Best Fantasy Series

A list of the best fantasy series in the genre (from all fantasy subgenres)

Do you love those fantasy novels with many kingdoms, protagonists, politics, and cultures? Do you like the epic struggles between small bands of heroes against impossible evil? Do you eagerly follow the growing pains of the coming-of-age hero as he (or she) finds greatness? Then you want to check this list of the best fantasy series ever written.

It's hard to select series that are NOT epic fantasy, since most of the series released these days, are. In this list, I wanted to bring you the top 25 best fantasy series from a number of different fantasy subgenres. Some may be grand epic fantasy, some may be more character-driven fantasy, some may be simply fantasy that's part of a series.

I've based my picks on how good the ENTIRE series is as well as how influential they have been on the fantasy genre as a whole. You'll see familiar faces on The Top 25 Best Fantasy List but also plenty of new faces as well.

Like any "Best" list, you can't please everyone with your picks, so don't take it personally if your favorite series is not listed on the list. Rest assured I've spent a lot of time deciding what should be included and excluded.

I've also put together a list of the Best Epic Fantasy Series for those of you who are ONLY looking for epic fantasy books. Updated and revised January 2015

This series tops the Top 25 Best Fantasy Books, and with good reason and it's my pick for the best fantasy series. Martin shattered the fantasy mold and created something completely new. Indeed, fantasy books will never be the same. The world created is a dark one: children are made slaves, brutal graphic wars are fought, heroes are slain and villains are crowned king, swearing and sex are rampant, and all that's ugly about the world is flung in your face.This is a world where heroes are not invincible, and villains are just as likely to emerge victorious. This type of gritty fantasy is not for everyone. Those faint of heart who wish to sail in safer fantasy waters would do well to look elsewhere: this is a no-holds-barred look at a fantasy medieval world; if lingering in padded fantasy worlds where sex is suspiciously absent, violence treated as a romantic comedy, and dashing, good-looking heroes always win, this fantasy may not be for you. But for those of you with a steady heart who want an absolutely addicting descent into a medieval realm torn asunder, where struggling heroes may or may not win, where magic is as mysterious as it is ephemeral, where the battles are so vivid you can hear the clash of steel and the whinnies of dying horses, where an epic story spans the vastness of continents, then heed the siren call of A Song of Ice and Fire.A Song of Ice and Fire is a starkly real treatment of the horror of war and conquest of lands, of rape and pillage and revenge, and man's ultimate fight against extinction. So if you have what it takes, read this series. I guarantee your reading world will never be the same.The last two books in the series have a been a bit of a let-down in terms of moving the plot forward, but things do look up for book 6. But even in 2015, we are STILL waiting for the next in the series. Will Martin ever finish this series? Maybe.Regardless, Martin has still crafted a fantasy world that's taken our world by storm, and it still stands as one of the best examples of fantasy out there.

Similar Recommendations


If you like Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, try David Anthony Durham's Acacia . It's very similar to A Song of Ice and Fire. It's the first of a series, but what a first book. It's one of my top picks for 2007. 

The Briar King

Also read Greg Keyes' The Briar King. The series has been completed for many years now and unfortunately, the last book really disappointed, but it's worth reading. 

The Prince of Nothing

You can also try R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before, which features superlative prose, a unique, but fascinating story-line, and the gritty realism that Martin exhibits. 


You might also like Tad Williams newest fantasy saga: Shadowmarch. It's got some similar themes and the series is NOW complete.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

It's a given that you should read Malazan Book of the Fallen for some epic fantasy that will blow your socks off. And for a solid gritty fantasy about a company of soldiers who work for evil, give Glen Cook's Black Company a read.

Steven Eriksen has been both lauded and criticized for his extreme detail, and that extends to his magic system. In Malazan, magic comes from warrens, a realm from which mages and shamans can draw their power. Some are associated with the world’s various races, locked behind rituals and blood bonds. Humans can draw from those known as paths, as a source of power, opening them to healing, sea, fire, land, light, and mind magic. From them, they can place protective wards, weave the spells of multiple users together, and travel. Though the system doesn’t sound entirely new or complex, the detail the author imbues makes it interesting. Through the course of his ten-book epic, Eriksen dives into far more than can be held in this small description, regaling histories and gods, exceptions and drawbacks. If you can get past his thick pockets of information, he will take you on a journey of magic unlike any you’ve seen.

Books in The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series (11)

Similar Recommendations

A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga also features an epic scope and the grey characterization that Erikson so loves. Martin's work is smaller in scale though and tends to be more focused, plot wise. 

The Darkness That Comes Before

You can also try Scott R. Baker's The Darkness That Comes Before saga, which is an alternative history saga, where the Roman Empire has never fallen and magic works. Oath of Empires is epic, featuring massive magical battles and huge opposing armies (Persian and Roman) clashing so hard you can hear the horses scream. 

The Cry of the Newborn

Also give James Barclay's The Cry of the Newborn a whirl which is similar in style and content (though less epic) to Erikson. It's an example of a Fantasy military fiction done right. Barclay also knows how to write damn good battle scenes, giving even Erikson a run for his money. Also give David Anthony Durham a try. 


His recent novel, Acacia, is a fantastic read -- big on the epic battles and gritty dark realism of Erikson and Martin. At it's core, 

The Black Company

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a military fantasy; you might want to read Glen Cook's classic Black Company series. It's dark, gritty, and has a hell of a lot of battles. It's the book that has forever defined military fantasy.

The Broken Empire

Mark Lawrence's delicious gritty anti-hero military fantasy. If you like large battles, underdog heroes, and a full scale invasion of the dead into the land of the living, well, The Broken Empire is what you need to read. One of the more interesting heroes in the genre and featuring superbly written prose.

The Bloodsounder's Arc

Starts with Scourge of the Betrayer. Some new 2014 military fantasy in a good grimdark tradition. Reminds me of Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence mixed with The Black Company by Glenn Cook.

The Thousand Names

The Thousand Names came out 2013 with a serious bang. Detailed military campaign and squad tactics/warfare as several companies of foreign colonial soldiers must make their way through an inhospitable desert to escape hostile locals trying to kill them.

The Traitor's Son Cycle

Starts with The Red Knight. Plenty of medieval warfare here - tactics, sieges, and fierce battles against men and monsters.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.  This series throws epic fantasy on its head. On the surface we have all the conceits present in standard epic fantasy: a band of heroes, a Gandalf-like wizard, a dark lord who must be defeated, etc. However, Abercrombie doesn't just twist these cliche fantasy conventions, he completely shatters them. If you're jaded from all the hackneyed epic fantasy crap out there, I highly suggest this incredible series. The writing's witty, the plot is original, and the characters are absolutely fascinating. Read it!What's even better is that every single one of Abercrombie's books are great reads. His best is The Heroes, but even his newest 2015 YA series, The Shattered Sea, is a fine read indeed. You won't do any bad by picking up his first book in The First Law series, The Blade Itself.

Books in The First Law Universe Series (3)

Similar Recommendations

The Blade Itself is a new style of Fantasy that's gaining swift momentum. The quality level demanded of a good Fantasy novel is now very high. Readers are no longer satisfied with the dark lords versus farm boy conceit. This new style of Fantasy takes the old staples of Fantasy and remakes them into something more sophisticated. Strong, witty writing, dry humor, twisted plotting, and full of contrasting elements, this new style makes for some intelligent reading. In this new world of noir Fantasy, shades of grey are the new black and white. 

If you like this 21st century upgrade to the Fantasy genre in the gritty style of Abercrombie, check out books by R. Scott Bakker, Mark Lawrence, Luke Sculls, Jeff Salyards, Scott Lynch , Joe AbercrombieGeorge R.R. Martin, and Steven Erikson.

This is NOT your standard epic fantasy. But oh man, there's a lot to love about this one. If you want to take a much needed break from the standard fantasy cliche's, The Long Price Quartet should be your next stop. Even if you ONLY like standard fantasy, still read this gem of a series. It's widely being hailed as a modern masterpiece.This is a series with an incredibly strong plot; really, once you get hooked at the start, you're going to have to just finish all the books to see how everything gets wrapped up (and all four books have been completed).Abraham's characters are living and breathing creatures. There are no characters introduced just to move along the plot. It's a rare thing to get so involved with the characters you read about. But Abraham invites you to do just that -- all of the characters are sympathetic, with flaws and strengths and personalities.So, toss away all that boring epic fantasy and read a REAL fantasy series that's just about a cut above everything else out there right now. As a bonus, the series is completed with all four books out. Many agree that the first couple of books are the weakest in the series (and even a "weak" book here is better than most of the fantasy out there) with the final books the best.Fans of this series will also be delighted to know that Abraham has released the first book in another series -- this one a standard epic fantasy (but with Abraham's trademark style, fantastic plot, and awesome characterization) which, should you find The Long Price Quartet not the type of fantasy for you, more palatable. It's called the Dragon and the Coin.
The Amber Chronicles is a complex blend of genres and plot. It starts like a murder mystery, drawing the reader in, then it moves on to a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy. However, while Zelanzy's tension-building goes a long way, it's the character that keeps the reader invested throughout this ten book series. The book is from the perspective of Corwin, a hospitalized amnesiac trying to remember his true identity. We follow along as he tries to unravel his thoughts with the hard resourcefulness. But then Corwin learns that he's not in his home world but has been banished to shadowland that is earth. More than that, he has a claim to the throne, and his siblings are all too happy to kill him to take it. In an inspiring change, Zelazny details Corwin's growth as he comes to remember little details about himself and his personality changes as a result. It's a subtle beginning, opening to flood as he both realizes himself and is altered by the events of the series. Throughout it all, he remains intensely lovable, human, and eloquent.

Books in Amber Chronicles Series (12)

The Name of the Wind is a stunning work of imagination and storytelling triumph and currently ranks very near the top of my Top 25 Best Fantasy List. I won't bother trying to rehash why you should read it. Just do.Two books have been released now (as of 2015, still waiting on the third book) and both are good (though some argue the second is not as good as the first, to which I agree). Despite the flaws with this series, I don't think there is another fantasy series out there where you get into the head of the protagonist as much as you do in the King Killer Chronicles with maybe the exception being Farseer trilogy by Hobb (and that protagonist had me wanting to slap him for being such an incoherent doormat half the time).There's a surprising amount of hate towards this book and author. A lot of this anger has to do with the the protagonist's hero being unrealistically heroic at everything he does, from magic, to martial abilities, to his skills with the ladies. However, Rothfuss is a clever chap and there's a deeper story beyond the surface story going on here in this frame story. The narrator's the painter of his own portrait and arguably unreliable. We'll have to see what happens in book three, but I think Rothfuss knows exactly what he is doing here.From the start to the end of each book, you're taken along on an adventure you don't want to end. This is one of the most enjoyable series out there folks. Do yourself a big favor and read it. Even in 2015 with an absurd number of awesome fantasy reads  to be had, The Kingkiller Chronicles still stands out as some of the best fantasy in the genre.

Books in Kingkiller Chronicle Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

If you like The Name of the Wind, you might like Robin Hobb's The Farseer Trilogy . Though the authors have a different style and radically different plots, both authors really delve deep into the mind of the protagonist. You really get to know the hero. Both stories are about the rise of a no-name boy into something great.

Tale of the Dying Earth truly stands as one of the greatest works ever penned. Everything that's good and bad about the human condition is eloquently expressed within this tale. You get the full range of heroics, adventure, drama, atmosphere and excitement all wrapped by Vance's dry sense of humor and terse yet flowery  prose.Dying Earth is more science fiction than fantasy, but it certainly does have many fantasy elements as told through several characters within the story (most notable Cugel the Clever).The characters are often over-the-top characterizations by intention and are used by Vance as sharp instruments to perceptively express the full extremes of the human condition -- both the best and the worst of it.This is literary fantasy of the highest form, written by a man who's had wide ranging influence on the genre. Many of the best modern fantasy authors cite Vance as a huge influence on their work.Beautifully and cleverly written prose that jabs and pokes at the human condition in such a way that all the foibles, follies, and glories are laid bare to the reader.Fans of Lionesses,  Books of the New Sun, and Ghormenghast will die for joy with this series. 

Books in The Dying Earth Series (3)

If you like your epic fantasy big in the style of Wheel of Time, the closest you'll find to that style is The Storm Light Archive -- written by the same man who's finishing The Wheel of Time series. You really won't find any other books close to the style of Jordan. As of 2015, we are sitting at two massive books in what will be a ten book series. Words of Radiance, book 2 in the series, was by all measures a success. It was a very good read for the most part with plenty of "ohhh shiiittt' moments going on (Sanderson has made his career on 'Holy Shit' moments where action and drama perfectly intersect with showdowns between heroes and bad guys).The Stormlight Archive is Sanderson's own vision of an epic fantasy series, his own take on The Wheel of Time (and he's determined to do it right this time and not make the mistakes Jordan made) and folks, it is indeed epic -- the fantasy tale spans millennia and includes a cast of larger than life characters, from humble slaves, magical assassins, female scholars to the leaders of great armies. The magic system, like all of Sanderson's works, is very well thought out and the action scenes, when they happen, are explosive and powerful. Keep in mind that this is a huge book and it takes hundreds of pages to get into the flow of the story. But keep reading till the end and the action comes to an explosive head -- it's worth the wait.

