is impressive in it’s scope and attention to detail. It’s extensively developed world and magical system make immersion in this series all too easy.

Taking place in a time known as the third age the story follows the events leading up to a final confrontation between The Dark One (a god-like being bent on destroying time and enslaving mankind) and The Dragon Reborn (a yet unknown figure of prophesy destined to save the world but destroy it in the process).

It’s full of mystery, intrigue, war, and political maneuvering as the nations of the world attempt to identify, fight, capture, or embrace The Dragon in preparation of The Last Battle.

The Eye of the World (WoT Book 1):

The Eye of the World revolves around the lives of a group of young people from Emond’s Field in The Two Rivers district of Andor. Their lives are forever changed when their small village is attacked by monsters out of myth known as Trollocs and the Myrddraal who lead them. These dark forces seem to specifically target the three men of the group: Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara.

Their lives are saved by good luck and the intervention of an Aes Sedai named Moiraine Damodred and her Warder Al’Lan Mandragoran – agents of a powerful organization of women able to channel the One Power known as The White Tower.

Moiraine and Lan spirit the group away from Emond’s Field in the night, pursued by the enemy, hoping to find safety and answers to the Dark One’s interest in the young men.

Full Series:

0. New Spring by Robert Jordan

1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

3. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

4. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

5. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

6. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

7. A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

8. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

9. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan

10. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

11. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

12. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

13. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

14. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson


3. A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is the third and final of what I’d call this list’s “pillars of fantasy.” This series along with the first two are generally undisputed in terms of their “must read” status. Not to mention being highly influential and widely popular. In fact, many non-fantasy readers may already be familiar with this series as a result of its recent HBO adaptation.

With its first book A Game of Thrones published in 1996, the only common critique I hear about this series is how long it takes for new installments to come out. Four to six years between books is not uncommon with this series. So with two books yet come come you may want to hold off on starting if you can’t stand the long waits. Personally I have found this frustrating but ultimately each book has been worth the wait.

The series takes place in a world where summers can last for years and winters can last a lifetime.

Fourteen years before the events of the first novel, a centuries old dynasty falls to a bloody rebellion. The land of Westeros, once united under the rule of the Targaryen family – former lords and masters of fire-breathing dragons – is now precariously held together by the leader of the rebellion; the new king Robert Baratheon.

While his rule seems to be secure the political undercurrents in Westeros are swirling out of control. Factions are preparing to strike at one another when they most need to be pulling together.

Winter is coming. And an enemy that hasn’t surfaced for over a thousand years is about to return.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire Book 1):

A Game of Thrones centers around the Stark family, northern nobility descended from a long line of kings in the days before Westeros united.

For time out of mind they have governed the north and guarded the kingdom’s great ice wall. But their lives change dramatically and the kingdom is thrown into upheaval when the appointment of Lord Eddard Stark as the “Hand of the King” pulls an honest man into southern politics.

What was once mere political scheming becomes open conflict and all of the noble families of Westeros once again try their hand at the game of thrones.

Full Series:

1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

2. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

3. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

4. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

5. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

6. The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin (Forthcoming)

7. A Dream of Spring by George R.R. Martin (Forthcoming)

4. The Dark Tower

I placed The Dark Tower by Stephen King at number four specifically because I feel his series bridges the gap between what I consider the “pillars of fantasy” above and the crop of “promising newcomers” below.

His seven book series is kind of the odd ball out of this list. Not in terms of quality mind you, but certainly in terms of style.

Stephen King writes fantasy much the same way Quentin Tarantino writes movie scripts. He bends genres with abandon and gives out a handful of overt nods to his favorite writers and influences at every turn. In The Dark Tower King masterfully blends western, sci-fi, and fantasy into a seven novel thrill ride.

At the center of this unpredictable adventure is Roland Deschain, the last living Gunslinger. His mission is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building thought to be the nexus of all universes, before it crumbles and all is lost. Time isn’t working the way it should and whole kingdoms have simply disappeared. Only at the Dark Tower can Roland face the Crimson King and attempt to set things right.

