Best Fantasy Books You've Never Read

The Most Criminally Underappreciated Fantasy in the Genre
Hidden Gems: Discover the Best Fantasy Books You've Never Heard Of

Most astute fantasy readers have heard about the hyped-up authors – those authors who are often touted as the “best” in a genre; they are quite often the first fantasy books you’ll spot when browsing for fantasy books, displayed prominently to catch your eye. Yes, by now most of us have heard that A Game of Thrones is good stuff; The Name of the Wind is a must-read fantasy, and the Malazan books are some of the best in the fantasy genre. But what about those lesser-known works of fantasy that are often overlooked but quite often just as good as the “well known” ones. For whatever reason, these are the books that have not received the attention they deserve – maybe because the book was released a couple of decades ago or the publisher did not have the marketing pull of some of big named ones. Or maybe it was that the public was not yet quite ready to receive that work as a more modern audience would. Whatever the reason, these are books and authors that are underrated and quite often ignored by most of the people who offer up fantasy book recommendations. You might also call this list the “best underrated fantasy books.”

Master Li and Ox â the main characters in this work â are easily some of the most loveable characters in fantasy. Aside from these charming protagonists, the book is a lot of fun to read.Why it made the listHughart's writing is never too flowery or too simple. This book is like a Thai food dish, every element is balanced so that none of them are overpowering, take away from the overall taste or from the eating experience. In Bridge of Birds, the ingredients â action, description, character development and humor â come together in a satisfying literary version of delicious pho.Watching the action through Ox's naïve eyes means that the reader can experience the wide-eyed wonder that he does, when he does. It's a refreshing departure from the more serious titles of the 80s. Hughart is a master of humor. He's not obvious about it like Pratchett, but it is as effective as anything you'll read in the Discworld series.There aren't many fantasy titles where the end feels right. Mostly, they fall flat and leave you disappointed. The conclusion is just like that bowl of pho â it fills you up, warms you up and leaves you with the desire for more like it.

Books in The Chronicles Of Master Li And Number Ten Ox Series (2)

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A beloved fantasy series by all who've read it, though few modern fantasy readers have read it. This is probably one of the best hidden epic fantasy gems out there right now and you would do well to get your hands on this series.The basic premise sounds petty hackneyed: a stable boy, a princess, imps, dwarves and an evil king. But this is Dave Duncan we are talking about here who can write anything about everything and make it into an addicting read.Duncan manages to take those worn-out fantasy conceits and twist them around into something completely new and utterly enthralling. This is some stellar heroic fantasy that will absolutely keep you turning the pages.  The world-building is great and the cast of characters, especially the lovable hero Hap, are just great. I'm also a big fan of the magic system which stands out as one of the more unique magic systems in the genre, right up there with Sanderson's Allomancy (Mistborn) and Farland's Rune Magic (Rune Lords), and Week's color magic from his Lightbringer books.You won't go wrong reading this; if you are looking for your next epic fantasy fix, this should be your next read. There is a sequel series, A Handful of Men that continues the story of the first series years later. The first series is better, though.

Books in A Man Of His Word Series (6)