Books in The Stormlight Archive Series (4)

Robin Hobb has received significant praise for her Realm of the Elderlings world, which spans four series and several other short works. However, among that epic list, The Farseer Trilogy stands out as the strongest coming of age story. It chronicles the beginning of Fitz Chivalry's story, a royal bastard who ends up an assassin. It's not a new idea, building on classic tropes and settings to build a compelling story. However, Hobb's execution is somewhat different to the norm. Fitz is very much fallible. Despite the gift of magic, he often makes mistakes, misses clues, and undergoes hardships. It's difficult to maintain a likable character despite this, but Hobb expertly builds Fitz shortcomings as natural learning experiences. Fitz never becomes perfect, and that's what makes him feel so real. Read if you like: Imperfect characters, long series, fantasy assassin.

Books in Farseer Series (2)

Not an epic fantasy in your traditional sense, but one of the most underrated series out there starring the brutal amoral assassin, Caine. This is a series that holds nothing back: it's brutal and uncompromising the entire way through. With an interesting blend of science-fiction and fantasy combined with an absolutely amoral psychopathic killer as the star of the whole show (literally, Caine the killer is in fact a movie star beamed to another dimension to wreak murder and induce mayhem among the local population for the entertainment of billions back home), it's an absolutely must read, especially if you like anti-hero fantasy where there is no defined moral compass. Every book in the now four part series (with more likely to come) is good with no dip in  quality.This series is one of my absolute favorites, and it's a crime that the author and the series are not as well-known as they should be. If you want something different that's so tasty you'll practically cry with delight, read.The series is a bit uneven, however. The first book is fabulous, the second merely great. The last two books are merely just good.

Books in The Acts Of Caine Series (4)

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)

This is a different sort of fantasy and helped solidify the New Weird / Slipstream movement. The New Crobuzon novels are loosely connected (set in the same world), with the first being Perdido Street Station. It's hard to explain Mieville's work -- it's a combination of the bizarre, the familiar, and the totally weird. But everything somehow fits right together in the end. And the writing is good, so very good. Beautiful metaphors and similes dance from the pages. Prose so sharp it almost cuts. and keeps you turning the pages. The books take a bit to get into due to the utter weirdness of the characters and the landscape, but after a bit of time the environment starts to sink in. The plots are always strong, however. All in all, the series is as grand as it is grotesque and gaudy, and the whole tale is captivating. I'll be the first to admit that China Mieville is a polarizing author and his works are definitely not for everyone. I recommend you start with his Perdido Street Station for a good introduction to his style of writing. If you don't like this book, then you probably won't like his other books. His most interesting book is The City and The City, which is a pseudo science fiction read, but quite remarkable.His New Crobuzon books require you to put some work into and just slow down your reading pace and let the words, story, and setting wash over you. If you do, you'll be in for something special. 

Books in Bas-lag Series (2)

Yep, had to include it. Most people have probably read this series and even more authors have written hackneyed copies of it, but this series is the original father epic fantasy and deserves to be read. To the two people who haven't read it: just go ahead and get it over with. If you want to factor in significance to the genre of fantasy, Tolkien ranks at the #1 spot. However, most people have read him so I've put him at a lower spot to give other authors a chance at some recognition. 

Similar Recommendations

What can I possibly recommend if you like Lord of the Rings? 'Rings' is the progenitor of an entire genre, and one can recommend almost anything. Regardless, I'll try to suggest a couple books based on the "feel" of Lord of the Rings. 

Tolkien has always been about the world in which his characters live, never about the characters who live in his world. He created a world full of myth and legend, starkly real and full of mystery. There is always some strange power deep in a mountain, or some magical glade in the heart of a forest. There are worlds deep in the world, and worlds high in the heavens. It's a land full of wonder, a world too large to explore; it's an earth that still has mysteries and unknown lands. 

There are several authors who recreate this type of world -- but with stronger characters and more meaningful relationships. Tolkien's characters were always too perfect, too evil; their motivations are at best unclear and at worst, unrealistic. Modern fantasy has taken the roots created by Tolkien and grown them into full trees and in some cases grafted those roots to new trees completely.

The Wheel of Time


If you like Tolkien, read Eye of the World by Jordan. This man, when he was alive, claimed Tolkien's world building mantle: Jordan created a massive world, richly developed cultures, and well-defined magic system. When you read Jordan, youexplore an ancient world full of secrets. I have to throw out a disclaimer though: Wheel of Time is far from perfect; Jordan becomes lost in his own world as it grows too big even for him; (some of) his characters devolve into caricatures, and Jordan's handling of romance between characters is puerile to say the least. However, many people still find the books great fun, and if you like Tolkien's epic style, Jordan is a must read. Jordan died a few years ago, but the talented Brandon Sanderson is finishing the series and looks to be doing a good job. In fact under Sanderson's finishing touch, the Wheel of Time is finally getting back on track; Sanderson's last two Wheel of Time books were some of the best Wheel of Time books since books 5-6. This year (2011) will mark the final completion of the series when A Memory of Light, the final book, will be released.

The Way of Kings

For another epic fantasy with an end-of-the-world plot and a coming of age (sorta) story, read Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings (first book in the Stormlight Archive saga). If Jordan took up Tolkien's world-building mantle with A Wheel of Time, Sanderson is picking up that epic fantasy mantle with this generation's new epic fantasy series.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn


If you want a book that's like Lord of the Rings but longer, has strong female characters, and very strong characterization (FAAR better than Jordan's), read Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga, another classic.


The Swan's War

If you want the beautiful, almost lyrical writing of Tolkien and a world in which magic is present but still a grand mystery (i.e. not every character is throwing around magic like kids throwing sand at a beach), Sean Russell's The Swan's War is the answer. 


Earthsea Cycle

Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle is also a beautiful tale, full of lyrical, often sad, prose; a tale about a village boy who seeks his destiny. 

Riddle Master 

Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle-Master is also another series(trilogy) that brings back similarities to Tolkien's style of writing. 


A Song of Ice and Fire


For a 12th-century version of Middle Earth set in a stark (English) European landscape that's as cold as the world is gritty and brutal where main characters can die at any moment, read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga tale.

First Law

If you want to see some of Tolkien's conventions turned on their heads and enjoy a noir version of a classic high fantasy tale with a starkly realized cast of grey characters, read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy.

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)

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)

Similar Recommendations

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.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow...  Despite the inevitable flood of protests I'll get by including this on the list, Robert Jordan has really defined the modern epic fantasy genre. I've stated it before, but I'll say it again: despite the problems and controversies of how Jordan has handled the story (it's agreed that the first 5 books are pretty good, the later 6 or so really lose track), this series is "the" epic fantasy series of our generation. Robert Jordan has pretty much taken up the cloak that Tolkien left and stretched out so wide the very seams threaten to tear. I can confidently say that no other story is as large as WOT. Indeed, you'll need a backpack to carry Jordan's entire story, literally. Those who like their fantasy big, with dozens of realms, a huge cast of characters, and plenty of magic, politics, and adventure, WOT delivers. This book defines what classic epic fantasy is folks, for better or for worse. You will find peoples opinion sharply divided about whether WOT has imploded under the too-many plot threads of the story, but without a doubt, WOT is a seminal work of epic fantasy and is a must-read book for every epic fantasy lover.If you are looking for new variations on the epic fantasy genre, there are several authors and books who have done some interesting things, but if you want something "classic", the Wheel of Time is the best you'll find. I'm sure not having this in the top 5 will offend his fans, while even including the WOT will invariably offend others.But if you want to read epic classic fantasy with a huge cast of characters who move from sheepherders and blacksmiths to great men of importance in a huge detailed world, and on whom the fate of a world and all the worlds that will ever be rest, then read this. This is about as epic as classic fantasy comes.

Similar Recommendations

Give George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga a try. It's a massive epic like Jordan's The Wheel of Time (but not as long), and it's universally held in the highest esteem, a sort of paragon of what all Fantasy books should strive to be. You thought those "Dragonlance" books were good? Feast on Martin for a taste of what Fantasy books should be like. 

You might also try Tracy Hickman & Margaret Weis's The Death Gate Cycle . A monolithic seven book saga that's reminiscent of Jordan's style: heavy on the magic, tension and action, but unique enough not to be a banal hack. 

Also try Michelle West's The Sun Sword , another large epic fantasy saga (six books) that shares some similarities with Jordan's Wheel of Time. West's writing style is drastically different that Jordan's, however -- far more subtle, and often ponderous. If you are an action freak, The Sun Sword pacing will probably be a bit too slow for you. 

You might also try Raymond E. Feist's Magician, as he writes in a style and flavor similar to Jordan (heavy on politics, action, and magic). Jim Butcher's Codex Alera is also another magic-packed, plot driven series you might like. It's got a really unique magic system and it's fantasy set in an alternate roman empire where magic works. 

Don't forget Dave Farland's The Runelords series -- action galore, with a pretty unique magic system, and a entertaining if fairly vanilla fantasy story... until it collapses a few books in. I do not recommend reading any of his sequel books to the original Rune Lord books.

Generally regarded, along with A Man of His Word, as Duncan’s best work. This is some of the best sword and sorcery fantasy you’ll read, period.The premise is that a dying man with very few abilities to recommend him as special gets transported into another dimension/world into the body of a warrior, Shonshu by a God who is in fact looking for a pawn. Shonshu is no mere warrior, however. Rather, he’s a Swordsman of the Seventh Rank and in a brutal, feudal world where top class hierarchy is associated with martial prowess, Wallie as Shonshu now stands at the pinnacle. It’s a wildly entertaining ride though a vaguely medieval landscape mixed in with a faint Oriental influence. Combine it with a myriad of Greek and Roman gods who take an active role in the whole story. Wallie brings his modern sensibilities to a medieval world which makes for some interesting scenes as the books progress. But you also see the character grow and evolve too. The characters are quite well done as are the relationships.The series has a multi-leveled plot all the way through and there are enough twists going on that keep you suspended right until the final page.  There is a faint D&D feel going on behind the scenes with the character’s martial abilities represented by different “sword levels” tattooed on their heads. You get to watch your own “protagonist” (game character) power up through the levels as the series progresses. However, this novel is a far, far cry from those tie-in game knockoff novels.So if you are looking for some absolutely fantastic sword and sorcery fantasy with a cross-over twist, this series is a must. Hell, even if you don’t like sword and sorcery, read it – I don’t care whether you like A Game of Thrones, hate or love The Wheel of Time, this series will appeal to you.After a few decades, Duncan recently released a new book in the series entitled The Death of Nnanji.

Books in The Seventh Sword Series (3)

"The Dark Tower" is a series of books by Stephen King that blends elements of multiple genres, including horror, western, fantasy, and science fiction. The series follows the quest of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, as he journeys through a post-apocalyptic world known as Mid-World in search of the Dark Tower, a structure that holds the key to the universe's existence.

Throughout the series, Roland is joined by a diverse group of characters, including a boy named Jake Chambers, a recovering heroin addict named Eddie Dean, and a woman named Susannah Dean who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. The series also includes a number of connections to King's other works, creating a shared universe known as the "King Multiverse."

The series consists of eight books in total, including "The Gunslinger," "The Drawing of the Three," "The Waste Lands," "Wizard and Glass," "Wolves of the Calla," "Song of Susannah," "The Dark Tower," and "The Wind Through the Keyhole." The series has been adapted into various forms of media, including comic books, video games, and a movie adaptation.

Epic Dark Fantasy in the classic western tradition. This is Steven King's Magnus Opus, a series that's taken him decades to finish. In this huge series, King writes about "worlds other than these." It's a dark journey through a bizarre landscape with equally strange characters. It's a journey through space and time, through worlds not our own in a quest to protect the most precious thing in the universe.

Books in The Dark Tower Series (15)

Similar Recommendations

The Talisman

Read Steven King's The Talisman, which is another book set in the Dark Tower universe. It's a powerful read about a boy trying to save his mother. Jack Sawyer, a 12-year old boy, sets off on a quest to find a mythical talisman that will save his dying mother. His quest will take him across America and into the heart of a parallel world. I listened to the Audiobook version of this novel and was blown away by the story. Steven King is always at his best when he explores "worlds not our own." Several of his books explore the parallel universe concept. King's Insomnia is another such book (set in the same universe as The Dark Tower) and a great read.

Swan Song 

Read Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It's a post-apocalyptic novel and considered one of the greats. Does have SOME similar elements.

