The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is a highly acclaimed and popular novel that has won numerous awards and received critical acclaim for its world-building, characterization, and storytelling. With intricate magic systems, complex characters, and a gripping plot, “The Final Empire” has been praised for its originality, depth, and emotional resonance.
While the Cosmere provides more options for high fantasy stories, here are 20 recommendations that span multiple civilizations, time periods, and mythologies to diversify your bookshelf.
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
A magic system based on geology should be enough to convince any fantasy fan of The Fifth Season’s allure. Essun is an orogene: a race of oppressed individuals that can alter the earth’s crust and mantle. Damaya is a young, impoverished orogene handed over to the Fulcrum for serving the system. Syenite is an ambitious Fulcrum-trained orogene seeking to become more beneficial to the system to avail of better societal privileges.
Layered with existentialist motifs, Jemisin has penned black lead characters like never seen before. The Fifth Season is the first book of The Broken Earth series and is an exceptional science fantasy novel for your reading list.
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
Inspired by the second Sino-Japanese War and Opium Wars, Kuang pens a dark, violent speculative fantasy fiction that cannot be recommended enough. Kuang draws from Chinese mythology and eastern spirituality for its magic system. The plot follows Fang Runin, a peasant girl accepted into the Sinegard Academy. As war visits her hometown, Fang witnesses the brutalities of human nature in real time.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A convict, a sharpshooter, a runaway, a spy, a heartrender, and a thief make up the dangerous heist crew of this book. The most outstanding aspect of this fantasy world is undoubtedly the morally gray characters, their relationships, and the many mind games throughout the plot.
Bardugo’s Grisha is a class of individuals that can leverage a drug known as jurda parem to control minds, walk through walls and transform lead into gold. It is in the inherent character of this magic system that most of human nature and our passion for justice are explored. Six of Crows is a fast-paced, addictive read with an unexpected ending that will make your jaw drop.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
In a world where women rulers are the norm, Shannon creates a world filled with folklore and mythology spanning Europe, Japan, and China. Set in the 16th and 17th centuries, Tane – the dragon rider; Ead – the mage; Niclays – the alchemist; and Loth – the heir apparent, are spectacular main characters leading the heavily packed plot.
Unlike popular high fantasy books, Shannon’s work does not frame women and LGBTQ characters in supporting roles. It flips heteronormative gender roles around and gives audiences a fascinating new world. The Priory of the Orange Tree’s mythology and the magic system will surely be remembered as a classic for years.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Following the lives of Laia, an enslaved person, and Elias, a soldier, An Ember in the Ashes is set in a brutal world that should come with multiple trigger warnings for abuse and violence. Tahir’s imagination of magic in military combat is excellent in implementation.
Furthermore, the journey of character development and their search for identity layered into an action-packed, fast-moving pace makes a reader heavily invested in the plot. An Ember in the Ashes is for readers that enjoy epic tales of rebellion in sophisticated fantasy settings.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Dreams chose you in this strange world, and Lazlo Strange feels his dream chose poorly. Teaming up with the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, Strange enters the mythic, lost city of Weep. Taylor masterfully provides readers with one plot twist after the other making the entire book a very addictive read.
While the magic system may not appeal to everyone, the world is filled with ghosts, angels, demons, gods, and goddesses. Strange the Dreamer is a must-read for those who enjoy systems of magic as seen in action-packed franchises such as X-men or the Umbrella Academy.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
A tale of sorcerers and grimoires, Sorcery of Thorns is a whimsical take on high fantasy but with equal parts of intrigue and action. In Rogerson’s world – Austermeer – books are alive and can be wielded for good or evil. When an apprentice, Elisabeth, finds herself framed for the release of a dangerous grimoire from the library, she unwillingly teams up with Nathaniel Thorn and his demonic servant.
Shelved alongside YA fantasy, the book’s magic system is simple and filled with room for banter and creativity. Sorcery of Thorns gives readers a getaway from darker themes of high fantasy and instead provides a world worth escaping into.
