“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” This is the famous opening paragraph of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. With these words, he began his unexpected journey that would transform the genre of epic fantasy and how it was written forever.
Tolkien was a master of world-building. You will struggle to find any lore or fantasy world in film or writing that is more fleshed out than Middle-Earth. Much of this can be attributed to Tolkien’s abilities as a linguist, which enabled him to create living languages that imbued each race and region with its own uniqueness. When you add the incredibly relatable and deep characters, and you have something special.
The Hobbit tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins. A hobbit of the Shire, Bilbo was a Baggins. He never had any adventures or did anything unexpected. That was until the mysterious and charismatic wizard Gandalf the Grey decided he needed a little nudge out the door. From there, one of the greatest adventures to ever be told begins to unfold. From giants in the mountains to riddles in the dark to a dragon with an uncountable horde of gold, The Hobbit takes you on a ride and never lets you go.
The Hobbit’s success has had an immeasurable impact on the fantasy genre and storytelling as a whole. You will struggle to find a fantasy writer who Tolkien’s work hasn’t influenced. Just as you will struggle to find a reader who hasn’t absolutely become enraptured by Middle-Earth. So, if you’re ready for another adventure of your own, here are 30 Novels and Epic Fantasy Series that you’ll love to get lost in. Happy reading.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
2004 | HarperCollins
The Last Kingdom is the first novel in the extensive historical fiction series The Saxon Stories by
Bernard Cornwell. It tells the origin story of the series’s hero Uthred of Bebbanburg, and how he transformed from a young boy of Northumbria into a warrior respected and feared by both Saxons and Danes.
The Saxon Stories contains 12 more novels. Each contains gruesome battles, heartbreaking moments, and a cast of characters you’ll delight in and revile. The BBC and Netflix eventually adapted the series into a television show also titled The Last Kingdom. While not a completely faithful adaptation, it is still a wonderful companion to a deep, compelling novel series. If you like historical fiction with a smattering of Vikings, betrayals, love, and more, then The Last Kingdom is worth a read.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
2006 | Gollancz
Joe Abercrombie has been nominated for numerous Locus awards. Many of these have been for his novels that make up and exist within the world of his The First Law series. This series began with his 2006 debut novel, The Blade Itself.
The Blade Itself begins the series by introducing many of the complex cast of characters that will drive the narrative of the trilogy. From Logen Ninefingers, the infamous Northman with a troubled past, to the sadistic torturer Sand dan Glokta, each character has their own unique backstory and motivations that make them compelling to follow.
With different characters’ points of view assumed throughout the novel and a gritty and realistic depiction of violence that sets The Blade Itself apart from its contemporaries, Abercrombie has crafted a captivating epic fantasy adventure that will have you waiting for what happens next.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
1990 | Tor Books
Robert Jordan is one of the few authors who have managed to take up the mantle of Tolkien and create a vast fantasy world full of compelling and complex characters and deep world-building. All of which began with his 1990 classic The Eye of the World.
The novel serves as the starting point for the critically acclaimed The Wheel of Time series, which has recently been adapted into a TV series on Amazon. The Eye of the World takes place in a detailed, immersive, yet unnamed world that draws on many different cultures and mythologies. From the mysterious Aes Sedai to the dangerous Trollocs, there’s a wealth of lore to explore.
The story is a classic hero’s journey, told from the perspectives of several different characters. The main protagonist, Rand al’Thor, is a young man who becomes caught up in a larger conflict and must work with his friends to save the world from darkness. The story is well-paced and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Overall, The Eye of the World and the greater story that comprises The Wheel of Time is a great choice for fans of epic fantasy adventures. The story has stood the test of time and remains a beloved classic to this day.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
2010 | Tor Books
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is an epic high fantasy novel that provides an immersive reading experience for fans of the genre for various reasons.
Firstly, Sanderson is known for his intricate world-building. So much so that he has actually developed what has become known as “Sanderson’s Laws of Magic.” These laws are creative guidelines that can be used by any author when they are developing a magic system to be used within their story.