The Crooked Letter

The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams. Part of a trilogy. It's a dark and twisted tale about an afterlife gone awry. Twins who are connected are separated by murder, one very much alive on earth and cast into an afterlife gone wrong. Their special connection, however, sets a cataclysmic change in reality, pulling together the afterlife realm and the physical realm. There is much of King's haunted and forlorn world present in the novel as one of the characters struggles his way through an afterlife gone to hell, with monsters and creatures lurking around every corner and twisted versions of humanity preying on visitors. And when the afterlife begins to leak into the real world, a horrific version of reality takes over the world. It does feel very Stephen Kingish in some sections and the world, as stated, could be one of the nightmare worlds visited by Roland during The Dark Tower series.


Riverworld by Jose Farmer. Another science fiction classic, but I feel it has some of the same elements of enigma and adventure of the Dark Tower.


Read Hyperion by Dan Simmons. A very dark science fiction tale that's epic. Not the same sort of story and pure science fiction, but there are elements that you might like IF you like The Dark Tower -- particularly the tales told by the emotionally tortured pilgrims.

Last Call 

Last Call by Tim Powers. Some similarities I felt when reading it in tone and style to The Dark Tower. You may or may not agree, but give it a read.


Otherland by Tad Williams. A sprawling epic story with a cast of characters who travel from virtual world to world as part of an overarching quest to find answers. Very much character-driven, but about as epic an adventure you can get. You'll like it.

His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Multiple universes, portals to other worlds, dark story that plays out with children as the actors, grand adventures. You'll probably like it if you like King's work, though this one has an unequivocal anti-theological direction to it.

Lord Foul's Bane begins the epic Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, a series in which a leprosy-stricken man in the real world is transported to a stereotypical fantasy world. However, what ensues isn't a cutesy Narnia-like adventure, but something far… less cutesy. To say the least. The darkness in this book isn't primarily in the world, or the action, but in what an utter son of a bitch the protagonist it. Thomas Covenant isn't like other anti-heroes in that he's a bastard with a heart of gold. He's a bastard through and through, and utterly unlikeable. Despite this, he's a well-drawn character grappling with the crippling disease of leprosy, refusing to believe that the fantasy world he's found himself in is even real. Covenant is so despicable at times, that on my first read of the book, I found myself doing something that I haven't done before or since; putting the book down because I was too appalled to continue. Offsetting this is the flowery, poetic, old-fashioned way in which the book is written. Lord Foul's Bane isn't fun to read, nor will it probably be your favourite book, but it's an experience important to fantasy as a genre. Read this book if: you like classic fantasy but hate goody-two-shoes protagonists. Or even protagonists that aren't complete assholes.

Books in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever Series (9)

Similar Recommendations

The Sequel Books

If you like his Donaldson's first trilogy, then you should read his Covenant trilogies listed above. His new trilogy (Last Chronicles ) is a riveting read that will please both old and new fans. Thomas' old lover, Linden, returns to The Land, only to find it changed beyond recognition... And Thomas the Unbeliever? Read the books to find out! 

Mordant's Need
Starts with Mirror of Her Dreams. Oh yes, read this. Not as anti-heroish as the Thomas Covenant, but some strong characterization and a well developed world. I'd say it's arguably his funnest read without all the sorrow and misery of his Covenant books. 

Gap Series

Donaldson also has a very interesting (and dark dark) Science Fiction saga (Gap) that you will like if you liked the anti-hero aspect of Covenant.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

If you like the characterization of Thomas Covenant, you may like Tad William's epic fantasy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga which really follows the transformation of the protagonist over the course of the series. 

The Farseer

Read Robin Hobb's The Farseer Trilogy for another story with magnificent characterization set in a fantasy landscape (though Farseer is not exactly epic fantasy). Donaldson is unique in fantasy because his character is whole an whole an anti-hero instead of a hero. You may like 

A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga; there are some detestable main characters (anti-hero types) that become more agreeable as the series progresses; You see a slow evolution of these characters. 

If You Like the Anti-Hero Aspect of this book, check out our Best Anti-Hero Fantasy Books list.

Today, Ursula K. Le Guin’s magic system may not sound exceptional. Like many, it uses the knowledge of true names to control elements, creatures, and even humans. Consider, however, that this book was published in 1968, yet remains the most interesting execution of the concept. In Earthsea, every magical action has a consequence. Learning it is as much a practice in ethics as it is names, as even the smallest spell can change the world. Stop rain in one part of the world, and another may be hit with terrible storms. As a result, mages must have a deep understanding of the world. Learning an item’s name isn’t enough; the caster must understand how it fits into the bigger picture. As a result, wizards usually specialize. There are healers, enchanters, summoners, and illusionists. Each much consider the balance of the world so as not to upset it unnecessarily. Through the protagonist, Ged, the reader learns what can happen if that warning isn’t heeded. His overconfidence unleashes a terrible shadow upon the world; one that he must learn to both accept, and then defeat.

Books in The Earthsea Cycle Series (5)

Similar Recommendations

The Lord of the Rings

Similar recommendations: J.R.R.Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

Riddle-Master of Hed

I also recommend Phillip K. McKillip's wonderful Riddle-Master trilogy, which features similar prose and a similar, though at the same time, very different, story. 

The Swan's War

You might also try Sean Russell's The Swans' War .

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

This book is a classic with a complex heroine and plenty of subversions. The author is from the same mold as Le Guine.

Lyonesse Trilogy

The Lyonesse Trilogy by the great Jack Vance. Plays quite a few of the same notes as does The Earthsea Cycle: beautiful, poetic writing, well developed complex characters, a magical world steeped in welsh/Celtic mythology that you want to move into, and some deep themes explored.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Starts with The Dragonebone Chair. From boy to man and from man to hero, this is a remarkable tale that's brimming with detail. It's a story where the journey's end is not the ultimate destination, but the journey itself is.

The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion won the World Fantasy Award and the author has won Hugos and Nebula awards already for her other series. Beautiful writing, complex characters, deep themes. Something about this book brings to mind A Wizard of Earthsea, even if the plot and story are not at all the same.

In an era when fantasy was about honorable farm boys with magic swords and a noble destiny, Glen Cook said 'fuck that mess; let's have some amoral pricks doing bad deeds in a dark world, that's way cooler'. And you know what? I believe he may just have been right. The Black Company is about the titular band of mercenaries simply doing their jobs and, well, killing people for coin. It just so happens that the person supplying said coin is the sort of dark lord that, in any other story, would be the arch-villain. But why should the Black Company give a shit? They get paid either way. The writing is unremarkable and to the point, which reflects the points of view of the grunts whose stories we follow. None of the characters are nice, and the combat is never glorified. It's all in a day's work for these sorry bastards, and the epic conflicts of the god-like figures they fight for and against are far above their pay-grades. Gritty humour also abounds, and reading the book is entertaining, and fun, even if the characters are having the most miserable times of their lives. The world is dark as hell, and made darker by the exploits of the Black Company and their masters. Read this book if: you're pissed about fantasy heroes always taking down the dark lord and leaving thousands of good, hard-working grunts unemployed.

Books in The Chronicles Of The Black Company Series (10)

Similar Recommendations

Instrumentalities of the Night

If you like Black Company, you should definitely read his other fantasy series, The Instrumentalities of the Night. It combines an ancient evil coming-back-into-the-world plot, a military genius hero, plenty of conflicts between worldly powers, political scheming, all filtered through Cook's military narrative. The closest you'll find to The Black Company in style and form. And duh, it's by the same freaking author. How much closer CAN you get?

Bloodsounder's Arc

Starts with Scourge of the Betrayers. About as close as you are going to get to Cook -- the narrator is even an archivist and the tale is told in first person. There's a LOT of similarities and the Bloodsounder books are gritty gritty grimdark dark. Delicious and some of the best fantasy to come out the past couple years. Do NOT pass this series by if you want something similar to The Black Company. It's the best of the similar recommendations I can give.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

For another "dark" military fantasy, you should read Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's more epic in scope than The Black Company, but there are enough similarities that you'll find yourself right at home. Steven Erikson has even stated that Glen Cook's books were an influence on his own writing, so there you have it.

The Dagger and the Coin

You may want to give Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series a good go at it. Books one and two are out and they are seriously good -- some of the best epic fantasy that's come out. Abraham's work is a good mix of epic and military fantasy with some smart writing and a cast of compelling characters (some which are anti-heroes). Both are character driven, though Black Company has a hell of a lot more action and angst while The Dagger and the Coin is far more about the characters. It can be somewhat plodding and slow at times. However, if you like Black Company, and military fantasy with strong characters, you may just like this series. 

The Ten Thousand

Paul Kearney's The Ten Thousand is a superb military fantasy by a much underrated author. If you like Black Company, you'll dig this one hard. 

The Way of Kings

Sanderson's awesome The Way of Kings is also another book you might want to read (it's first in the Stormlight Archive series). The main character (Kaladin) has a few basic similarities to The Black Company main character (Croaker). Both are retired physicians who've given up their profession to become soldiers. Both lead a squad of men (and there is the squad dynamics). Cook's work is more gray and his style more dry, however. The narrator (Croaker), is not a crazy badass super hero, while Sanderson's work is more heroic in nature as is the character. So don't get the idea that The Way of Kings is anything like The Black Company as a whole, but as stated there are some similarities.

Heroes Die

Heroes Die by Mathew Woodring Stoover. Dark and gritty world. Check. An anti-hero character who ends up working for the bad guys most of the time? Check. Explosive and brutal action? Check. Strong characterization. Check and Check. Heroes die is MORE about a singular hero than a company of characters, as is The Black Company, but there's enough that you'll probably love it if you like Glenn Cook's work.

The Darkness That Comes Before

The Darkness that Comes Before. Ah, grimdark epic fantasy at it's best, but not your standard epic fantasy: this shit is deep and philosophical. Lots of wars and grand military battles and dark gods taking over the world. There's nothing else quite like it to be honest, but ignoring all the philosophy sprinkled between the chapters, there's a hell of a lot of bloody action, gratuitous sex, character development, and political intrigue to keep you turning the pages. Oh and there's a world-ending apocalypse coming. 

The Coldfire Trilogy

Black Sun Rising is a different sort of work. But it's a very dark and grim world featuring an anti-hero character and side kick heroes that are all flawed individuals. One of the best fantasy books in the genre. You'll probably like it, even if it's about a couple characters solving a quest rather than a military band caught up in incessant warfare.

The Thousand Names

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler. This is a new series that came out in 2013 with two books out so far (the last one was out a few months ago, mid 2014). If you like large scale battles and the story of a squad/company facing extreme survival odds in a foreign country, you'll love this series. It's one of the better fantasy books to come out the past few years. And it's certainly one of the best military fantasy series since Erikson's Mazalan. If you like Black Company, you'll love this series.


Legend by David Gemmell. A classic, but one all about a hero fighting an endless war against endless odds. There's something of beauty in this heroic treatment of an old washed up hero who's pressured by the need of his people to come back from retirement to kick some ass.

The Red Knight

For a very medieval fantasy with magic and monsters and knights, Miles Cameron's The Red Knight. This was one of my favorite reads of 2013. There's a lot of military battles and squad/company warfare against foes with superior numbers. It's not as dark, on a whole, as The Black Company, but it's a stellar read. If you like might and magic and battles and warfare, this is one for your.

'The Shadow of the Torturer' is the first book in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun tetralogy. Narrated by Severian, a member of the Guild of Torturers, the story follows his adventures as he is cast out for showing mercy to a deserving client. The setting for the story is Earth (or Urth) in the far future where civilization has regressed, and the sun is red and dying. Severian is an outstanding young apprentice in the Torturer's guild. He falls for a beautiful prisoner and is forced to leave his lifelong home to seek his destiny, in the first volume of Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" series. Why it's on the list While the plot is in many ways pretty ordinary, there are plenty of unusual touches that take this fantasy beyond the run of the mill. Wolfe's language helps create the other-worldly locale for his story, and he often employs archaic or invented words to describe objects that are common enough on "Urth", but are unfamiliar to us. Almost every other page describes some incredible wonder.

Books in The Book Of The New Sun Series (5)

There are writers who like to write pulp and there are some writers who like to write fiction. Williams is the latter. Memory, Sorrow, Thorn is Tad Williams response to The Lord of the Rings. It's a slow, pedantic, and sometimes tedious tale about the young kitchen Scullion, Simon. Tad with his ponderous style, slowly brings the reader into his fictional world, and carefully, oh so carefully, weaves the threads of the plot together. Action doesn't happen right away -- maybe not even for hundreds of pages -- in a Williams novel. But what you get is a living, breathing world that you become part of.Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is NOT a series for everyone -- people either love or hate William's style, but a shoddily written, hack series this is NOT. So if you want a slow, epic fantasy series with great characterization, an interesting world and realistically motivated villains, pick up this series. 

