Top 100 Fantasy Books

The Top 100 Best Fantasy Books Ever Written
Fantasy Worlds Unbound: The Top 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels

This list continues directly from where  the Top 25 Best Fantasy List ends, starting from #26 and ending at #100 (yes, I know the list shows #1, but 1 = 26).

Frankly, there are so many good books that have come out the past 10 years and there are some real classics that one simply must give a nod to. Hence I've created this extended list. After you look at the Top 25, this list should be your next best resource.Books that do NOT make this list, well, look at the 'Great Fantasy Books' list for more stellar reads or check out one of the other specialty lists or best of sub-genre lists. 

The bottom line is, between all these lists, you should have no problem finding an awesome fantasy read for the next couple years. You can look at our Best Fantasy Since 2010, which lists some of the best RECENT fantasy that's come out the past five years. And you might want to peruse our 'Best by Year' lists which cover the best books published each year, the first which is the Best Fantasy Books of 2014.

For many of you, your very own Top 10 or Top 25 Best Fantasy Novels picks will be likely be drawn from books on this list. Individual tastes in books change, but all the books on this list are outstanding and (in my opinion) rate as the best in the entire genre. So if you've read everything on the Top 25 list, start working your way through this list. 

Western settings. Farm boys. Spoilt rich kids. Often, coming of age fantasy hits you over the head with unsubtle interactions and world-building. Abraham's Long Price Quartet does not fit into that category. It's a gentle piece. There's intricate world-building, a heavy focus on character progression, and little need for action. The World consists of city states with an asian inspiration, each looking to gain political influence. This is where much of the novel lies. Not in fighting, or magic, though both are present, but human interaction. Part of that is presented in the growth of characters, which is presented in an entirely unique way. Each book in the series is spaced fifteen years apart, presenting a change in the characters that can only be achieved by time. The central character is Itani, a laborer who is much more than he pretends to be. The Long Price Quartet follows him from the age of 12 through to 80, and from a young boy to an emperor. Ambitious in its timeframe, the series is much more than the sum of its parts, and far more nuanced than can be described in a short summary. Read if you like: Subtle fantasy, character-oriented stories.

Books in Long Price Quartet Series (4)

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The Dagger and the Coin

You may want to check out Abraham's newest fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin. Quite a few people are saying it's nearly as good as his The Long Price Quartet series and it's a more "standard epic fantasy" which many of you are used to by now (dragons, elder gods, trolls, magic).

Colors in the Steel

If you like the whole economic aspect of The Long Price Quartet, you should take a hard look at KJ Parker's works. Start with his Colors in the Steel. Both JK Parker and Daniel Abraham both write what's called economic fantasies -- fantasy that deals with economics in some major way.

Books by Guy Gaverial Kay

For another writer who writes beautiful, character driven prose where the heroes are not always warriors but poets and scholars, is Guy Gaverial Kay. Try his Under Heaven, Tigana, or Lions of Al Rassan though all his works are good. Not the same style as Abraham, but he does focus a lot of characters, slow complex plots that build up, and masterful prose where the writing itself is just as important as the story.

Books by China Mieville

China Mieville. One of the founders of the New Weird movement. This guy can write beautiful and unique stuff; the questions is then if you can understand what he's writing about. His world and characters are absolutely bizarre and often grotesque. But, like Abraham's The Long Price Quartet, his stories are very much different than the run-of-the-mill fantasy. You may enjoy him. I do and I feel he's a bit underrated. If you need a point to start, you can start with Perdido Street Station.


Another series that evocative in prose and character is Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast series. You might just love it if you are the type of person who falls head over heels with The Long Price Quartet.

Books by Neil Gaimen

Neil Gaimen. OH yes. Everything by him. Wonderful writing, thematic, and all round compelling tales. Start with American Gods, the book he's most famous for or Neverwhere. Note that ALL of his books are good though.

Book of the New Sun

Gene Wolf. You can check out his Book of the New Sun series. Beautiful writing, beautiful descriptions, deep thoughts, deep writing, unique scenarios.

Told from the perspective of the unicorn herself, this novel is as much satire as it is fairytale. The journey begins when she overhears a conversation insinuating that the unicorns are probably gone out of the world, and maybe they were only ever fantasy. Her journey is full of wonderfully imperfect characters; even the unicorn is vain and at times proud to a fault. King Haggard is clearly depressed and harms out of selfishness rather than because he is some embodiment of evil like in so many stories of the genre. It is a delightful, relaxing read, but that doesn't mean it's insubstantial. Beagle's descriptions are vibrant and tangible. Undercurrents of social commentary thread the humor woven throughout, and the ending isn't a neat and tidy Disney finale. While it can't tout a long list of literary awards won, it has made numerous readers' choice lists, including being proclaimed as #5 on the Locus list of "All Time Fantasy Novels."

Books in The Last Unicorn Series (4)

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)

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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.

The famous (or infamous, depending how you view the New Weird movement) novel is generally considered one of the founding pillars of the New Weird genre. This novel meets many of the criteria of Steampunk as well, with steam-powered technology the driving technological force in the novel. The sequels, The Scar and Iron Council, would also be considered Steampunk, being set in the same universe. Mieville’s newest novel, RailSea, a post-apocalyptic steampunk world, might fit the mold as well. While Perdido Street Station is not a novel for everyone (it is classified as New Weird and it’s no accident that this subgenre features “Weird” as part of the description), it’s an astounding novel in many ways, and certainly a compelling steampunk vision of the future. The novel took home a slew of awards, including the august Arthur C Clark Award and the Derleth Award.

Books in New Crobuzon Series (2)

Yes, we're talking about that book about bunnies. No, we haven't lost our minds. Take note: This isn't a children's book, despite it being about fluffy animals. If you've read Watership Down, you'll understand it's on the list. And if you haven't, you're wrong. It's impossible not to be moved by this tale – even if it is about rabbits.Why it made the listThe themes that underpin the plot of this book – of survival, of the influence of storytelling and of man's destructiveness – get deeper as the plot of Watership Down progresses. This is due to the personalities of the rabbits: As you get to know them, you'll not only identify with them, but feel for the things that happen to them. And, while they have some anthropomorphic elements, Adams hasn't erased their animalness in favor of human characteristics. That is to say, there are no bunnies in waistcoasts. Or squirrels smoking cigars. There's never a moment when you forget that you're reading about rabbits, but there's also never a time when you won't be able to identify with them.Adams has created a well balanced novel here: When it gets too dark, he throws in some humor. When the rabbits share their fables, it's because they're relevant to the action at that point in the plot. When the adventure becomes harrowing, there are moments of reflection. It's a rare writing skill, and if it's the only reason you pick up this book, you won't be disappointed.The action never stops moving, which – considering the intense emotions the book will inspire in you – is both a blessing and a relief. Watership Down may not be fantasy in the most obvious sense, but it's a classic and deserves to be on any ‘Best of…' lists.

Books in Watership Down Series (1)

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Tigana is both a sweeping epic and a look into human nature – flaws and all. The characters and plot exist in an area of grey where good and evil aren't absolutes. The plot follows a culture that – after an intense war – has lost its identity.Why it made this listThe hallmarks of gritty fantasy are all here: There's sex, violence and gruesome brutality, but what makes it an adult fiction is that nothing in the book is simple. Everything – even the Big Bad – can be explained when viewed from a different perspective. The heroes aren't Frodo-perfect; they're human. And they're capable of doing the worst kinds of things: They can be brutally violent, dispassionately calculating and selfishly ambitious.Other than being so well written, Gavriel Kay's refusal to categorize anything (or anyone) as purely good or evil is at the core of what makes it so special. It's possible to empathize with every character, because we can see ourselves in them – the good and the ugly. It's also a book about the subjugation of a group of people – something that 20 years later, is still an issue we grapple with every day. The best fantasy books are like this one, where the exploration of an issue in a different world exposes possibilities for understanding our own.The intense relationships in the book give us the opportunity to explore the theme of memory and loss for ourselves. It's also told using multiple perspectives, and with each point of view, readers are able to identify a different set of emotions, purposes and views – from inexperienced naiveté to long suffering cynicism.The book is perfectly balanced: The plot moves quickly enough to keep the action going without sacrificing the details of a well-built fantasy world. It's not a light fantasy book by any means and it can be an intense emotional ride, but it is worth it.

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More Books by Kay
Kay has written a good deal of fantasy and all of it's great. If you like the sheer emotion of Tigana, read Sailing to Sarantium . You should also give the The Summer Tree which is the first book in his The Fionavar Tapestry series -- Guy's take on Tolkien's epic fantasy. Expect trademark three dimensional characters and a meticulously drawn world. It's epic fantasy with a heart.
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)

The Hobbit is one of the most well-loved fantasy novels of all time. Written by J.R.R Tolkien as a bedtime story for his children, The Hobbit is a light-hearted tale, focussing on the exploits of an increasingly adventurous hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Set in the same world as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit ties into and lays the foundations for Tolkien's more famous work. However, The Hobbit, which functions as an excellent standalone book, definitely shouldn't be viewed as an inconsequential novella or tie-in novel. Unfortunately, Tolkien occasionally gets caught up in the minor details of world-building, spending entire chapters on meandering side plots. While this can make for slow read at times, Tolkien's masterful character development is sure to keep the reader hooked from the first page. Bilbo is one of Tolkien's most relatable characters, an unassuming hobbit who is plucked from his comfortable life and thrust into a fantastical world of magic, thievery and battle. In comparison to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Tolkien keeps The Hobbit grounded in a single main storyline. Instead of trying to save all of Middle-earth, Bilbo and his companions are dedicated to one goal – to steal an ancient relic from a dragon's treasure trove. Since being published in 1937, The Hobbit has stood the test of time, and it remains an incredibly popular novel to this day.

Books in The Lord Of The Rings Series (6)

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 book and the Prince of Nothing trilogy, as well as the other books that follow, are so dark that you'll need a shower after reading them. And therapy. This bad-boy was nominated for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It's a deep, philosophical read that demands your full attention, rather than being a light, pacey read like, for example, some of the young adult entries on this list. The prose is deep and enthralling, thick as rich chocolate but with the mental nutritional value of, like, kale or something. , the content of the book is deeply philosophical and intellectual, not in an 'everyone sits around and discusses the meaning of life' way, but in that the underpinnings of the characters and plot draw from eastern and western philosophies. The plot is epic and with many threads that play out across the series. Both monstrous and human entities within the book are horrifying, and the way magic-users operate is particularly unsettling. Read this book if: you like more intellectual novels, but don't want to miss out on all the sex and violence either.

Books in The Prince Of Nothing Series (6)

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Mazalan Book for the Fallen

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

A Song of Ice and Fire

Also try George R.R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, which is very epic and very gritty but way less philosophical. I'd also say it's more "character driven" as a whole than is The Darkness that comes before.

The Steel Remains

Another series that does that is Abercrombie's First Law series (starts with The Blade Itself) and Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains


I'd say you'll also probably find Acacia by David Anthony Durnham a good read too -- there are gray characters, an exotic landscape, and world-ending powers at play in the background.

Tyrants and Kings

For another fantasy about war, look at John Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy. It's a great read with a cast of grey characters.

The Black Company

Another gritty military fantasy you'll probably like (though it's less cerebral than The Prince of Nothing) is The Black Company by Cook.

The Godless Word

The Godless World series by Brian Ruckley is dark, atmospheric and very gritty, though it lacks some of the polish of the other series. The series never full lives up to it's potential, however.