The Eye of The World by Robert Jordan
Jordan’s 14-volume high fantasy series, Wheel of Time, is a classic for a good reason. The world, magic system, and mythical creatures are as meticulously thought-out as those seen in the Lord of the Rings series. Jordan’s book follows Rand al’Thor’s quest for the prophesized one who will stand against The Dark One.
While the book is filled with the expected tropes from the 90s, such as a peasant boy being the chosen one, it still offers a thorough understanding of an entirely distinct world and an interesting take on gods, rebirth, and other spiritual concepts (find more great books from the 90’s, read here). The Eye of the World is a must-read for those interested in classics.
The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of the Wind is a coming-of-age story of a notorious wizard, Kvothe. Starting with a troupe of traveling players, surviving the crime-ridden streets as an orphan, and finally entering the legendary school of magic, Kvothe’s story is packed with action and adrenaline.
The world of Temerant is intricately crafted, and the characters are incredibly memorable. Focusing on how one becomes a legend and then passes into myth, The Name of the Wind will transport any reader to a diverse, magical-filled realm.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
In the Old Kingdom, the dead keep rising, and young Sabriel is just beginning to learn the ropes of Free Magic. Sabriel’s magic system is outstanding, and Nix’s knack for blurring the lines between the dead and the living makes this book a page-turner.
The book is filled with horror elements, and Sabriel is an enigmatic and strong female lead character who gains some of the deadliest skills in fantasy history. Sabriel is unlike any brand of high fantasy and will appeal to readers who enjoy concepts such as necromancy.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mess
The plot follows Celaena Sardothien, a young assassin offered a chance at freedom by the Crown Prince of Adarlan. In exchange for her release, she must compete in a deadly tournament to become the King’s Champion and serve him for four years.
However, as the competition progresses, Celaena discovers dark forces at work and must use all her skills to survive and uncover the truth. With action, romance, and political intrigue, “Throne of Glass” is a thrilling start to an epic fantasy series. Throne of Glass is the first book in an adventure-packed series sure to keep you reading for the unexpected plot twists in almost every chapter.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
The first book in the epic fantasy series -The Farseer Trilogy – Assassin’s Apprentice follows Fitz, the illegitimate son of the royal heir to the Farseer throne. As a young boy, Fitz is trained as an assassin to serve the royal family. However, as he grows older, Fitz becomes embroiled in a web of political complexities and must navigate the dangerous world of court politics to protect the kingdom he loves.
Written in first person POV, Hobb’s old-school fantasy is written with a contemporary flair. With vivid characters and a richly imagined world, Assassin’s Apprentice is a must-read for fans of epic stories with heavy political elements.
Eon by Alison Goodman
A YA fantasy novel, Eon Rise of the Dragon, is set in a world inspired by ancient China. Eon is a sixteen-year-old candidate for Dragoneye: a revered position that enables the wielder to control one of the twelve energy dragons. However, Eon has a secret: he is a girl disguised as a boy, forbidden from practicing dragon magic.
As she struggles to hide her identity, Eon becomes embroiled in a dangerous political conspiracy that threatens to tear the kingdom apart. With vibrant world-building and complex characters, Eon is a thrilling adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Serpent & The Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent
Broadbent pens a dark fantasy novel that follows the story of Laila, a young woman with the power to control snakes. After witnessing her father’s murder at the hands of a powerful sorcerer, Laila sets out on a quest for revenge, teaming up with a group of rebels to overthrow the tyrannical ruler of her kingdom.
But as she delves deeper into magic and politics, Laila discovers that the lines between good and evil are not as clear-cut as she once thought. With an unpredictable plot, intricate world-building based on Chinese and Japanese myths, and complex characters, The Serpent & The Wings of Night is a must-read for fans of dark fantasy.
The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen
This gripping fantasy novel is set in a world that has regressed to a medieval-esque state after a mysterious event known as the Crossing occurs. The story follows Kelsea Glynn – princess of the Tearling kingdom – as she seeks to unite her people and reclaim her throne from the corrupt Red Queen of neighboring Mortmesne.