Similar Recommendations

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. 

Another book that shares some similarities is Michael A Stackpole's The DragonCrown War Cycle , which features an epic, black & white struggle, struggle between good and evil. 

Also read William's new fantasy saga Shadowmarch. Wonderful prose and a strong plot. I also recommend Tad Williams Otherland saga. It's science fiction, but there are quite a few fantasy elements too; it's kind of like the Matrix. Otherland is of the best Science Fiction books, IMHO.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. 

Another book that shares some similarities is Michael A Stackpole's The DragonCrown War Cycle , which features an epic, black & white struggle, struggle between good and evil. 

If you're fed up with books that take themselves too seriously, Jonathan Stroud's debut series is a great place to find a break. His style is of a casual, comedic tone, with heavy doses of cynicism and sarcasm. It's less of a world-shaking fight against evil and more of an adventure, infused with memorable characters and rule-breaking. This isn't your regular coming of age, either. Nathaniel doesn't learn to accept people for who they are or become a better person. If anything, he becomes more of a snarky dick. That may not make for the most likable protagonist, but there's plenty of growth in the area of magic, and the other characters more than make up for it. The second PoV from Bartimaeus, a sarcastic Djinn, brings the whole story together and creates plenty of funny moments. In the end, though, the feeling of growth is still key in this story. Nathaniel's penchant for vengeance is marred slightly by a small conscience deep inside, and he eventually feels the need for redemption. Stroud's subversion ultimately makes the series stand out above the competition, and makes for a wildly entertaining read. Read if you like: Humor in fantasy, snarky protagonists.

Books in Bartimaeus Sequence Series (2)

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)

Elric is the prince of a dying race, a pale, morose champion of right, despite the cards stacked against him. He's a physical weakling who needs to take drugs and relies on evil magic to survive. This puts him at odds with just about every other standard fantasy hero in the genre. In any other book, Elric would be closer to a villain than a hero. Elric may not be that "popular" these days (as evinced by the limited comments these books get on this website), but Elric has had a lasting influence on the entire fantasy genre.

Books in Elric Series (24)

This series is challenging. Not because it's badly written or because there's a complex world to understand, but because it asks the reader to consider their beliefs and question everything they base their principles on.Why it made this listFantasy often draws on ideas from religion. There's obvious religious symbolism. There's obvious religious influence. And then there's Phillip Pullman. His Dark Materials is a blatant in its cynical view of organized religion – with the Church often playing the part of the villain. This shouldn't put you off though; the series weaves theory-heavy subjects including physics, parallel universes, quantum theory and theology with the personal themes of loyalty, family, love and friendshipEven though it was marketed as a children's series, the themes are equally intense for adults. It's an engrossing tale, with well-written characters and an intriguing plot. But, more importantly, it's an opportunity to think about our own preconceptions. Pullman questions everything in this series – theology, spirituality and knowledge. And he challenges the reader to do the same.It's always impressive when an author can combine fantastical elements like a talking bear with concrete aspects similar to those in our world. Pullman does this flawlessly. The magical aspects of the book are the devices through which he challenges our beliefs and knowledge.It's easy to empathize with the journey of the main protagonist – Lyra Belacqua – as she moves from childish innocence to adulthood and the sense of loss that comes with this growth is something we all experience. That she is such a strong female character is just another reason to pick up this series.
A startling work of imagination that will evoke feeling when you read it. Reading Gormenghast is like feasting your eyes on a masterfully drawn painting -- you might not always get the context, but you're drawn to the beauty it represents.If you are a fan of fantasy with superbly written prose, this is for you. The characters are indelible and the castle setting will leap out at you from the pages. You will never, ever forget the characters or the castle.

Books in Ghormenghast Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

Perdido Street Station

For a modern version of fantasy weird, give China Mieville a try. It's not in the same vein as Gormenghast, but Mieville is the head of one of the "new" schools of fantasy that aims for the weird and the bizarre. Oh, and he's a superbly talented author too. You might start with his Perdido Street Station. In fact, Mieville has publicly stated that his Perdido Street Station novel was influenced by Gormenghast.



Another author who's been heavily influenced by Peake is Jeff Vandermeer (read his book Ambergris). You might as well read The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, another book that shares some of the Gothic weirdness of the Gormenghast series.

The Book of the New Sun

For another series that's baroque in description, alien in setting and just about as beautiful a series as Gormenghast is Gene Wolf's The Book of the New Sun series. It's a visual feast of the imagination. It's not strictly fantasy, but more of a "science fantasy."


And if you want another literary fantasy series with a rich narrative, dry humor, and a compelling story, all written in flowery language, read Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy. For many older fantasy readers, this series is often compared with The Lord of the Rings and Dune in literary scope. Those weaned on filler fantasy of the likes of Brook, Eddings, and Salvatore, may not appreciate the scope and beauty of this work, but for those who love literary fantasy in the epic fantasy tradition, read it.

If you want more suggestions for a similar style of fantasy, take a good look at the Best Literary Fantasy Books list.

Lois McMaster Bujold did not start off writing fantasy, instead rising to fame in the early 1990s as a prolific science-fiction novelist, winning numerous accolades such as the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for her work. With The Curse of Chalion, it became clear she could write just as captivatingly about siege warfare as she could about interstellar intrigue. The novel is her second foray into fantasy, launching the tremendously popular Chalion series, set in a world based on medieval Spain (history buffs will especially enjoy this one). Though the story is told through the eyes of a damaged (male) knight returning home, Bujold does not disappoint with her female characters, especially the princess Iselle, who takes the plight of her arranged marriage and turns it on its head, becoming politically savvy and learning to make the rules of her world work in her favor. No damsels in distress here. For a tremendously satisfying and intricate storyline interwoven with a theology including humanlike gods, pick this one up. Though part of a series, the books stands alone; not that you'd want to skip out on the sequel, Paladin of Souls, which won all the awards that The Curse of Chalion was nominated for. Read if You Like: history, medieval fantasy, mythology

Books in World Of The Five Gods Series (2)

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.  
A great series in the same style as Lord of the Rings and the Wizard of Earthsea. It's the story of the Riddle-Master of Hed, Morgan, who has an unknown destiny. You see, he himself is a riddle, a man born with three mysterious stars on his head. And to solve the greatest riddle of all -- himself -- he will change the world forever.The book is one of the great modern fantasy trilogies. My recommendation is that you only read it when you don't have to work the next day -- it's very hard to put this series down once you start, so be prepared for a LONG reading session. 

Similar Recommendations

Classic, beautifully written heroic fantasy is the theme of these recommendations.

Lord of the Rings

J.R.R.Tolkien's A Lord of the Rings. What more to say here. Nothing.

The Earthsea Cycle

I also recommend Ursula le Guin's classic The Earthsea trilogy, which features the same lyrical writing style as McKillip, and the hauntingly beautiful tale of a young boy's journey from boy to wizard. 

The Swan's War

You might also try Sean Russell's The Swan's War trilogy which features lyrical prose, a pervading sense of pathos and a world full of opportunity, were magic is as mysterious as it is dangerous.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Beautiful writing. Check. Heroic fantasy? Check. Slow, pedantic writing that details every inch of the world. Check. 

The Kingkiller Chronicles

Starts with The Name of the Wind. Lyrical, beautifully written and character driven, this high fantasy tale is one of the best in the genre. It's not so much a story about good and evil but rather the story of a hero as he remembers himself to be, true or not.

Mark Lawrence doesn’t use an abundance of technical explanations and diagrams, but that doesn’t make his magic system any less interesting. In fact, it lets him focus on his astonishing world-building and its unusual elements. The world in this series is, in essence, a never-ending cycle. Reality is created by what citizens believe in. Their beliefs create gods, and those gods influence their beliefs, altering them once more. This hole, in reality, lets humans influence the world and use magic. Traditional magic users appear. Those who can control fire, necromancers and seers; but all have a price. Each time magic is used the barrier between life and death gets weaker, potentially opening the floodgates. However, despite these elements, there are hints of a relatively normal past. Lawrence’s world is just as compelling in its discovery as it is its execution, and his magic system is a huge part of that.

Books in The Broken Empire Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

We can't talk about antiheroes in a fantasy world without mentioning The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The series is older (a few decades) but a fantasy classic, with one of the original fantasy antiheroes who just does bad shit part of the time and is a general dick. Then he gets better with time.

The Black Company

A similar kind of vibe: a dark and gritty dilapidated world that feels like it's dying; a cast of morally gray characters (though on the darker shade of gray) who do bad shit over and over because 'they like it'; and a company of mercenaries. See some of the similarities? I would hazard a guess here and say Lawrence was heavily inspired by Cook. It's a guess that was wrong. Mark Lawrence recently tweeted us saying he's not yet read Cook. Either way, if you like The Black Company, you'll find yourself at home with Lawrence's The Broken Empire books. 

Scourge of the Betrayer 

This one by Jeff Salyards takes a lot of the same gritty tendencies of Lawrence's work. There's a company of amoral solders on a quest to just fuck shit up in other kingdoms on orders from their emperor. This book is the closest I've come so far to Lawrence's style of story telling. Salyards is one of my new favorite authors and a rising star in the genre. Absolutely read him if you love Lawrence's Broken Empires.

First Law

Joe Abercrombie's books, oh yes very similar. Start with First Law trilogy. Gritty world, sharp, witty, and sarcastic prose with the same type of characters. Abercrombie's protagonists are more heroes though than villains, for the most part, though you can find a few that fit the role of an antihero. Best Served Cold and Heroes are books that feel the closest in style and tone, with Best Served Cold featuring a band of mercenaries seeking to overthrow a government -- somewhat similar of a plot to Prince of Thrones.

Elric of Melinbone

Give Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock a read. A classic that's criminally ignored. One of the original fantasy antiheroes, way back decades ago. Dark fantasy, lyrical prose, and a bad ass hero who's partly a villain.

Among Thieves

Among Thieves (Tales of the Kin, #1) . One of the best assassin/thief/spy fantasy books right now. It's got the ghettos and grittiness of Prince of Thorns, though the hero is not an antihero. I suspect you will like this series if you like Prince of Thorns.

A Promise of Blood

Flintlock fantasy with a bang. Not the same style story, but full of violence, blood, and grit. You'll probably like A Promise of Blood. I do.

Heroes Die

Caine, a bad-ass antihero assassin. Dirty world without hope. Lots of death and violence. Great writing. Read it and be wowed. Heroes Dieis some of the best fantasy you'll read.

A Song of Ice and Fire series

Starts with A Game of Thrones. Yea, I had to drop this in. The gritty setting, the troubled characters, the struggle for power among kingdoms. The undead coming back to haunt the living. See some of the similarities here? Word is though, book 6 is coming out 2016 NOT 2015.

This intricate retelling of the Celtic Swans fairy tale takes an enchanting story and embellishes it with depth, believable backstory, ancient magic, and great characters.  It is painfully dark, at times horrifying, but also offers elements of hope, devoted love, and healing. One criticism is that while its rape scenes are incredibly graphic, actually loving consensual sex scenes are all but fade-to-black absent. Despite this, Sorcha is simply radiant as the heroine who accomplishes the fantastic tasks required to set things right. She is beloved by and shares a unique bond with her brothers, and while no warrior, her strength is in healing and in quietly (you have no idea how quietly) going about what needs doing with fortitude and courage. Despite her burdens, she is able to see the beauty in the world, and that takes a special kind of magic. Again, folks tend to shelve anything related to fairytale literature as YA or even Juvenile… Daughter of the Forest is definitely ill suited for children, due to the graphic abuse mentioned above. As Sorcha matures, she grows into her strength and intelligence, meeting each painful task with diligence and unfailing love. It is a beautiful story highlighting the power of small and simple things.

Books in Sevenwaters Series (6)

Similar Recommendations

Sequel Books by Juliet Marillier
Once you finish the Sevenwaters Trilogy, look at her other follow up books after the trilogy ends which is a sequel Trilogy called 'Sevenwaters'. The first book is Heir of Sevenwaters, the second is Seer of Sevenwaters, and final is Flame of Sevenwaters.

For more character driven female-centric fantasy or narratives with strong female characters:

Deerskin by Robin Mckinly 

The Wizard of Earthsea (Book 2 and Book 4 feature lead female characters)

Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Also consider looking at our list: Best Fantasy Books for Women

A dark epic fantasy tale about a girl who will go into the land of the dead to save her father. It's an exciting adventure that's also scary. Nix is a talented author who has an excellent command of the English language -- and the man uses his abilities to great effect in this series.While this series is classified as Young Adult fantasy, it can be read and appreciated by all ages. Just make sure you read this series with the lights dimmed -- you're going to be in for a good scare!If you want a really chilling feeling, get the Audiobook version of the series. The narrator does a superb job and the tale seems even more scary. 