Getting back to the novel, The Way of Kings is an introduction to Sanderson’s impressive abilities to craft worlds. The story takes place on the planet of Roshar and rotates between the viewpoints of a diverse cast of characters. Each has their own personalized storyline and perspective, and their journeys intertwine in unexpected ways. Sanderson’s characterization of each is nuanced and complex, allowing readers to invest in the characters and their struggles fully.
The Way of Kings kicks off Sanderson’s four-part The Stormlight Archive series. You’ll quickly find yourself invested in the story, so don’t be surprised when you order the next three novels in the saga. But for now, The Way of Kings is yet another epic fantasy novel that delivers a rich reading experience for your fantasy-filled mind.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
1954 | Allen & Unwin
Okay, so this may seem like a bit of an obvious one to start off with, but it had to be included. Published 17 years after The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy comprised of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.
Through these three novels, Tolkien takes what he started in The Hobbit and dials it up to 100. Whereas The Hobbit focuses solely on Bilbo and his party, The Lord of the Rings follows an ensemble group of heroes as they fight against the dark lord Sauron and attempt to prevent him from covering Middle-Earth in total darkness. Each character is unique and memorable. The story is filled with epic battles, vivid world-building, and masterful storytelling.
The Hobbit laid the groundwork for what was to come. The Lord of the Rings built upon it and showed what true epic fantasy could really be. This series is considered by many to be one of if not the best epic fantasy story ever told. If you liked The Hobbit, you must read The Lord of the Rings. Once you do, you’ll better understand the bar that Tolkien set almost 70 years ago and why many every writer since has sought to equal it.
The Black Company by Glen Cook
1984 | Tor Fantasy
Glen Cook’s 1984 novel The Black Company is a classic and influential work within the dark fantasy genre. Its often graphic and realistic portrayal of violence and warfare combined with a non-binary telling of the struggle between good and evil creates a compelling and fascinating read.
The novel tells the story of the elite and renowned mercenary group The Black Company as it navigates a broken and often treacherous world of politics and warfare. They are constantly caught between the workings of the dark witch known as the Lady, her servants the Taken, and the rebellious group of wizards called the Circle of Eighteen, who fight against them.
Cook explores how morality is not a simplistic view of good and evil. He showcases the complexities of human nature and how individuals can be driven to do good and evil things. It all compounds to make for a thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating work. If you want to explore the darker aspects of human nature and fantasy, order your copy of The Black Company today. Oh, and if you love it, Cook turned the novel into a series that may not yet be finished.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
1999 | Tor Books
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson is a series of ten novels that spans thousands of years of history across multiple different continents of the unnamed Malazan world. With a richly developed universe with its own history, cultures, and magic systems, the world that Erikson has created feels like a fully realized place in its own right.
The first five novels are rather straightforward as each resolves its primary conflict within its own respective covers. However, many characters and events are interconnected throughout the rest of the series and only add layers to an already vast world.
With its sheer size and ambition, a diverse and deep cast of characters, intricate plotlines, and a wide range of themes and ideas, the Mazalan Book of the Fallen series is a work of epic fantasy that is a true achievement in the genre. If you’re willing to delve deeply into its complex world and ideas, your reward will be an immersive work of fantasy that leaves you and your imagination more than satisfied.
A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
1996 | Bantam Books
George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, better known to most people by its TV adaptation name Game of Thrones, is one of the most influential works of the last 30 years.
Martin weaves together a complex, multi-layered narrative with numerous plot threads and character arcs by telling the story through a variety of different limited character perspectives. Every character is multi-dimensional and deeply flawed in some way, but that only lends to their likeability or lack thereof.
Across the series, Martin explores the complexities of power and politics, loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, as well as the consequences of our actions. With no lack of twists, turns, and surprises, the reader is always kept on edge because if you learn one thing throughout this series, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Although the television series wrapped up the storyline (let’s not get into that here because that’s a whole topic of its own,) the novels are not yet finished. Martin has planned on finishing the series, but given his age, there is no certainty it will happen with him wielding the pen. However, given the series’ impact on both the fantasy genre and society as a whole, the novels are still well worth reading for anyone who loves great storytelling.
“The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett
1983 | Colin Smythe
Terry Pratchett once described The Colour of Magic as “an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns.” Well, he more than succeeded. Witty, outrageous, and with no lack of the pure ridiculous, The Color of Magic is a brilliant work of fiction whose impacts are still felt today.
