Want to transport yourself to a whole new world? Epic fantasy takes place far away from the realities of everyday life, in worlds where magic abounds, the unexpected becomes commonplace, and nothing is quite as it seems.
Epic fantasy novels are designed to spark the imagination. They tend to follow a similar structure of a hero fighting against an evil power, but the diversity of setting and character means epic fantasy can continuously surprise.
Rich with visual potential, many epic fantasy novels have been adapted for the screen. You might recognize more than a few of the titles on this list from your last Netflix binge!
Many of these books also form part of a larger series, exploring the magical world in further depth.
If you love getting lost in magical worlds, then prepare to immerse yourself in books like The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Check out these 32 epic fantasy books you won’t be able to put down.
Themes In Epic Fantasy
Epic fantasy novels feature diverse characters in magical worlds. But many of these books use fantasy settings to explore real-life problems. Some common themes in epic fantasy include:
Good Vs Evil
Many epic fantasies explore the battle of good vs evil. Sometimes simplistic, modern epic fantasies tend to twist the tale by blurring the lines between the two.
Tradition Vs The New
Epic fantasies often draw inspiration from ancient societies. But how do these old worlds adapt to the changing attitudes and beliefs of the people in them?
Fantasy might explore how relying on tradition can be good and bad.
Man Vs Nature
A key theme in one of the most famous fantasy stories of all time — the Lord of the Rings — is man’s relationship with nature. Similar themes are echoed throughout the fantasy genre.
32 Epic Fantasy Books
A Game Of Thrones By George R. R. Martin
To the north, the savage Wildings speak of myths that are proving to be both real and deadly.
To the south, a once-heir to the throne is determined to claim what was once theirs. A cruel game is starting, as the fight for the Iron Throne of King’s Landing becomes bloodthirsty.
- An immersive setting.
- With numerous POVs, lands, and characters, there’s bound to be something you fall in love with.
- Not for the squeamish.
The Name Of The Wind By Patrick Rothfuss
Orphan, wizard, musician, and alleged assassin, Kvothe has encountered many unusual things throughout his life.
Emerging from a childhood rife with difficulties, Kvothe is an infamous figure in a dangerous world.
The first entry in The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Name Of The Wind dives into the world of Kvothe through his very own eyes.
- The first-person narration is an engaging way to interact with a magical world.
- Rothfuss blends intricate details with a sweeping world.
- The plot is exciting, but long.
A Wizard Of Earthsea By Ursula K. LeGuin
Ged is destined to become the most powerful wizard in Earthsea, but his ego threatens to overwhelm his potential.
During a petty squabble with a fellow wizarding school pupil. He unleashes a terrible darkness into the world.
Now Ged must travel the world of Earthsea to undo his dreadful mistake. If he doesn’t, the darkness will take him down with it.
- Earthsea is an immediately captivating world.
- An easy introduction to epic fantasy.
- Aimed at younger readers, this can be a very quick read.
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe By C.S. Lewis
What lies at the back of your wardrobe? For the Pevensie siblings, it’s much more than just dusty coats and old shoes. Beyond the wardrobe door is a world of magic, excitement, and danger.
A classic tale, The Chronicles of Narnia might be familiar, but it’s always worth revisiting.
- A warmly familiar fantasy series.
- A timeless tale of courage and kindness.
- Better for younger readers.
The Fifth Season By N.K. Jemisin
From time to time, the supercontinent of Stillness is rocked by an epic ecological event. This time, the unexpected fifth season has cracked the country into two.
With destruction inevitable and betrayal in the air, Essun is forced to flee her home. But the land of Stillness isn’t a welcoming one. Society is on the edge. What will follow?
- Tackles complex themes of betrayal and hierarchies.
- A slowly unraveling puzzle that keeps you guessing.
- For fantasy purists, there might be too many sci-fi elements.
Spinning Silver By Naomi Novik
Miryem and her family are hanging on the edge of poverty due to her father’s failure to collect his debts. So, she decides it’s up to her to claim what they’re owed.
At first, she succeeds, earning a reputation for her crafty ways. But when Miryem grows boastful, she attracts the attention of the fearful Staryk creatures. Now, the safety of her kingdom hangs in the balance.