The Long Price Quartet

For a deep character-driven fantasy you might try Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet.

Monarchies of God

For a gray fantasy with lots of politics, different kingdoms going to war, a cast of ambiguous characters, adventure and magic, check out Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God.

The Broken Empire

Like pointed philosophical bits about the state of mankind thrown out by the hero? Try Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire trilogy. It has a gritty and dark world it's probably the closest in theme and style you'll find to Bakker's works.

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)

If there was an award given out for the Most Influential Fantasy Novel Ever Written That No One Ever Reads, this book would get it. The book tells a stylized story of the epic battle between the Lords of Demonland and the evil King Gorice of Witchland, set in an world ripped straight from the pages of a classic Norse saga. Like most of the authors mentioned on this recommendation list, Eddison's prose is beautiful -- a work of art in itself. If you are one of those readers who's got a phobia about classic English (read archaic English), I suspect this novel is not one that will appeal to your senses. If you do enjoy classic English (read: English in the style of the King James Bible), then this book is going to make you might happy. This book harkens back to the Greek Classics and the Norse sagas in form and style. Eddison is a man obsessed with the concept of the Heroic, in much the same way of Homer's own fascination. The doomed hero, the passionate hero, the reckless hero, the hero that combines all of these. This is what Eddison wants to detail in his epic style and write about heros he does! The Worm Ouroboros is Eddison's ode to heroism -- and what an ode it is. This is a book that features the All Star Team of some of the most courageous and honorable heros and the most villainous of villains. Keep in mind that Eddison's work predates Tolkien's works. So don't go into the novel expecting to read about the elves, demons, sorcerous, and fairies that you're used to in a Tolkien-derrived novel. It's a strange world created by Eddison, but also a wonderful, romantic world too. So if you want a book that celebrates the reckless hero, dressed up in a stylized language and format that would have Homer himself proud, The Worm Ouroboros is that book.
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.

First book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms centers on the novel's narrator, Yeine, granddaughter of the ruler of the world. Yeine suddenly is named heir to this throne, despite the fact that she grew up outside of the political arena, and arrives in the floating city of Sky only to be immediately thrust into the middle of a struggle for power. She remains concerned with her own agenda though: uncovering the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother's sudden death. As a black woman interested in racial and cultural tensions, Jemisin's captivating fantasy world is also rife with conflict between races, albeit those of gods, demons, and mortals. Her unique characters are driven by emotion, politics and other very believable motives, imperfect gods included. There's a lot to keep track of here, from the various settings to the cast of characters, but it never feels overwhelming. At the center of it all, Yeine, an emotionally complex and likeable heroine, will weave her way easily into reader's hearts. The trilogy is already completed, so no need to wait for subsequent novels if you end up loving this one. Read if You Like: political intrigue, family sagas, first person POV, deep world building, racial conflict, mythology romance

Books in The Inheritance Series (6)

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)

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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.

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)

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

Lois McMaster Bujold is famous for her very atypical characters. She demonstrated this with her Miles Vorkosigan character, and she does the same thing with the Curse of Chalion. The main character, Cazaril, is an complex and fascinating character. He’s a man who’s been betrayed by everyone – once a great man, now recovering from years as a slave. Over the course of the novel, the hero undergoes a transformation from timidity to confidence. It’s one of those books where you become emotionally attached to the character – a skill that Lois McMaster Bujold has had many years to hone.Romance is also an important aspect of this novel, though this book is far more than just “a romance.” This tale is a good read for both men and women.The protagonist is a male character, but the loose sequel, Paladin of Souls, is told from the perspective of a woman, and arguably much more of a romance novel. I highly recommend the ladies check that one out.

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Paladin of Souls

Read "Paladin of Souls" which is a follow up book set in the same world as The Curse of Chalion. 

You might also want to check out her Miles Vorkosigan Science Fiction series. 

Sevenwaters Trilogy

Starts with Daughter of the Forest. Julian Marillier writes a very good romantic fantasy set in Celtic times. Read if you like the romance and character-driven narrative of The Curse of Chalion.

Kushiel's Dart

Kushiel's Dart is another romantic fantasy -- one of the more unique ones in the genre. You might like the books if you like Lois's handling of romantic relationships.

A sushi-loving angel, a gearhead demon and Death as a gamer nerd. Do we even need to be a plot?Why it's on this listSometimes fantasy (and its audience) takes itself too seriously. After you've been bogged down in yet another 500 page long description of a singing willow tree, it's refreshing to pick up a book that has humor at its heart. This is Pratchett's gift to the genre, and this book is one of his best. It's obvious that the two authors enjoyed writing this book as much as people enjoyed reading it and if that's the only reason you pick it up, then we'll call this a win.A novel written by these two legends of fantasy is like Darth Vader marrying a Klingon. It could've been a disaster, but who wouldn't want to see Lord Vader brandishing a Bat'leth lightsaber?As with all Pratchett books, all the best-laid plans go to hell in a hobbit hole and chaotic hilarity ensues. The best thing about these books is that it, in poking fun at fantasy, we have the chance to laugh at ourselves – and at a genre that can be stuffy and overly serious. You should read it because it's laugh-‘til-you-vomit funny, because it's considered a cult novel and because it combines the best writing of two legends to create one of the most original fantasy books of the 90s.
Most (all?) of Gaiman’s works are urban fantasy. The crowd favorite is Neverwhere, which is an interesting take on the whole multiverse conceit found in science fiction. The premise is that people can fall through the cracks on the ground and find themselves in an alternate London (called London Below). This is a world of talking rats, of shadows and saints, monsters and unlikely heroes. And into this bizarre world of London Below falls the unlikely hero of Richard, an ordinary man with an ordinary life who, in an act of Samaritan kindness, find himself caught up in a world of mystery, magic, and danger. A fantastic novel and his most highly rated. His American Gods is another standout novel and the one that put him on the map as one of the top urban fantasy writers. Similar Recommendations

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Mythago Wood
You'll like the concept and literary power of Mythago Wood by Robert Homestock. 

Anubis Gates
You'll also like Anubis Gates by Time Powers which combines some of the same story telling tropes (normal man gets sucked into a mysterious world of magic, gods, and strange dimensions). 

Un Lun Dun

If you like the zanyness of Neverwhere and the hidden alternate world of London behind the cracks of reality, you should give China Mieville's Un Lun Dun a read -- it's a story about a girl who find herself caught up in another version of London, a place where she seems to be the hero.
'Unique' is a vastly overused word. It has about as much meaning as Kim K's twitter feed. But in the case of Mythago Wood, it's warranted. Firstly, Holdstock tells the story from the protagonist's point of view – in first person journal entries – with intermittent letters from the other characters to add an extra layer to the narrative. This style could be overly self-aware and nothing could be more irritating than reading self-involved diary entries from a whiny character. (Can you imagine Frodo's diary?) Luckily, the writing is clear and doesn't sacrifice pace in favor of internal processing. (Bella Swan, this means you.) The reason it works so well is that you can't help but be pulled into this world. The book explores philosophical elements and, through Steven's diary entries, the reader is forced to confront them. Why it made this listIt's not often that a book manages to capture the imagination, while giving the audience the space to consider tougher questions – without forfeiting any of the plot. It's a fine balancing act that Holdstock has achieved. None of this takes away from the beauty of the forest environment he's created. It manages to be a well paced mythic fantasy that asks a lot of the reader, without it being emotionally exhausting. Maybe if Stephen Donaldson wrote The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant with as much care, fewer people would use his books as stairs for mini-labradoodles and hamsters.

Books in Mythago Wood Series (9)

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Though Sanderson's main criticism is a lack of character depth, it's hard to deny the satisfying coming of age stories in Mistborn. The novel describes a classic rags-to-riches story, Vin progressing from street scammer to metal ingesting magician. However, Vin's development and the scope of the story goes much further than that. Sanderson raises many important questions through the protagonist and lets her grow as she comes to her own conclusions. There's an exploration of class, religion, moral ambiguity, and, most importantly, trust. Rather just presenting a story of powerless to powerful, the author explores how one so exploited can come to form meaningful relationships. While some would be content to leave it there, this tale contains similar progression in other characters. The latter books focus on the growth of Elend from an intellectual to a leader, while a minor character plot explores the quest to find meaning among powerful friends. These plot arches combine with an incredible magic system, detailed worldbuilding, and intense action sequences to create an easy and entertaining read. Read if you like: Interesting magic systems, religion in fantasy, rags to riches.

Books in Mistborn Series (12)

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)

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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.

Conan – the name conjures up images of swords, bare chests, sweat, blood and lots of furs (like a non-campy version of Dolf Lungren's He-Man). It's hard to believe that Conan is more than 100 years old.Howard created the world around his central character Conan. While Conan is titled as a barbarian we get to see a deeper side to him as the stories progress. He is supposed to be a barbarian but is also a linguist, strategist, charmer, thief, and king (eventually). The fact that the character is depicted in spectacular prose just makes the story even more memorable. Why it's on the list These books are a vital read for any lover of fantasy. Ignore what you have seen on TV and in comic books – Howard's Conan is a unique and memorable story. At times brooding, bloody, sincere or just funny, these stories are beautifully written. Howard's style of writing is so perfectly detailed that you very quickly get sucked in for the ride.Howard did something that Tolkien later would perfect. Building a world around his characters. He added an appendix called "The Hyborean Age" to many of his stories as a way to create some additional depth to Conan's universe and thereby give it a deeper sense of authenticity. What this means to us as readers, is that Howards world gets deeper as you read and it becomes even easier to engross yourself.Robert E. Howard's character inspired a whole host of authors with this new "sword and sorcery" style of storytelling. Stephen King said, "Howards writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks"Read if you likeClassic sword and sorcery. To know the real character behind the movies.

Books in Conan The Cimmerian Series (2)

Dark gritty fantasy the way it's meant to be: violent, brutal, mythical, and supremely well written. Much has been made about the recent grimdark movement, with much credit being given to authors like Martin and Cook for their role in it. But Poul Anderson is one of the original gritty fantasy works, before such was even acknowledged as an artistic and literary movement. Poul Anderson, an established author in the genre, has never received the modern acclaim her rightfully deserved. Anderson's best work was The Broken Sword, a book that draws very heavily on Norse myth along with western myths and Greek myth. Here, you see a mixing of Vikings-like cultures, trolls, capricious Viking gods, and elves. There's a hell of a lot to like here: action and adventure, love and betrayal, sorrow and joy  and all packed into a short novel that moves at supersonic speed.  The whole premise is itself one big tragedy a human and an elf are switched at birth, each growing up in the other's stead, living a different life, and finding they don't at all fit in and longing for what's been missing. Of course, things go sour for everyone involved. This story at its core one grand tragedy from the start to end.  One of the more interesting and, beneath it all, complex reads in the genre and a book that few people seem to know about. The villains, particularly, are complex and flawed  their actions dastardly but completely understandable. They do bad, but you empathize with the why. If you love Nordic myth, you can't do better than this fantasy classic it's really some of the best Nordic-inspired fantasy in the genre. The key elements of Norse legend are all here in this book: super human heroes who are fated to die tragically; mythical creatures such as dwarves; elves, trolls, and gods  all who clash with humans and each other who populate a harsh, icy world; heroes and villains who all motivated by hatred and love; and capricious gods manipulating events and humanity for their own oblique reasoning.
If you've never said, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”, you're about as rare as a swear word at Hogwarts. Part of the reason the movie is so quotable is because the author of the book – William Goldman – is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter.Why it made the listWhat you don't get a sense of in the movie is the genius of the structure of The Princess Bride. There's a deceit involved in how it's told: It's supposedly an abridged version of a (longer, more boring) book by S. Morgenstern. This book doesn't exist. Why is this genius? Because it allows Goldman the opportunity to comment on his own work – as if he's Goldman commenting on Morgenstern, when it's actually Goldman commenting on Goldman pretending to be Morgenstern.This isn't only an excellent way to overcome any inconsistencies in his own narrative; it's also how we get into the heads of the characters and learn about their histories – without sacrificing any of the pace of an action driven plot.There's something for everyone here: Swordplay and romance, action and banter. And, while it's always snappy, there's still depth to it. The theme that's interwoven with the witticisms and quick dialogue is how the journey from youthful naiveté to loss of innocence changes a person. The book also warns of something even more intrinsic: Sometimes (and often) life does not play fairly.