The story follows the impressively useless wizard Rincewind and his not-so-voluntary task of watching over Ankh-Morpork’s first-ever tourist, Twoflower, and his not-so-ordinary and aggressively homicidal suitcase, the Luggage. They travel all over the continent and experience a variety of absurd and wildly entertaining adventures.
The Color of Magic sets the stage for the other works in Prachett’s Discworld series of books. Many of these are quick and enjoyable reads with their own characters and plots. With clever writing, memorable characters, and a very absurd and self-aware sense of humor, The Color of Magic is a delightfully entertaining book for readers of all ages.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
1969 | Parnassus Press, Atheneum Books, Harcourt
Starting with A Wizard of Earthsea in 1969, one of the masters of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin, began The Earthsea Cycle series. Since she passed in 2018, the series has been recognized as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential works of literature by the BBC.
Le Guin’s poetic and lyrical writing style, focusing on beauty and the power of language, draws readers in and captures their imagination. Her world is both enchanting and mysterious, with richly-drawn characters and magic. Her imaginative storytelling is truly a pleasure to read.
In many ways, Le Guin has had a similar effect to that of Tolkien on the fantasy genre. The Earthsea Cycle’s world-building, characters, and themes have inspired countless other authors, and her influence can be seen in everything from Harry Potter to A Song of Ice and Fire.
Reading The Earthsea Cycle is an opportunity to experience a classic work of fantasy that has had and continues to impact the genre. It is a timeless and enduring work of literature that is as relevant today as when it was first published. As with all her writing, Le Guin captivates and inspires her readers. Will you be next?
The Belgariad by David Eddings
1982 | Del Rey Books
David Eddings has stated that Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings had a massive influence on him and his decision to begin writing fantasy. Although he admitted it was somewhat cynical, once he saw the success that Tolkien was having, he realized the fantasy genre was lucrative and was being underserved. And so The Belgariad was born.
Consisting of five separate novels: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter’s End Game, the series follows the journey of protagonist Garion and his companions in their battle against the rebellious and evil god Torak. Each novel intentionally combines a chess term with a fantasy term in the title as the theme of a “Game of Destiny” is a major motif throughout the series.
Fast-paced and action-packed, the series is filled with adventure, magic, and mystery, making The Belgariad an engaging epic fantasy series that is well worth reading.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
1950 | HarperCollins
Of all the literary works that are included on this list, The Chronicles of Narnia is the one that is the most intrinsically linked with The Hobbit. That’s because the author of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, was close friends with Tolkien. So much so that we would likely not have either of their impactful works were it not for their friendship. Their constructive criticism enabled each’s writing to reach new heights that they otherwise would not have been able to achieve.
The Chronicles of Narnia is comprised of seven separate novels. Most notable of which is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was the first novel to be released in the series (although it is not the first chronologically.) What makes the novels different from many others on this list is that they aimed to be more readable and accessible for children. The themes are straightforward and easy to understand. The characters are memorable, and the plot is fast-paced.
Lewis filled his series with important life lessons as he wanted to captivate his young audience and imbue them with values such as courage, resilience, kindness, loyalty, honesty, and a willingness to do what is right.
The series is a timeless classic and will continue influencing readers and writers for generations to come, and although they may be considered children’s books by some, The Chronicles of Narnia still makes for an evocative and beautiful read for older audiences.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
1982 | Grant
The Dark Tower series is widely considered to be Stephen King’s magnum opus, and that’s saying a lot for a writer who has gifted the world with so many literary classics. The series contains eight books total that was published over 30 years. King combined elements from different genres, such as horror, fantasy, western, and science fiction, to create a genre-bending epic that will forever stand among the great literary works of all time.
The story follows protagonist Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, on his quest to save the Dark Tower. This structure contains all possible realities within its walls. Roland’s reality is the only one with access to the tower; paradoxically, it is also contained within it. However, the Dark Tower is under attack from the demonic Crimson King, and throughout the series, Roland must assemble a team of allies from across spacetime to fight him and protect all of the realities that are contained within.
