Top 50 Best Epic Fantasy

The Absolute Best Epic Fantasy Series
Journeys Beyond Imagination: The Top 50 Epic Fantasy Books Unveiled

Epic fantasy is arguably the father of all fantasy subgenres. It's also the most popular fantasy genre, with hordes of new epic fantasy books being released each month. Unfortunately, the epic fantasy genre has become cluttered with cliches. It's hard to sort through all the "fat fantasy crap" to find the best in the genre.

What is Epic Fantasy?

Epic Fantasy always includes some nation or world impacting events at play in the story and a hero or cast of heroes who embark on a quest to save it. There's usually an antagonist (villain or villains) who seek to overthrow the current order of things as they are. Another quality of true epic fantasy is the large supporting cast of characters. Epic fantasy usually includes a well-developed magic system. And there's usually an emphasis on heavy world building with different lands, peoples, and cultures.

Check out our Epic Fantasy subgenre page for more information about what defines Epic Fantasy.

I've done my best here to give my recommendations for the best epic fantasy series. These books aren't your usual hackneyed fat fantasy series -- they do something new, or tell a fantastic story, have realistic characters, or exhibit qualities that put them above the rest. Indeed, these are those epic fantasy books that actually deserve to be on the bookshelves or (since we are in 2015) the Kindlestore.

Please keep in mind that I've added EPIC FANTASY to this list -- so fantasy series that don't fit that mold, no matter how good they might actually be, are not included. 

Please don't email asking me to add The Dresden Files, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games or any of those books to the list -- they're not epic fantasy!  Epic Fantasy is a very specific kind of fantasy and a term that's often tossed on any fantasy book with a bit of magic, a hero, and maybe a villain. It's much more than that. I suggest you read exactly what epic fantasy really is before reading this list.

About the Rankings (Now Updated 2015)

The rankings are a bit different from the Top 25 List and some of the other lists; this specific list only covers epic fantasy and I evaluate the books and their rankings based on that alone.

Also note that these are what I consider "The Best Epic Fantasy", so I'm intentionally not including epic fantasy like The Sword of Truth, Shannara, Eragon, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, RA. Salvatore or David Eddings. Sorry, I don't consider that stuff good enough to make this list by far. You can read my Worst Fantasy commentary for my exact reasoning.

You'll recognize some of the books from other lists, but there are some new picks as well. If you want recommendations that are broader (i.e. just not epic fantasy), check out the Best Fantasy Series list.

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

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

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A Song of Ice and Fire

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

The Darkness That Comes Before

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

The Cry of the Newborn

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


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

The Black Company

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

The Broken Empire

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

The Bloodsounder's Arc

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

The Thousand Names

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

The Traitor's Son Cycle

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

While Martin's epic contains a lot of brutality towards women, it also shows how women, surviving in a man's world, can use their cunning, charm, and looks to run the show. There are few fantasy fans who have not read the books by now and a significant number the of the general public has followed along with this series through the TV series.Now the TV series puts more emphasis on female heroines than do the books, but this does not take away the cast of strong heroines present in the series who, over the five books, carve out positions of strength and power.Martin can be brutal in his treatment of women but given the realities of the era (a fantasy version of the War of Roses period in English history) it's a true take on the role and treatment of women. But it's also fair in that women, often, indirectly can garner power.

Books in A Song Of Ice And Fire Series (7)

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The First Law trilogy

First Law by Joe Abercrombie. It's witty, intelligently plotted, the characters are all grey, and there's a ton of brutal action in the books. Abercrombie writes some of the best fight scenes in the genre, and his portrayal of war and battle is spot on (especially in his later books like The Heroes) and will make you really think about the ultimate cost of war. One of the best series that's come out in a few years -- one that actually tries to do something new in the genre. Even better, with every new book added to the series (or universe), Abercrombie gets better and better. It's similar to Martin's work in the sense that there is really a moral compass -- good and evil are just both sides of the same coin. Heroes are not made out to be noble paragons: they are just straight out meaner, stronger or more conniving than the rest.

Prince of Thorns

If you like the grittiness of Martin where the boundary between heroes and villains is thin, Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is an interesting take on the Anti Hero. This is the singular tale of a hero on a quest for revenge and glory (which eventually involves saving the whole world) but the flawed humanity present in Prince of Thorns channel the shades of Martin's brutal take on a fallen and immoral knighthood.