Similar Recommendations

A classic series kids around the world have grown up reading is The Chronicles of Narnia. While Narnia is very clearly a Christian allegory, it can be enjoyed without reading too deep into the Christian subtext. The writing is great and it's a great magical adventure for both kids and adults. 

You should also read Garth Nix's newest series, Keys to the Kingdom . It's also a great read, both for the kiddies and adults, one of the better series for kids. 

Don't forget to read Jonathan Stroud's very impressive The Bartimaeus Trilogy It's an action-packed thrill ride about a magician's apprentice who manages to summon a powerful genie (Bartimaeus). Bartimaeus is less than pleased with this turn of events and tries to sabotage his young master at every opportunity. Hilariously funny, at times very dark, with great writing, a great cast of well-developed characters, and an interesting world, Bartimaeus is a must read series (for both kids and adults). 

And finally, Harry Potter . I won't bother explaining why. 

If you are specifically looking for books your kid might like, i suggest you visit The Top 10 Fantasy Books for Kids list.

In a world saturated by religious fanaticism, Maithanet, enigmatic spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples, declares a Holy War against the infidels. Ikurei Conphas, military genius and nephew to the Nansur Emperor, embarks on a war to conquer the known world in the name of his emperor...and himself. Drusas Achamian, spy and sorcerer of the mysterious northern sorceries, tormented by visions of the great apocalypse, seeks the promised one, the savior of mankind. Anasurimbor Kellhus, heir to the shattered northern kingdom, whose ruins now lay hidden in the deepest north, a place now desolate, home to only the No-Men. Gifted with extraordinary martial skills of hand and foot, and steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men--even great men--may be cast into ruin. For in the deep north, the hand of the forgotten No-God stirs once more, and his servants tread the lands of men...This is one of the more interesting modern fantasy series out there. It's epic fantasy, but not in the way you're used to. This fantasy is for those who want a combination of raw action and sharp philosophical insights. It's gritty, dark, bloody, and pretty damn smart.

Books in The Prince Of Nothing Series (6)

Similar Recommendations

The vast scope of The Darkness That Comes Before is very redolent of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen saga, though the characters are less grey, and the story more focused. 

Also try George R.R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which is very epic and very gritty.

I can't say enough good things about this amazing fantasy series except that the author has gone completely AWOL and, as of 2015, looks like she's pretty much abandoned writing at this point.At one point, maybe close to 10 years ago, I considered it one of the best fantasy series out there. These days, the series is still good but against some of the new wave of awesome fantasy that's come out the past 10 years, is only so so. Regardless, Sword of Shadows is a great read for all. And, for some reason, it's not on too many radars, perhaps because J.V. Jones took 5 years between sequels, but I remain firm in my conviction that this series is one of the better 'classic good guy versus bad guy' series (no grey ambiguity with the heroes here, the the setting is gritty). The landscape and setting and different cultures/peoples are unique enough in their own right, but the vicious, dark action, very strong cast of characters, and enticing plot really draw you in.So, pick it up if you find the series on the cheap, just realize that only 4 books are out and the last book doesn't look like it's ever going to be finished. The author recently posted on her almost abandoned blog that she's currently been hard at work on BOOK 5. Finally!

Books in Sword Of Shadows Series (5)

Similar Recommendations

Try George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which features a brutal, gritty world set in an ice-filled milieu. Characters are realistic and Martin holds nothing back. It's a superlative epic fantasy saga. You might also try J.V. Jones's other excellent Book of Words fantasy saga (starts with The Baker's Boy ).

A magnificent series of adventure, magic, and revenge with one of the most unique magic systems in the fantasy genre. Mistborn is the story of a band of wizards fighting a hopeless battle against an invincible mage tyrant. The interesting cast of characters and strong plotting makes this one book you have to pick up. Those looking for a strong epic fantasy series should check this one out. Despite everyone going gaga over Sanderson's new Stormlight Archive saga (which as of this updated writing has two books out), there is a certain power to the Mistborn books that Sanderson has not yet replicated in his later works. Call me nostalgic towards Sanderson's earliest work, but I think it's true! Either way, if you haven't read Mistborn trilogy yet, make it your next read.What's also interesting is that Sanderson is turning the Mistborn world into a set of three trilogies -- with the first trilogy set in mythical times, the second trilogy (which has as of 2015 one book out and two on the way) set in a pseudo streampunk wild west hundreds of years later, and a future trilogy set in modern times or in futuristic science fiction setting. Awesome!So you might as well read the original trilogy to get it out of the way! 

Books in Mistborn Series (12)

A compelling re-telling of stories of heaven, hell, the afterlife and beyond. I don’t think there is any other story out there quit e like this one. Plenty of authors have played around with the concept of death and the afterlife, but few have created a universe quite like Williams as found in The Crooked Letter.The Crooked Letter, the first segue into the world of the Cataclysm series, is the deeply spooky end-of-the-world tale of twins who find out that death and life are full of surprises. The concept of an afterlife not based entirely on the Jewish heaven and hell constructs is one that the novel devotes a significant portion to exploring.For one, dying brings you to an afterlife – one or two afterlives that is – a magical world where the laws of physics are replaced by the power of will. Things in “heaven” are not well, however. There’s a war going on between the residents of the second realm and an entity that’s seeking to destroy both the second realm and leap to the first realm. Heaven now looks like hell and the first realm (earth) has been taken along for the ride when the two realms “collide.”It’s an entertaining book that aggregates a number of different folklore myths with elements of Germanic, Greek, Celtic, and Jewish folklore imbued into the story.Beyond the mere story of two brothers caught in the middle of a struggle between different realms and basically trying to understand what the hell is going on, all the while surviving, there’s a lot of other stuff going on too.The book explores themes such as one’s concept of a freely determined self, the difference between body and spirit, God, heaven, and hell.It takes a while to figure out just what the hell is going on in the story, but once you do, it’s a darkly gripping adventure with elements of fantasy and horror. You won’t read anything quite like this.

Harry Potter did the English magician story very well, but it also overshadowed some incredible books with similar settings. Will is a chosen one of sorts, one of the few that can battle the powers. His mentor is an old, kind wizard, seeking to end the cycle of light and dark. It sounds quite familiar, but other than the setting, that's really where the similarity ends. Arguably, Cooper is a better writer than Rowling, stepping away from a cheery style and into a darker tone. Where JK's story is a mashup of different myths, Cooper's is a careful construct of Celtic and Arthurian legends. That makes for some very clear imagery and some fantastic conflicts. Will narrates the story from two perspectives, his young, content self, and his wise, magical self. As a narrative tool, it highlights the cost of power and the changes of adulthood. It's not an easy journey, and Cooper weaves in heavy themes of loss, unwanted destiny, and darkness. Read if you like: Harry Potter, King Arthur, English settings.

Books in The Dark Is Rising Series (9)

Similar Recommendations

Let's base this strictly on other good Arthurian works of fantasy. You should read The Mists of Avalon if you are even remotely interested in Arthurian fiction. Even if you aren't, read it. Stephen Lawhead's excellent The Pendragon Cycle will fill your Arthur craving with a solid number of compelling books in the saga.

You'll probably like The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart as well, which is another retelling of the Arthur myth but this one is about Merlin. If you want to read the Arthur myth in a different light (some might even argue "a whole new light" even) from a historical fiction light rather than a fantasy one, give Jack Whyte's The Camulod Chronicles a read.

This “naval” epic fantasy series is a “boatload” of fun. It’s one of the more refreshing grand epic fantasy tales released in the past couple of years with a motley cast of zany and unique characters all sharing space -- not always willingly -- on a giant ship sailing across a vast unknowable sea. There are mad god kings, treacherous empowers, evil sorcerers, wizards from other dimensions, conniving ship boys, ruthless pirate captains, talking rats and sword-wielding thumb-sized human. This is a book that packs a lot of plot and characters onto every page. You might think of this as Redwall meets Malazan Book of the Fallen in some respects; the comparison doesn't exactly work, but it’s got some similar elements.

Books in The Chathrand Voyage Series (3)

A strange mix of post-apocalyptic and steampunk fantasy, but a rewarding one. In a futuristic world, the sun is dying out and the world is slowly turning to ice with the few wealthy preparing for the ice age, while the rest of humanity will be left to die. Standing on the edge of this depressing and doomed world is the great city of Villjamur. It’s a city of great potential that juxtaposes the wondrous and the horrible – a metaphor perhaps for man himself. It’s a city and land where the goal is to survive. The world is populated mostly by humans but there are a few sentient machines around too.  The plot is complex with a number of things going on:  This is a complex and ambitious piece of fantasy which is both a good and a bad thing. The author presents a world on the edge of an ice age (the Freeze) where the privileged few are preparing for a few decades of difficulty while many of the rest of the unfortunate population will be left to their own devices. This is a world populated mainly by humans, but there are a few sentient non-humans in the cast too which makes for a potentially more interesting set of characters. The basic plot is something we’ve seen before: murder, mystery, mayhem  and magic.  But into the mix are added scheming politicians, imperial politics, deadly soldier assassins, weird religions and crazy cultists. So if you fancy dark fantasy tale set on an exotic landscape with strange alien races, steampunk and magic, murder and mysteries, you’ll  love this series. You might think of this series as a cross between Jack  Vance’s Dying Earth, China Mieville

Books in Legends Of The Red Sun Series (3)

An ambitious and engrossing post-apocalyptic meets steampunk fantasy series that seems to be doing all the right things. You might think of it as a cross between A Song of Ice and Fire and Lions of al-Rassan.The premise itself: ancient technology has destroyed one of the great cities of the world, Windwir, also the repository of all the knowledge in the world. The leaders of the Named Lands will see justice done; conflict is brewing and every kingdom in the Name Lands will play the great game of politics and war.This series is one of the better political fantasies to grace the bookshelves since A Song of Ice and Fire. This is a rich fantasy with many layers of plot to it with complex, fascinating characters -- some of which will actually die (again, like Martin's series). It's not for everyone and the series is a bit uneven the whole way through. But if you want something a bit...different, then I do recommend you give this series a go.
Some pretty compelling stuff in this series is its beautiful prose, imaginative scenes, and hilarious action that will have you giggling as you struggle to turn the pages faster.The key word when describing this series is 'fun and funny.' Indeed, I've heard this series described as a cross between the Firefly TV series combined with the character Jack Sparrow. The crew is a motley mishmash of different characters who all form a cohesive unit when one of them lands in trouble.  The plot is nothing new but the setting, characters, and story fit so well together that it just works. The premise of the first book in the series follows the crew of the Ketty Jay as they struggle hand to mouth to keep afloat; when they see a get rich quick scheme to end their financial woes for good, they take it, only to find out it was a horrible mistake that gets them framed for a crime they did not commit. This forces them to go on the run -- they have to prove their innocence before they are killed.You won't find anything new or unique in the book; it's not deep, intellectual or anything to write to your English teacher about, but it's a fast paced, entertaining and wildly funny tale that refuses to slow down once you get past the first 100 pages or so. What's particularly entertaining is to watch the crew jump from one bad misadventure to another even worse catastrophe. The Tales of the Ketty Jay really brings to mind the sort of comedic misadventures (though less dark) of Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora books.The biggest crime is that the author has not yet added anything new to this series in a while.

Similar Recommendations

Do read the Gentleman Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch, starting with Lies of Locke Lamora. A band of thieves led by a witty and hilarious leader commit robberies on the rich but find things go horribly wrong when their latest target backfires. You'll love this book / series if you like the Tales of the Ketty Jay.
Harry Dresden is a wizard. He has decided to use his power to solve minor crimes to make a living, so he opens up his own private eye firm, the only one in Chicago that has its own wizard. When the police have a case that involves black magic, they come to Harry, who quickly agrees to take it on since business stinks. However, Harry has forgotten that magic requires a wizard and black magic requires a powerful black arts wizard, who is already aware of Harry and his reputation. Given that Harry has already crossed the mob and been put on a sort-of magical probation, the private eye's troubles are just beginning. This series is a great mix of the class private eye fiction along with the supernatural, magic arts.Why It Made the List The Dresden Files are a much beloved series which had a short stint on TV. While the television show bombed, the series of books keeps getting better and better. Nothing like starting with the first in the series. The character is well-drawn with a strong voice. Definitely recommended.'Read It If You Like'private eye novels, magic, wizards

Books in Dresden Files Series (16)

Similar Recommendations

There aren't a lot of private eye wizards, but there are a number of books in this series

A twist on the classic epic fantasy conceits. Moon takes many of the best elements from the genre and puts her own unique spin on them. This is a compelling story about a woman who rises above the limitations of her class and gender to become a legend. Fans of military fantasy will really enjoy this one as quite a bit of the novel follows the protagonist’s life among the military. This is a gritty novel in a lot of ways, as Moon does not try to beautify what is ugly. The heroine evolves with the story; she starts off wide-eyed and ignorant at the beginning, but grows into maturity and knowledge as the story progresses. It's very interesting to see how the events in the story affect the protagonist’s psyche. One of the best fantasy series out there with a deeply developed and kick-ass heroine; along with other female-centric greats like The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Mary Gentry's Ash: The Secret History, and Deerskin, The Deed of Paksenarrion is widely regarded by many as a modern classic. 
Most of theitems on this list made it thanks to their unique ideas. Instead, Codex Alera takes a system familiar to millions of children. While many authors claim inspiration from Tolkien or Jordan, Butcher takes his from Pokémon. It’s not something you’d expect in a serious, epic fantasy series, but this gives it an incredible amount of flavor. Butcher is a master world-builder, and he doesn’t simply throw Pikachu or Charizard into a fantasy world of his making. The Pokémon, in this case, are known as Furies. Furies are elemental spirits home to the realm of Alera. The greatest among them act as gods for the populace, while some bond to humans and forge a magical connection. Fury crafters can use that bond to control wind, water, fire, air, and wood, but they also have other perks. Watercrafters, for example, can read emotions, shapeshift, heal, or remain beautiful indefinitely. Metalcrafters are better suited to swordplay, able to sense nearby metal, strengthen and forge metal, as well as gaining speed and accuracy. Of course, there are some that can become masters of multiple disciplines, allowing them to reach tremendous power. The protagonist, however, isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s one of the few without a craft. Through this tool, Butcher gives a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a non-magic user. He shows the strength of both magic and wits, and paints incredible action scenes alongside them.