The Dark Tower series is a masterwork of fiction. It is a genre-defying epic that has significantly impacted everything from video games to TV shows and other works of fiction. This series is a must-read for absolutely everyone.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
1995 | Spectra
Author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden was already a successful writer under the name Megan Lindholm before she wrote Assassin’s Apprentice and the rest of the Farseer Trilogy. Her short fiction had already seen her nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards. However, she worried that her shift across genres would make it difficult for her to build a solid readership, so she adopted the pen name Robin Hobb.
Although it may be just a pen name, it allowed her to write “with a depth of feeling that I didn’t usually indulge.” Well, we should be grateful that she did indulge because Assassin’s Apprentice is as addicting to read as the magic that’s being performed within its pages.
The novel marks the start of the Farseer Trilogy and follows the journey of Fitz, the illegitimate son of the heir to the throne. Fitz never meets his father but is eventually taken in by the King and is trained to be a royal assassin. Since he has royal blood in his veins, he can wield powerful magic that others only dream of.
What makes this story unique is Ogden’s view on magic being addicting to the wielder and how it can be destructive or degenerative depending on how one uses it. With some of the most well-written characters in modern epic fantasy and a suspenseful plot, Assassin’s Apprentice makes excellent reading for any fan of the genre.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
2007 | DAW Books
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is an engaging and beautifully written work of modern fantasy literature that has earned widespread critical acclaim and a devoted fan following.
The novel follows the story of Kvothe, a legendary hero who recounts the events of his life to a chronicler. The novel features vivid and memorable characters, a richly detailed and immersive world, and a compelling and intricately plotted story filled with adventure, magic, and romance.
Rothfuss’s writing is elegant and engaging, and his ability to create tension and suspense keeps you turning the page. The Name of the Wind begins Rothfuss’s currently unfinished The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. The second novel, The Wise Man’s Fear released in 2011. Although the final novel has not yet been released and has no date set for its release, The Name of the Wind is still a fantastic and engaging read.
The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
2003 | Roc
The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop is a dark and compelling work of fantasy that combines intricate world-building with complex and multi-layered characters.
Set in a matriarchal society ruled by powerful witches and their male consorts, the story follows the journey of a young girl named Jaenelle, who possesses a rare and dangerous magical power. Throughout Jaenell’s journey, Bishop explores themes of power, identity, and the struggle between good and evil, all while maintaining a strong focus on character development and interpersonal relationships.
Bishop’s ability to create a vivid and immersive world is impressive, which only leads to the enchanting readability of the novels. Moreover, once Bishop completed the initial trilogy, she continued to develop and publish stories within the series’ universe. If The Black Jewels trilogy enthralls you, six more standalone novels can whet your appetite for this dark world.
In the end, The Black Jewels is a must-read for dark fantasy fans and will leave a lasting impression on anyone who picks it up.
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
2010 | Orbit Books
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks is a captivating and fast-paced modern fantasy novel. Weeks’ unique and fresh take on magic helps set his work apart from his contemporaries.
Weeks sets his story in a world where magic is channeled through the use of colored light. Those who can control it best or channel more than one color rule the different ‘Satrapies’ that make up the world. The novel follows the story of Gavin Guile. Gavin is a Prism, someone who can use magic of every color and can “split light,” which allows him to wield magic better than standard magicians. He is powerful and enigmatic and finds himself caught up in a web of political intrigue and deadly conspiracy. With an engrossing and well-crafted plot full of twists, Weeks keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
The Black Prism is a fantastic entry point into Weeks’ Lightbringer Series, which is continued in four more novels. Although Weeks’ magic and plot may be challenging at times, The Black Prism still proves to be a satisfying read for those willing to invest in it.
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
1994 | Tor Books
If you’re looking for a deep and wide-ranging fantasy experience, then The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind is for you. With a total of twenty-one books and six novellas, the series is a sweeping and epic work of fantasy literature.
The series follows the journey of Richard Cypher, a woodsman who discovers he is the prophesied hero known as the Seeker of Truth, as he battles against the forces of evil in a world ruled by magic and dark sorcery. Throughout the series, Richard is accompanied or aided by the likes of Kahlan Amnell, Nicci, Cara, and Zeddicus Su’l Zorander. Together they all seek to defeat the forces of evil that wish to oppress the world of the living.