A lot of people call Kearney's Monarchies of God 'A Game of Thrones Lite.' And for the most part, this is true. There are a five books (each only a few hundred words) with a hell of a meaty story packed in between the pages. I've said so before about this series on other lists: it's one of the more underrated series in the genre. It may not be as complex as some of the newer fantasy today, but if you want an epic fantasy with kingdom's clashing, big battles, strange magics, and mysterious lands to explore, well Kearney's book won't disappoint you.It's a great series to read in between some of the other more emotionally taxing series out there.  
Leiber helped to pioneer the sword-and-sorcery genre and is widely hailed as one of the most influential fantasy writers ever. Unfortunately, he's never received the credit he deserves for such an influential work. Many people have heard of Conan, but of the Gray Mouser, no. The trappings of fantasy are present in the Gray Mouser stories, -- there are evil wizards, magicians, and barbarians -- but it’s all done in such a way that it’s not “the same old thing.” What’s really refreshing about this series is the strong characterization of the two heroes, who, at the start of the novel are more anti-hero than actually hero.  Leiber does a good job exploring the meaning of relationships as the tale progresses – complicated stuff for a “mere sword and sorcery” tale. True to the classic Sword and Sorcery form, the backdrop, world-building, and mythology of Leiber's world are thin; the focus is on the adventures of the two heroes and not so much the world which they live in. These are small novels (less than 300 pages), but there’s a lot of substance to them and no matter what type of fantasy you enjoy, there’s something for everybody in these great stories.
Gritty detective fantasy in a warzone – this is The Dresden Files before Dresden. Garrot PI has been vastly overshadowed by Cook’s The Black Company, but these are actually some of cook’s best writing. The books are funny but don’t go overboard with humor The Garrett P.I. series follow the detective adventures of Garrett, a detective living in a gritty, noir city called TunFaire, a magical city that’s populated by elves, dwarves, ogres, and other magical entities. Garret is a soldier-become-private detective and he’s not out to try and save the world from any sort of dark evil; he just wants to do his job as a P.I. and get paid, badly. Cook carefully crafts a gritty, nasty place in the city of TunFaire. It’s not a place you would ever want to live, but it’s an interesting place to watch Garrett navigate through. In this world, everyone has their own – usually nasty – agenda and it’s a world that Garrett must navigate through carefully if he wants to survive to get paid. If you love Dresden, detective noir, urban fantasy, or gritty fantasy, you’re going to love this series.

Books in Garrett, P.i. Series (11)

Virtually unknown by most and recently reprinted, The God Stalker Chronicles are very underrated. For those in the know, this is one of the better unknown series out there. The author incorporates a number of different elements from Eastern mythology, martial arts, and heroic fantasy, making this quite a unique fantasy. The protagonist, Jamie, struggles against her role in a society that does not welcome her  even despises her  other than as a political pawn. This is the story of her search for her long-lost brother, her people, and a destiny. There's plenty of action and some deep characterization, but what makes this series stand out is that underneath the fantasy trappings, some very deep issues are explored: self-determination, the price of honor, family and what it means to have family, identity, loyalty and its limits, and so on.
You might call this a more focused, mini version of The Lord of the Rings and one that most of you will probably never have heard of. It's an older fantasy series, but one that still has that magic that will keep you reading till the wee hours of the morn. It is highly influenced by Welsh folklore, and while the world-building and mythos is not as well-developed as Tolkien's Middle Earth, there's still a lot there certainly more than most of the new fantasy books. The story unfolds in the land of Prydain a world that's steeped in Welsh mythology. The young hero of the story starts off as a Pig Keeper and dreams of becoming a hero until the unlikely opportunity arrives where he becomes just that, and finds it's not all it's cracked up to be. Like many high-fantasy tales, this is a classic coming-of-age story with a deep exploration of wisdom, love, loss, and the road to adulthood, but one that's lovingly told through the talented strokes of Alexander's pen. This is one that not only kids will thoroughly enjoy, but adults as well the story is one that transcends age.

Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)

The Acts of Caine series takes adventure fantasy and drags it sixteen miles through the mud, and then tortures what's left. In a dystopian future, humanity has discovered a way to travel to parallel dimensions. One of those worlds just happens to be a pretty close approximation of the stereotypical fantasy world, and our protagonist, Caine, is sent there to get into as many cool fights as possible, which is then all broadcast back to Earth as entertainment. Caine is essentially a gladiator, and the book, beyond being a pulse-pounding, adrenaline-fueled adventure filled with violence and testosterone, questions why we are so entertained by depictions of violence. Somehow, the book manages to be both pulpy entertainment and a crash-course in philosophy at the same time. It's insanely dark, and Caine, a bare-knuckles brawler, comes up against armoured, sword-wielding opponents and dismantles them by breaking their bones, tearing their tendons, or just popping a handy knife through an eyeball. He's a fantastic anti-hero, and will discuss the moral implications of violence even as he tears through a contingent of guards. The 'heroes' of the story, on the whole, totally fuck up in their seemingly selfless endeavours to play hero. The fantasy world is completely lacking in any of the idealism or wonder that makes lighter fantasy books so wondrous, and the dystopian sci-fi world Caine comes from is far, far worse. Read this book if: you want your 'elves' running brothels, your 'orcs' figuring out how guns work, and your hero with his hands inch-deep in some poor bastard's chest cavity.

Books in The Acts Of Caine Series (4)

Similar Recommendations

For similar recommendations, I'm give books that fuse action, blood, grittiness, flawed humanity, and anti-heroes. Some books may also feature assassins. All these books also explore the idea of 'the hero.'