Try David Anthony Durham's Acacia . It's has a somewhat similar feel to A Song of Ice and Fire. The series wasn't as good as it initially promised to be by the end of it, but it's still good enough to read; the author pulls some interesting plot threads out of the blue by the end of book 2. My major complaint about the series was that I never really found the characters all that interesting.


Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. Elements are similar. You have incest, kingdoms on the cusp of decline and ruin, pacts made with monstrous powers. The landscape is dour and the heroes are partly villains.

The Godless Word Trilogy

Another series that had a somewhat similar feeling to Martin's work is The Godless World trilogy -- there are some shared elements between the works or at least the gritty, dirty feel of A Song of Ice and Fire is shared by both works. The Godless World is actually more like a cross between Martin and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I did find the quality of the series dipped by the end of the trilogy, but it's still a good enough read.

The Dagger and the Coin

Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series. Rich characterization with characters you dislike who eventual grow on you as the story progresses; oh my god -- plot twists and turns, and magic that's not at all present until the story progresses. Not as much action and drama, but a more character driven saga.

Sword of Shadows Saga

Sword of Shadows is pretty close to Martin in terms of the setting and the portrayal of gruesomeness. The setting is a cold, brutal, Arctic-ice world. It's not as "grand" or "epic" as Martin and the cast of characters is not as morally ambiguous. Still a pretty damn good read, though the author is taking her sweet time finishing the damn series already.

The Black Company

I would be doing you a disservice if I did not recommend Glenn Cook's The Black Company series. It's gritty military fiction with a cast of grey characters, and great battle scenes -- something that Martin focuses on in his books. The focus of the series centers on a company of soldiers.

The Farseer Trilogy

If you like reading about Jon Snow, you might give The Farseer trilogy a read. There are some shared story elements (though the plot and world is NOTHING at all alike mind you). Farseer is pretty much the story of a young king's bastard who grows up in a castle full of intrigue. He doesn't have a lot of options and struggles to survive, and in the process gets tangled up in a series of political schemes. The main character also has a special relationship with wolves (he can speak to them mind-to-mind via a magical skill called the 'Wit') so you might read this one if you like the whole Stark and Direwolf thing. Some of the best characterization in the fantasy genre. Be warned: Jon Snow is a lot more bad-ass of a hero though.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is a must-read, and it's a finished 10 books long. There are some elements that are similar to Martin's work: it's got gritty and intense battle scenes, a cast of ambiguously grey characters, main character deaths, plenty of brutality that characters inflict on each other, and unpredictable (and utterly massive) plots. It's quite similar to Martin in the way that the line between villain and hero is quite blurred. You often end up rooting for characters on both sides of the war. No one is really "the hero" and every character is either trying to maintain their power status quo, or steal it from someone else. However, the work, as a whole, is a LOT MORE disjointed than Martin's work (even counting for the fact that Martin has lost his way a bit)

The Darkness That Comes Before

Try R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before, which features superlative prose, a unique, but fascinating storyline, and the gritty realism that Martin exhibits. It's got that world is ending element to it as well. It's also a heck of a lot more philosophical too, which may or may not be something you like. On a whole Bakker's work is sort of like Tolkien's Mordor invades Martin' Kingdoms and stirs up a lot of shit. Throw a fantasy wizard Jesus with kung fu abilities and stuff the prose subtext full of philosophy. On the surface it's a head-case trippy mix, but there is a certain power to this series.

The Grim Company

The Grim Company by Luke Scull. There are elements of Martin in this work, which I was very impressed with as debut novels go. It's very much so a dark fantasy, with brutal violence, death, magic, and some compelling characters who are all flawed. You'll feel right at home if you are a Martin lover.

Monarchies of God

Monarchies of God -- a vastly under-appreciated series. If you like the epic struggle between kingdoms, fierce battles, strange unexplored lands across the sea, and life aboard a ship. Paul Kearny writes a compelling tale here. Elements of grim dark too.