Goodkind’s writing is rich and descriptive, and he has a talent for creating unforgettable characters and dramatic, action-packed scenes. The series also tackles themes of individualism, free will, and the struggle between good and evil, making it both thought-provoking and exciting. The Sword of Truth series is a must-read for fans of high fantasy and will certainly be rewarding for anyone who embarks on this epic journey.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
2009 | Viking
The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a brilliant novel that offers a darker and more mature perspective on the fantasy genre.
The reader follows the story of Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant but disillusioned young man who discovers that the magical world he had always dreamed of as a child is real and far more dangerous and complex than he could have ever imagined. The novel offers a sharp critique of traditional fantasy tropes, exploring themes of power, addiction, and the struggles of growing up in a world that is far from ideal.
The Magicians was so well received that it was quickly adapted into a television show on Syfy in the United States. With its darker tone and original take on the genre, The Magicians will quickly cast a spell on you that will leave you unable to put it down until you finish.
Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
2000 | HarperCollins
Nebula Award finalist Martha Wells has proved herself to be a master builder of fantasy worlds that are rich with life. Her novel Wheel of the Infinite is an exquisite work of fantasy literature that offers a refreshing take on the genre.
The novel is centered around the protagonist Maskelle, a former priestess who is called back to her temple to perform a ritual that will prevent a great catastrophe from befalling her world. As she sets out on her quest, she must confront dangerous enemies and face the demons of her own past.
As one would expect of a writer of Wells’ quality, the novel is characterized by its intricate world-building and its dynamic characters. Throughout the novel, Wells is able to craft feelings of mystery and wonder that keep you engaged until the very end.
When you add it all up, Wheel of the Infinite is a refreshing and original story in a genre that is already chock-full of incredible stories. Pick up your copy today!
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001 | William Morrow
This list wouldn’t be complete without one work from the genius that is Neil Gaiman. Of all his incredible and impactful works, American Gods is by far the best. When it was released, it won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards for Best Novel.
American Gods follows the story of Shadow. He’s been newly released from prison, but unfortunately, his wife has just been killed in a car accident. With nothing else to do, Shadow takes a job working for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. He quickly finds himself caught up in a conflict between the ancient gods of mythology and the new gods of technology, media, and consumerism. This conflict will reveal things about Shadow that he could never even countenance.
Ultimately, American Gods is a must-read for anyone looking for a deep and rewarding exploration of the human experience and will mesmerize every reader who embarks on this incredible journey. Thank you Neil Gaiman.
The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski
1992 | SuperNowa
The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski didn’t truly begin with his 1994 novel Blood of Elves. It began eight years earlier with a short story simply titled The Witcher that he submitted to a short story competition at the behest of his son. Although he didn’t win, the story captured the imagination of readers and led to him writing three short story collections released from 1990-1993.
In these collections, we first meet the protagonist of the series Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher. Taken as a young boy, trained, and then genetically modified through the magic and chemistry of the world, Geralt becomes a mercenary monster hunter with little to no human emotion. “Hmmm…” is probably his second most used line (aside from a certain four-letter word) throughout the novels. For those who have already explored the wonderful world of The Witcher, it’s also an incredibly endearing line. While it may seem hard to believe that a protagonist with no emotions can be endearing, that’s exactly what Geralt is. He has his code, and he sticks by it. “Evil is Evil. Lesser, greater, middling… Makes no difference. The degree is arbitrary. The definition’s blurred. If I’m to choose between one evil and another… I’d rather not choose at all.”
Throughout his various adventures, Geralt encounters a wide variety of engaging characters. From the powerful and seductive Yennefer to Geralt’s adopted daughter Ciri, Sapkowski fills his world with both endearing and despicable people. In the end, The Witcher Saga is a dark and entrancing tale that is worth reading for any fan of fantasy. There’s also an incredible video game series based on the novels, which is well worth playing if that’s your sort of thing. So toss a coin to your Witcher and start reading today!