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If you've never said, â??My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to dieâ??, you're about as rare as a swear word at Hogwarts. Part of the reason the movie is so quotable is because the author of the book â?? William Goldman â?? is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter.

Why it made the list

What you don't get a sense of in the movie is the genius of the structure of The Princess Bride. There's a deceit involved in how it's told: It's supposedly an abridged version of a (longer, more boring) book by S. Morgenstern. This book doesn't exist. Why is this genius? Because it allows Goldman the opportunity to comment on his own work â?? as if he's Goldman commenting on Morgenstern, when it's actually Goldman commenting on Goldman pretending to be Morgenstern.

This isn't only an excellent way to overcome any inconsistencies in his own narrative; it's also how we get into the heads of the characters and learn about their histories â?? without sacrificing any of the pace of an action driven plot.

There's something for everyone here: Swordplay and romance, action and banter. And, while it's always snappy, there's still depth to it. The theme that's interwoven with the witticisms and quick dialogue is how the journey from youthful naiveté to loss of innocence changes a person. The book also warns of something even more intrinsic: Sometimes (and often) life does not play fairly.

The Witcher series isn’t the first that comes to mind in this genre, especially if your knowledge is limited to the games. However, this particular title features far more training than you might expect. For the unfamiliar, this series tells of a world overrun by mythical creatures and the supernatural. Alongside invaders, they terrorize villages and are the cause of endless problems. Witchers are one of the only solutions --monster hunters mutated through rituals to have speed, strength, and their own flavor of magic. Ciri, a daughter of the emperor, is part of that group, though not naturally. She’s been taken under the wing of famed Geralt of Rivia, who acts as a surrogate father. A daughter of the Elder Blood, she learns to wield not only sword and potions, but the powerful magic that runs through her. This time, though, tutors aren’t just faceless learning machines. The atmosphere of Kaer Morhen is a close one. Like all good school fantasy, Blood of Elves is focused on character as well as education. Ciri forms emotional bonds with her tutors, a relationship with the sorceress Yennefer developing from hatred to daughterhood. Though his world-building is incredible, Andrej Sapkowski’s true talent is making you care about his characters. By slowly building intimacy, he creates a sense of tension as the danger ramps up. As a result, Ciri’s education is vital to the survival of her friends, and holds an urgency that’s not often seen.

Books in The Witcher Series (8)

In creating this world, Powers borrowed ideas from all over the place. Mythology, Ancient Egyptian theology, quantum theory, and classical literature“ they're all used in The Anubis Gates. It's a ridiculous combination of ideas, but it's the reason why this book is so entertaining. Why it made the list It's clear that Powers is an ambitious writer. He has zero qualms about chucking whatever he can into the mix. He doesn't even seem concerned about it making sense. And yet, it does. With the diverse concepts thrown around in the book, the plot is complex. But you'll never feel lost it in. It's a testament to his talent that he's able to create clarity out of chaos. This is also a title that comfortably sits between many genres, without veering too far in any direction. There's just enough humor to keep it entertaining without turning it into a Pratchett-style spectacle. There are enough thrilling moments to keep you entertained without it becoming a (pre-born-again) Anne Rice novel. While the characters in The Anubis Gates aren't the well drawn, the plot is excellent, and unpredictable and will keep you guessing until the end“ where the loose threads are pulled together into a tight “and satisfying“ conclusion.

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If you like

the rip-roaring adventure of The Anubis Gate, another tale that comes to mind is On Stranger Tides which is another awesome standalone novel by Time Powers (and the source material for the new-upcoming 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie). You can also give Powers' other novels(all standalone) a shot too. They're always a mix of the fantastic and the tangible with a good dose of (sometimes weird) adventure thrown in. And if you like the whole "mythical elements coming to life" aspect of The Anubis Gate,then read Mythago Wood which is a novel about ancient myths coming to life. Neil Gaiman's American Gods and his excellent Anansi Boys are two other books in which anthropomorphized ancient myths struggle to coexist with modernity.

In a genre that's collapsing under the weight of cloned Tolkien worlds, hackneyed plots, and stick-thin characters, it's hard to find something new and interesting. That is until you read Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus, a clever take on the young adult fantasy genre.While the books are geared towards Young Adults, don't be fooled by this label  the book will appeal every bit as much to adults as it does to kids. Bartimaeus is a much darker work of fiction than others in the genre, a far more complex novel than the Harry Potter fiction that's ubiquitous now. The protagonist, Nathaniel dwells in a world where magicians are the ruling class of society and who maintain power by harnessing the power of enslaved spirits (genies, imps, etc). Everyone (including the protagonist) is driven by the unquenched thirst for absolute power, wealth and revenge and will do anything and everything to achieve it.Despite the darkness of the world and the characters, Stroud manages to create a compelling world and cast of characters fighting to survive and even prosper  in it. The plot is very strong with this one and the pacing moves along very fast. You won't ever get bored. Plenty of action, mystery, and twists to keep you on the edge of your seat.Bartimaeus touches on several other works in the genre including Harry Potter, Lord Darcy and Atemis Foul; but the tale is fresh, and the themes darker, deeper, and more complex. This series is a classic in the making and stands in as perhaps one of the best young adults fantasy series out there, going head to head with other greats in the genre like Susan Coopers The Dark is Rising and Pullman's His Dark Materials. If you thought Harry Potter was a dark read, you'll be hiding in the closet after reading this one  Bartimaeus makes Harry Potter seem like a light Jane Austen novel.

List more than a few entries on this Top 100 list, Talion is a completely underrated fantasy book. Stackapole is a prolific author, writing everything from Star Wars novels, video game stories (he was part of the writing team for the recent 2014 Kickstarter-backed Wasteland 2 PC game), to fantasy.Talion, however, is his best book. And not only is it Talion's best book, it's also one of the best heroic fantasy books in the genre. What's remarkable is that it's Stackapole's first fantasy book. What sets Talion apart from other similar books is the heavy dose of pathos pervading the novel. It's not a "happy" type novel; there is a deep sadness that rings through the prose the whole way through. But the characterization of Nolan, a young man forced to choose between love and honor, is fantastic. You literally can't put the book down until the last page. So for a top notch heroic fantasy, Talion: Revenant must be read.

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The majority of

the fantasy books out there feature some sort of "Hero" of the story. But there are a few books that really do the hero conceit some real justice, either looking at the price of heroism or just telling an outright killer story. I've recommended a few books here that will suit your taste if you like the flavor of Talion.

Michael Stackpole's

Once a Hero is another book that focuses on the cost of being a so called "Hero." It's a great read and while not as good as Talion: Revenant, should certainly be read if you enjoy Stackpole's book. 

If you like vicious fantasy with a lot of focus on a bad-ass main character, Heroes Die fits that particular bill. The protagonist is about as deadly as they come and, like Talion: Revenant, combines vicious action with an addicting plot. Another heroic fantasy tale worth reading is David Gemmell's Legend. Legend really sets you in a brutal world where only one man can make it right -- Druss the aging and retired hero. Quite a few of Gemmell's other books explore the idea of heroism quite extensively as well, so if you want more of the same, look at his other work.

Another must read

For a fantasy that centers around the exploits of a hero (a trilogy though and not a standalone) , check out The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This book has been lauded by critics and readers alike for years as one of the best heroic fantasy tales in the genre.

Garth Nix's Sabriel is marketed to the young adult audience but easily appeals to a wider readership. Fantastic world-building paints both the realm of Ancelstierre, and The Old Kingdom, where 'Free magic' reigns. Separated by the wall, its elementals, undead, and sorcerers are unknown to the general population. Sabriel lives in a boarding school in Ancelstierre, widely unaware of magic until a creature appears in her dorm room. In its arms is a message from her father and his bells, one of the few tools that can banish the dead. With a powerful sorceress rising across the wall, she must head back to her father in the Old Kingdom to begin her Abhorsen training. With a simple and incredible unique magic system, memorable characters, and a vibrant world, Sabriel is very hard to dislike. It's a simple coming of age story, a fight between good and evil, and great fun all the way through.

Books in Abhorsen Series (4)

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The Chronicles of Narnia

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 decent and it's a great magical adventure for both kids and adults.

Keys to the Kingdom

You should also read Garth Nix's newest series, Keys to the Kingdom, is 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).

His Dark Materials

You might want to take a gander at Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. It's uber famous and with good reason.


For a great steampunk fantasy for young adults/kids, read Scott Westerfield's Leviathan. I'm not usually into YA fantasy, but some of the concepts and the action present in the book had me hooked.

Accross the Nightingale Floor

You must read Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. It's a fantasy tale set in a Japanese milieu. It's got all you want in an epic fantasy WITH the addition of samurai's, ninja's, and magic!

Harry Potter

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

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)

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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.

It was in the 80s that the subgenres of fantasy we know today started. One of these – urban fantasy – owes much of its development from War for the Oaks, which was one of the titles that pioneered it. If this is the only reason you decide to give it a try, you'll find it's time well spent.Why it made the list Some authors get so caught up in their own worlds that they can't bring themselves to the level of the reader when explaining the details of their creation. When this happens, the explanations they provide can seem patronizing. Bull never does this to the reader. Instead, she gives you enough information to understand the War for the Oaks universe, but trusts that you have the intelligence to fill in the blanks. In doing away with the overly condescending and lengthy descriptions that many fantasies are plagued with, action and character development are given all the attention.Bull's writing style is uncomplicated but not overly simple, making it easy to read. She's an excellent storyteller and – maybe because she draws on things that she experienced in real life – the magic elements feel as much a part of our reality as her tales about being in a rock band. Can you really think of anything more entertaining than a rock musical with faeries? That's what Bull has created here.You should already be convinced that this deserves some attention. But if you need another reason to do so, then the characters in War of the Oaks are it. Eddi, the main protagonist, is easy to like but it's the faerie Phouka – a shape changing, mischievous Prince lookalike – that makes this book so much fun to read.

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What can I

possibly recommend for faerie-related novels. Quite frankly,there's a zillion fantasy books about fairies, from romantic ones to dark horror ones, to sappy Twilight teeny-bopper series. I'll recommend the best I've stumbled across.

For the closest book

I've read that's similar to War for the Oaks, give Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale a good read. It's an edgy, intensely gritty modern faerie tale that should satisfy Emma Bull fans who those who want a darker sort of story. Ostensibly, it's a YA book (the protagonist is 16), but it's so dark and jaded, I don't see how that's the case.

For another

girl-versus-urban-faeries-and-finds-self-empowerment tale, you can give the Wicked Lovely series a read. This one is less dark than Holly Black's Tithe and it's several books long. Women who love romance will especially like the series.