- A refreshing take on an old fairy tale.
- A strong female perspective.
- The side plots lack sparkle.
The Blade Itself By Joe Abercrombie
A barbarian down on his luck, an officer and noted cards cheat, and a bloodthirsty torturer with a hatred for treason.
They might make an unusual grouping, but the wizard Bayaz has seen it fit to bring them all together. But what secrets might he himself be hiding?
The Blade Itself is the thrilling entrance to the First Law trilogy.
- A gritty take on fantasy.
- Some surprisingly funny moments.
- The first in a series, it’s mostly character building.
Lord’s Foul Bane By Stephen Donaldson
Once an outcast in Louisiana but now a fantasy hero, Thomas Covenant can barely believe the world he’s found himself in. In the mystical Land, Covenant is seen as a reincarnation of the great hero Berek Halfhand.
And with the White Gold power, Covenant could free his new home from evil.
But before that can happen, he’ll need to learn how to wield White Gold…
- The Unbeliever plot thread provides a unique POV.
- It explores complex morality.
- The protagonist is frustrating.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf By Marlon James
Inspired by African legend, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a refreshing take on the epic fantasy genre. It follows Tracker, a man known for his exceptional hunting skills and lone-wolf behavior.
But when Tracker is called on to find a boy who disappeared three years ago, he might find himself hunting a much larger mystery.
- African folklore inspires a fresh setting.
- The plot intrigues by defying expectations.
- There are some heavy themes.
Shadow And Bone By Leigh Bardugo
Having uncovered powers she never knew she possessed, Alina Starkov is sent to train with the Grisha, a military elite force.
While her gift is wild and untamed, it catches the eye of the Darkling, a notorious military leader. He believes Alina possesses the ability to unite their war-ravaged land.
But as Alina learns how to harness her powers, she discovers dangerous secrets about her nation.
- Very relatable characters for epic fantasy.
- A fleshed-out setting.
- Some predictable plot points
Magician: Apprentice By Raymond E. Feist
Orphan Pug has an unusual magic that has brought him to the attention of master magician Kulgan.
At the court, Pug has everything he could want, including the love of the Princess. But something doesn’t feel quite right…
Pug’s magic might be strange, but it also has the potential to save both his world and another.
- The plot is gripping.
- The female characters are flat.
The Fellowship Of The Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien
Forged in ancient times to provide the Dark Lord Sauron with powers over all, the One Ring was taken and lost in battle.
Moving from hand-to-hand, the One Ring is now in the possession of hobbit Frodo Baggins. And to prevent Middle Earth from falling into darkness, he must destroy it.
- There’s a reason why the Lord of the Rings is considered a seminal work of epic fantasy.
- The level of detail is absorbing and enchanting.
- Highly detailed, it can be confusing.
Sheepfarmer’s Daughter By Elizabeth Moon
As the daughter of a sheep farmer, adventure seems far away from the humble life of Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter.
But Paksenarrion was always a dreamer, and when her father pressures her to marry, she grabs the first chance to escape to the army.
But life with a band of mercenaries isn’t like her daydreams. Can Paks become the warrior legend she’s always wanted to be?
- Paks is a delightful protagonist.
- Thought-provoking military elements.
- A slower adventure than many fantasy books.
The Curse Of Chalion By Lois McMaster Bujold
A curse hangs over the House of Chalion.
Cazaril, a man already broken, lives under the threat of it when he is sent to the noble household to act as a tutor for Royesse Iselle.
An important job, but not as important as the one the Gods have in store for him. Can Cazaril defeat the curse?
- The characters are very well written.
- Political intrigue plays a key role.
- Lacks some typical fantasy elements, which might leave readers disappointed.
The Dragon’s Path By Daniel Abraham
No one knows better than Marcus how small actions can lead to devastating consequences. A leader of an army, he wants to leave the battlefield behind.
Cithrin has no loyalty to kings and rulers, but to the bank that took her in. She’ll risk everything to smuggle the gold she’s been trusted with.
As small spats threaten to turn into bloody battles, the dragons start looming.
- Strong characters drive the plot.
- A straightforward writing style.
- The actual story is thin in the first book of the series.