Books in Codex Alera Series (5)

Similar Recommendations

These recommendations are taking up the 'Roman themes' in fantasy. That is, fantasy set in a Roman-esque setting or fantasy about roman legions or influenced by Roman history/culture. 

Oath of Empires

Oath of Empires. Fantasy set in an alternative Roman Empire with the whole East vs West mentality. Lots of magic, lots of powerful heroes, lots of action, lots of sword and sorcery battles, and quite dark overall. I'd say the closest thing to Codex Alera you'll find.

The Videssos cycle

You might also want to check out The Videssos cycle by Harry Turtledove which is about a Roman legion who find themselves magically transported into another world in the middle of a pitched Roman battle. While this is not really about magic, there's lots of politics and battle strategy involved with a few vs. overwhelming odds theme -- so it shares that similarity with the battle tactics Butcher details in his Codex Books. 

Ghost King

Ghost King by David Gemmell. Features a whole barbarian invading a roman-like empire theme here.

The Gates of Rome

The Gates of Rome. Conn Iggulden's alternative historical fiction featuring some of the famous roman characters we've all studied in history class. You might like it if you are hungering for some Roman historical fiction.

Latro in the Mist

Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe. Expect something remarkably well written, excellent plotting, but not as much action. For those who enjoy a well written tale set in a roman-like landscape.

Sailing to Sarantium

Saling to Sarantium (and the sequel Lord of Emperors) written by Guy Gaverial Kay. Expect awesome plots, detailed world building, complex characters, but less so on action. The action often takes place on the political stage and between characters, but not via battles. No magic. Still, read it.

Feist has quite a few Midkemia books, but his Riftwar books (starting with Magican: Master and Magician Apprentice) are by far the best of the bunch (with the exception of the even better Empire trilogy). Riftwar tells the classic tale of a group of callow characters who, over the course of a few books, become powerful forces who battle to save the world from destruction. This (especially the two Magician Books) is classic epic fantasy and it's mostly very well done. You get all those worn cliche's - castle boy becomes hero, stirring dark forces creeping in to destroy the land, a princess in need of rescue, an ancient wizard mentor, etc, but Feist puts enough zest and passion into the whole tale that it works pretty well. Definitely one of the best classic farm-boy-to-hero epic fantasy tales out there. If you love the likes of The Wheel of Time, The Death Gate Cycle, and Way of Kings, you'll probably be slathering all over this series. I personally don't like pretty much any of Feist's other Midkemia books; if you really fall in love with the world, characters and stories, you can continue on with other books which follow some of the events (sometimes decades or hundreds of years later after the original Riftwar books). But they all lack the initial spark the first few books had, I find.

Books in The Riftwar Series (3)

This is Le Modessit’s best work so far. It’s not a standout fantasy series, but it is pretty entertaining. Modessit’s fantasy typically features a young callow boy who rises through the ranks to become a power player in society, usually because of a few aces up the sleeve – brilliant tactical abilities and powerful hidden magic abilities. The Imager Portfolio follows the same sort of formula, but Modessit creates an interesting world full of rigid social orders and class politics. Into this maelstrom of nascent social conflict, our hero is thrust to change the political and magical landscape.A good series to read, especially if you want a fantasy that deals more with human conflict than any sort of defeat-the-dark power conceit that the typical fantasy novel incorporates. Definetly read this if you love his Recluce books. I'd say the Imager Portfolio series is better overall -- more complex heroes dealing with more complex issues.

Books in Imager Portfolio Series (11)

Military fantasy with some great characterization, gray characters, and a lot of plot twists the whole way through. The author takes great pains to create most characters as morally ambiguous – simple humans fighting to survive in a world that rewards the bad and punishes the good. This series hasn't gotten the sort of attention it deserves. So if you are looking for a well-written good character-driven epic of love and war, treachery and betrayal, this one comes recommended.

Books in Tyrants And Kings Series (9)

Similar Recommendations

If you like John Marco's style of character-driven fantasy, you should read his The Bronze Knight books.
Nearly half a century ago, fantasy was dividing into two fantasy worlds: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia has entertained generations of children and continues to do so even to this day.For those who dislike books written in heavy allegory, especially heavy religious allegory, it's best to avoid this series -- you're going to get upset. However, above the layer of allegory is a fantastic tale of magic and adventure. Narnia may not be as complicated as the new generation of fantasy, but as an old classic that's made its mark for decades, it should be read -- if only to your children at night.

Books in The Chronicles Of Narnia Series (8)

Similar Recommendations

The following are some of the best YA (Young Adult) novels written.Don't let the YA tag sway you from reading them however. They are every bit as enjoyable to adults as they are for kids, and each series is actually rather dark!

His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials. A subversion of the religious themes present in The Chronicles of Narnia. Absolutely read if you want a deep and dark YA fantasy that gives a stinging rebuke to religion in general. 

Abhorson trilogy

The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. One of the best YA fantasy trilogies out there. Dark, scary, with awesome worldbuilding and great characters. Do read this.

Bartimaeus Sequence

My favorite YA books with one of the best characters in fantasy. This series is exceedingly well written -- funny, dark, disturbing, and horrific all at the same time. But mostly, just a fantastically spectacularly awesome read. There, with all those adjectives, you better read it.

Harry Potter

Not to much to say here. Read it if you want a grand adventure for kids and adults alike.

The Magicians

The Magicians is a complete subversion of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Which is why you should absolutely read it. It's not a book for kids though, but an adult take on childhood fantasy, showing the friendly animals to be monsters and the perfect magical land not as perfect as you might think.

Spook's Apprentice
Starts with Revenge of the Witch. Dark and scary,this YA horror meets fantasy has some power to it. I was a big fan, even if it ended (so far) on a bit of a downer note. And the recent movie The Seventh Son was absolute shit. The first book is NOTHING like it at all -- the movie doesn't even remotely follow the events of the book.
Lockwood and Co.

If you like scary, then read Jonathan Stroud's newest series. Scary, scary, and awesome for kids and adults alike.

The Skinjacker Trilogy

The Skinjacker. A tale about an afterlife gone wrong, where kids who die sometimes don't make it into the life and end up trapped in pseudo afterlife. Awesomeness.

Duncan’s managed to make this list with 3 series. King’s Blades are some sword-heavy fantasy for those who like fantasy full of swashbuckling, politics, and raw action. This is not epic fantasy as much as it is an action political fantasy that’s heavy on the heroics.You might think of this something as a fantasy version of The Three Musketeers. Like all Duncan’s books, well plotted, well written, with an interesting world. And of course, always well developed and compelling characters, especially the protagonist. 

Books in King's Blades Series (6)

Comparisons to George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series abound when discussing Kushiel's Dart, but this novel isn't what you would think of as typical fantasy; it's much more focused on the sex, which is explicit throughout. However, it's still as chock-full of political intrigue and nuanced characters as any fantasy tale. Taking place on a slightly different version of the Earth we know, Phèdre nó Delaunay is a servant sold to a nobleman who realizes she's been marked by the gods. Phèdre's fate is to be a courtesan, special because of the bond she feels between pain and pleasure. There's more to the plot than just BDSM, though; Phèdre acts as both courtesan and spy, which leads her on a quest to save her country. From humble beginnings, she uses her cunning, loyalty, and compassion to become diplomat, spymaster, and an incredible tactician. With a strong female lead and extensive world-building, Jacqueline Carey's novel won the 2002 Locus Award and was nominated for the 2002 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. If you're not afraid of some graphic sex, pedophilia, and abuse, definitely check out this first book in the Kushiel's Universe series.
This series wins big points for originality here. The premise itself sounds, on the surface, ridiculously unbelievable: a world where all humans have the attributes of different insects. However, the author does a very good job at realizing this unique setting fully. While you initially expect the series to be kind of silly the author skillfully makes everything believable. The author, in place of magic, gives every “race” unique powers (called insect ‘kinden’. The idea is that each human insect race gains strengths and weaknesses along the lines of that insect behavior. Beetles are good with tech, ants at warfare, and spiders at politics. It’s an interesting concept, but it really forces characters into archetypal groups rather than let them develop as individual characters with unique abilities and personalities. The series is a mix of weird and brilliant. Some may love it and others not. On the whole though, great world building and an interesting, even gripping story. There are some pretty wicked battle scenes too.

Books in Shadows Of The Apt Series (9)

The genius of this series lies in the exquisite character development – especially in relation to the hero, Vlad Taltos. We're accustomed to rooting for anti-heroes these days, (Hi, Dexter Morgan! Oh, you're a serial killer? Have an Emmy award!), and Vlad is one of the greatest of them all.Why it made the listMainly because this is the Mr. and Mrs. Smith of the fantasy world. It's always a barrel of fun – you don't need to think too deeply, you can just enjoy the ride. Even though there are ten books in the series, you'll find it easy to read.There's something intriguing about an assassin and there are many fantasy series where a murderer-for-hire is the (un)hero. And Vlad isn't the only well-written character: His wife is as much kickass character as he is.Brust is excellent at keeping things subtle. The humor is dry but low key, the characters well rounded but Brust doesn't seem obsessed with explaining them, and the plot moves quickly enough to keep you needing more. Part of the reason for this is the snark that drips off every page – you won't be able to keep the grin off your face. And you'll probably look like a crazed maniac while reading, but you won't give any kind of a damn.Added incentive: Dragons. Tons of dragons.

Books in Vlad Taltos Series (26)

What would a list of best fantasy books be without mentioning Terry? Not that Brooks dude who wrote an entire series about glowing pebbles. The other one. The funny one. Everyone has an opinion about what the best Discworld book is and, even if you don't think this is it; you'd be hard pressed to find a more inventive title in the series. Why it made the list As always, Pratchett has written something that's easy to read because it's both short in length and endlessly funny. There are see-through dragons, an upside down swordfight and the strangest trolls you'll ever read about. Despite the amount of silliness Pratchett manages to fit into this short book, it's smart. Sometimes the humor is dry and at other times it's ridiculous, but it's always entertaining. It's obvious that Pratchett was aware of the elements of high fantasy – he's a master of the genre – and he doesn't turn them upside down in an effort to prove a point, he just takes them to the extreme. His imagination is endless, and so is the joy you'll get while reading this book.

Books in Discworld Series (72)

Similar Recommendations

Good Omens

Good Omens is a brilliance of the combined mental powers of Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. If you love Discworld, then this should be your next read.

Myth Adventures

Myth Adventures series by Robert Aspirin. Funny and clever, but mostly funny. Do read if you love to laugh at self-aware, bumbling fantasy tropes doing absurd thing.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy. The famously funny parody of science fiction, life, and the universe itself. The equal to Pratchett in the science fiction world and a book that's transcended into pop culture itself.

Bridge of Birds

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. 'Funny' alone does not describe this. It's a masterpiece of character driven comedy set in an alternative Chinese landscape that won't disappoint.