If you like

that deal with individuals getting caught up in Faery court wars, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files feature a wizard who keeps getting mixed up with Faerie politics (especially the fourth book in the series, Summer Knight, which is only about Faerie politics and intrigue).

For an interesting

take on the whole Faerie mythos (about a boy who is stolen away from his parents and forced to live with Faeries) read Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child.

This classic is the Arthurian tale standard by which modern iterations are measured. Or blatantly ripped off ('cough' Disney 'cough'). While the first section is a bright and comical depiction of Arthur as a familiar young orphan called the Wart, the novel becomes increasingly dark and dismal as the golden age of Camelot crumbles. White takes age-old questions and dresses them in Old English folklore, creating a thought-provoking rendition of a legend with which we are all familiar. He pokes fun at our modern day mess, as well as the typical foibles of human nature to which none of his heroes is immune with flippant anachronistic references throughout. Despite the ease with which even the most noble fall, there is a kindness in the way they are each so relatable, even the baddies. The cast is so well written, and the prose so enjoyable it's one of those volumes that can be re-read annually and still retain its impact.

Books in The Once And Future King Series (6)

I can't do a list of the top 50 fantasy novels with strong female leads without including The Mists of Avalon. Considered one of the great classics of modern fantasy literature, it won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel the year it was published, topped Best Sellers lists for years thereafter, and has continued to transform perspectives for decades. Bradley won critical acclaim with this novel by taking the whole body of Arthurian legend and re-spinning the tale from the perspective of the women in Arthur's life. The Avalon of the title is the island home to a sect of Goddess worshippers attempting to hold back Christianity's growing influence over Arthur and the country at large. This world of mysticism and spirituality frames the life of Morgaine, not an evil sorceress here, but priestess of Avalon and Arthur's half-sister. She rides the tide of self-doubt and confidence as we span her life from practically birth to death. Here lives a haunting Camelot. A visceral, real Camelot that is simultaneously ethereal and mystical. It's not action-packed, but an emotional and compelling legend of adventure, prophesy, romance, betrayal, and witchcraft. The women here are complex, intriguing, loving, and manipulative. They live in a male-dominated world, so behind the scenes they are forever pulling strings, standing close to center stage, but never stepping a foot onto it, weaving their magic in the shadows. If the life of the author matters to you when reading a novel, know that Bradley has some skeletons that have thrown shade over her work.

Books in The Mists Of Avalon Series (2)

The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Abercrombie himself describes it this way: "Three men. One battle. No heroes." It was designed to be a standalone novel, but is set in the world of The First Law. The entire novel transpires during a three-day battle between the North and the Union.  In true Abercrombie style, The Heroes is a bloodbath full of wit and dark humor. Far from the typical heroic fantasy, good doesn't prevail over evil; in fact I'm not sure any of these dudes could really classify as "good," but you are invested in them either way. This rough, thrilling ride features realism done well. Full of jealousy, revenge, and recklessness, we follow their adventures, exposing the gory truth of both war and human nature.

Books in First Law World Series (6)

One of those weird trips into a nightmare land that you want to wake up from but can't. NOS4R2 reads with the same style and power of Stephen King horror novel. And in fact, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King both the physical son, and after you read NOS4R2, the literary successor to Stephen King's brand of horror.NOS4R2 is also one of the best horror books to come out the past decade  a truly scary ride that you can't get out of, no matter how much you want to. It's a masterwork of horror and creep and in a way a metaphor of that past catching up to you, no matter how hard you try to suppress it. Characters are well drawn and find a place in your heart  they are all tortured individuals with a troubled past.  At 720 pages one of the longest in the horror genre. But it's one of those books that sucks you in so hard you don't notice the length. An impressive read and if you want your fantasy tinged with horror, NOS4R2 gets our pick as one of the best (modern) horror meets fantasy reads the past decade.#
A recent epic fantasy trilogy, but one of the most exciting epic fantasy series the past decade. The Lightbringer has probably the most unique magic system I've seen yet in fantasy, right up there with Brandon Sanderson's Allomancy. This is one series that actually improves more over book two than in book one. There's a hell of a lot of action, magic, romance, coming of age thrown into this series. It's literally a series you can't stop reading once you start.Keep in mind the first book, The Black Prism, was mediocre. Personally, I wrote the series off after reading the first book. For Weeks to redeem himself, book two would have to blow your mind.  And somehow Weeks pulls a rabbit out of the hat in book two and just blows your socks off, putting the series on track for one of the best new epic fantasy series to come out in a decade.
Abraham wowed everyone with his Long Price Quartet books, a fundamentally different sort of fantasy tale that was beautifully written and character driven, very much a different fantasy than you've ever read before. He's also done a good job in the science fiction genre, with a modern take on old school Soap Opera with his The Expanse (written under a pen name).Abraham decided to get his hands wet with a more traditional epic fantasy yarn with his Dagger and the Coin series. Epic fantasy yes, but it's a Abraham novel, meaning it's first and foremost a character driven tale first with everything else secondary. There's action, magic, mystery, and politicking, but many of these are very much in the background while the story spends a long time building up the characters, their relationships with each other and their place to the world around them. But once things get going (warning, it can take a couple books in), things get going! There's a lot of plot twists and it's hard to see where the story is going. He's almost wrapped it all up though. So for a traditional fantasy epic with awesome writing, awesome characters with a darker bent, read this series. It's one of the best new fantasy epics and certainly one of the better character driven fantasies in the 2000's.

Books in The Dagger And The Coin Series (6)

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)

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If you like John Marco's style of character-driven fantasy, you should read his The Bronze Knight books.
This collaboration proves that you don't have to wade neck-deep in magic to make a great fantasy. This series showcases the other side of Feist's Riftwar Saga, which is a great read, but pretty standard as far as fantasy lore goes with the typical magician, orphan, dragon, elf, combo. Empire is something entirely different. Set in Asian-inspired Kelewan, we ditch the medieval European landscape for once, and enter a world where Akoma Honor drives the politicking of the ruling class. Mara is the new empress after her father and brother are killed, and learns to navigate these deadly waters with alacrity driven by need. She is one of the most multidimensional and fearless characters I've read, rising from precariously clinging to her title to a truly powerful contender. The synergy between these two masterful authors yields up something richer than either alone. Even seemingly small characters have big ambitions and impact the story in surprising ways. Intrigue, murder, fantastic creatures, fervent love, and battle; Empire is everything that makes fantasy worth reading.

Books in The Empire Series (2)

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Books set in an Asian fantasy landscape are pretty rare. If you liked the sort of mystical Asian landscape portrayed in this series, you might Find Sean Russell's Brother Initiate and Gather of Clouds a good read as well. Guy Gavriel Kay also has a new book, Under Heaven, that's sort of an alternative version of China (with elements of magic to it).

Set in the same world as her bestselling The Book of Words trilogy, A Cavern of Black Ice is the first book in the separate Sword of Shadows series. This gritty novel follows the stories of its two stubborn main characters, Ash, and Raif, both of whom are a little different from the world in which they live. Ash is locked away by her adopted father, tormented by reoccurring nightmares for which she has no explanation. Meanwhile, Raif is a fiercely loyal member of the Hailsmen tribe who begins to question that loyalty as certain things come to light about his clan. The novel unravels slowly in a stark, cold climate, the perfect backdrop for the types of visceral scenes that Jones describes in often agonizing detail. Readers will enjoy the dark magical elements, multiple characters (Raif's sister and uncle also play prominent roles) and sweeping epic fantasy not normally written by a female author. Although Jones isn't as well-known as some of her fantasy counterparts, her work is well worth a read, and has even been compared to the likes of popular fantasy authors George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. Read if You Like: deep world-building, epic fantasies, magic, multiple character plotlines, heroes who suffer a lot

Books in Sword Of Shadows Series (5)

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

Books in The Second Sons Series (2)

One of the best undiscovered epic fantasy series out there a sort of A Song of Ice and Fire lite if you will. Yes, if you want to look at the best of the best in the genre, there are better fantasy epics with stronger characters, more complex themes, and better writing. But. None of them are as quick and condensed a read as this series that delivers the same bang for the buck for the size of it. Paul Kearney somehow manages to pack and epic amount of struggle, adventure, military warfare, and politics into just five volumes that average about 340 pages each. In this day and age of fantasy epics being 1000+ page tomes of 10+ volumes, well you can see how this is a rare thing indeed. Monarchies of God is a highly underrated series and can stand beside the latest Brandon Sanderson epics like Mistborn and Way of Kings on nearly equal terms. There's everything you love about a proper epic fantasy stuck in between these pages. If you are looking for your next epic fantasy with a big cast of characters (several of them morally ambiguous), politics and war, and exotic landscapes (and nautical adventures) this should be your next read.

Books in The Monarchies Of God Series (6)

If there is one childrenâs classic your kids should read and only one, than it should be Alice in Wonderland. Itâs a book thatâs influenced an entire generation of pop culture â including movies, video games, books, language, and more. To NOT read this book is to deprive yourself of a strong cultural point of reference. What is there to say about the story other than a girl goes through a rabbit hole and finds herself in a wonderland. Like many of the best childrenâs classics, this book can be read on two different levels entirely â a simple childâs adventure story in a magical land or a metaphorical journey of double meanings, symbolisms and clever wordplays. There is a hidden story behind the story itself. This is why the book is so brilliant. It offers something to everyone; as a child you enjoy the wonderful and imaginative tale of a girl saving a magical kingdom, and as an adult you read into a story thatâs more than a story.

Books in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Series (1)

A true classic and not at all like the movie. Because of the popularity of the movie, many assume the book and the movie are the same; but this is not so. The book is far superior to the movie and is a thoroughly entertaining read. It makes for perfect reading to your kids right before bedtime and hey, you might even find yourself slipping off to read it on your own time. With quite a few of the current crop of children’s fantasy books tending towards the dark side of things, it’s nice to have a fun, entertaining read that makes you feel good at the end of the day. Appropriate for all ages.

The Etched city was formed from the love union between Stephen King and China Mieville. If you want a more complex fantasy novel with a good dose of the bizarre, a sprinkle of noir, and a dash of pathos, The Etched City is it. You'll find a lot of comparisons with King's The Dark Tower, as both novels feature a dark, brooding hero tromping through a wasteland of a world. But the stories, in terms of similarities, end there.Bishop is a strong storyteller with a keen knack for crafting characters that don't fit into the normal mode. You won't find those canned fantasy characters such as the spoiled princess, the dumb hero, the evil dark mage, etc. Rather, you will be presented with a cast of (sometimes despicable) characters, human warts and all.Let me emphasize that if you are looking for standard fantasy (village boy discovers secret power, gathers up companions including a beautiful princess in disguise, and sets off to fight a dark lord), you should look to other authors. But if you want an entirely different kind of fantasy, a dark, dirty, sensual fantasy where the norms are still yet undefined, where you can root for evil to win and the wretched to victory. Yes, it's that kind of novel. Don't think you can fit The Etched City into your standard fantasy. Reading this book is like going on a trip and experiencing something bizarre -- it's likely the experience may not be entirely comfortable when it's happening, but afterwards you wouldn't trade it for the world. The Etched City is not always a comfortable read, nor is it a casual read. Concentration and attention on your part is required, but if you are prepared to put in the effort of reading the novel (and it's not such an effort as you might think), there is a potent and wonderful story to lose yourself in.It's unfortunate that even as of 2015, the author has not written anything else. Not only is this a Stand Alone book, it's the ONLY book written by Bishop.