Assassin’s Apprentice By Robin Hobb
The illegitimate son of Prince Chivalry, Fitz has been cast off from the royal court. He was raised by a surly stablehand while the court treated him with disdain.
Except for crafty King Shrewd. He sees magical potential running through Fitz.
As Fitz grows, so do his powers — and his responsibility. Dangerous secrets lurk at the dark edges of the court.
- Fitz is a relatable and insightful protagonist.
- Well paced.
- Less developed than later books in the series.
The Raven Tower By Ann Leckie
The Kingdom of Iraden has been protected for centuries by the Raven. To maintain his power, the Raven demands a sacrifice. To the citizens, it’s a small price for a flourishing kingdom.
But a dark history forms the foundation of the Raven’s power. And as secrets threaten to spill over, the security of Iraden is under threat.
- A slowly unraveling world that keeps you intrigued.
- The world-building is excellent.
- The plot isn’t a conventional story.
The Eye Of The World By Robert Jordan
Even as the myth of the shadow lies half-remembered, its dark power threatens to destroy the world.
When beasts attack the Two Rivers, Moiraine must find the person prophesied to take down the Dark One.
Book One in the classic Wheel of Time series, this is a must for fantasy fans.
- A building start to an epic tale.
- Detailed plots, characters, and worlds.
- The endless mysteries can grow a little frustrating.
Legend By David Gemmell
Once Captain of the Ax, Druss has left the world of the battlefield behind him. He’s content to let his epic adventures fall into legend.
Until he hears word that the Nadir hordes are heading for the Drenia people with war on their minds.
To save the people of Dros Delnoch, Druss must once again return to the fight. This is another battle set to become a legend.
- A basic but exciting fantasy.
- Varying POVs keep things fresh.
- The writing lacks finesse.
Gardens Of The Moon By Steven Erikson
Empress Laseen keeps an iron rule over the weary Malazan Empire, thanks to the Claw assassins.
The mood in the empire is low, and the people bristle with discontent. Particularly Sergeant Whiskeyjack, who longs for peace after another brutal siege.
Laseen only longs for power. However, she isn’t the only one…
- You’re dropped straight into the world.
- The epic scale feels rambling at points.
The Color Of Magic By Terry Pratchett
Rincewind is a wizard, if not a particularly good one. Acting as a guide to the tourist Twoflower, the first tourist the Discworld has seen, the two venture (accidentally) off the beaten path.
Funny, irreverent, and unpredictable, The Color of Magic is a brilliant opener to the Discworld series.
- Laugh-out-loud funny in places.
- A comic take on classic fantasy tropes.
- A less developed world than later entries in the Discworld series.
The Dragonbone Chair By Tad Williams
The peaceful and beloved High King of Osten Ard has died. As the kingdom mourns, the Storm King, ruler of the Sithi, seizes an opportunity to make a deal with the new king. He wants Osten Ard for himself.
Formed to protect the land, the League of the Scroll sends kitchen boy Simon on a quest for salvation.
- A well-realized world.
- The writing is luxurious.
- A slow start.
The Goblin Emperor By Katherine Addison
The half-goblin son of the Emperor has been banished from the court. He lives in exile — until his father and older brothers die in a mysterious accident. Now, he must take his place as the goblin emperor.
But naivety could be the downfall of the Goblin Emperor, in a court where everyone is after something.
- The court intrigue adds enticing layers.
- Explores themes of loyalty and trust.
- The narrative is simple for epic fantasy.
Furies Of Calderon By Jim Butcher
The people of Alera have long used their unique bond with the furies to fight against those who threaten them.
But in the distant Calderon Valley, Tavi finds himself without the special ability. And as the Marat horde threatens the valley, Tavi’s weakness could be his downfall.
But while Tavi might lack control of the furies, his other gifts promise an opportunity to fight back.
- The jumping narrative keeps you engaged.
- All the characters are well-written.
- It starts slow.
Mistborn By Brandon Sanderson
The Lord Ruler controls the land with absolute power. The Skaa people are forced to live in slavery under his hand, with hope all but forgotten.