This series is particularly interesting in that it forms a meta story connecting all of Stephen King’s other works. Meaning that once you read The Dark Tower you could pick up any one of the 50+ other novels Stephen King has written and at some point find a reference or connection to this central story of Roland and The Dark Tower.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower Book 1):

Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea.

Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange singlemindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse—left dead.

At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond…the Dark Tower.

(Gunslinger Description via Amazon)

Full Series:

1. The Gunslinger by Stephen King

2. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

3. The Waste Lands by Stephen King

4. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

5. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

6. Song of Susannah by Stephen King

7. The Dark Tower by Stephen King

8. Supplemental: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King


5. Mistborn

Mistborn is the first series by the incredibly talented and extremely prolific Brandon Sanderson.

With the above cast of writers either deceased or getting on in years (may you live long and prosper G.R.R.M. and S.K.) Sanderson is quickly becoming the fantasy genre’s big star.

Sure, there are a lot of other talented and relatively young writers out there right now (two of which are directly below) but Sanderson’s reputation and credibility got a massive boost after Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s widow) selected him to be the writer to complete the last book(s) of WoT after Jordan’s death in 2007. Which he completed to critical and fanboy acclaim.

But even if he hadn’t been the one to finish WoT, his current status as the “it guy” in fantasy right now is well deserved on the merit of his solo work alone. Mistborn being the current crowning jewel in a rapidly expanding portfolio.

The Mistborn story begins 1,000 years after “the hero of prophesy” has failed to save the world and in fact “turned evil.” Given the chance to possess the power of a god or to save the world, the hero chose to take the power for himself. He named himself the Lord Ruler, enslaved mankind and established the Final Empire.

Most of the population (known as Skaa) belong to a slave class seen solely as property, owned and used by the Nobility; descendants of the Lord Ruler’s close friends and supporters from the beginning of his thousand year rein.

The Lord Ruler gave the Nobility the power of Allomancy in the beginning. Special hereditary abilities that allow “Mistings” and the much more powerful “Mistborn” certain telekinetic powers related to different types of metals they “burn” after ingesting.

As a result, cross breeding between Skaa and the Nobility has been strictly forbidden lest these powers make their way into the slave population and dilute the power of the Noble bloodlines. But after several generations of indiscretions and brutal oppression, a new kind of slave rebellion is coming. And it’s lead by a Mistborn.

The Final Empire (Mistborn Book 1):

The Final Empire is a mix between heist thriller and epic fantasy. A thieving crew comprised of geniuses and Skaa Mistings take on an impossible job: overthrowing an everlasting empire, and killing a god.

Lead by the indomitable Kelsier – an incredibly rare Skaa Mistborn who came into his abilities late in life – the crew attempts to con, kill, or otherwise sabotage the Nobility, the Lord Ruler, and his most dangerous minions. Hoping to collapse the Final Empire and liberate the Skaa.

Full Series:

1. The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

2. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

3. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

4. Standalone Novel: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

5. Unknown standalone novels and two other trilogies – one set in present day and one in the distant future – still to come.

6. The Kingkiller Chronicle

The Kingkiller Chronicle is a fantasy trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss (b. 1973), telling the autobiography of Kvothe an adventurer, arcanist, and famous musician. The plot is divided into two different action threads: the present, where Kvothe tells the story of his life to Devan Lochees (known as Chronicler) in the main room of his inn, and Kvothe’s past, the story in question, which comprises the majority of the books. The present-day interludes are in the third person from the perspective of multiple characters, while the story of Kvothe’s life is told entirely in the first person from his own perspective. The series also contains many metafictional stories-within-stories from varying perspectives, most of which are recounted by Kvothe, having been heard from other characters in his past.”

–The Kingkiller Chronicle Wikipedia page

This series is similar to Mistborn in that it came on to the scene somewhat unexpectedly and garnered almost instant popularity. These books have been favorites of mine since I first read them and even though the latest one came out in 2011 I’ve read them both multiple times.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1):

This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen.

From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

(The Name of the Wind Description via Amazon)

Full Series:

1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

3. The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss (Forthcoming, working title subject to change)


7. Demon Cycle

Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett is the newest of these essential fantasy series, and it came to my attention late in December 2012. But the impression it has made on me in the short time between then and now is immense.