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Anything by China Mieville 

You should read works by China Mieville. Mieville writes in what's called the fantasy "New Weird" subgenre. The Etched city is influenced by Mieville's works. I would recommend starting with Perdido Street Station. This author writes strange, twisted, genre-blending fantasy. 


And for yet another writer who writes in this New Weird style, give M. John Harrison's Viriconium a go.

The Dark Tower

It's weird but reminiscent The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Some elements are similar -- horror and darkness, though King's work is a more traditional heroic tale while Parker's work is...not.


Ghormenghast. Not exactly fantasy, but with rich, evocative language, atmospheric settings, and indelicate characters, and a strange almost dreamlike landscape and world, you can't but help feel some similarities, though Parker's world is darker and more undefined.

City of Saints and Madmen

You'll also probably like Jeff Vandermeer, also another "New Weird" writer. Start with his City of Saints and Madmen.

The Year of Our War


Steph Swainston's The Year of Our War might fit your taste too.


Iron Dragon's Daughter


For an atmospheric mishmash of steampunk, fantasy, and fairies, give Michael Swanwick's Iron Dragon's Daughter a read -- I've got a feeling you'll love it if you like KJ Bishop.

And for more books with atmospheric and dreamlike settings that make for intelligent reads: 


  • Michael Moorcock's Gloriana
  •  Jack Vance's Dying Earth
  • Writings by Edgar Allen Poe
  •  Works by Lord Dunsany
  •  Vermillion Sands by J.G. Ballard 

If you want more suggestions for New Weird/Literary fantasy, take a good look at the new Best Literary Fantasy Books list.

Heroic military fantasy starring woman? This is the premise of Deed of Paksenarrion, following the exploits of a woman who rises above her station to become a legend. This novel is most concerned with the characters and personal struggles framed through the eyes of a young woman (at first a child), living among a military company. It takes a while for the ball to get rolling in terms of the plot, but it's worth the wait. While there is action, the story is more concerned with the struggle of the characters and their rise (and fall) than battle and conquest, though there are plenty of both. So for a strong military fantasy with one of the strongest females characters you'll find in fantasy, read this series.

Books in The Deed Of Paksenarrion Series (3)

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.


Yes, everyone has probably read this. In fact, these these may have been the books that got you started reading fantasy in the first place. These books do make for a good read and as the series progresses, the plot gets darker and darker. Read the books, you'll enjoy them. They are not what I consider the best of the best in the fantasy genre, but they are a far cry from the worst! Highly recommended reading for those looking for a nice introduction into the fantasy genre.
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)

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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

This fantasy fiction novel will suck you in. Elantris is one of the best standalone fantasy books in the genre. It's about addictive as chocolate and a whole lot healthier! .Normally, I prefer to avoid novelizations of myths such as Arthur or Atlantis. This book is no rewrite however. I didn't stop reading this one till my eye skimmed the last page. Sanderson's newer works are better in some ways, but Elantris, his debut novel, has quite a few wow movements. If you are tired of picking up yet another fat fantasy saga and want a well-drawn tale that's completed in one book, you won't go wrong reading Elantris. Apparently, Sanderson will be writing a sequel to Etlantris -- according to one of his 2014 blog posts.

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The obvious choice

if you like the "style" of writing in Elantris is to read Sanderson's other books (which sadly are NOT standalones, but series). He's got quite a few now. You could give his Mistborn series a go which features a very strong heroine like the one found in Elantris. For a more "end of the world" mega fantasy series in the vein of Robert Jordan, his new Stormlight Archive series (starts with The Way of Kings) looks like one of the most promising fantasy tales I've read to date.

For a somewhat

similar feel to Elantris (though a much more intricate and complicated tale than Elantris) in setting, you might look at Daniel Abraham's A Shadow in Summer (part of the Long Quartet series). There are some rich characterization, intelligent plotting, and some really ambitious ideas (literally and pun totally intended -- read the book to see what I mean).

Before famous director, Hayao Miyazaki turned Howl's Moving Castle into an animated film, it was an enchanting novel written by Diana Wynn Jones. This novel follows the life a young girl who is destined, as the eldest of three daughters, to fail if she ever pursues success. In a world where the tropes of most modern fairy tales are accepted ways of life, Jones' protagonist, Sophie, must learn to shape her surroundings instead of being shaped by them. Initially, Jones' Howl's Moving Castle appears to be clichéd. Sophie is cursed by an evil witch before stumbling upon a living, breathing castle inhabited by a wizard called Howl, on the outskirts of the magical Kingdom of Ingary. While this narrative may stay true to many classic tropes of the fantasy genre, such as magic witches and talking objects, Jones' novel features a memorable setting, unique characters and a striking plot. The subtle, Victorian prose, similar to that of novels like Jane Austen, allows the reader to establish a vivid and in depth image of each character. Furthermore, the magical Kingdom of Ingary is perfectly developed, with Jones giving just enough information to build a mental picture while still allowing her readers to run their imaginations wild. While Miyazaki's film and Jones' novel follow the same premise, they differ greatly in plot and characterization, making them almost two entirely different stories. If you've enjoyed either version of this tale, you'll likely enjoy the other as well.

Books in Howl’s Moving Castle Series (2)

A lot of novels on this list are either children's stories or young adult. While they make for great stories, there are some great coming of age stories that feature very mature content. Primarily, Phedre's Trilogy is a fantasy series. It features a medieval world in Terre d'Ange, a mirror of France. It's complete with angelic powers, myths, and warriors. It also contains some BDSM. In the hands of a novice writer, this could become a Fifty Shades sleaze-fest. And though this is Carey's debut, she's far more subtle than that. Sexuality is tied into the very fabric of the world, feeling like an extension of it rather than being thrown in randomly. It's a fantasy book first, and a romance one second. Still, Carey realizes that the discovery of sex is an important role in coming of age. She doesn't linger on it unnecessarily, but it does tie naturally into the thread of the story. We follow Phedre from her roots as a courtesan, where a red mote in her eye makes her undesirable. However, it's more than just a blemish. According to her new patron, it's a mark from the heavens. What follows is an education surpassing her humble beginning. She learns not just language and history but to observe and influence. It's a telling that's epic in scale, stretching across three large books as Phedre uses her knowledge to combat conspiracies and save the ones she loves. Read if you like: BDSM in fantasy, epic fantasy, angels.

Books in Kushiel's Universe Series (2)

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Other Kushiel Books

Carey's other Kushiel books are must reads 

Liveship Traders

If you like the whole strong female protagonist of Carey's world, then you should read The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb which features a very richly drawn world (same world as Hobb's 

The Farseer

Read the Farseer which is a strong character-driven fantasy. The protagonist is male though.

In Legend Born

You might also Like Laura Resnick's In Legend Born, which is high fantasy with some compelling females characters with realistic motivations.

If you like Carey's work, I suggest you look at the Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women list which will have quite a few books that you may enjoy.

This book (you can also get it as two separate books, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master) are the books that launched the career of super popular fantasy author Raymond E. Feist. And this book is classic uncomplicated fantasy at its best! You're not getting anything new here (like the efforts of Steven Erickson, Susanna Clark, or Scott Bakker), but what Magician does, it does superbly well: the classic transformation tale of village boy to powerful magician. Yes, it's cliche. Yes, every author since the dawn of sword carrying barbarians and pointy-haired elves has used the village boy conceit. But despite this, Magician stands out above all the rest of the wannabes. What hurls Magician above the rest of the pack is the really compelling plot and world, tons of action, and a cool butt kicking hero. The book is just so damn fun to read. So if classic fantasy is the apple of your eye, and you are weary of the gritty realism creeping into fantasy and long for some of the "good old stuff", then this book is your fix.I have what I consider two "classic" fantasy tales on this list: Wheel of Time and Magician. If I had to pick between the two, Wheel of Time gets my vote for its sheer scope. But for those who still love those old fantasy conventions without the requisite reading of 10+ volumes, Magician is heartily recommended. If you want the more modern, gritty, nihilistic darker edged fantasy of the 21st century, then you won't find it in the Magician series. Note: If you don't want to muck around with this "classic fantasy stuff", then go straight for Feist's BEST work (co authored with Janny Wurts) which is the "Empire Trilogy." The writing, plot, and characterization really does make the Magician series seem amateurish by comparison -- I kid you not. It's my "favorite" work by Feist. It lacks the boy-becomes-man-and-kick's-serious-ass superheroes of the Magician series (which is what some readers love to see), but it's a damn good story and just flat out better written. And that's my plug for the Empire series.

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The Empire Trilogy

If you really like Magician, try Feist's other novels of Midkemia. All of them are set in the same world, though most of them fail to match Magician. The one exception is his The Empire Trilogy, coauthored with Janny Wurts. The Empire Trilogy is a fantastic read, and I whole heartedly recommend it; the quality of the prose (perhaps due to Wurt's influence) is far superior to Magician.

If you are really desperate to read more about Feist's characters and world, then you can read his 20+ other books set in Midkemia of which many of the main characters from the original Riftwar Saga pop up again and again, sometimes as main characters, sometimes as side characters, and sometimes as cameos. 

However, the only books really worth your time are Feist's original Riftwar Saga books (and of those, the first two, Magican: Apprentice and Magician: Master are the best) and The Empire Trilogy written with Wurst. The rest of the other 20-30 books are meh (some better than others, some horrid, some approach decent, but mostly mediocre)

The Wheel of Time

Feist's books always emphasize the heavy use of magic (some might say over the top use of magic) and loads of political tensions. If you like Feist's style of storytelling and his use of heavy magic, read Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Jordan's books are rampant with magic use.

The Death Gate Cycle

Also give Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's The Death Gate Cycle a whirl. it's a good story (better than anything else they've written) with lot's of tension, lots of mystery, and lot's of powerful magic in the vein of Jordan and Feist. Hickman and Weis are responsible for populating the fantasy genre with the worst sort of fantasy tripe (Dragonlance), but surprisingly, their Death Gate Cycle is a much much better effort -- the best of their work and likely will stay that way.

The Runelords

Also read the The Runelords series by David Farland. Same style of writing as Feist (lots of magic, lots of powerful characters, lots of action, not that much characterization), but with a more interesting magic system. The problem with Feist is that he tends to make his character's too powerful and Feist is forced to find ridiculous ways of handicapping them.

The Way of Kings

And for another epic fantasy series with some sweet magic, an awesome hero, huge world building, and some kick ass action scenes, read Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings.

The Lightbringer

Also give Brent Weeks new series The Lightbringer a read. It's action packed, has lots of magic, lots of mayhem, and is essentially a coming of age story -- all the elements that make Feist's Magician books fun reads.

Classic Sword and Sorcery

And of course, how can you go wrong with some traditional sword & sorcery from Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian. These are the tales that started the entire Sword & Sorcery genre and influenced writers like Robert Jordan AND Raymond E. Feist. 

See our Best Sword and Sorcery list for more recommendations.

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)

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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.

Sean Russell writes books for people who like to read. Ponderous, slow, and often steeped in mystery, his worlds are rich with characterization and plot. His "Moontide and Magic" is set in a world not unlike the Victorian era. The Farrlands, once home to the mysterious mages, is now steeped in the ways of empiricism. Magic is gone from the world, with the passing of the last mage. Or is it? Rich, complex, and beautifully written, these are fantasy books you don't want to miss. If you want to read well-written novels, Russell can deliver them magnificently. One can never accuse Russell of holding to the standard Tolkien cliches. Fans of David Gemmell's fast paced "beat-em-up-and-leave-em" or Jordan's "so-much-magic-you-breath-it" type of fantasy will probably bemoan the pacing of Russell's series. But for those of us who like to read well-written fantasy literature that emphasizes character and plotting over action, make sure you check this one out. Certainly if you appreciate the style of writing of say Guy Gaverial Kay, Tad Williams, or Susanna Clarke, you'll absolutely love this series.

