Best of the Tolkien Clones

Fantasy Very Similar to Lord of the Rings In Style and Content
Echoes of Middle-earth: Exploring the Best of Tolkien-Inspired Fantasy

Tolkien is considered the founding father of the modern epic fantasy. Thus, it’s no surprise that many fantasy epics give a heavy nod to Tolkien, through some of the plot conceits and/or the world-building. This is a list that aims to give readers who “like” the Tolkien style some recommendations for some similar-but-not-completely-derivative works. The use of the word “clones” is more of a tongue-in-cheek title. By “clones,” I don’t mean works that are completely derivative, but rather fantasy epics that are heavily influenced by the Tolkien template. What is the “Tolkien Template?”

Epic fantasies that include all or a heavy dose of the following:


A Dark Lord and evil servants (think Sauron, orcs, trolls, and the like)Magical items (the one ring, the rings of power, magic swords, magic amulets, etc)Different races (men, dwarves, elves, eagles, etc)Magic-imbued creatures (elves, immortals, wizards)World-building with a deep mythos and well-developed history (history of middle earth, different ages of middle earth, etc)Some sort of quest to defeat an evil force or prevent a world-ending catastropheA callow youth (usually a farmhand or some other ignorant-of-the-greater-world character)’s journey from innocent and ignorant to powerful and influential, usually with the direct fate of the world resting solely on his shoulders.There will be various trials and tribulations faced by the “hero”.


You might think of these works as Tolkien’s literary children. There are hundreds and hundreds of such works out there and most modern epic fantasy books do borrow from Tolkien in some ways. Here’s a list of the best clones, aka the books that follow the Tolkien conceits pretty closely, yet are a cut above the rest.

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.

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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.

Tad Williams' series was the source of inspiration for many of the titles on the listand some outside of it. Authors like R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and more all cite The Dragonbone Chair as a turning point in fantasy. That's part, in thanks, to the epic nature of the series. Williams uses the popular tropes in 1980s fantasy: elf-like creatures, trolls, magic, and more. However, the incredible detail of his world and political system combines with an intelligent subversion of those stereotypes in one of the most underrated coming of age stories. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn tells the tale of Simon and his journey from kitchen boy to magician, and from magician to legend. Despite this, our protagonist is not the willing, genius hero that we've come to expect. Simon is reluctant, self-pitying and often doesn't understand the full picture. Though this makes the character sound undesirable, Williams' writing simply makes him feel real. Simon's feelings seem like a natural reaction to his circumstances, and the subtle growth as the series progresses makes his journey all the more satisfying. It's joined by a plot that arches across three novels of up to 1000 pages and two other companion novels. The author slowly lowers you into the history and world of Osten Ard until you loath to leave it. Read if you like: Tolkien, Game of Thrones, epic fantasy.

Books in Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

I'm going to give my recommendations on works of similar "style" to Williams. Williams writes with an almost pedantic eye -- every little detail is lovely detailed -- to practically everything. This includes characters, settings, and even pots. Everything down to the minutest detail is lovingly rendered into prose. It can take a long while before things happen in a Tad Williams book, which may turn off those who love instant action with no patience for slow pacing.


Moontide Magic


For a series (and author) who's often a bit slower paced with an attention to beautiful, sometimes lyrical prose, give works by Sean Russell a read. I would start with his Moontide Magic Rise duology. 

The Initiate Brother

 If you like his work, give his The Initiate Brother (an Asian fantasy) a go. 

The Swan's War

For a high fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien with gorgeous and lyrical prose, read Swans' War.

Lord of the Rings


You should read Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien, if you have yet not. Tolkien is a writer who loves to write. The pacing is quicker than Memory, Sorrow, Thorn, but the language is gorgeous as is the setting portrayed by Tolkien

The DragonCrown War Cycle

Another book that shares some similarities with Memory, Sorrow, Thorn 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 reading Tad William's other works. His Shadowmarch series is really good (and completed). His other series, Otherland is a stellar read too. 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.

Fionavar Tapestry

Read Guy Gaverial Kay's own conversation with Tolkien's Rings with his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. Another take on the Lord of the Rings concept and like Williams, wonderfully written though less pedantically paced.

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)

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)

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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.

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)

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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.

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)

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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 would categorize this as the bastard child of Tolkien and Martin: it has some of the ancient lore and world-building mythos present in Tolkien crossed with the dark grittiness of Martin. I don’t feel it completely lived up the initial expectations shown in the first book of the trilogy, but overall it was a good read and certainly better than the usual Tolkien clone series. Think of this as a way less complex version of A Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin Extra Lite without the complex characters though some of the characters are somewhat morally ambiguous in a gritty setting.