You might also like Tad Williams newest fantasy saga: Shadowmarch which has some similar plot elements (strange fey creatures coming down from the north behind a wall of magic mist, trying to take over the world). There's a rich cast of characters scattered across the world in completely different lands (much in the way that Martin features characters living in the frozen north, characters living in exotic deserts, and so on). The creatures the north, the Quar, are similar to the Others, but more developed as mysterious, yet somewhat sympathetic entities, rather than the zombie-making horrors that Martin makes the Others to be. You might say this is the story of "The Others" and how they came to be so damn pissed off at the world of men.

A Land Fit for Heroes Trilogy

The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, of Science Fiction fame. Marin can write villains as heroes and heroes as villains, but if you want to read about a dour world without a shred of goodness, check out Morgan's foray into the fantasyscape. Its a dark and blood and cold as ice, but there's a shit load of brutal action.

Coming of Conan the Cimmerian Martin himself recommends Howard's masterpiece. What more could you say to that?

Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Elements of ASoIaF's gritty and dark but at times hilarious. Well written. Think a book made up of the Tyrion chapters, centering around a band of thieving scoundrels in an Ocean 11 fantasy plot.

The Amber Chronicles

The Amber Chronicles by David Zelazny. Take a royal family who can walk into different realities. Gray characters, squabbling siblings, alternate realities, a prince in exile.

The Gap Cycle

The Gap Cycle by Donaldson. This is science fiction NOT fantasy and in no way is there any similar plot elements or themes, but Gap Cycle is darker than dark and features heroes who have more in common with villains. If you like the bleak outlook on flawed humanity taken up by Martin, Gap Cycle won't disappoint your disappointment in the human race.

Five books in now, this series is turning out to be one of the best in the genre. If you are expecting another sort of Wheel of Time or Stormlight Archive, Game of Thrones, or Mazalan Book of the Fallen, look elsewhere. Abraham writes an entirely different sort of book then these others. The plot is slower paced, there's a lot about economics and banking, there's detailed scheming that takes place slowly over hundreds (even thousands) of pages. And first and foremost, it's completely character driven.But IF you have the patience for a deep, plodding, yet ultimately richly rewarding series, then The Dagger And the Coin is some of the best fantasy in the genre. But it takes a few books into it before things start happening and the action starts to build.

Books in The Dagger And The Coin Series (6)

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

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

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

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

The Wheel of Time


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

The Way of Kings

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

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn


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


The Swan's War

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


Earthsea Cycle

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

Riddle Master 

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


A Song of Ice and Fire


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

First Law

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

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

Books in The First Law Universe Series (3)

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

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

High kings, evil sorcerers, exiled princes, tricky fairies, and willful princesses  this highly influential series has it all. There is nothing derivative about this series, being one of the founding fantasy series in the genre, right up there with Lord of the Rings. The highly imaginative world of the Elder Isles is brought to indelible life through the superbly talented pen of Jack Vance, one of the grandmasters of the modern fantasy and science fiction genre. If you are tired with the various dry, plodding and wordy epic fantasy dreck where hack authors surely seem like they are paid by the word, this highly original, atmospheric, and evocative series will be a huge breath of fresh air. Beautiful prose that's efficient. Highly recommended for ANYONE who loves a good classic high fantasy tale and some of the most beautiful prose in the genre.
A lot of people call Kearney's Monarchies of God 'A Game of Thrones Lite.' And for the most part, this is true. There are a five books (each only a few hundred words) with a hell of a meaty story packed in between the pages. I've said so before about this series on other lists: it's one of the more underrated series in the genre. It may not be as complex as some of the newer fantasy today, but if you want an epic fantasy with kingdom's clashing, big battles, strange magics, and mysterious lands to explore, well Kearney's book won't disappoint you.It's a great series to read in between some of the other more emotionally taxing series out there.  
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow...  Despite the inevitable flood of protests I'll get by including this on the list, Robert Jordan has really defined the modern epic fantasy genre. I've stated it before, but I'll say it again: despite the problems and controversies of how Jordan has handled the story (it's agreed that the first 5 books are pretty good, the later 6 or so really lose track), this series is "the" epic fantasy series of our generation. Robert Jordan has pretty much taken up the cloak that Tolkien left and stretched out so wide the very seams threaten to tear. I can confidently say that no other story is as large as WOT. Indeed, you'll need a backpack to carry Jordan's entire story, literally. Those who like their fantasy big, with dozens of realms, a huge cast of characters, and plenty of magic, politics, and adventure, WOT delivers. This book defines what classic epic fantasy is folks, for better or for worse. You will find peoples opinion sharply divided about whether WOT has imploded under the too-many plot threads of the story, but without a doubt, WOT is a seminal work of epic fantasy and is a must-read book for every epic fantasy lover.If you are looking for new variations on the epic fantasy genre, there are several authors and books who have done some interesting things, but if you want something "classic", the Wheel of Time is the best you'll find. I'm sure not having this in the top 5 will offend his fans, while even including the WOT will invariably offend others.But if you want to read epic classic fantasy with a huge cast of characters who move from sheepherders and blacksmiths to great men of importance in a huge detailed world, and on whom the fate of a world and all the worlds that will ever be rest, then read this. This is about as epic as classic fantasy comes.