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The Swan's War trilogy
And for more of a Tolkien style epic fantasy by the same author (so expect the same luscious writing style), read Sean William's The Swan's War trilogy. Bonus recommendation, read Russell's Bother Initiate duology.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke's work is very similar in style -- slow, pedantic and character rich. it's also the same sort of story -- an world set in a pseudo era  where magic has gone from the world with a few people trying to find a way to bring it back. 
The Magicians 
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Grossman's work is not the same in theme and scope, but it does feature a world where magic is ostensibly rare with a group of people who find out the rules of the world (magic) are not as they seem.
Guy Gaverial Kay's Books
Many of his books are similar in the style of writing. Kay, like Russell is a beautiful wordsmith and knows how to tell a beautiful tale. Many of his books would fit here as a recommendation, but perhaps the closest in plot would be Last Light of the Sun, a nordic-inspired fantasy where magic is mysterious. 
You might call this a more focused, mini version of The Lord of the Rings and one that most of you will probably never have heard of. It's an older fantasy series, but one that still has that magic that will keep you reading till the wee hours of the morn. It is highly influenced by Welsh folklore, and while the world-building and mythos is not as well-developed as Tolkien's Middle Earth, there's still a lot there certainly more than most of the new fantasy books. The story unfolds in the land of Prydain a world that's steeped in Welsh mythology. The young hero of the story starts off as a Pig Keeper and dreams of becoming a hero until the unlikely opportunity arrives where he becomes just that, and finds it's not all it's cracked up to be. Like many high-fantasy tales, this is a classic coming-of-age story with a deep exploration of wisdom, love, loss, and the road to adulthood, but one that's lovingly told through the talented strokes of Alexander's pen. This is one that not only kids will thoroughly enjoy, but adults as well the story is one that transcends age.

Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)

The 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)

An endearing modern classic that won the World Fantasy Award, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a powerful tale about a good young sorceress who is wronged because of man's greed and fear, embarks upon on righteous quest for revenge that proves to be just destructive.There is only one world that suffices when describing this novel: enchanting. And that is what it is. This is one of those novels that every fantasy fan should read  no matter your tastes, no matter your preferences. This is an important book that speaks and teaches just as much as it entertains. And it entertains plenty.It's the story of a sorcerers, magical beasts, and powerful magic but on a deeper level, on the level beneath the fairy tale there  is a deep story about right, about wrong, about making the wrong choices for the right reasons, and the brutal cost of doing so. The story explores what it really means to be human and that no matter how far you try and throw it away, we are and will always be human -- with all the foibles and follies and joys it brings.It's a seminal work in the fantasy genre and one of the best fairy tale fantasy stories I've had the pleasure of reading. Even after nearly 40 years it still stands the test of time. It's a tale that like good wine only improves with age.
KJ Parker is a highly underrated author. His (or her...the author writes under a pseudonym) books are not the normal fantasy fare. Expect complicated characters, moral ambiguity, deep themes, and sharp dialogue. This is not a book full of action, but rather of plotting. IThis book can be brilliant, but it can also be incredibly frustrating.The author puts an incredible amount of detail into her world -- medieval engineering is the central theme running through this trilogy, the power of technology to overthrow the social order -- and this is one of the few fantasy books you will actually learn how to operate medieval machinery.The characters are an interesting bunch -- human, flesh and bone, with motives you can identify with. All of Parker's works are fundamentally human stories at their core and there's a lot of attention focused on the humanity of the characters and human relationships -- the good and the bad.This is low fantasy -- the world is not infused with magic; there are no dark lords to default, no sorcerers to save the day. And the story is better off from it; the problems are human made and ultimately must be solved by human minds.A dark, grim, and fascinating tale that must be read. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It's not your typical grimdark fantasy, but there are certainly elements of it in the story. Don't expect an Abercrombie style narrative and plot; Parker truly writes some of the more unique fantasy in the genre, but in its own way just as good as anything produced by Martin, Lynch, and Abercrombie.
A book that's powerful in the beauty of its lyrical prose, the powerful descriptions, and the deep characters. This is a book that has more in common with pure historical fiction rather than historical fantasy as there is little magic present in the story threads. But there is another magic present in the novel: the magic of Kay's writing. Kay always basis his works around a real, historical location, and loving paints the world of his books with broad strokes of real world influence. Italy was the home to his Fionavar Tapestry books. In A Song for Arbonne, medieval France and the court of love is the setting this time around. Kay does what he does best: craft a fully realized world that borrows from the real so that it feels familiar yet strangely different. It's a better, more fantastical version of reality, is Kay's work.Picking up a Kay book makes me want to book the nearest flight to somewhere exotic and revel in a rich foreign culture, if only to capture a sliver of the emotions his books stir up. Do read this book. You wont be disappointed.Kay has written a number of wonder books (you'll see four of them listed on the Top 100 list alone!). It's not as impacting and tragic as Tigana, or as mythological and epic as The Fionavar books, nor it is richly sweeping in kingdom and plot as Under Heaven. But it's the most personal of his narratives -- that of a journey into soul and spirit.A Song for Arbonne is a powerful human drama. It's the story of love and loyalty and honor shown to a country, to a family, and of course the strongest of all, true love. There is a song of nostalgia and sadness that rings beneath the tale, I suspect there may be a few tears to shed by the end of the book. A powerful book and a powerful story.
This duology has flown under the radar in the fantasy world, which is a shame – it’s perhaps one of the richest fantasy tales out there, made all the more interesting by the exotic Asian landscape, mythology, and characters. Sean Russell is a very talented author who’s produced a number of standout fantasy books (and most of them underrated); Russell is an author who knows how to write quality; the pacing tends to be slow, and the world slowly revealed, but if you like to read books with richly drawn characters and a deep mythology, Russell knows how to deliver. Russell does not write simple fantasy, nor does he develop simple characters and relationships; every stroke of his narrative brush is slow and measured, but the whole tapestry fits together perfectly in the end. For those who love to read well-written, character-driven fantasy set in uniquely crafted worlds, you won’t go wrong with any fantasy book written by Russell. Brother Initiate is the story of a young Shaolin-like monk who, despite his simple upbringing in a martial monastery, becomes entangled in the dangerous and complex politics of the imperial palace and ultimately, the internecine warfare between kingdoms. If you are a big fan of martial arts fantasy, this is the best you’re going to find.

Books in Initiate Brother Series (1)

In Wecker's debut novel, two very unusual immigrants arrive, separately, in 19th century immigrant New York. These two characters are (unsurprisingly) a golem named Chava, created by a Jewish rabbi in Poland, and Ahmad, a jinni originating in ancient Syria. Their chance meeting ends up sparking an unusual yet believable friendship of polar opposites, and the strength of the novel is undoubtedly their conversations on a variety of subjects including free will, desire, and of course their differing reactions to dealing with the isolating struggles of being inhuman in a human world. The resulting story is a multiple award winning novel where magic exists in a historical space, a novel where the characters grow and change as result of select incidents and resulting introspection. For example, Chava is an unusual character in that she is a woman containing decidedly (for the time) unwomanly characteristics such as strength and the ability to protect others around her. Her time and circumstances limit her ability to use these powers however, and she must learn to live within these societal restrictions so as not to draw attention to herself. Any female reader will easily emphasize with her struggle.Fans of the book will be please to know that Wecker recently announced a sequel, due out in 2018.Read if You Like: mythology, historical fiction, immigrant stories, romance, folklore

Similar Recommendations

For stories about myths and legends come to life and interacting with humans:
  • American Gods by Neil Gaimen
  • Mythago Wood
  • The Anubis Gates by Tim Power
  • Ysabel by Guy Gaverial Kay
  • American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson
For beautiful, poignant literary fantasy with deep themes, strong writing, and complex characters:
  • The Night Circus
  • The Stolen Child
  • Ghormenghast
  • Tigana
  • The Wizard Knight 
  • Rise of Moontide and Magic
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
  • Perdido Street Station
See our Best Literary Fantasy Books for more of the literary type fantasy recommendations
A delightful blend of different genres with elements of steampunk, mystery, and Gothic tossed in. It's a unique story that really showcases Well's talents. Death of a Necromancer is Well's best book (some might argue that her Wheel of the Infinite is her best). This is one of those stories that literally drags you along with the non stop action of it, yet still manages to develop complex and empathetic characters.Expect fast paced action, strongly developed relationships between characters, and unforgettable personalities. The author's talent for short yet expressive prose is to be lauded; she has the remarkable ability to paint a complex scene or nuanced dialogue with only a few strokes of her pen; what takes lesser authors a page to do, Well's can do in a few lines.Death Of A Necromancer is fun, dramatic, and one hell of a rip-roaring adventure from start to finish. It's one of the best, most exciting stand alone fantasy books in the genre. If you haven't read it yet, make sure you do.

Books in Ile-rien Series (5)

One of the best fantasy novels in recent times, Blood Song also happens to have many school-like elements. Left as a child at the gates of the Sixth Order, Vaelin Al Sorna joins a secular group of holy warriors and forfeits his right to the throne. Furious, he throws himself into his training, earning respect from his peers and struggling to overcome dangerous trials. This, combined with a flashback-like narration, has led to many comparisons with The Name of the Wind, and in some ways, it's apt. Like Rothfuss, Anthony Ryan weaves a story with beautiful prose, but he also avoids some of the book’s criticisms. Vaelin is never close to a Mary Sue character, able to do everything well and avoid real danger. He’s specialized and focused, and his trials at the order cement that. Many school fantasy books present a straightforward story, but Blood Song’sis far more complex. The book presents dozens of plot threads, but not in a messy, incomprehensible way. Ryan shows his gift as a storyteller by tying them neatly together as Vaelin comes of age in the rigid school atmosphere.

Books in Raven's Shadow Series (2)

The emperor is dead and the empire in turmoil. With these dark scenes, Stavely’s series opens, and things don’t let up from there. A son and heir, Valyn is training with a renowned mercenary force, but even then, he isn’t out of reach. In danger from assassins as well as his training, his life is difficult, but his point of view remains captivating. For Stavely, however, one school fantasy thread isn’t enough. While Valyn presents a gripping story about military growth, Kaden brings a philosophical aspect. Training with the Shin monks, there are questions of faith and discipline as his character develops. Meanwhile, a third sibling, Adare, is tasked with keeping the empire together. 21-years-old and caught in a complex political web, she presents a more mature viewpoint, but also a more bookish one. Despite this multitude of perspectives, the series gives life to every character. They’re complex and vulnerable, spurring emotion in interlinking but physically distant stories.

Books in Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne Series (5)

Like many books on this list, The Powder Mage Cycle doesn’t contain just one magic system. However, the one synonymous with its name stands out the most, and it’s easy to see why. Powder Mages get their magical ability from snorting gunpowder, allowing them to heighten their senses, grow stronger, become faster, and manipulate explosions. These users are excellent marksmen, able to propel bullets faster and with more accuracy. Using powder too much can cause blindness, but mages are often pushed to such extremes when fighting traditional magic users known as ‘The Privileged’. While The Privileged are similar to mages found in traditional high fantasy, McClellan throws in some interesting aspects. Rather than just flexing their magical muscles, The Privileged must use their fingers. Their right hand is used to draw power from the ‘Else’, and their left to manipulate it using special gloves. This war between two different types of magic works as a focal point for the plot and the series, naturally weaving great detail and intense action into its already strong narrative.