But as Kelsea navigates the treacherous political landscape of her kingdom, she begins to realize that her true enemies may be much closer to home. Layered with historical legacies and a thought-provoking storyline, The Queen of the Tearling is an intense and addictive read.
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
The Demon King is a young adult fantasy novel about Han Alister, a former street lord and petty thief, and Princess Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. As Han becomes embroiled in a dangerous plot involving powerful magical artifacts, Raisa seeks to escape an arranged marriage and find her path.
The Demon King starts slowly but never ceases to be a rollercoaster after the first 200 pages. For those interested in fantasy politics, forbidden romances, and epic battles, The Demon King is a thrilling start to a series that explores themes of power, identity, and destiny.
The Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
The first book of the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, Roanhorse pens a sweeping epic fantasy tale that takes place in a world inspired by Pre-Columbian Americas. The story follows several characters, including Serapio, a Crow God seeking revenge against those who destroyed his people, and Naranpa, a Sun Priestess with a secret agenda.
As the two characters’ paths converge, they become embroiled in a dangerous plot threatening to unleash an ancient evil upon the world. The Black Sun has a riveting storyline and has been critically acclaimed since its publication in 2020. It also deserves a spot on your bookshelf, considering its gorgeous cover.
The Song of The Marked by S. M. Gaither
This gripping fantasy novel follows the story of Lyric Mason, a young woman with the power to control the elements. When her powers are discovered by a group of powerful and dangerous individuals known as the Marked, Lyric is forced to flee for her life.
Along the way, she teams up with a band of rebels and discovers secrets about her past that will change the course of her destiny. The Song of The Marked is for readers interested in exploring themes such as power, responsibility, identity, belonging, oppression, rebellion, love, and sacrifice.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This popular book is the story of a young farm boy named Eragon who discovers a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. As the dragon hatches and grows, Eragon becomes embroiled in a dangerous plot involving an evil king, a powerful sorcerer, and a rebellion seeking to overthrow the tyrant.
The book contains epic battles, magical powers, and elaborate world-building. Destiny, loyalty, and power are central themes, and those who love stories about dragons will find Eragon exhilarating.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling is a renowned YA fantasy novel set in a world where some individuals are born with “Graces,” special powers that set them apart from others. The story follows Katsa, a young woman with the Grace of killing, who is used as a weapon by her cruel uncle.
When she meets a young man named Po, who challenges her assumptions about her Grace and her role in the world, Katsa begins to question everything she thought she knew. With themes of identity, power, and personal agency, Graceling is a thought-provoking and engaging read.
The Mistborn series is a truly remarkable achievement in high fantasy. This list has attempted to provide recommendations from all time periods and with stories ranging from western to eastern myths and philosophies. We hope you enjoy your fantasy journey!
Is the Final Empire worth reading?
The Final Empire is a highly recommended epic fantasy novel that has won multiple accolades. It is the first book in the Mistborn series, a highly acclaimed high fantasy series with a unique magic system, complex world-building, and well-developed characters.
Is the Mistborn series good?
The Mistborn series is widely regarded as one of the best high fantasy series of recent years, and for a good reason. The series features a richly detailed world with a rare and intricate magic system, well-developed characters, interesting plotlines, and a satisfying conclusion.
Why is Mistborn so popular?
Mistborn’s greatest appeal lies in its unique magic system, Allomancy, which involves ingesting and “burning” metals to gain enhanced physical and mental abilities. Furthermore, Mistborn has very engaging characters that make up the heist crew and, eventually, the most significant rebellion in the series.
Is there romance in the Final Empire?
There is a romantic subplot in The Final Empire that is seen in the relationship between two of the main characters, Vin and Elend Venture. Their relationship develops slowly throughout the novel and is complicated because they come from very different social classes and have conflicting loyalties.
Are Mistborn and Stormlight in the same universe?
Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive are part of the same universe, the Cosmere. The Cosmere is a shared universe in which many of Brandon Sanderson’s works are set. Although each series has distinct stories and characters, they are connected by a shared mythology and magic system.
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