Caine Sequels

The sequels of course! There are 3 of them as of 2014 and it's more of the same with Caine's story fleshed out more and more. Each book does something new though. The books are all good, but the first books is the best and the second book nearly as good. There rest may be a dissapointment though, depending. The direct sequel to Heroe's Die is The Blade of Tyshalle.

The Steel Remains

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. Some elements of Heroes Die here: you have a dark and unforgiving world with a misunderstood hero who's not afraid of being a serious bad ass to those who fuck him over. This is one of the darkest fantasy books you'll read. But oh so good and something unique in the grim dark genre. It's a trilogy with the final book released by the end of 2014 making this trilogy a complete one.

The Heroes

The Heroes. When all villains are really just misunderstood heroes and heroes turn out to be villains. Abercrombie's best book so far, which is saying a lot since every book he's written is some of the best works in the genre. Tons of action, awesome and compelling characters, and vicious battles. Abercrombie is one of the best writers of violent scenes that just pop out of nowhere. If you love the action and blood of Heroes Die and you like the character of Caine, I think you'll like The Heroes. Note Heroes is more of a subversion of the idea of heroes, politics, and war. Heroes Die is more of a straight bad-ass anti-hero guy murdering everything around him rather than a sly statement about the state of humanity.

The Night Angel Trilogy

If you like the Assassin factor of Heroes Die, read Brent Weeks' The Night Angel Trilogy. It's a good read and Weeks is a rising star in the Fantasy world. The series is much, much lighter reading than the Acts of Caine, and the prose is not half as good. Good for light reading though.

Prince of Thorns

For some compelling anti-hero reading about an assassin king, you should read Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Right up your alley if you like the violence and amorality of Stover's Caine character. Honorable Jorg Ancraft, the hero villain of Prince of Thorns, is an immoral and vicious bastard. Even so, you can't stop rooting for him to win.

The Farseer Trilogy

Also read Robin Hobb's The Farseer Trilogy -- an epic tale about an assassin-in-training in a fantasy landscape, but with one of the best drawn characters ever to grace the Fantasy scene. As for being bad-ass, Fitz has nothing on Caine though and if you are expecting a heroic amount of violence and kickass-ness on the part of Fitz, expect to be disappointed. The whole kick ass that happens is to Fitz who gets ass whooped over and over. Really, he's kind of a bitch. But fabulous read, nevertheless.

The Folding Knife 

The Folding Knife by KJ Parker's might just be up your alley. Dark, gritty, filled with flawed heroes with realistic motivations. Not everyone appreciate's Parker, but if you want a slower-paced 'rich' fantasy that's all about the characters, man Parker knows how to do it right.

The Red Knight

The Red Knight. Knight heroes, monstrous elves, and damsels in distress all clash in this remarkable book released in 2013. The tale is a different one than your normal fantasy with a highly detailed and realistic medievil world built by the author who is a legit medievil historian. There's a huge cast of characters (though the focus remains on The Red Knight, the titular hero of the story and series) rather than a single one. However, like Heroes Die there's a lot of sizzling energy to this series, with brutal action, action, and lots of war. You'll probably like it if you like gritty violence and lots of fighting.

Talion: Revenant

Talion: Revenant is the best work by prolific fantasy author Michael A Stackpole. Heroic fantasy with a lot of energy. One of the best 'boy becomes a man and then a hero' tales I've read and certainly Stackpool's best work.


Legend, the book that made Gemmell's career and certainly his career defining work about what it means to be a hero. He also explores the same idea in many works -- including a couple books about a bad-ass assassin turned hero (Waylander).

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss -- just about one of the best fantasy books in the genre. Another sort of heroic fantasy, but a tale that focuses on a character-driven narrative about the life of a hero. This is not a subversion of the heroic tale, but an expansion of it. It's frame story that's told after-the-fact, and we are never sure if the tale of Kvothe, a larger than life hero, is truth or exagerration. The writing is lyrical and gorgeous -- showing itself to be a perfect intersection between a powerful narrative and strong writing.