Books in The Powder Mage Series (3)

Similar Recommendations

Alloy of Law 
Allow of Law is a very similar setup in writing style, in character, and in the non-stop action as A Promise of Blood. Considering Brandon Sanderson was McClellan's teacher, the similarities between the two works and writing styles between authors should be no surprise.
The Thousand Names
The Thousand Names. Another Flintlock Fantasy with a Colonial bent, but this one more military fantasy. Tons of explosive action, good characterization, plot twists, and an all out exciting read. Feels similar.
The Lightbringer
Brent Weeks' The Lightbringer series is very much similar to The Powder Mage trilogy. Not in plot, but in the same action-heavy writing style, the explosive and well written action scenes, and unique magic system. Both series also have a so so first book but an explosive improvement by book two.
Blood Song
Ryan's Blood Song is one non-stop action ride from start to finish. Yes, the plot is not the same, nor the writing style, but it's an enthralling read about violence and a book you just can't put down. Blood Song is a coming of age while The Powder Mage trilogy is not so much.
The Emperor's Blades
Another book from the new wave of fantasy writers that have been putting out startling debuts the past two years. The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne is more typical 'epic fantasy' in the vein of a reworked Tolkien, yet I do feel if you'll probably enjoy it greatly if you like Blood Song. Don't expect the same sort of read -- they are completely different works, but I think if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.
The Warded Man
All raw action, a unique magic system, and a darker themed world. These are some the same themes and ideas explored with McClellan's Powder Mage books. I suspect you'll enjoy The Warded Man if you like A Promise of Blood. Note that The Warded Man is part of a series that falls the pieces after the second book, but the first book is magnificent.
The Red Knight
The Red Knight. First book in Miles Cameron's awesome new series (Traitors Son Cycle). It takes some of the Arthurian knightly traditions and mixes in some good old epic fantasy into it. Tons of action, lots of fighting, lots of magic, a unique magic system, a powerful hero, a huge cast, military strategy, and an almost insane attention to real historical medieval minutia about items, living, and settings.
First Law
Joe Abercrombie's works are not the same, but they do embody the quintessential definition of gritty fantasy -- and you do find a good deal of grittiness in Brian McCellan's Powder Mage trilogy. So if you like the gritty aspect of The Promise of Blood, do check out Abercrombie's First Law books for a real good dose of it.
If you haven't heard of The Kingkiller Chronicles by now, you'll want to pick it up as soon as possible. Rothfuss' award-winning series took the genre by storm in 2007 with its expertly crafted take on a traditional story. On the surface, the series doesn't seem to offer anything particularly new. It's a story of an orphan boy and his bid to enter a prestigious magic school. However, Rothfuss proves that a good story is not just in the idea, but the execution. He crafts an incredible, unreliable narrator, clever, yet flawed and broken. Kvothe opens his story with a hook – how he fell from grace as a powerful wizard to a humble innkeeper. Along the way, Rothfuss introduces incredible characters, who manage to be quirky yet realistic, bringing emotion and nuance to the tale. All of this is tied together with beautiful prose. It manages to be vivid, yet precise, integrating with several plot strands that give the feeling of an epic, but incomplete story. The second book leaves you listlessly waiting for the third, which has been six years in the making. Read if you like: Unreliable narrators, clever protagonists, music in fantasy.

Books in The Kingkiller Chronicle Series (1)

Similar Recommendations

The Blood Song

Without a doubt, The Blood Song, a recent remarkable debut by Anthony Ryan. This is about as close in style and form to The Name of the Wind. Instead of Kvothe apprentice wizard in training, we have Vaelin, a warrior monk in training. The format of both stories is very similar recounted in an after-the-fact manner by the protagonist. Both are coming of age stories about young men in a school setting. And both books had a (somewhat) disappointing sequel. If you like The Name of the Wind, then read The Blood Song.

The Farseer Trilogy

If you like The Name of the Wind, the closest you get to a similar series in feeling is Robin Hobb's The Farseer. Though the authors have a different style and radically different plots, both authors really delve deep into the mind of the protagonist. And both series are coming-of-age stories in which the narrator is looking back at their youthful life. Through each series, you really get to know the hero. Both stories are about the rise of a no-name boy into something great.

The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Another tale constructed around the whole "kids go to magic school to become a wizard" conceit. There's a vast difference in the way the stories are told and the characters however. Grossman's tale is a (depressive) postmodern take on the fantasy genre with references to literature and pop culture while Rothfuss's is a celebration of the classic fantasy tale. Grossman's characters are all flawed and psychologically complex -- if not completely broken individuals devoid of heroism. And that's the beauty of the whole tale. The characters thing they are heroes but find they are not. And over the three books that make up the fabulous series, there's a reckoning and growing that takes place with the characters. One of my favorite fantasy series ever. It's series that some who love the more traditional fantasy might not get or like, but if you want a deeper sort of fantasy, this is some of the best out there.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

I would also suggest you read Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. Like The Name of the Wind, Lies of Locke Lamora jumps back and forth between the present and the past of the main character. Both are also coming-of-age stories. This book is something special, and the protagonist (it's a story about a master thief) is an absolute blast to read about. Book two has been out for a while and the third book is coming out this year (2011).

The Long Price Quartet

Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet is another fantasy series that you might like -- there's some really good characterization going on in the series, though it's not really your standard "epic fantasy."

The Red Wolf Conspiracy

If you want a good adventure yarn, The The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick (book one of 5) delivers for part of the series. What's the plot about? There are two great empires clashing, crazy god kings set on world domination, and a medley of different characters sharing a ship (including talking rats, miniature people, evil mages, princesses, assassins, and ship boys) all fighting over a powerful talisman that could destroy the world. It's a complex, dramatic, and mostly wonderful new fantasy series. However, the series goes downhill after the third book, but I feel it's still worth a read.

The Warded Man

You might also like Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man -- a book (part of a series, of course, with book three already out) that delivers on action. Brett does a good job creating the hero, from village boy to badass fighter/warder. A good book with an interesting hero character (especially following the whole coming-of-age conceit of a young boy growing into his destiny). This book gets my vote as one of the most exciting fantasy books I've read. Trust me, once you start the book, you are not going to want to stop reading it. However, book 2 and 3 really disappointed. Worth reading? On the strength of the first book, yes. 

The Lightbringer 

Want an action-packed story of a gifted orphan boy who goes to magic school (and martial school) to become a great wizard/warrior. Want a detailed magic system about colors? Want plenty of coming of age angst? Absolutely read The Lightbringer Series, Week's best work so far.

The Night Angel Trilogy

Some might also like Brent Week's Night Angel Trilogy which is a sort of gutter-rat to badass assassin story. Weeks' Lightbringer series is better on all regards. However, you still might want to read this one as well if you like The Name of the Wind. The story really follows the main character closely; there are a lot of over-the-top heroics and magic (especially the main character who becomes super-powerful) combined with an interesting hero character which makes the book somewhat reminiscent of The Name of the Wind. Name of the Wind is better written, and the magic is more mysterious and toned down with complex characterization (Weeks falls really short here as his characters are pretty simplistic I feel), but the over-the-top heroic antics of the main character/s does bring to mind some of Kvothe's exploits.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

A character-driven epic fantasy would be Tad Williams' classic Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Though I warn you, it can take a while before the plot gets rolling in a Tad Williams novel!

A Wizard of Earthsea

A good old-school fantasy tale that's managed to age very well is A Wizard of Earthsea. A pretty compelling hero character.

The Riddle Master of Hed

For a gushy heroic old school fantasy that kind of channels the heroic aspect and lyrical prose of The Name of the Wind, read the Riddle Master of Hed series.

Talion: Revenant

And probably the best fantasy novel I've read about a "hero" would be Michael Stackpole's Talion: Revenant. It's one of the best books I've read, period.

The Book of the New Sun

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Science Fantasy, but there are some similarities. Both are wonderfully written, lyrical works where to emphasis is just not on what is said but how it is said. Words are not just functional entities, but creatures of beauty and both Rothfuss and Wolfe are master wordsmiths. Both tales are recounted by an now world-weary protagonist (in first person) and the tale told by the narrator may not be completely reliable and just might be embellished in the recounting.

If you liked the whole "coming of age talented young nobody who goes to magic school" conceit, you will probably like these:

  • Harry Potter by Rowling. The Black Magician by Trudi Canvas. 
  • Master of Five Magics (the most detailed system of magic system and set of rules I've read in fantasy). 

At night, Peter V. Brett’s world changes. Demons rise from the planet’s core, infused with supernatural powers and with a hunger for human flesh.Constant bombardment has knocked humans back into a technological dark age, and their only protection isthe wards that form barriers around settlements. It’s these fragile wards that make the base of The Demon Cycle’s magic system, and they aren’t powered conventionally. In most fantasy, the source of magic comes from either the caster or physical materials. Wards, on the other hand, draw power from the demons themselves, reflecting their energy back at them. As a result, it doesn’t merely let the user wave a hand and solve problems. It requires intense preparation, fail-safes, and means that humans can’t use it to exploit one another. Thanks to the ward system, there’s also an incredible amount of complexity. Wards of fire, confusion, heat, and more can be etched into the ground, added to weapons, or even branded ontothe user’s skin. Thanks to the protagonistsrevolutionary thinking, the magic never gets old. Arlen, as well as being a compelling character, continuouslyfinds ways to innovate and bring value to the story. Throwing two additional POV’s into the mix, Brett caries the reader effortlessly through his five titles.

Books in The Demon Cycle 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)

The Neverending Story is a perfect example of how badly a film version of a beloved book can go. For people who hadn't read the book, the film was probably enchanting. For everyone else, it's confusing. (Can we please talk about the luck dragon that was less dragon and more a flying puppy?) But the book is a complex exploration of power and how it corrupts even those with the best intentions. Why it made the list It's not often that you'll read a book where the integrity of the character you root the most for is as annihilated as it is in The Neverending Story. You'll have read about characters that fall from grace, but more often than not, it's a result of an external force. In this book, it's Bastians' good intentions that drag him down. And that's what will get you. Because we assume that, should we be given the power to change things, we'd do it for the better. But when you have that power and can have anything, how do you keep your moral compass intact? It's translated from a German Text, so the language isn't always the smoothest, but the creatures you encounter as you're reading are full of life. Ende has an imagination that could rival Green Lantern's, and it's clear on every page.

Similar Recommendations

If you are

a fan of The Neverending Story (you know, those sort of magical books you loved as a "kid" that were full of adventures where heroes always win and the boy always saves the girl and the unfairness of life is eventually balanced out by the end of the novel; that is,until you grew up and got a job and realized that never really happens), The Princess Bride would appeal to you. The Chronicles of Narnia, though not a standalone, are another set of books that delight the inner child. Shall I also mention the obvious Harry Potter series? And let's throw out The Hobbit while we're at it.