A series retells over and over the tale of two lovers (and the characters important to them) who meet and fall in love again and again over the course of centuries. It’s a lover’s tale that’s bound to the concept of reincarnation, fate, destiny and unfinished business. It’s an interesting concept, and Kerr really makes the whole thing work again and again over the course of the series. And while you are reading about the same “souls” in every book, the general stories are different.The language is quite poetic – descriptive and distinctly Celtic – and the characters are all so well done. If you like well done romantic fantasy, this is a series you’ll enjoy. Much recommended if you enjoy books by Kate Elliott and Marion Zimmer Bradley as some of their books have a somewhat similar feel in tone, setting, and content. If you are looking for raw action, gray characters, and epic world shaking events, this series is not for you. But if you want a sweetly romantic series, read it.A series retells over and over the tale of two lovers (and the characters important to them) who meet and fall in love again and again over the course of centuries. It’s a lover’s tale that’s bound to the concept of reincarnation, fate, destiny and unfinished business.It’s an interesting concept, and Kerr really makes the whole thing work again and again over the course of the series. And while you are reading about the same “souls” in every book, the general stories are different.The language is quite poetic – descriptive and distinctly Celtic – and the characters are all so well done. If you like well done romantic fantasy, this is a series you’ll enjoy. Much recommended if you enjoy books by Kate Elliott and Marion Zimmer Bradley as some of their books have a somewhat similar feel in tone, setting, and content. If you are looking for raw action, gray characters, and epic world shaking events, this series is not for you. But if you want a sweetly romantic series, read it.

Books in Deverry Series (14)

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 Saga of Reclucedescribes a constant war between order and chaos, and its magic system is a significant part of that. Where Order is present in the molecular bonds that make up the world, chaos stands for the destruction of that matter. Magic users can choose one, but they must understand the influence of the other to be successful. Black wizards (order) create magic by strengthening or changing the bonds of existing objects. White wizards, on the other hand, break those bonds, creating earthquakes, explosions, and more. Of course, both come at a cost. Using chaos will inevitably lead to further chaos in the White mage’s lives. As a result, they often die younger. Using Order makes it difficult to tell lies, even inside their own heads, and to use objects that destroy, such as knives or swords. Grey mages, meanwhile, try to balance both, but still often age at an accelerated rate. These tangible consequences give a feeling of reality to the system, and the way magic is used adds to that. Rather than being squirreled away in towers and royal courts, wizards use their magic in a way that makes sense to them. Order uses have a liking for engineering and woodworking, while white mages often clean roads, prevent smuggling, or remove bacteria. Despite this, every wizard has unique traits. Like anything else, use of magic is influenced by the user’s perception. Some will see ways to manipulate the world that others won’t, leading to infinite variety and a thorough, realistic system.

Books in The Saga Of Recluce Series (26)

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)

The first book was pure awesomeness -- that pure intersection between military strategy, adventure, and unbridled action with a cast of interestingly complex characters. The first book's desert setting was pretty interesting too as was the story of several companies fleeing a city through an impossible desert, hounded on all sides by enemies, both human and magical.The sequel was a good but the setting, and urban one, was not as enticing as the first book's desert. Still, a good read. Overall, an interesting take on the fantasy genre and one of the better new fantasy series to be released the past five years.

Books in The Shadow Campaigns Series (3)

A series of pure awesomeness. If you love the action, magic, and adventure of a Sanderson novel, you'll love the Powder Mage trilogy. The magic system is one of the more unique types I've read about in the genre. The dark, gritty world, and depressed characters who populate it also make this series a great place to dally in but not one you ever want to live in!For explosive action, magical battles, a dark, depressing world on the verge of collapse, and some kick ass heroes who tear shit up in a big way, pick this series up.

Books in The Powder Mage Series (3)

School fantasy is often aimed at children, and it's very successful at hitting that market. It's much harder to appeal exclusively to adults, and that's where The Magicians shines. Rather than the typical twelve-year-old protagonist, it tells the story of a high-school student not yet aware of his powers. Quentin Coldwater is obsessed with fantasy books, an outcast, and somewhat depressed. When given the opportunity to study magic, he jumps on it, but quickly learns it’s not as fun as it seems. In The Magicians, spells are hard. Learning magic is tedious and requires background knowledge of language and history. Quentin finds himself frustrated at his progress, no longer the prodigy he used to be. From there, the book only gets darker. The antagonist has no mercy, magic can kill simply through accidents, and drug use is rife. Lev Grossman stands in stark defiance of convention, refusing to sugar-coat magic and creates a tense and compelling story as a result.

Books in The Magicians Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

You might want to give Susan Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a read. Like Lev Grossman's The Magicians, it's a story about magic in a world that supposedly has no magic. Both novels veer from the usual fantasy conventions, weighing in as more than just "fantasy." I like to call these "literary fantasy." This novel, however, heralds back to the Victorian era and features a more conventional sort of story (that borrows heavily from the likes of a Jane Austen novel in language an description) and is NOT a postmodern take on the fantasy genre that The Magicians is.

The Night Circus

For another novel about Magicians in training, you might like The Night Circus. It's about two young magicians locked in deadly conflict trying to outperform the other who are both part of a magical circus. It's a rich and intoxicating read, most decidedly literary and one of the best fantasy books of 2011.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter. Yes, if you like The Magicians, read Harry Potter  the titular character who is deconstructed by Grossman and reformed into a far more complex and troubled and fallible version as the character Quinton.

The Wizard of Earthsea

If we are going to follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole into the dark and murky literary past, seeking the origin of boy-goes-to-magic school to become a wizard, we might as well get to one of the sources. If Potter made it a pop culture thing, then Ursula Le Guine helped bring it alive like no other author. Yes, I'm talking about The Wizard of Earthsea. Before there was Harry Potter, there was Ged.

Ocean at the End of the Lane

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimen. One thing I love about The Magicians is it moves the simpler children's fiction into the adult realm with an adult perspective. It's Narnia for grown-ups.One book about that perfectly captures the child realm but transforms it for adults is Gaimen's Ocean at the End of the Lane. Thematically, Gaimen does the same thing as Grossman. While both works are completely different in scope and plot, they do take a child's perspective but remake it for an adult which changes it.

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tart. Not specifically fantasy per say, but the writing and tone, and characterization are somewhat similar. A young group of students at a college discover another way to think about their life and the ramifications of this change everything about how they live.


Anathem by Neal Stephenson. A science fiction story about a young boy who's a sort of monk and finds out the wider world is a complicated place.

Narnia & Alice in Wonderland

The Magicians alludes to a number of popular fantasy classics. Alice in Wonderland is one such work and The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, if you dig down a bit, The Magican books are a postmodern version of Narnia with the friendly animals revealed to be monsters.

Epic fantasy meets medieval historical fiction.And about fucking time.No more cutting off heads with butter knives, riding days in full plate armor without feeling a scratch of discomfort, fighting for hours and hours at a time without getting tired, etc.No, in The Traitor Son Cycle, you are going to feel the pain, weariness and complete discomfort the heroes of the story endure. And trust me, here's a lot of that to go around here. This epic fantasy stands above many of its peers because of the sheer realistic detail built into the world. The author is actually an expert on medieval history and weaves realism -- from the armor weight, the way knights sit on the saddles, the structure of fortresses, to the cultures based on different European countries.There's also a lot of action, excitement and general mayhem stuffed into the pages. Brutal bloody battles with men and brutal bloody battles with monsters.There's a good deal of military strategy, tactics, and squad combat dynamics going on here in this series as well, so much in fact that I'd even label this series military fantasy.A refreshing and promising addition to the epic fantasy genre. Try this series out -- you may just find yourself in love.

Books in The Traitor Son Cycle Series (6)

This series (2 books so far) is an awesome read if you like gritty fantasy about the underside life of a city. We're talking about thieves, crooks, spies, gangs, pimps, and the like. Tossed into the middle of a rat-infested slum area is Drothe our likable but rather un-extraordinary protagonist. This is a fast-paced series pretty much from the get go and has our hero trying to stay alive from the start till the very end of the book.If you are fan of Week's Night Angel trilogy, the Vlad Taltos books, or the Thieve's World books, you are going to love Tale of the Kin. Heck, even if you are not a fan of those books, you'll still probably love Tale of the Kin.Book two is even better than the first book, so as of 2015, the very high standards set by the first book have been maintained.

Books in Tales Of The Kin Series (1)

A series that's immensely well written and one that takes quite a few of the epic fantasy archetypes and runs away with them in a slightly new direction.Expect complex politics, heavy world building, an kingdom on the bring and in need of saving...and a whole lot of other epic fantasy complexities stuffed in -- all wrapped together in a new package, giving a fresh take on old ideas.This is definitely Jemisin's homage to epic fantasy and one that really explores some difficult and relevant real-world issues through the context of the story.Epic fantasy? You bet, but one that's wearing a slightly different face than you may be used to. Even better, it's completed -- no need to wait a decade between new books.Definitely read if you want to lose yourself in a fresh, superbly well written, interpretation of some of the standard fantasy archetypes.
The first book in the series (The Blood Song) was a remarkable work and hailed as a successor to Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind -- both books had a similar feel in tone, style, and plot. The Blood Song pretty much was everyone's favorite book for almost two years. Until the sequel came out in 2014 and disappointed everyone as much as the first book impressed. I won't go into why the second book was so bad, but needless to say, it wasn't a good read. There's still hope with his upcoming third book where Ryan can redeem himself and prove he's not a one hit wonder, so we'll see what happen then.In the meantime, do read the first book. It's awesome.

Books in A Raven's Shadow Novel Series (0)

The Lightbringer is Brent Weeks best series so far. I was never that impressed with his Night Angel trilogy which was all action and setting but of little substance. However, Weeks has greatly matured as a writer and his next effort, The Lightbringer series, has shown his talent as an author in a big way. Book one of the series was disappointing, but the second book completely blew me a way. It was one of the best examples of the second book being so much better than the first. The Blinding Knife (book 2), was pretty much my favorite fantasy read of 2013 -- yes, it was that good. Book three (which was released in the middle of 2014) was also a good read, though not as good as book two (it had more character development which is good thing by far and large, but at the cost of a plot that really did not move very far the entire book).Overall though, if you want an awesome coming of age fantasy, a completely unique magic system, lots of action and a cast of likable heroes, then defiantly pick this one up. Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Douglas Hulick, and David Gemmell will particularly find themselves right at home here.

Books in Lightbringer Series (6)

A new epic fantasy series that just hits pitch perfect notes. This is really one of the best new fantasy series to come out the past decade.There's royal siblings separated as children, a kingdom in turmoil facing threats both inward and outward, extinct immortal races that might not be so extinct after all, meddling gods, mysterious magic, an empire up for grabs, stolen thrones, princes on the run, more betrayals than a Shakespeare play, and hordes of invading armies. And this series is well written the whole way through with book two even better than book one.How can you not want to read this one? If you like The Stormlight Archive, A Game of Thrones, or The Wheel of Time, man you are going to feast til you die on this one.Don't make the mistake and pass on it.;

Books in Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne Series (5)

With 'grim' in the title, it's not hard to guess that this book is clearly camped in the grimdark sub-genre, and it hits all the right beats for gritty, amoral fantasy. The Grim Company begins with a city being destroyed. Just to, y'know, make sure you get what you're in for. From there, a cast of gritty characters romps around the world, with the interesting inclusion of a legless mage. The world finds itself in the 'Age of Ruin', jumped-up wizards killed the gods, leaving their corpses scattered around the world, leaking wild magic. Scull's imagination is great, and he manages to make his book fun without sacrificing any of the hard-fightin', hard-drinkin', sweary goodness of grimdark fantasy. It's also fun to have a setting with plenty of magic, which is relatively rare in the muddy worlds of gritty fantasy. Scull's pacing is impeccable, and after an explosive beginning, he chugs along nicely, and it's easy to find yourself up at four in the morning cursing what a bloody idiot you are for not going to sleep at a normal human time.Read this book if you like fantasy with a healthy portion of fun mixed in with the broken bones and rusted steel.

Books in Grim Company Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

I recommend you take a good look at our Best Grimdark Fantasy list -- you'll find a bucket load of gritty, grimdark book recommendations there.
If Harry Dresden has a doppelganger in the genre, it's probably Alex Verus. Take all the elements of Harry Dresden, then make the hero less powerful and lot more ruthless and you have the Alex Verus series.This is my new favorite Urban Fantasy. I love Jim Butcher, but his work has gone a bit downhill with his series lacking focus at this point. Alex Verus (for now) is a sharper read. What's also interesting is Verus' magical power, which is only his ability to see into the near future. Outside of this power, he's completely helpless against the more regular magic types. But the way Verus uses his power (and strategy) to beat impossible odds make these books wildly entertaining.If you love Dresden, you absolutely have to start reading Alex Verus.
Drawing heavily on the culture of the ancient Norsemen, Gemmell takes familiar archetypes and crafts them into a well-told tale of sacrifice and dying well. Druss and his once-possessed axe Snaga come out of retirement to shape the men of Drenai into an army that can do the impossible, affirming he really is a legend. While pretty straightforward, Gemmell's prose manages to inspire despite making no effort to downplay the grim tragedies of war. Legend has become a classic standard of the heroic fantasy genre.Gemmell has written an extensive body of work in his lifetime and all of it pretty much classified as 'heroic' fantasy in the truest sense. Legend is perhaps his most well-known book and his breakout read and many would argue some of his other works are superior (my top pick would be his Troy trilogy). However, as Legend is his first and most well-known, we've chosen this book to represent his body of work.But don't think of this as the first and only book, but merely the place you should start when reading his fantasy.
The best of Gemmell's work -- and the last of his work too. Troy is a retelling of the Greek tale of Troy, but done told in such a refreshing way that it's not a simple repeat of the age-old tale we've all watched a number of big budget Hollywood dramas portray.If you like Gemmell, then this series is an absolute must read. It showcases the best of what Gemmell is/was capable of and it's a damn sweet tale about heroes, done in that classic way only Gemmell can do right.