Until the half-Skaa Kelsier finds glimmers of salvation lurking in the corners of his prison cell…
With the powers of the Mistborn released in Kelsier, he targets the cause of so much misery: the Lord Ruler.
- Subverts the fantasy genre.
- The action scenes are well-written.
- The characters are simplistic.
The Forgotten Beasts Of Eld By Patricia A. McKillip
Sybel is comfortable in her stone mansion. The heiress of powerful wizards, she spends her life surrounded by her magical and exotic beasts.
Her peaceful solitude is shattered when a man turns up on her doorstep. Weary and desperate, he brings with him a young child. Is there more to life outside the stone walls than Sybel imagined?
- The writing is beautiful.
- Plenty of moral questions to leave you thinking.
- The fairy tale style won’t appeal to everyone.
Tigana By Guy Gavriel Kay
Under the rule of dark sorcery and an evil king, the land of Tigana has become a shadow of its former self. The inhabitants can’t even bring themselves to speak its name.
But a small group of courageous rebels believe it doesn’t have to be this way. They set off to overthrow those who have conquered Tigana and bring it back to its brilliant glory.
- Intelligent and complex.
- The story is woven with a poignant touch.
- Pretty bleak for an epic fantasy.
Perdido Street Station By China Mieville
New Crobuzon is the metropolis center of a world populated by humans, mutants, and various arcane races.
Life there isn’t pretty, ruled over by a brutal militia, but the people of New Crobuzon are diverse and skilled.
When a stranger arrives he demands the impossible, with a hefty reward for whoever accomplishes it. But in pleasing the stranger, a terrible fate is unleashed on the city.
- A modern take on the fantasy world.
- The diverse characters add to a colorful setting.
- The expansive dictionary can get in the way of the plot.
Children Of Blood And Bone By Tomi Adeyemi
Orisha used to be a land of magic. But when the ruthless new king took over, the magic was removed — by force.
Zelie longs to return to the magic of her youth. She can do it, and take down the king, with the help of a rogue princess.
But the task isn’t easy. If Zelie really wants magic in the world, she must be prepared to face the darkness.
- An empowering story.
- African inspiration is unusual in epic fantasy.
- A YA fantasy that’s better for younger readers.
Nine Princes In Amber By Robert Zelezy
When Carl Corey wakes up in a secluded New York hospital with no memory, he knows something isn’t right.
Following his instincts, he breaks free from the hospital, discovering his true life as a prince in the world of Amber.
But if Carl wants to return to his real life, he’ll need to get past the armies wielded by his powerful older brother.
- Philosophical questions leave you thinking long after the plot ends.
- A fantasy classic.
- Some elements are a little dated.
The Grace Of Kings By Ken Liu
Charming bandit Kuni Garu and fearless former duke Mata Zyndu have little in common apart from their distaste of the emperor. But a dislike of the emperor is enough to throw these two together.
With the emperor gone, however, their different personalities come to the fore. The power is in their hands, and they have very different ideas on how to use it…
- It reads like a highly skilled chess match.
- Inspired by the rise of the Han dynasty.
- Slow in parts.
Stardust By Neil Gaiman
Tristran Thorn is looking for a star. And he finds one, over the wall, in the magical land that borders our own.
But the star isn’t quite what he expected, and in trying to claim it, he catches the attention of others who seek the star to bring them power.
Short, sweet, and standalone, Stardust by Neil Gaiman is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to dip a toe into the world of fantasy.
- A fairytale for adults.
- A well-constructed world.
- Some of the characters are flat.
Epic fantasy captures your imagination with stories that take place outside our everyday world. There’s almost limitless potential for epic fantasy — essentially, as far as the author’s words can take you!
From the vast quests of The Lord of the Rings to the modern metropolis of Perdido Street Station, epic fantasy is all about pushing the limits of our reality.
A good epic fantasy book immerses you in a world far beyond your own.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of epic fantasy! What book are you going to read next, to transport you to a new magical world?
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Epic Fantasy Should I Read First?
If you want to start with the classics, try The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. It informed much of what came after and is still a high point of the genre.
Why Is Epic Fantasy So Long?
Epic fantasy aims to transport us to new worlds, which requires a lot of scene setting! For a shorter epic fantasy, try A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin.
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