Possibly the most, well-recognized world of fiction in history. The Lord of the Rings is the third best-selling novel ever written, with over 150 million copies sold. This high fantasy novel follows the adventures of Frodo, a mild-mannered and innocent hobbit, and his elven friends. The band of adventurers find themselves caught up in an age-old struggle featuring wizards, the evil mage Sauron, horrifically evil orcs and the poor twisted soul, Gollum, who desires the return of his most precious possession. Why it's on the listTolkien's characters, both virtuous and foul, are identifiably human, and the realism is accentuated by the glorious details of this fantastic world he imagined. Inspired by his Christian beliefs and influential Anglo-Saxon depth of knowledge – The Lord of the Rings is a story that any reader will find enjoyable.Read if you likeTo understand what a true master is capable of. Reading Lord of the Rings is the only way to grasp how original and brilliant these legendary authors were.
The King of Elfland's daughter tells the tale of a human prince who is dispatched by his father to woo and wed the elf princess of a mystical land.Why it's on the listLord Dunsany created a world that featured a few set pieces that every modern sword and sorcery author tends to include in their own works. Magic Kingdoms with strange and unearthly residents; A dashing and courageous prince with a magic sword; unicorns that only ever graze near haunted and eery forests and even the stereotypical bumbling and slightly comedic troll. What would modern fantasy be without these? In actual fact, these set pieces (with a few minor tweaks) make up some of the most captivating scenes of a certain novel written by J.K. Rowling…Lord Dunsany is known for guiding us all out of the traditional fairy tale type narratives, and into what would become High Fantasy. At times poetic, soulful, light-hearted and sorrow-filled, this book is a wonderful way to gain an understanding of what was (fairy tales) and what fantasy becomes (high fantasy, sword, and sorcery with epic but flawed heroes).The way the King of Efland's Daughter explores the marriage of a mortal man and an elf princess: her yearning for home, his endless quest to return to the arms of his beloved, and the ensuing fallout from all these adventures, make for an entertaining read. More importantly, it highlights how fantasy can be a powerful tool for exploring the human condition.Read if you likeWorld Building and Quests.
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)

A young girl's journey of magic and discovery that will take her to the ends of the earth...and beyond.  His Dark Materials is a modern classic that can be enjoyed by old and young alike; This is "Narnia" for the 21st century. It's made my Top 25 best fantasy books list. Like Garth Nix's Abhorson trilogy, these are children's fantasy books that every adult should read.

Books in His Dark Materials Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

Since His Dark Materials is the anti-Chronicles of Narnia, it makes sense that you should read The Chronicles of Narnia . C.S. Lewis' masterpiece Narnia is a classic of the genre. While it's 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. 

I also suggest reading Garth Nix's The Abhorsen Trilogy . Garth Nix is a fabulous writer and Abhorson is a chilling horror fantasy that really sucks you in. It's YA (young adult) but don't let that stop you! Garth Nix's newest series,Keys to the Kingdom , is 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 then 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. You might note that each of these YA books can be read by children, but at the same time they are equally entertaining for adults. And every one of the books mentioned starts of pretty lighthearted but becomes quite dark in tone and content. While this may not be great for 6 year old Johnny who is wondering why his hero dies a horrible death, it makes for a more sophisticated plot. The sweet is not as sweet without having the bitter.

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

The Wheel of Time is known for its extraordinary characterization and epic plot, but it also features some of the best elemental magic. It integrates classic and unique components, crafting a detailed and cohesive system. At its core is the One Power, which splits into saidin and saidar, which can be used by males and females, respectively. Channelers can access up to five flows; air, fire, earth, spirit, and water, which can be woven to produce different effects. Weaves are similar to their textile counterparts, enabling a channeler to hold it, or knot it, in turn allowing it to persist when the user leaves. However, thanks to gender separation of the Power, there are further nuances. Saidin and saidar are likened to different halves of the same coin, meaning men cannot see women’s weaves, and vice versa. At the same time, they can cooperate. Men usually have a larger power pool than women, while females are gifted with more dexterity. Working together, they can overpower many of the same sex, leading to a natural dynamic. Unfortunately, there are other subtleties that make that difficult. A powerful entity has put a taint on saidin, meaning that men who touch it are likely to go mad and cause unparalleled destruction. As a result, male channelers are hunted down by women and cut off from their power, resulting in severe depression. Nobody is exempt, not even the Dragon Reborn, the most powerful channeler in history, and this well-known fact propels many of the series intricate sub-plots.

Books in The Wheel Of Time Series (14)

Similar Recommendations

You can literally recommend the entire epic fantasy genre if you like The Wheel of Time. Here's my guide to some of the most similar books to The Wheel of Time, or at least books I feel you will probably like if you enjoyed Jordan's work.

Classic Epic Fantasy with Magic, Swords, and Action Galore


The Way of Kings

If you loved The Wheel of Time, you absolutely must read Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, first book in his Stormlight Archive saga (a 10-book epic fantasy saga). Way of Kings is Sanderson at his best. This is HIS version of The Wheel of Time (and the man's certainly got the resume to write it, having directly penned the last 3 Wheel of Time books). This is the closest you'll find to Jordan's series, hands down, but updated for the 21st century. For another epic fantasy with a very interesting magic system, where a company of heroes fight against an evil god kin, read Mist Born by the same author (Brandon Sanderson).

The Death Gate Cycle

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. By far it's the best stuff both authors have done up to this day (they usually write the sort of hack fantasy that I rail against on this site).


You might also try Raymond E. Feist's Magician (and the direct sequels), as he writes in a style and flavor similar to Jordan (heavy on politics, action, and magic). It has a callow youth vs end of the world plot (eventually).

A Man of His Word

For a high-fantasy series that's criminally under-appreciated, read Dave Duncan's classic A Man of His Word (starts with Magic Casement). The basic premise sounds pretty hackneyed, but it's far from that. Duncan takes many of the classic fantasy conventions and puts a unique twist on everything. Some of the best classic epic fantasy in the genre.

Codex Alera

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera is also another magic-packed, plot-driven, epic fantasy feast of a series you might like. It's got a really unique magic system and it's fantasy set in an alternate Roman Empire where magic actually works.

The Briar King

You can read The Briar King series by Greg Keyes for an epic "save the world" fantasy that starts with a big big bang but ends in a bit of a whimper. Despite the somewhat disappointing ending, it's a very well written series that's better than your average epic fantasy.

The Rune Lords

If you are hunting around for more action- and magic-heavy series, you might give The Rune Lords series. It probably has one of the more unique magic system I've seen; the story itself is pretty standard fare though, as are the characters and writing.

Chathrand Voyage

For an interesting epic fantasy that's big on adventure and exotic characters and landscapes and one that takes place on the sea aboard a giant ship, give the Chathrand Voyage series by Robert VS Redick a read. I was not a fan of the very last book, which I felt was a letdown, but the first few books are great reads. Wheel of Time on a boat of sorts.


Also read Amber (the first half) by Roger Zelazny. Not the same plot, but there are some similar things I feel. Better written, however. Its epic overall and combines modern elements with the fantastic. Really, this is a classic you should read.

The Belgaraid

If you like classic village boy vs dark lord fantasy of the 80's and 90's, then read David Eddings The Belgaraid.


You might try Dragonlance if you like action and magic and plenty of shallow characters. I'm not a fan, but there are quite a few. You might just like Dragonlance if you love The Wheel of Time.

Slow-Paced, Character Driven Epic Fantasy


If you are looking for epic fantasy that's not necessarily driven by pure action and magic and battles, these are some recommendations to look at

The Sun Sword

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. Good for lovers of fine writing where every plot is meticulously woven together over a long period of time and characters are slowly built up. NOT for the action freaks.

The Wars of Light and Shadow

For a slower-paced, character-driven epic fantasy, give Janny Wurts "The Wars of Light and Shadow" a read. It's a huge epic fantasy that concerns itself with the actions of two opposing "heroes", one that's on the light side and one that's on the dark side. Much slower paced and more character driven and better plotted than the Wheel of Time -- which some will love and some will hate. But hands down, the prose is much superior.


Tigana by Guy Gaverial Kay. One of the best writers in the genre. This was his first series and it's a flawed one. But there's a lot to love. Some similar elements to Wheel of Time (dark lord, group of heroes fighting) but plenty of non-similar elements too (heroes are from our world transported to a magical world and it's actually WELL WRITTEN). Not as much action and magic as Wheel of Time though.

The Farseer

Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. Another classic fantasy that's character driven. Not as epic in scope (it's the tale of a bastard boy who becomes entwined in politics and eventually has to save the kingdom).

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. High fantasy, not epic fantasy. But man, an astounding read. One of my favorite books of all time. Not the same as The Wheel of Time, but in regards to the magic system, a very systematic breakdown of magic (like Wheel of Time) usage and a wizard school setting (WOT features this in quite a few of the later books).

Modern Dark and Gritty Epic Fantasy


Fantasy has evolved the past 10 years. Now dark, gritty and sarcastic is in vogue. If you want a more complex fantasy where characters are often shades of gray and heroes are more anti-hero than hero, where heroes sometimes die and no good deed goes unpunished, these series are the best.

A Song of Ice and Fire

Give George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire 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.

The Mazalan Book of the Fallen

For a different style of epic fantasy, you may want to give Malazan Book of the Fallen a read. It's also a massive series like WOT, spanning 10 books and it's completed as well, so no waiting around for the sequel books. The series has a huuuuge cast of characters, magic galore, and features large-scale battles that are as vicious as they are exciting to read. But don't expect the WOT; Malazan is a different sort of fantasy that provokes strong feelings -- you will love it or you will hate it.

Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series. It's an epic series with different races, peoples, magic, and a dark lord. But for all the elements that are the same as Wheel of Time, there are as many differences. This series is arguably a subversion of the fantasy genre.

The Dagger and the Coin

A new fantasy series that's been making some pretty big waves in the fantasy world is The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham. It's sharply written with a cast of complex, grey characters. In the background, it has many of those epic fantasy conventions (world ending darkness coming into the world, many different races and creatures, mysterious magic, etc). It's not your typical epic fantasy though -- think of it as epic fantasy 2.0.

The Black Company

For a darker less "epic" fantasy where all the characters are completely grey (and evil is not necessary evil), give The Black Company by Glen Cook a read. There are a number of books in the series, but I recommend reading the (best) first series (called "The Books of the North") of the Black Company followed by the next best series (The Books of the South).

The Prince of Nothing

For a different take on the whole epic fantasy movement, one that's darker and more gritty where heroes are not always heroes or good guys, you might look at Scott Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series. Epic fantasy, wars, brutality, heroes and philosophy? If you love epic fantasy that does something different, read this one.

The First Law

In the same vein, check out Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series. And for a real subversion on the whole epic fantasy genre, give Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains a read. These recommendations are a more modern, "adult" take on the classic epic fantasy that Jordan wrote

The Dark Tower

And for my final "epic fantasy recommendation," read Steven King's The Dark Tower. It's a 7-book monstrosity that's taken King several decades to finally finish. In fact, many of King's books indirectly tie into the The Dark Tower in some way or the other. It's sort of like a cross between the western genre, the post-apocalyptic genre, and the fantasy genre. Well worth reading for a different take on the whole epic fantasy thing.

The Red Knight

You may find you like The Red Knight (Traitor's Son Cycle). Lots of action, lots of magic, a large cast of heroes, monsters to kill, lots of war, castles, knights, and ladies. This was one of my favorite reads of 2013. Book 2 came out this year.

Sword of Shadows

Sword of Shadows series. Classic Jordan style fantasy with a darker and grittier edge. Only, it's not finished and I can't remember when J.V. Jones wrote the last book. There are 4 of 5 books out.

For more epic fat fantasy recommendations in the vein of The Wheel of Time, check out the Best Epic Fantasy Recommendation list.