Books in Troy Series (2)

Imagine an alternate world where the world of books and people collide. It does in this delightful series by Jasper Fforde. I could spend the next 10,000 words trying to explain the alternate world created by Fforde, but in short, Swindon, England circa 1985 is an alternate world where the dodo bird is still around and the Crimean War has never ended. Thursday Next, a special operative for the Literary Division has to stop the kidnapping of characters from novels. When the original text is altered, then all copies are changed. It's a challenge that Next has to face Acheron Hades, the villain behind the scheme and the Goliath Corporation. Fforde also has a website that supports this alternate world, and needs to be read carefully.Why It Made the List This novel is the first of six books in a well-loved series, especially for those who love books and reading. There so many tongue in cheek references and sly mentions of books that the reader will be challenged to keep up with Thursday and the author.'Read It If You Like'alteranative realities, literary mysteries, adventure

Books in Thursday Next Series (7)

Similar Recommendations

There is no author that writes anything like this series. It's an original.

A wonderfully beautiful novel that explores the ideas of myth and reality and the connection between the two. You'll find here a hauntingly story about a primeval forest somewhere undefined in the heart of the English countryside, a place where every human myth created by man over human history survives in this strange forest; the deeper you travel into it, the deeper into the mythic past of mankind you embark.A journey into the heart of Mythago Wood is a journey into the mythos of mankind, for in this forest is contained every myth from every culture that every was and ever will be; and the further you go, the deeper into mythic history you go till you read the one true myth before all myths…This series concerns itself with mythological archetypes that are given life in a primeval forest somewhere in England. There are a number of books in the series that explore this concept, but the best is the first one which reads as a sort of mysterious and lucid adventure tale.The first book in the series Mythago Wood is the best and a remarkably  beautiful and wonderfully evocative read. The novel recounts one man’s journey into the heart of this primeval forest as he searches for his kidnapped love – a mythical Celtic princess he meets on the edge of Mythago Wood, given life by the power of the forest itself.The first book ever remains one of my favorite novels in the fantasy genre. I'm just disappointed the author didn't really create a direct sequel to it. It's been many, many years since I first read this book, but it's one of those books that's still stuck with me even now over a decade after reading. That my friends is the power of this book -- it's poetry for the soul and fire for the imagination. Read it if you want to be haunted for years by the story.

Books in Mythago Wood Series (9)

This first installment in the Worldbreaker Saga (the second came out last October) is an epic fantasy with intriguing world(s), an engaging plot, and complex characters. Throughout the 500 plus page novel, Hurley takes world-building to a new level, and challenges the norms of the fantasy genre with her discussions of gender fluidity, alternative marriage and family structures, all within a fascinating and dynamic setting that is a character itself. The book's actual characters, in large part multifaceted women who are neither flawless nor strictly evil, struggle through everything from a world rife with ethnic tensions to the very basic desire of a girl to be reunited with her mother. Be forewarned: this book is dense; after all, it packs in the histories of multiple nations spanning more than one world (don't worry, it comes with a glossary and character guide). And don't get too attached to the characters either… think a Game of Thrones style approach to character safety. But if you're searching for a knock-out novel that pulls you into a magical world of doppelgangers, assassins, blood sacrifices and a whole lot more, pick up The Mirror Empire. You won't be disappointed. Read if You Like: multiple points of view, deep world building, epic fantasy, political plots

Books in Worldbreaker Saga Series (1)

Similar Recommendations

One of the more interesting fantasy debuts this year by a well-established pedigreed author (she's won some serious awards with two previous HUGO's). It's an interesting take on the epic fantasy genre with solid writing and a highly imaginative world.

The Mirror Empire is one of those few fantasy books that comes along every few years and pushes the boundaries of the genre into a slightly different direction. And for that alone, this book should be lauded.

The author's mashup of a number of different ideas, genres, and even universes, is a breath of fresh air.

However, there are shortcomings a plenty present too. The shift between the two main POV's happens quite often and out of the blue. It's jarring and it ruins the flow and you are left feeling mildly confused as to where you are and what character you are following now (you'll get what I mean when you read the story). Not all the POV's are as well developed as the others. The author does flesh out a few of the characters, but the other characters are really left by the wayside. And by golly, there is an astounding amount of blood, violence, and mayhem. This may or may not be your cup of tea, but the warning is there.

Overall, I must wax lyrical about this book. One of the more interesting and best fantasy books to come out this year -- in my personal top 5. The Mirror Empire holds nothing back, it's a brutal heavy take on the violence and atrocity of warfare: People die, characters die -- often horribly. There are few books I've read with a body count that runs into the hundreds and the thousands -- and this is one of those books. But there is method to all this violence; the book is a sharp look and critique at the horrors of war and all the evils founded on it -- genocide, ethnic cleansing, and brutality. You can certainly read this book and see many real world parallels, especially in the Middle East conflicts and the genocides occurring in Africa.

For a novel that does the novel things and pushes the boundary and spins the genre on its head, for a novel that takes a smart look at the hard things about ware, for a fantasy with a message, and for a fantasy that holds nothing back and combines different genres, ideas, with some serious action and worldbuilding ideas, the Mirror Empire must be read.

Subversion gone over the edge is how you can describe Richard Morgan's anti-fantasy series A Land Fit For Heroes. Morgan writes some of the blackest grimdark you'll ever read and manages to break just about every fantasy convention ever created over the three books that make up this series.It's a sweet, sweet, but bloody read. Just bring along a towel or four when you read it, you'll need them to wipe the blood spurting from the pages,

Books in A Land Fit For Heroes Series (3)

Mark Lawrence's newest anti-hero fantasy, with the first book out so far (2015 as of this writing). It's not as good or genre pushing as his first trilogy The Broken Empire but it's still an awesome read.Lawrence writes a very different sort of hero character this time around -- rather than a sadistic amoral Prince who fucks everything in his way, we have another prince who runs from all his problems. It's a much funnier read than The Broken Empire books -- so funny I was boiling over with laughter at several points during the first book The Prince of Fools.Worth reading? You bet. 

Books in The Red Queen's War Series (4)

I was quite impressed with the first book, The Boy with a Porcelain Blade which told an awesome coming of age tale set in a dark, twisted Italian Renaissance world gone wrong. It combined a macabre setting, The Three Musketeer's level of awesome sword action, political scheming, with a likable hero. The second book was released January 2015.For a solid coming of age tale, awesomely unique setting, and a story where a lot of horrible depressing shit happens, pick this one up. And did I mention there's almost a pedantic detail given to fencing? 
Five books in now, this series is turning out to be one of the best in the genre. If you are expecting another sort of Wheel of Time or Stormlight Archive, Game of Thrones, or Mazalan Book of the Fallen, look elsewhere. Abraham writes an entirely different sort of book then these others. The plot is slower paced, there's a lot about economics and banking, there's detailed scheming that takes place slowly over hundreds (even thousands) of pages. And first and foremost, it's completely character driven.But IF you have the patience for a deep, plodding, yet ultimately richly rewarding series, then The Dagger And the Coin is some of the best fantasy in the genre. But it takes a few books into it before things start happening and the action starts to build.

Books in The Dagger And The Coin Series (6)

I read the fist in the series, Scourge of the Betrayer, late 2014 and was blown away with how good Salyards' tale was. A sort of a cross between The Black Company, The Blade Itself, and Prince of Thorns, Scourge of the Betrayers impressed the hell out of me. And the sequel, which was released in 2014 was even better than the first book.So if you have any love of gritty grimdark, you owe it to yourself to pick up Scourge of the Betrayer and the even better sequel Veil of the Deserters. Even more, if you love Glen Cook, Joe Abercrombie, Luke Sculls, or Mark Lawrence, you are going to have a serious hard on for Salyards.

Books in Bloodsounder's Arc Series (4)

Anyone who plays fantasy video games will be familiar with Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher books, and the RPGs developer CD Projekt Red based on them. The titular 'witcher' (mutated, sorcerously-powered professional monster hunter – cool, I know) is Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, lover of women, slayer of monsters, and kicker of asses. He's just about the coolest protagonist a reader could ask for, and the stories he finds himself in are as horrifying as you'd expect from books based on eastern European fairytales and monster legends. The monsters Geralt hunts are the real deal. These are the sorts of nightmare-fuel that could only be generated from hundreds of years of stories told by the fire in Sapkowski's native Eastern Europe. Forget Sleeping Beauty, the princess Geralt encounters turns into a flesh-eating horror every night. Despite this, the true monsters Geralt encounters are always human ones, and he considers his mission of 'killing monsters' to include the all-too human variation. He fights with a combination of swords, potions and sorcery, and he's just plain cool. I feel like I'm gushing, am I gushing? I'll stop now. Read this book if: you want to join to throngs of fantasy fans who idolize Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf.

Books in Saga O Wied?minie Series (7)

The unusual Moscow setting of Night Watch is echoed by its magic system. Lukyanenko’s contemporary world is inhabited by both humans and ‘Others’, supernatural beings who can attune to Dark or Light. These beings keep watch, one group during the day, the other at night, using their powers to maintain the balance. They exist in a magical realm known as the Twilight and began long ago as shamans and wisemen. Their attuenment depends on their emotional state when they entered it, and this also determines which powers they can access. Thus, Lukyanenko creates a world filled with sorcerers and vampires, healers and magicians. Each side recharges its powers through human emotion; dark through the negative ones, and light through the positive. Feeding on bad emotions heightens them, while positive emotions are dulled, creating a system where light is forever overshadowed by darkness. Lukyanenko’s strength is in the detail he renders each power, but he also uses it as a tool. His magic system exists not just for excitement, but to explore concepts of good and evil, and that makes it one of the best around.

Books in Watch Series (5)

Three words to describe the Black Jewels Trilogy: Over the top. Terrible things happen in this book, but they're written with so much drama that you can't take them too seriously or you'd go batshit.This trilogy is original in an unusual way: The protagonist's story is told through the eyes of another. (Think, Gatsby. Minus the depth, world-class writing and classic status.) Janaelle, the trilogy's heroine, is only ever seen through the perspective of her family and loved ones. It's an interesting way to watch a story unfold, and it's enhanced by a clever magic system and well-developed world. It's not always very well balanced – there should be more detail about how the magic system works, for example – but the relationships that underlie the plot are believable.There's a lot wrong with these books, which is unfortunate because her idea to invert standard fantasy tropes is a great one. In the hands of a better writer and without having to adhere to expectations of a paranormal romance, this could have been a fascinating springboard for a series. Unfortunately, Bishop's melodramatic writing style and flimsy plots ruin this promise and has the opposite effect of making it seem like a childish attempt at writing something subversive.This isn't one of those books you'll want to dwell on for too long – the way in which the terrible things that happen is written makes it a jarring experience. And one that, if you think about it too hard, could evoke some intense anger toward Bishop's inability to write with any kind of gravitas.One last thing. The only time it's ok to force people to read a spoiler is when it should come with a trigger warning. There's a brutal rape scene in the book. It's not treated delicately either.

Fallon has written quite a few fantasy books (most of them with a heavy romantic bent to them), but her Second Son's trilogy is her best work and a remarkable set of books at that.It's a low fantasy world (a fantastical world but one where there is no magic) with some seriously well drawn, complex characters.

The Conan books are classics that helped form the early fantasy genre during the 30's, and along with Karl Wagner's Kane books and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, Howard's work helped create the Sword and Sorcery genre. To say Conan has been influential on modern fantasy and pop culture at large would be a vast understatement.Don't let the fact that these books are nearly 100 years old scare you from reading them. They are dark, compelling, and richly evocative reads. And hey, by reading them, you can lord this fact over all the other 95% of the fantasy nerds who claim to love Fantasy but have never read one of the pillars of the genre.
One of the best fantasy series in the genre. Clever, sharply written, with some seriously awesome characters, this is a series that you MUST read. The first book was awesome, the second great and the third merely good. As of the end of book three, however, some seriously cool shit is set up for book four.If you are one of the few (serious) fantasy readers who have not yet picked up The Gentleman Bastards, this should be your next read. Like now.

Books in Gentleman Bastards Series (10)