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

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

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

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

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

Understandably, some readers prefer series more epic in their nature, and Sanderson also has that covered. Though it’s magic systemsaren’t quite as compelling as in Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive is stillup there with the best. Stormlight, a magical energy, comes from a huge storm that circles the Earth in the same direction.  That energy is absorbed by gemstones, fought over by armies and able to power almost indestructible armor that enhances the user’s strength. However, also able to harness Stormlight are those known as Surgebinders. With an intake of breath, they can channel the energy, but need a constant source as fuel. Because of this, gemstones become even more important, allowing them to breathe in stored Stormlight at any time. Users gain not only supernatural strength and speed, but the ability to ‘lash’. By doing so, they can adjust gravity, burn, manipulation friction, create illusions, and more. The system is incredibly complex, but Sanderson walks readers through, introducing elements as and when required. As a result, his world is a joy to explore, and it’s joined by some science and engineering, too. Fabrials are complex devices that use gemstones to serve a purpose. Augmenters, for example, can create heat or movement, while diminishers can reduce pain or wind. All of the magic systems are tied together by overarching concepts, which slowly unfold and impress as the story continues.

Books in The Stormlight Archive Series (4)

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

Books in Kingkiller Chronicle Series (2)

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

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)

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

Books in Farseer Series (2)

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

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

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Instrumentalities of the Night

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

Bloodsounder's Arc

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

Malazan Book of the Fallen

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

The Dagger and the Coin

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

The Ten Thousand

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

The Way of Kings

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

Heroes Die

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

The Darkness That Comes Before

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

The Coldfire Trilogy

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

The Thousand Names

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


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

The Red Knight

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

This epic fantasy series is quite a bit different from your standard fantasy fare. If you want an epic military fantasy series where good and bad are not so clearly delineated, The Black Company delivers this. There are some of the classic epic fantasy conventions, such as a band-of-heroes against a world-ending-evil, except things are twisted around a bit. Instead of good against evil, the struggle is more or less evil versus more evil, with the heroes themselves of questionable morality. If you like the gritty military fantasy style of A Song of Ice and Fire and Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll love Black Company.

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

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

Books in The Coldfire Trilogy Series (3)

Similar Recommendations

Magister Trilogy

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

The Crooked Letter

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

The Warded Man

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

The Abhorsen Trilogy

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

Spook's Apprentice

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

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

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

The Prince of Thorns

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

The Black Company

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

The Warded Man

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

The First Law trilogy

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

A Song of Ice and Fire

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

The Talisman

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

The Scar

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

Fevre Dream

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


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

Another fantasy series that crops up near the top of many best fantasy lists. Earthsea Cycle is a classic fantasy tale well done.  While it doesn't rack up a sizable page count like some of the newer fantasy series (cough, Wheel of Time, cough Stormlight Archive), what it lacks in size it makes up with quality. Good doesn't always mean big, folks.  So for a very well written classic fantasy tale about a boy's journey to become the greatest wizard alive, Earthsea is one of the best. And the writing is just so damn beautiful to read.
A beloved fantasy series by all who've read it, though few modern fantasy readers have read it. This is probably one of the best hidden epic fantasy gems out there right now and you would do well to get your hands on this series.The basic premise sounds petty hackneyed: a stable boy, a princess, imps, dwarves and an evil king. But this is Dave Duncan we are talking about here who can write anything about everything and make it into an addicting read.Duncan manages to take those worn-out fantasy conceits and twist them around into something completely new and utterly enthralling. This is some stellar heroic fantasy that will absolutely keep you turning the pages.  The world-building is great and the cast of characters, especially the lovable hero Hap, are just great. I'm also a big fan of the magic system which stands out as one of the more unique magic systems in the genre, right up there with Sanderson's Allomancy (Mistborn) and Farland's Rune Magic (Rune Lords), and Week's color magic from his Lightbringer books.You won't go wrong reading this; if you are looking for your next epic fantasy fix, this should be your next read. There is a sequel series, A Handful of Men that continues the story of the first series years later. The first series is better, though.