Imagine this:

Every night when the sun goes down, demons rise from the core of the earth with one mission. To kill anything that lives above.

Now imagine that this struggle has been going on for centuries and the forces of human-kind have lost their only weapons against the demons. Meaning that every night their numbers dwindle while the demons grow stronger.

This is precisely when this series picks up.

It’s awesome. And you should read it.

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle Book 1):

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity.

For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault.

Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

(The Warded Man Description via Amazon)

Full Series:

1. The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

2. The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

3. The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

4. The Forest Fortress by Peter V. Brett (Forthcoming, working title subject to change)

5. The Core by Peter V. Brett (Forthcoming, working title subject to change)

Which Fantasy Series Did I Miss?

I know that inevitably there will be some readers out there who disagree with my list of essential fantasy series. Which is totally fine! I just ask that you please leave your picks in the comments below so I can read them too!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a truly massive and less wordy list of good fantasy reads, check out this fantastic post on Reddit.

Interested in the Books I’m reading?

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  1. Simon

    I contend that Dresden Files > Demon Cycle.

    Nerd fight!

    • nathanbweller

      Ah, but Dresden Files is not epic fantasy. I’m making another list in the near future titled “Modern Magic” which I feel the Dresden Files falls under much better.

      • Jenn

        Stephen Donaldson should be on this list before SK….for sure!

        • Edward Beowulfson

          1: WHEEL OF TIME!!!!!!!
          2: Robin Hobb-all series
          3: Game of thrones
          4: Magician-Belgariad-Dragonbone chair-Temeraire(this does count)- a few others that I can’t remember at this present time
          5: all of the mediocre ones which I have read

    • Jeff

      I have read most of the books on your list (except for the newest ones, but I’ll have to rectify that) and agree with them wholeheartedly. But I also strongly agree with many of the responses as well. Two of them in particular with Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Definitely epic fantasy stories!

  2. Curtis

    I am suprised not to see R. A. Salvatore on this list. My favorite is the The Dark Elf Trilogy, with Saga of the First King not far behind.

    • Nathan B Weller

      I’ll have to add those to my current reading list! I plan on creating an updated version of this post for 2014 :)

    • Steven M Woodman

      First of all, your list and you readers suggestions are all amazing. I’ve read everything on your list but the 7th you listed, and most of the suggestions.

      I agree with previous commenters that the Dark Elf Trilogy is amazing. Loved The Riftwar Saga (and the opposing side story told by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts), as well as anything by Brent Week and, Robin Hobb, and, of course, Brandon Sanderson.

      While a relatively difficult read due to it’s complexity, Malazan Book of the Fallen series is near the top of my lists. Fantastic series.

      Disappointing, however, is that I checked this blog out to find my next series and found I’ve read most everything listed or even suggested in comments. One commenter mentioned The First Law series and that had previously crossed my radar so maybe that one is next.

  3. Ty

    Great list! However I think a little update could go well ;)

  4. Sam

    What about David Eddings’ Belgariad and Elenium series? They were the bridge from J.R.R. Tolkien to Robert Jordan for me!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Thanks for reading Sam! I really need to update this post :)

    • Dave

      Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb should be on any list of best fantasy series! But great list nonetheless.

      • Edward Beowulfson


    • Jeff

      Can’t believe I forgot about the Belgariad. Definitely needs to be on the list!

  5. John

    Reg Queen’s war and Broken Empire.. uh.may.zing.

  6. Mary

    Stephen Donalson’s- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was the cross over for me from Tolkien to Fantasy. But I loved the Dresden series, and the Wheel of Time was an absolute fave. I like that comedy drama fantasy. It’s nice to have a few jokes in there bring a little levity to life. Lynn Flewelling-Night Runner series is great. Luck in the Shadows well done. Also liked Robin Hobb, Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man trilogy. Odd Thomas is great, but I guess also gets filed with Dresden. Sword Dancer series by Jennifer Roberson was fun too if you like He-man and Red Sonya, .