Books in The Godless World Series (2)

This series goes for the high style, flowery mythos of The Silmarillion but crossed with the more personal story of The Lord of the Rings. This is not just the usual classic epic fantasy ripping off Tolkien’s Middle Earth, featuring hard-to-pronounce names, young heroes who rise from the bowels of obscurity into world-changing prominence, magical lands and magical objects, a clutch of non-human races including dwarves, elves, dragons, and the like. Well, actually, The Sundering includes all of the above, but it’s all got a very interesting twist on the whole “let’s band together and defeat the dark lord” thing. The twist here is that Carey is writing Sauron’s Tale, not Frodo’s. This is the story from the “bad guys’” perspective, except that the bad guys are not really the classical bad guys, but have rather been propagandized as evil by the good side. It’s an interesting twist on the whole good vs. evil paradigm. The whole thing comes off as a tragic tale where the misunderstood younger brother gets the short end of the stick, and when he rises up to restore order to the world, gets cast down as a doomed villain. Carey excels at writing rich, complex characters and developing elaborate and lush landscapes. She does so here with The Sundering, creating a lovechild between Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Keshie’s Dart.

This trilogy offers another refreshing take on traditional coming of age stories. Often in fantasy, magic is seen as a way out for the protagonist. It lets them move away from their humble beginnings to a magic college where everything is better. In McKillip's world, that's not quite true. The wizards are all dead, and the only way to uncover their secrets is through riddles. Morgon is not a peasant boy, he's the ruler of a farming island called Hed. He's not happy with adventure, or the dangerous journey through magic. Unfortunately, he was born with three stars on his head, marking him for prophecy. However, this prophecy is not complete, and Morgon spends much of the novel reluctantly trying to figure out who he is and what he's supposed to be. The result is a hero with a real sense of vulnerability, both internally and in his ability to defend himself. His journey is a slow one, stretching out across the whole trilogy, tied together with elegant prose, unique magic and incredible attention to detail. Read if you like: Tolkien, high-fantasy, classic fantasy.

Books in Riddle-master Series (7)

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Lord of the Rings

J.R.R.Tolkien's A Lord of the Rings. I also recommend Ursula le Guin's classic The Earthsea trilogy (starts with A Wizard of Earthsea), 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 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.

The Wizard of Earthsea

Beautifully written, lyrical, and poignant, A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic coming of age story that evokes that same sort of feelings when you read The Riddle Master books. 

The Name of the Wind

A modern take on the classic High fantasy hero tale, but sharply written, lyrical, and exciting to read. Chances are if you like the Riddle Master books, you are going to love The Name of the Wind. I feel both books evoke the same sort of feelings when you read them, both are coming of age, both are lyrical, and both sometimes have a dreamlike quality (at times).


Jack Vance's brilliant High Fantasy trilogy. Some of the best written, best sounding stuff in the genre. Vance, like Patricia A. McKillip, has a mastery with words.


Alexander's Wales-inspired epic fantasy offers little in the way of originality when compared to the novels of today. It's a simple tale of Taran, a pig farmer who has always wanted more, and gets more than he's bargained for. But as is common in these stories, execution is the key, and this author has it down to a tee. The Chronicles of Prydain is an adventure novel at its core, detailing the fight and journey a band of heroes against evil. There are some incredibly strong characters, from half animals to princesses and soulless warriors. There's no Mary Sue characters in this book, each defined as much by their flaws as their weaknesses. But that doesn't mean they have no redeemable qualities, and many of their internal journeys are about finding those. Despite this, none of them reach the depth of Taran, which is where Alexander's true mastery shows. He manages to create a feeling of care for the character despite his clumsiness and irritability.Taran is not a stalwart warrior with no emotion, he's fragile and still learning. Still, he has such a strong presence that Alexander never has to describe his face. Read if you like: Lord of the Rings, adventure, diverse characters.

Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)

English mythology abounds in this; like Lord of the Rings, Weirdstone of Brisingamen is based heavily on English mythology, from which the tale draws inspiration. Both Lord of the Rings and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen are steeped in ancient folklore and the locations are heavily influenced by the English countryside.
Like David Eddings, Feist was one of the first fantasy novelists to have measurable commercial success – the kind that landed him on the bestseller list. It had a lasting impact on the genre itself by bringing in a new – very loyal – audience.Why it made the listIf you're impressed by nothing else in this book, be impressed by how grand the scope is. It takes place over a decade and includes all the elements of an epic saga: Quests to far off lands, devastating wars and heroic adventures. Who doesn't love an epic?Magician isn't complex in terms of character development or dialogue (which is often cheese-tastic). It's also full of standard fantasy clichés. But, because of the amount of different people, lands and occurrences in the book, it feels like a complicated read. The plot is nothing special, but there are enough surprises to keep you entertained.This is comparable to a prescribed book at school. It's mainstream enough to appeal to almost everyone, it's never offensive and is, essentially, a beginner's guide to the tropes, stock characters and basic formulas of fantasy.

Books in The Riftwar Series (3)