Another series that seems to be virtually ignored by the general public. Perhaps because it’s a low fantasy series (i.e. there is no magic, though the world is a sort of fantastic, alternative earth world). However, this is a series that doesn’t require magic to have the right magic, so to speak. This is one of the most tightly plotted series I’ve read, with one of the most entertaining protagonists. I love how the main character is backed against the wall time and time again and forced to come up with some ingenious (but completely believable) solution to the problems surrounding him. This is a series where the characters’ choices really affect what happens plot wise and it’s wildly entertaining to see where the story goes, based on the choices and mistakes some of the key characters make. The characters really grow and develop over the series as does the plot, which becomes more and more complex. I’m generally not a fan of Fallon’s other works, but her Second Sons trilogy is absolutely outstanding and should be read by those of you looking for a top-notch series that leaves out some of the usual fantasy elements (magic) but more than makes up for it with complex characters and a deep, intricate plot. Trust me, once you start reading, you won’t be able to put the books down.

Books in The Second Sons Series (2)

There are few things harder to control than emotion and this makes magic in The Cold Firetrilogy immensely difficult. The planet Erna is controlled by a force known as the fae, which makes humans subconscious emotions and fears real. Often, it’s as much a fight against magic as it is with it. After centuries, people’s thoughts have manifested strongly enough to create the planet’s own gods, but also to create demons and faulty technology. The fear that tech won’t function correctly has knocked its inhabitants back to the medieval days, but there are also some who can control the fae. Fae manifests in four ways. Earthcomes from the planet’s seismic activity, Solar from the sun’s light, Tidal from its moons, and Dark from those places devoid of light. By using symbolism and sacrifice, sorcerers have learned to manipulate these forces, with some able to see and shape it instinctively. The intelligent way C.S. Friedman has built the world means magic is prevalent in every aspect of the story. It blends fantasy, sci-fi, and horror,while suggesting thatlimitless imagination isn’talways a good thing.

Books in The Coldfire Trilogy Series (3)

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Magister Trilogy

You might like Friedman's newer series (Magister Trilogy) which has some darker elements to it (one must suck the life out of a person to use magic). It's not nearly as dark as The Coldfire trilogy though and there is no anti-hero.

The Crooked Letter

Read The Crooked Letter (Book One of the Cataclysism) by Sean Williams for a story set in a horror tinged world with a magic system that's sort of similar to that of The Coldfire Trilogy. It's not the same plot or anything, but it's one of those books that introduces deeper human issues into the fabric of the story and the setting is somewhat reminiscent of the weird world of The Coldfire Trilogy -- a place where monsters and creatures of the dark just lurk around the corner.

The Warded Man

If you like the horror aspect of The Coldfire Trilogy where creatures of the dark wait just around the corner out of sight, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting humans, give Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man a read. Not the same style plot and the writing is not as good, but the world portrayed is quite interesting with demons coming out at night prowling the landscape and killing any humans not behind special wards. Only the first book is good, however; the other 2 books were absolute disappointments.

The Abhorsen Trilogy

Look at The Abhorsen Trilogy; the world portrayed is one with dark creatures lurking in practically every nook and cranny of the landscape. 

Spook's Apprentice

Also read Joseph's Delany's Spook's Apprentice series which is a YA story about a young apprentice who works as a sort of exorcist in a landscape filled with creatures of the night.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

The Coldfire Trilogy has a very strong anti-hero. For epic fantasy with a strong anti-hero, you probably can't more anti hero than The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.

The Prince of Thorns

For a strong anti-hero tale about a prince who decides to take back his throne by fair means or foul (and mostly foul), read The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Nothing is similar about the plot, but there may be some overlap between one of the anti-hero characters' in both novels, willing to do anything at all to achieve their goal of power. 

The Black Company

You should also read Glenn Cook's The Black Company books -- I would count these books as dark fantasy. The characters are morally ambiguous and in fact fighting for a side that many would consider "evil" or the "dark lord" (in this case, a "dark lady"). His new series, The Tyranny of the Night, also has some of those dark fantasy elements too -- like the ColdFire world, dark spirits come out at night to attack humans. 

The Warded Man

For one more recommendation that features a world somewhat like the Coldfire one (in that monsters come creeping out of the shadows at night), read The Warded Man.

The First Law trilogy

For another epic fantasy series that's character- and plot-driven with some anti-hero elements and morally ambiguous characters, Abercrombie's The First Law series comes to mind. 