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll give your numbers 4. a try, them maybe 6 or 7. Read the rest. Looking for the stories on the lighter side, like Piers Anthony and all his puns. -Mary

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Wow, thanks for all the great recommendations Mary! I’ll definitely check those out :)

    • Carmen

      You mentioned you liked a little comedy and i agree 100% so I am going to take your list into consideration. I have read many of these books but I will look for more. I know this list was made way before now, 2024, so be sure to read/add Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Series to the new list. I have read/listened to it many times when I need comfort, humor, tears and background noise while working.

  7. William

    You should consider this self published author.
    Ben Galley..
    The emaneska series is just astonishing..
    I say this having read more than half of whats suggested above

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll definitely check him out.

    • Gen

      Kushiel’s Legacy is a series of fantasy novels by Jacqueline Carey, comprising the Phèdre Trilogy and the Imriel Trilogy (called the “Treason’s Heir” trilogy in the United Kingdom). Since the series features a fictional version of medieval Western Europe, it can be considered historical fantasy or alternate history

  8. Joshua R Kendrick

    Terry Goodkind- The Sword of Truth series

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I saw the short lived TV series based on that but haven’t got to read the books yet. Fun story!

    • ryan

      Don’t sleep on this series!

    • Peja Polo

      I was about to say the same. This is my favorite series by far and can’t believe it’s not on many lists. The show is shite compared to the books.

      • Sarah

        I was surprised it wasn’t on the list until I saw he hadn’t read it yet. One of the best fantasy series of all time imo- get it in your life!

  9. CArolina

    The Malazan Book of the Fallen!!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I’m reading through these now! Definitely going to make it into the next update of this post.

      • Subs

        Malayan book of the fallen HAS to be there! It rated much higher than many of the books in this list..

  10. Michael

    You don’t think the Narnia series merits mention here?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Narnia didn’t make the cut simply because I tried to avoid adding children’s books. The only exception is The Hobbit for the reasons I stated in the post.

  11. Jorge

    I would suggest adding Brent Weeks to your reading list since both the Lightbringer and the Night Angel series show him to be an amazing writer. Also Kel Kade’s King’s Dark Tidings is another amazing series that I have enjoyed reading

  12. Brad M

    I really enjoyed Brent Weeks, The Black Prism series. Similar to Brandon Sanderson in style.

  13. Craig Pett

    The Riftwar saga, the Empire Trilogy-both by Raymond E Fiest

    The Cycle of Fire trilogy- by Janny Wurts

    The Farseer Trilogy, the Tawney man trilogy, the liveship traders, dragon keepers, The Fools trilogy- all by Robin Hobb.

    Confused how your list has none of them on it? Not even the Belgariad is on here?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve read some of The Farseer Trilogy but the others are new to me. I’ll check them out and consider them for an update to this post.

      • Park Street

        I second the Riftwar Saga and entire series of books written by Feist. Other than the Lord of the Rings, they are my favorite fantasy series and I have read perhaps 80% of those mentioned here.

      • Kerry

        Have you guys heard of the bladeborn series? Book 1 song if the first blade. There are 4 books in the series. Must read.

  14. Mike M

    The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch is fantastic and I highly recommend.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I love these books! And on audible the narrator is an excellent fit for the story too :)

  15. David

    Blood Song trilogy by Anthony Ryan – thoroughly enjoyable.

  16. Jennie

    “The Magicians”, “The Magician King”, and “The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman; compelling series which I have read several times. If you like audio books, they are read by Mark Bramhall who is the best audio reader I’ve ever listened to. Made me want to stay in my car even after the trip was done.

    And if anyone here can urge Patrick Rothfuss to finish that 3rd book, please do!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I absolutely love those books and you are 100% correct, Mark Bramhall is a gem. I’ve included The Magicians Trilogy on my Urban Fantasy list but I could easily add it here too. Thanks for the recommendation!

  17. Aakash

    I think you should include Harry potter and percy jackson series.

    • Nathan B. Weller

      You know, those are super popular books/series I seem to have left off all my fantasy lists. You’re right, I should fix that.

      • David

        No, you shouldn’t. The Harry Potter series is 1. Kids books and 2. Not good. As a fantasy series, it isn’t epic, but modern. Its magic system is “make s-t up as the plot demands.” The story telling is…ok. I couldn’t get through the first book as I was groaning at the absurdities. At least Riordan has a better developed world and magic system, though it still isn’t epic fantasy and is targeted to YA.