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
2015 | Saga Press
Ken Liu was already a Hugo and Nebula award winner when he released his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, in 2015. Vivid and stunning, The Grace of Kings was immediately hailed as a triumph and one of the year’s best novels. It also began Liu’s The Dandelion Dynasty, which includes three more novels. All of which are available now.
Set in a fantastical world inspired by ancient China, the story follows two unlikely heroes who rise to challenge the corrupt and oppressive rulers of their land. Although driven by different causes, they are united in their desire to see the emperor overthrown. However, these best friends will soon find themselves torn apart once by their beliefs and desires for the empire.
From massive battles to silk-draped airships to shapeshifting gods, Liu creates an intricate and vivid world. He also explores themes such as power, justice, and the nature of leadership. Engaging and entertaining from start to finish, The Grace of Kings is an excellent work of modern epic fantasy worth checking out.
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
1992 | Baen Books
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon is an omnibus collection of three separate novels: Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold.
The collection tells the complete story of Paksenarrion, a young sheep farmer who runs away to join a mercenary company and becomes embroiled in a complex and dangerous world of politics and magic. Paks is only 18 when she leaves home, but through her adventures and hardships, she eventually discovers that she has been gifted as a paladin. Someone who must fight for good against the forces of evil no matter what.
Moon expertly creates a sense of tension and danger throughout the story. As Pax continues her journey, the reader will encounter themes such as honor, duty, and the struggle for self-discovery. You will struggle to find a better complete, epic tale contained within two covers, but that’s exactly what you get with The Deed of Paksenarrion. Don’t let the 1040-page count deter you. It’s well worth your time.
Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
2004 | Ace Books
Jim Butcher was already a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author from his Dresden Files series before he released his 2004 novel Furies of Calderon. Exciting and action-packed, this novel kicked off his Codex Alera series.
The story takes place in the world of Alera, a land where people have the ability to control elemental spirits known as “furies.” The story follows the journey of Tavi, a young boy who is without any ‘fury craft,’ as he becomes embroiled in the conflict between Alera and their most savage enemy, the Marat. Tavi must rely on his courage and resourcefulness to survive and eventually help turn the tide of war.
Unsurprisingly, Furies of Calderon has been well-received by audiences and critics alike. Many have praised Butcher’s writing as a unique work of fantasy for not using the usual tropes of the genre and for creating multilayered and complex antagonists. Furies of Calderon is another fantastic literary experience from an author who doesn’t know how to write anything other than hits.
The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
1988 | DAW Books
The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams is a masterful work of high fantasy and serves as the beginning of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. In one of the most influential epic fantasy stories ever told, Williams immerses readers in a richly imagined world filled with its own lore and dark history.
The protagonist Simon is a 14-year-old kitchen boy living in the continent of Ostern Ard. He quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly struggle of ancient magic and betrayal that he could only have imagined. As the story progresses, Williams begins to give new perspectives to the narrative by providing secondary viewpoints to Simon.
The Dragonbone Chair has had a lasting impact on the genre. Both George R.R. Martin and Christopher Paolini have cited it as influencing their own works of epic fantasy. Profound and incredibly deep, The Dragonbone Chair is yet another example of the boundless creativity encapsulated within the fantasy genre. Experience this influential work for yourself, and order your copy now!
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
1995 | Scholastic
A masterpiece of young adult literature, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is an absolute must-read. Comprised of three novels, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in some countries), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, the series has won numerous awards and been adapted for film on multiple occasions.
Readers follow the coming-of-age tale of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they journey through two parallel universes separately but eventually meet. The two will discover that their actions will dramatically affect not just their own but all of the intrinsically interconnected universes within the story.
Pullman’s writing is marked by his richly imagined world-building, complex and nuanced characters, and his critical examination of religion, which has brought more than its fair share of criticism. Divisive yet captivating, His Dark Materials is a must-read for audiences of all ages.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
1997 | Bloomsbury
You can’t write a list of some of the best fantasy novels and not include the Harry Potter series. Criticisms of J.K. Rowling aside, Harry Potter is one of the most read and influential fantasy series of all time. Its impact on culture and society is immeasurable. While technically not high or epic fantasy since it takes place in the U.K., it still has a vast and deep universe that makes it worthy of inclusion.