A Song of Ice and Fire

The same goes for Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire -- a huge cast of completely amoral "hero" characters. Good and evil are not clearly delineated.

The Talisman

I would also suggest Steven King's The Talisman, which is about a young boy who must enter into a dark fantasy world to save his mother. There is a strong delineation between good and evil, but the world itself is pretty dark. Of course, if you like the Talisman, then King's The Dark Tower (which has some dark fantasy elements to it) is a given read too.

The Scar

If you don't mind novels that are not your standard heroic fantasy, but have a strong element of "Gothic" to them and a cast of bizarre characters you might find in any horror novel, you can check out some of China Mieville's works (The Scar).

Fevre Dream

Finally, if you like the whole partial "vampire" aspect of the main hero, you might want to read George Martin's stunning Fevre Dream.'


Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. For a read about a place where people have their desires and whims fulfilled, read the classic Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. It's the same sort of premise (different setting and story of course) as the Cold Fire, just the science fiction version of it on a spacecraft.

If you were to open a copy of Lyonesse and give it a good shake, a bunch of (very annoyed) fairies would fall out. Because they're everywhere in this book. It sounds hella cheesy but it's actually a good thing. When reading this, magic is almost tangible â due mostly to Vance's exceptional ability to bring a fairytale world to life.Why it made the listBefore you're put off by the word âfairytale', you should know that this is definitely not a children's bedtime story. Unless creating deranged offspring is your thing. The plot is enchanting and you'll be totally engrossed, but it's also haunting and tragic. There are no friendly neighborhood fairy godmothers in Lyonesse and the beings that inhabit this world can be â and often are â nasty pieces of work.Vance is a skilled enough writer that he's managed to combine elements of the Arthurian legend with fairytale creations that are flawed and, as a result, feel real and accessible.There's a little bit of everything here â quests, mystery, romance, lust, myth, betrayal and magic. This wealth of fantastical elements and thematic material could spin off into batshit-crazy territory, but Vance manages to keep it tight and well balanced.

Books in Lyonesse Series (5)

Gavriel Kay's Fionavar is an ode to J.R.R. Tolkien, building on his life as an editorial assistant to his son, Christopher. Kay was instrumental in the publication of the legend's posthumous works, and the echoes of those themes shine through in this series. It carries many of the elements of classic heroic fantasy, complete with a rising evil and an unlikely hero. Kay's execution, though, is entirely different. The series follows five students from the university of Toronto as they find themselves in a magic world. While Tolkien blends many mythologies, this setting has a Celtic style that makes it feel incredibly unique. Kay keeps the lengthy, lyrical prose, but surpasses many in his characters and plot. It's not a journey to Mordor – it's complex, winding, linked and intricate. That describes his characters too, to an extent. The series has a huge number of them, yet they manage to promote real depth and emotion. The five each have their own flaws which they must overcome, and that makes for a great story of power, forgiveness and free will. Read if you like: Tolkien, high fantasy, heroic fantasy.

Books in The Fionavar Tapestry Series (3)

Not strictly unknown, yet still ignored by the average fantasy reader. The world of Amber is one of the most original and most interesting fantasy worlds out there – something that one might argue, rivals Tolkien’s Middle Earth (if middle earth was one of many realities). Their plots are numerous as are the characters. Part of the sheer joy found in this series is the actual sense of discovery and wonder revealed when you start reading. The first book follows the story of Corwin, the Prince of Amber – the one true world and from whom only the royal ruling family can move through the different dimensions of the world (also called the Shadow) – as he discovers his true identity and learns his place in the ruling Monarchy of all the worlds. Those who are fans of Lord of the Rings with a more science fiction bent will probably love this series. Hell, even if you don’t like Lord of the Rings, still read it!
This is a series that's fallen a bit by the wayside in that many don't know about it. But it's a rare treat for those who want a well drawn dark fantasy tale with elements of horror. This is a tale that's moody and suspenseful following a path laid out by Edgar Allen Poe, especially the first book. It's a disturbing tale that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. The story itself is entertaining, but the series also brings up some deeper issues such as what is gender, and do the means always justify the ends. Lyn Flewelling puts a twist on the story around book two which gives the whole tale a whole new spin. 