        • James

          I respectfully disagree. HP is perhaps the best series in the fantasy genre, though the flaws you point out I think are real.

          Tolstoy hated Shakespeare so much that he actually wrote a critique lambasting his writing; the theory being that Shakespeare was only popular due to some undeserved praise from some German critics. The language is too flowery. The characters are all hyperboles. It’s all perhaps true.

          Orwell pointed out one flaw in Tolstoy’s criticism: people really like Shakespeare.

          It’s hard to argue with popularity. JK Rowling sold a billion books! People between ages 4 and 70 devour the story. To compare, My favourite Robert Jordan sold about 65 million books or so.

          HP taps into some primal archetypes. It is great.

  18. Brian

    Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is shaping up to be the king of all series.

    • Bryan

      Man the Stormlight Archive is some outstanding reading. While good this series so far blows Mistborn away. I’ve read Mazalan, Wot, Got, Lightbringer, Name of the Wind, and quite a few others mentioned here, but I think Stormlight may end up taking the top spot someday. Man is that series spectacular this far. If you haven’t started that series and you’re reading this now, and the book stores still open… Leave now and get the first book!

  19. Zachary Campbell

    His Dark Materials should have got a mention it’s my favourite

    • James


  20. Timothy

    I recommend the Dragonlance Chronicles written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Those were my first fantasy novels and I would recommend them before the oblique Gunslinger series, although I am piqued by that recommendation.

    • Bukama

      I agree with Dai Shan

    • HH

      100% The Witcher should be on the list. I have read 6 of the 7 in the list and love the series potentially more than any of the others.

      Additional mentions to Malazan books (epic)and Stormlight

  21. Roy Mcleod

    Donaldson’s Covenant series is one of the most intense fantasy series of all time. (His ‘Mordant’s Need’ books are truly excellent as is his Gap Series (thought latter is Sci-Fi so couldn’t fit the above list)). I enjoyed the Raymond Feist Series as well…the Magician trilogy…which I believe is to be made into a tv series in the near future.

    • Hollie

      Where are all the female writers?

      Jacqueline Carey’s
      Kushiel’s Legacy is really worth the read. i devoured those books.

      Diana Gabeldon’s
      Outlander Series, so good…

      My all time favorite is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time though. Epic….

  22. DM Cain

    What about Terry Brooks Shannara series?

  23. thea howard

    i really appreciate your list. i have just started the wot by robert jordonand it is very satisfying to a fantasy heart and mind. i assume that you didn’t include philip pullman’s dark materials trilogy on your list because it is considered a children’s fantasy. however, i consider it one of the most imaginative and engaging that i have ever read. with best regards.

      • Thea Howard

        oh yes, i meant to also highly recommend ursula k le guin’s, ‘wizard of earthsea’ series. did you not include it also because it is considered ‘children’s lit’? so many so-called children’s fantasy and sci fi are enjoyed equally by adults — for instance, just about anything by orson scott card, madeleine l’engle, etc, etc. so many awesome stories, so little time

  24. Ari

    Melanie Rawn – Sunrunners fire (two trilogies). Imho best character creation and political drama of all fantasy. Thoughts?

  25. Scott Anderson

    Try the Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron if someone hasn’t already mentioned it. My favorite read since Warded Man or Name of the Wind.

  26. Melissa P.

    Patrick “purple prose” Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle is NOT a trilogy. He promised readers way back in 2007 that his trilogy was already written and used as much to get his book published, however it’s the closing end of 2018 and he has yet to release the third book in his trilogy because, and if you’re read his first two novels barring that steaming pile of plotless crap titled the Slow Regard novella, you know he has written himself into a corner he doesn’t know how to write himself out of and so spends all of his time selling comic books and cards and calendars and going to conventions where everyone kisses his fat lazy butt and pretty much doing everything BUT finishing his trilogy. A trilogy is NOT a trilogy when it contains only two novels. If you have yet to read Patrick’s books then do yourself a favor and find another author who actually appreciates their readers. Patrick has become well known for yelling at his fans and showing them no respect and literally cussing at them simply because they ask when his trilogy he promised was already finished in 2007 will finally be finished. He is a lazy writer and undeserved of his many praises, and basically an all-around jerk of a human being.