Books in A Man Of His Word Series (6)

This book is a thoroughly grimdark adventure, following a world-weary PTSD sufferer on his quest to save the world he doesn't much care for. It's messy, gross, intense, brooding and also fucking awesome. Richard K. Morgan has written some kick-ass sci-fi like Altered Carbon, and his fantasy also rocks.This book is a great example of fantasy caked in mud and blood rather than shining armour and codes of chivalry. Ringil, the protagonist, is a guilt-ridden, broken psyche wrapped in battle-scarred skin. If there's even a shred of hope or goodness in my protagonists, I'm disappointed, and Ringil suits me just fine. The book is super-violent and super-sexual, and it's all about as gritty as contact lenses coated in dirt. It's quite gritty, is the point I'm trying to convey here, and there are plenty of moment where you'll feel mighty uncomfortable. But that's what you're here looking for, isn't it, you sick bastard? Ringil isn't the only viewpoint character, and the others are also well-characterized and interesting. Morgan certainly has a way with words, and the prose is a delight to read, just as the world-building is intruiging, with hints of more beyond the standard fantasy-land.Read this if: you like swearing, violence and angry sex. Or all three at once.

Books in A Land Fit For Heroes Series (3)

A fantasy tale that people love to love or love to hate -- there is very rarely any middle ground when it comes to Thomas Covenant. My recommendation is that you should read the first series, if only to see what all the damn arguing going on in the comment section is.The series takes a unique view of the classic epic fantasy. Instead of a hero, there's an anti-hero -- one who's pretty damn selfish. The series, if it was left to that, would be too depressing for most people to finish. But the series is also one about transformation and redemption. Through the Chronicles, you slowly start to see Thomas Covenant move from anti-hero to hero, from selfish bastard to altruistic hero.There are three trilogies about Thomas Covenant. The first is the best, the second nearly as good, and the last...disappointing. 

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

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)

There are writers who like to write pulp and there are some writers who like to write fiction. Williams is the latter. Memory, Sorrow, Thorn. This series has made pretty much all the other fantasy lists. It's a good series that many people don't have the patience to read. And that's a right shame. If you stick with the story, a rich fantastical tale will unfold. It just takes TIME. And sometimes, you know, that's not a bad thing. Tad Williams has recently completed another epic fantasy, Shadowmarch. My feeling is that while Shadowmarch has a lot more action and fantastical elements (fairies, gods, half gods, strange magic), Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a deeper fantasy tale with a lot more under the hood than Shadowmarch. That's not to say that Shadowmarch is not a great epic fantasy series -- it is -- but I like Memory Sorrow, Thorn better. Still, if you find Memory, Sorrow, Thorn too slow, look then to Shadowmarch -- you'll like it better.

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

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

Books in The Fionavar Tapestry Series (3)

Most of theitems on this list made it thanks to their unique ideas. Instead, Codex Alera takes a system familiar to millions of children. While many authors claim inspiration from Tolkien or Jordan, Butcher takes his from Pokémon. It’s not something you’d expect in a serious, epic fantasy series, but this gives it an incredible amount of flavor. Butcher is a master world-builder, and he doesn’t simply throw Pikachu or Charizard into a fantasy world of his making. The Pokémon, in this case, are known as Furies. Furies are elemental spirits home to the realm of Alera. The greatest among them act as gods for the populace, while some bond to humans and forge a magical connection. Fury crafters can use that bond to control wind, water, fire, air, and wood, but they also have other perks. Watercrafters, for example, can read emotions, shapeshift, heal, or remain beautiful indefinitely. Metalcrafters are better suited to swordplay, able to sense nearby metal, strengthen and forge metal, as well as gaining speed and accuracy. Of course, there are some that can become masters of multiple disciplines, allowing them to reach tremendous power. The protagonist, however, isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s one of the few without a craft. Through this tool, Butcher gives a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a non-magic user. He shows the strength of both magic and wits, and paints incredible action scenes alongside them.