Across seven novels, readers are immersed in a rich magical world full of its own rules, social constructs, and history. Each novel represents a new year in the life of protagonist Harry Potter, his closest friends Ron Weasly and Hermoine Granger, and their fight against the evil dark wizard Voldemort. The stakes are raised novel by novel as the threats to Harry, his friends, and the magical world grow.
There are few fantasy series that can be seen to hold the same level of success and popularity as the likes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is one of those. You will struggle to meet anyone who hasn’t at least heard of it. Although many will have only seen the movies, the books are stimulating and fast-paced reads that are just as good as the films. While Rowling may now be persona-non-grata to many, her work can and should be enjoyed independently. Discover the magic for yourself and lose yourself in this fantastical world.
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
2010 | Orbit Books
A modern-day master of fantasy and world-building, N.K. Jemisin catapulted herself into the spotlight with her inaugural work, The Inheritance Trilogy. This stunning work of epic fantasy explored themes of power, identity, and social justice in a deeply resonant and thought-provoking way.
The trilogy tells the story of a world ruled by a pantheon of gods who embody the fundamental forces of creation. The series follows the journey of several protagonists as they navigate the complex and often brutal politics of this world and as they confront their past traumas and self-discovery struggles.
Jemisin’s writing is visceral, and her world is complex, vivid, and incredibly deep. Her characters are multi-dimensional and fascinating. This series set the stage for what was to come from Jemisin, and it is front-to-back one of the best works of fantasy from the last decade. Deeply immersive and thought-provoking, The Inheritance Trilogy is a series for readers of all backgrounds and interests. You won’t want to miss this one.
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
1991 | Delacorte Press
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is an epic and immersive historical fiction series that follows the story of Claire Randall, a former combat nurse who finds herself transported back in time to 18th-century Scotland.
The series combines elements of romance, adventure, and historical detail to create a sweeping narrative that captures the imagination of readers. Gabaldon’s writing is richly detailed and vivid, and her ability to bring the past to life is truly remarkable. The series is notable for Gabaldon’s ability to capture the essence of a bygone era.
Gabaldon has currently published nine out of ten planned volumes in the series. So far, she has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The success of the Outlander series saw it adapted into a critically acclaimed television show. However, when it comes to the show’s source material, the novels are a must-read for anyone looking for an engaging and immersive historical fiction that seamlessly blends elements of romance and adventure.
J.R.R. Tolkien changed the fantasy genre forever with The Hobbit. Since then, readers have been treated to a wide range of incredible characters, worlds, and stories that transport us from the here and now to places that we could only previously imagine.
Many authors that wrote these stories were inspired by Tolkien and emboldened in their belief that these stories not only could be told but should be told. The world needs fantasy as it allows us an escape from the world that we live in and allows us to dream big. The novels, series, and stories on this list all do that. Adventure is only one step, or in this case, one page away. Happy reading.
What are the defining traits of the Epic Fantasy genre?
Epic fantasy is also known as “High Fantasy.” Some of the traditional aspects of the genre include high page counts, a vast array of characters, a defining quest or journey that must be undertaken by the main characters, a world-level conflict, magic or unusual technologies, and usually a fantasy-style world that differs greatly from our own.
Epic fantasy has quite a few authors that have defined the genre. Here are some of them:
Ursula K. Le Guin
George R.R. Martin
What are some of the similar subgenres to Epic Fantasy?
The fantasy genre itself is very expansive. High fantasy is just one of the main subgenres. This list mostly contains works of high/epic fantasy but also a few others that are significant enough to warrant inclusion. Here are a few similar subgenres with examples of a novel in each.
Epic Fantasy – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Low Fantasy – The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Magical Realism – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dark Fantasy – The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Fables – Aesop’s Fables or Arabian Nights
Fairy Tales – Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Brothers Grimm
Which of these novels has been adapted into film?
The Hobbit (2012)
The Lord of the Rings (2001)
The Last Kingdom (2015)
The Wheel of Time (2021)
A Song of Ice and Fire (2011)
The Colour of Magic (2008)
The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)
The Dark Tower (2017)
The Magicians (2015)
American Gods (2017)
The Witcher (2019)
His Dark Materials (2019)
Harry Potter (2001)
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