Books in The Tamir Triad Series (2)

The story follows Alodar, an apprentice magician, as he discovers and masters the five paths of magic. It's an exciting adventure that's virtually unknown by the modern fantasy reader and it's probably out of print. Master of the FIve Magics has one of the most logical and complete explanations of each magic path, while keeping the rules internally consistent (unlike most fantasy worlds where magical rules are broken left and right)  if you like to read about concrete magic systems that make intuitive sense without the usual abstract wave your hand and stuff happens, this is your book. The author goes to great lengths to detail each tenant of the five magical paths  both the rules and the limitations. It brings to mind the rigid and rule-based magic system present in Rothfuss The Name of the Wind and the detailed exploration of the One Power in Jordan. The quality of the prose won't knock the socks off the best in the genre, the plot isn't anything unique, and no new fantasy grounds are broken by the author, yet it's still a very entertaining read. For sure, one of the most internally consistent and logical magical systems I've yet read  so if you are a fan of adventure heroic fantasy with some really interesting magic systems and you love the whole young man prodigy goes to magic school plot setting, this is the book for you.

Books in Magics Series (3)

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Brings to mind The Name of the Wind in that both protagonists go to a “Magical College” to learn magic. The magic system and rules bring to mind Kvothe’s study of Sympathy and Artificery magic fields in the King Killer Chronicles. If you like the boy goes to magic school conceit with detailed paths of magic studied by the protagonist, check out The Magicians

A character-driven fantasy with plenty of magic to boot. It’s fallen by the wayside with all the recent fantasy that’s come out, but it’s a sharp tale with great characterization, a well-developed world, and an enticing plot – it’s better than most of the epic fantasy out there and is sadly unappreciated. It takes a while for the plot threads to weave together (which may be why it’s underappreciated), but once they do, you are taken for a grand ride. There’s a lot of good world-building in this one – lots of different kingdoms and cultures explored. Your surface impression might be that this is a typical fantasy, but it’s quite a bit deeper than that once you get past the surface – plenty of political intrigue, extensive world-building, and great characterization with complex relationships.
Aerin is shy, clumsy, ugly, and mistrusted by the people she is supposed to rule. She is ridiculed for being the daughter of a witch with none of her witchy powers, and even when she eventually becomes a Dragon-Killer, it is because it is a task that needs doing; the dragons are small and numerous… like rats. It isn't exactly a heroic compliment. Yet her inner strength, her determination and willingness to learn that which does not come easily make her the hero she needs to be. She is tough and proves her worth again, again, and again no matter the obstacles or jeering from the sidelines she endures. While there is romance, it is most definitely on our heroine's terms, and not because she intends to snag him as a way out of her miserable life. It is organic and complex and believable, which is so very lacking in many fantasy novels. Hero and the Crown is still one of the best fantasy novels on the shelves today.

Books in Damar Series (4)

Steven Brust, while known in some circles, seems to be largely ignored by most fantasy readers these days. For a certain type of fantasy – heavy comic book action with a wise-cracking hero and a band of merry sidekicks – Brust can’t be matched. Vlad, the hero (or villain, depending on how you see it), lives in a rather appalling city ruled in part by giant Dragaerans. These creatures routinely abuse other races, including Vlad who becomes an assassin in response to his mistreatment. The books detail his rise through the ranks of a criminal syndicate. Steven Brust has a lot of heart and soul to his writing – the characters are as colorful as the setting, and he really develops the mythos of his world, which is fully explored throughout the different books. The writing style is simple and direct – no overly flowery words or eloquent sentences that other more (pretentious) authors toss around.

Books in Vlad Taltos Series (26)