  27. Ram

    Why doesn’t Harry Potter feature in this list?

    • Nathan B. Weller

      I wanted this post to focus on fantasy series geared towards adults or at least young adults as opposed to children’s books. That said, Harry Potter seems to break all boundaries and it’s one of my all time favorites.

  28. Cotillion

    Hi, i read all the replys of suggestions of epic Fantasy i ahve read them all.
    1 series no one mentions and i am actualy suprised… and it is one of the most fantastic epic fantasy i ever read.. it´s so huge and the author litterly reinventes fantasy, magic and world building… i have read the all above mentioned series.. but non is as advanced and huge as this one…. “Malazan Book of the Fallen series” by Steven Erikson the series has 11 main books, and Steven Eriksons friend Ian C. Esslemont writes the sides stories that fil in the parts that are not of the main story, but has had huge effect on why things are as they are.. he has writen 6 book…

    • Thea Howard

      thank you so much, Cotillion for recommending this series. i will certainly look it up.

  29. Michael G.

    Patrick “purple prose” Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle is NOT a trilogy. A trilogy has THREE books, Patrick’s “trilogy” only has two and is unfinished with now 8 years between his second and his unpublished third. If you haven’t made the mistake of reading Pat’s books yet then do yourself a favor and don’t He treats his fans like crap (literally telling them to “fuck off” at events he’s paid to speak at whenever anyone politely asks when his third novel will be finished), constantly complains about writing on his blog as if someone is holding a gun to his head and forcing him to write, and his charity Worldbuilders is a secondhand scam charity meaning they take your money then take their 10-20% cut AND THEN give what’s left to the actual charity. That’s the same as me owning you $20 but I hand it to someone else who takes $2 then hands you $18 and I act all pleased with myself. Patrick Rothfuss is a lazy scumbag 0_O

  30. Jared

    Hi! Great list. I am always looking for something new to read, and this gave me a few ideas. I know it’s been a few years since you’ve written this, so I imagine you’ve read quite a bit more since then. If you do ever check this, I would like to know if you did end up reading the Malazan series that everyone has been talking about. If so, what are your thoughts?

    Also, if you haven’t read it before, Tad William’s “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” is a great “series”. I put that in quotation because he wrote all three books as one, long book and had them split. If you read the paperback edition, the final book is actually split in two parts as well because it was too long to fit in paperback format.


  31. Keith

    The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Fiest is one of my all time favorites. I would put him at number four on your list as the top three are locked in. Fiest started in the early 80’s and is still writing best sellers though they are not as good as the Riftwar Saga.

  32. Taylor

    The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is great. All of his novels are top notch. The Heroes may be my favorite fantasy book of all time. He is the best.

  33. Tammy

    I agree about the Riftwar saga—it was exceptional. Fiest’s newest book— King of Ashes is very good.
    I’d also include Michael Sullivan’s Riyria Chronicles, Revelations and First Empire Books.

  34. Wendy

    Great list. I’ve and read loved all of them but one you mentioned. I’d add Melissa McPhail’s A Pattern of Shadow & Light series.

  35. Gregory Cotterell

    Raymond First riftwar saga amazing.

    David and Leigh Eddings favourite from long ago.

    I forgot about Piers Anthony but good stories.

    David Geddings Drenai series as well as his other series are very well written

  36. David McDonald

    Very male oriented list. No love for McCaffey’s Pern series or LeGuin’s Earthsea? How about Octavia Butler or even the original D&D series by Weiss and Hickman?

    • Basya

      Pern is not really fantasy. It is an interesting branch of science fiction which sometimes ‘feels’ like fantasy. If you want the list less male-oriented, I mentioned Katherine Kurtz and her Deryni series in a separate comment….

    • Emma

      Or Patricia McKillip -Riddlemaster of Hed. Andre Norton Witchworld. Marion Zimmer Bradley…

    • Henning sand Sonne

      Almost completely agreeing with your list.. the first thing that came to mind, i would suggest:
      Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian staveley

      Else i would have the death gate cycle on the list. But think the other one will fit better with you.

