Top 25 Fantasy Books of the 80's
The 80s wasn't just a period of Hammertime(!) and big hair. It was also a revolutionary decade for fantasy. a revolution in the marketplace that helped make fantasy the pop culture hit that it is today. The 80's also gave us some of the best fantasy books ever written -- books that are STILL widely considered landmarks in the genre.
The 80's also showed that fantasy was big business. Proving that books in the genre could be major bestsellers, authors like David Eddings and Terry Brooks wrote popular series using The Lord of the Rings as a blueprint.
These books – as formulaic as they seem to us now – invigorated the genre by showing that, even with a niche audience, fantasy could make serious bank. If it weren't for these achievements, we might not have the pleasure of watching petulant dragons rebel against their white-haired human mothers.
The other development to come out of the 80s is a darker, grittier fantasy, which would evolve into the creatively named subgenre of grimdark fantasy. Today it's epitomized by George R.R. Martin and his passion for violent limb removal.
So, check out this list of greats among greats for a decade of fantasy that's widely hailed as a golden age of fantasy and arguably one of the best decades the genre has ever seen.
Make sure to check out our other Best Decade ListsBest Pre-Tolkien FantasyBest Early Modern Fantasy (1930's to 1950's)Best Fantasy of the 60's (post Tolkien fantasy finds it's footing) Best Fantasy Books of the 70's (fantasy finds complexity)Best Fantasy Books of the 90s
Books in Chronicles Of The Black Company Series (12)
Books in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever Series (9)
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
Books in The Fionavar Tapestry Series (3)
Books in Mythago Wood Series (9)
Books in Howl’s Moving Castle Series (2)
Books in Discworld Series (72)
Good Omens is a brilliance of the combined mental powers of Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. If you love Discworld, then this should be your next read.
Myth Adventures series by Robert Aspirin. Funny and clever, but mostly funny. Do read if you love to laugh at self-aware, bumbling fantasy tropes doing absurd thing.
Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy. The famously funny parody of science fiction, life, and the universe itself. The equal to Pratchett in the science fiction world and a book that's transcended into pop culture itself.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. 'Funny' alone does not describe this. It's a masterpiece of character driven comedy set in an alternative Chinese landscape that won't disappoint.
Books in The Mists Of Avalon Series (2)
Books in The Chronicles Of Master Li And Number Ten Ox Series (2)
Books in The Empire Series (2)
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).
Books in Magics Series (3)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Books in Damar Series (4)
He writes stories where castration, rape, skull-crushing, and child sacrifice are parred for the course. So it should come as no surprise that George R.R. Martin conquered the sub-genre of horror fantasy before he wrote A Song of Ice and Fire. It's much (MUCH) more subtle than the series he's most famous for “something you'll need to keep in mind if you plan to read Fevre Dream. And you should. Why it made the list thanks to Twinkle Toes Twilight and the many vomit-inducing teenage wet dreams it spawned, vampires have lost much of their mythos. Long before that, Martin published a tightly written tale that combines elements of horror with urban fantasy in a thrilling urban fantasy. If you're experiencing the same kind of vampire fatigue as the rest of the intelligent world, you might be tempted to avoid this book. But that fatigue is exactly why you should read it. Because it will erase the memories of Stephanie Meyer's brand of sparkly literary poison. As with all things Martin, you won't find this a comfortable journey. The story is complex and "as always“ the writing is beautiful. You can say two things about Martin: First, that he's a twisted sunnuvabitch, and second, that he has a way with words that few people do. The action doesn't move quickly in Fevre Dream, but that only serves to heighten the suspense. You will experience real frights, but nothing gory enough to limit it to a horror story.
And of course, I should recommend other vampire fiction. There's a million vampire books out there, but there are a handful that stand out above the rest. Here's my recommendations for other vampire fiction worth reading: Dracula by Bram Stoker -- the book that launched a thousand imitations -- is a must read. Salem's Lot by Steven King ties together the classic King-style horror (small town where residents are disconnected from each other where pockets of evil can fester and hide, a few good people who band together to fight evil,etc). I Am Legend by Richard Matheson which is sort of survivor meets Dracula. And Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons -- a good book by a damn good author. For a Vampire book that does something new with the genre, read Peeps by Scott Westerfield.
Books in Vlad Taltos Series (26)
Books in The Riftwar Series (3)
Books in Xanth Series (38)
Books in The Dark Tower Series (15)
Books in Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn Series (2)
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.
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.
If you like his work, give his The Initiate Brother (an Asian fantasy) a go.
For a high fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien with gorgeous and lyrical prose, read Swans' War.
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
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.
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.