A higher-level, more advanced reading than Harry Potter. There was a movie made from the book, but the books are so much better you can just forget the movie ever existed. This one has been around for several decades, but never garnered the critical mass-market attention that some other fantasy works have, which is a shame since this is certainly one of the best young adult epic fantasies ever written. These are loosely based on Celtic and English legends and stories. Downsides: lengthy descriptions that would bore some younger readers, and the characters and plot are complex; this is not a simple Harry Potter tale. This is the story of Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones – immortals who protect the world from evil. Will comes to this knowledge of his fate on his 11th birthday. To prevent the Dark from conquering the world, Will must collect 6 signs. It’s a gripping story with fast-paced action, an interesting quest, and a smart and surprisingly complex protagonist.
One of Stephen Lawhead’s lesser-known works, but perhaps the most beautiful. It tells the tale of an ordinary man, Lewis, who’s a graduate student from Oxford. Lewis is a rather plain chap without anything to recommend him as heroic material. He ends up crossing into a parallel world (ancient Celtic) by accident, while trying to find his roommate, Simon, who incidentally crossed into the same world before him. It’s a rich and thoroughly engrossing story that will keep you hooked. There are many “cross over” fantasy stories out there, but A Song for Albion is the finest and best-written of them all. The world created is highly detailed, heavily influenced by Lawhead’s research into Celtic folklore and traditions. This is not a white-washed fantasy world either – the author stays true to the savage nature of the ancient primitive cultures with a depiction of bloody battles. The narrative is rich and complex with three-dimensional characters who learn and grow through the series, evolving into different people by the end of the tale. The grim bloodshed and harsh primitive realities of the world are juxtaposed with the stunning beauty and peacefulness of the landscape and peoples – it makes for an interesting, yet disturbing comparison. For something a little different than the normal epic fantasies out there, I highly recommend A Song for Albion. You won’t be disappointed.

Books in Song Of Albion Series (2)

This is probably the biggest epic fantasy that you’ve never heard of. It’s fat fantasy with a lot of strong characterization. If you are fans of the recent crop of Martin-style gritty fantasy with shades of grey and dark, brutal worlds, this series won’t be for you. If you want fantasy with non-stop action, violence, and magic on every page, this series is not for you. It requires some serious patience on your part to get into the flow of things. One thing you can’t accuse Michelle West of is being a hack – she writes about as original a high fantasy epic as you’ll find out there. Let me be clear – this is NOT The Wheel of Time and if you like that sort of faster-paced epic fantasy that’s heavy on the magic, super heroes, and action, then this series won’t be for you. This is a more plot-driven, more pedantic paced epic that requires focus on your part. It is, however, an epic fantasy for those who like to savor the slow buildup of a good, complex story. This is a story that can take books to really build up the threads and get the ball rolling, but the journey is worth it. The author is a fantastic wordsmith; this is a grand tale that’s told in a grand manner with flowery, poetic language. So if you can put up with a slower-paced complex, plot-driven epic fantasy with delicious prose, read it. It’s a vastly underappreciated work of epic fantasy and for those with the patience, a real treat awaits here.
An original fantasy standalone with a bit of an eastern flavor. It gets much less attention than her “The Death of a Necromancer” but is, in my opinion, every bit as good. If you are looking for fantasy with a bit of a different flavor, you should try reading Martha Wells. Wells is known for her original world-building, strong characters, and sharp plotting. The world created is deep and fascinating, but it’s so subtly built up that you don’t get hit over the head with massive chunks of exposition as some authors are wont to do. There are distinct cultures present in the book rather than re-written proto-typical medieval ones that seem to be the base template for 99 percent of the fantasy outside there. The magic system is pretty unique as well. This is superior sword and sorcery – a big cut above most of the genre. With keen writing, strong plotting and characters and a fascinating, highly original setting, Wheel of the Infinite is one book you should read.
The author J.R.R. Tolkien is certainly not underrated but his majestic work, The Silmarillion gets very little attention compared to his other great works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is in the Silmarillion that the history and mythos of Middle Earth is fully fleshed out. Perhaps because it reads as an overview of The History of Middle Earth and not a novel that the average person (extreme Tolkien fans aside) bothers reading, even if they enjoyed Tolkien’s other, more popular works.
Another “forgotten” epic fantasy. As seems to be the case with these forgotten epic fantasies, there is a big tradeoff between action and characterization, this series opting for characterization over action. Mind you, there is action, but it takes time to build up to these scenes, rather than numb your senses with fireball after fireball, and sword fight after sword fight with every page.

Books in Wars Of Light And Shadow Series (9)

Sullivan was a self-published author who was, after years of persistence, able to land a contract with a publishing company. The series have garnered a lot praise over the past few years. The books are fairly light reading --  the characters are over the top as is the action. You might think of it as an entertaining light action romp with quite a bit of humor. Fans of say, Brent Weeks and Scott Lynch (Lynch’s books are more complex with better prose, however) will appreciate the series.So for some fun, quick, light reading, give The Riyria Revelations a go.

Books in Riyria Revelations Series (5)