  37. SR

    Some of the ones i was thinking of were already mentioned, but the Riftwar Saga and its supporting books stands out. 1st rate high fantasy there.

    Others that i consider must reads are the Dragonlance novels(9+) and the Dark Elf series by RA Salvatore, which has grown to be epic in scope.. Salvatore also made the Cleric Quintet, which is excellent as well as it has character types you rarely see.

    And lastly, The Elric of Melnibone series is a fantastic read as the anti-hero style:)

  38. SR

    Mmm….I forgot the Xanth series from Piers Anthony and the Incarnations of Immortality series. Piers was mentioned above. Also both very good.

  39. Steven Welsh

    I appreciate the article and the recommendations- including all the ones in the comments.
    I just finished the “Wheel of Time” – whew! Exhausting and wonderful! Sanderson really wrapped up Jordan’s work with style. This series carried me through chemotherapy and cancer treatments, and I am very thankful for the massive story that Jordan created. Now, I need something else – so I looked up recommendations and found this article.
    In the spirit of sharing – I would like to recommend “The Saga of Recluse” by L.E. Modesitt Jr. I found this a few years ago in a half-price book store and enjoyed it very much. The fantasy elements are different from other fantasy stories and very intelligently developed.
    Thanks again for all the recommendations.
    Happy reading all – God Bless

  40. Edward Beowulfson

    Everyone should at least try to read Temeraire by Naomi Novik
    Otherwise, to all those fantasy addicts, Wheel of Time

  41. Anna

    I like Game of Thrones, Diplomat of Uram, Mistborn, and Lord of the Rings. Those are the best fantasy books in my opinion. Great list.

  42. Andy

    I really don’t get why people love Wheel of Time. Aside from its sheer length, what is impressive about this series? It was incredibly boring. Few plot twists, not enough character dialogue and the fight/action scenes were short and forgettable. I’ll never understand why people like it.

    Ok rant over. Malazan series is superb. Gentlemen Bastards. Anything Joe Abercrombie has ever written (particularly First Law series). Don’t sleep on James Islington’s Licanius trilogy – its what its a far superior version of Wheel of Time.

    • Dave

      Couldn’t agree with you more. Abercrombie is outstanding.

  43. Basya

    Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni series (Starting with “Deryni Rising”). I don’t know what you mean by ‘epic’ fantasy; this series is fantasy of a different type entirely than Tolkein and similar…

  44. Enzi

    Eragon series should be there

  45. Lazuliann

    One story that I count among the best epic fantasies ever, is the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy by Tad Williams. The first book starts a little slow, but sticking with it till the hero sets out on his own is when the story really picks up and becomes an amazing adventure, with truly memorable characters, set in a huge world. If you haven’t read this yet, you definitely should set aside some time for this series. The books are huge, which is a plus imo.

    • Eva

      I’m absolutely stunned I had to sroll all this way down to finally find someone mentioning this epic tale Tad Williams wrote there. It’s awesome.

  46. Stu

    I’ll second two that have been mentioned that I think you’d really enjoy.

    James Islington’s Licanius trilogy, and Tad Williams’s Epic work that “begins” with the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy.

    Both are amazing and Epic in scale, world building and character development!

    Cheers ;)

  47. Laura Hosford Yunker

    Stormlight is missing from the list :)

  48. Shreya

    What about Dune and Asimov’s Foundation Series

  49. Derrick

    Can you help me remember this series I started reading but never finished? Some girl is at a school type place. They go to some ceremony and the grand leader is assassinated during the ceremony.

    Also, the people in this world collect the fluids of the god species that live among them. They collect the black/white/yellow fluids of them because it gives them powers.

  50. Thomas

    I cringe whenever I see Patrick Rothfuss’s name on a “best fantasy series” list. Have fun waiting for the last book.

  51. Mike Robinson

    The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Greatest fantasy series ever written should be on your list!

  52. dslkffj

    Tad Williams has a few zingers. If you consider Otherland fantasy (and not science fiction), then you should definitely include Otherland. If not, he’s got the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn as well as the Shadowmarch tetraologies. And there’s a new follow-up series to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn called The Last King of Osten Ard that I’m enjoying immensely.

    Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is also pretty great. He’s probably the best fantasy writer going now.


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