Books in Codex Alera Series (5)

Similar Recommendations

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

Oath of Empires

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

The Videssos cycle

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

Ghost King

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

The Gates of Rome

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

Latro in the Mist

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

Sailing to Sarantium

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

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

Books in The Riftwar Series (3)

This is NOT your standard epic fantasy. But oh man, there's a lot to love about this one. If you want to take a much needed break from the standard fantasy cliche's, The Long Price Quartet should be your next stop. Even if you ONLY like standard fantasy, still read this gem of a series. It's widely being hailed as a modern masterpiece.This is a series with an incredibly strong plot; really, once you get hooked at the start, you're going to have to just finish all the books to see how everything gets wrapped up (and all four books have been completed).Abraham's characters are living and breathing creatures. There are no characters introduced just to move along the plot. It's a rare thing to get so involved with the characters you read about. But Abraham invites you to do just that -- all of the characters are sympathetic, with flaws and strengths and personalities.So, toss away all that boring epic fantasy and read a REAL fantasy series that's just about a cut above everything else out there right now. As a bonus, the series is completed with all four books out. Many agree that the first couple of books are the weakest in the series (and even a "weak" book here is better than most of the fantasy out there) with the final books the best.Fans of this series will also be delighted to know that Abraham has released the first book in another series -- this one a standard epic fantasy (but with Abraham's trademark style, fantastic plot, and awesome characterization) which, should you find The Long Price Quartet not the type of fantasy for you, more palatable. It's called the Dragon and the Coin.
In a world saturated by religious fanaticism, Maithanet, enigmatic spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples, declares a Holy War against the infidels. Ikurei Conphas, military genius and nephew to the Nansur Emperor, embarks on a war to conquer the known world in the name of his emperor...and himself. Drusas Achamian, spy and sorcerer of the mysterious northern sorceries, tormented by visions of the great apocalypse, seeks the promised one, the savior of mankind. Anasurimbor Kellhus, heir to the shattered northern kingdom, whose ruins now lay hidden in the deepest north, a place now desolate, home to only the No-Men. Gifted with extraordinary martial skills of hand and foot, and steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men--even great men--may be cast into ruin. For in the deep north, the hand of the forgotten No-God stirs once more, and his servants tread the lands of men...This is one of the more interesting modern fantasy series out there. It's epic fantasy, but not in the way you're used to. This fantasy is for those who want a combination of raw action and sharp philosophical insights. It's gritty, dark, bloody, and pretty damn smart.

Books in The Prince Of Nothing Series (6)

Similar Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books in The Dark Tower Series (15)

Similar Recommendations

The Talisman

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

Swan Song 

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

The Crooked Letter

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


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


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

Last Call 

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


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

His Dark Materials

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

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

Books in The Broken Empire Series (2)

Similar Recommendations

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

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

The Black Company

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

Scourge of the Betrayer 

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

First Law

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

Elric of Melinbone

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

Among Thieves

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

A Promise of Blood

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

Heroes Die

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

A Song of Ice and Fire series

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

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

Books in Sword Of Shadows Series (5)

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

If you're looking to scratch the itch for an epic after finishing Game of Thrones, this series is a great place to start. It details the growth of the king's four children through to adulthood, jumping across a multitude of perspectives, political maneuvering, and battles.It's huge in scope and slow in its pacing, but Acaia has that rare ability to make you think deeply. Durham, seamlessly integrates important philosophies into the story through his characters and their actions. None of the four protagonists are outright 'heroes'. In fact, the book takes a close look at the monstrosities dynasties get away with in the name of good. You quickly learn that the kingdom isn't all it's cracked up to be, and when the threat of invasion looms, it's not always easy to pick the right side. It's not an easy read. There isn't a constant or flashy use of magic to catch your eye, and the sheer detail means it can be overwhelming. But if you can push past that, you'll find real value in this story of betrayal, war, and relatable villains. Read if you like: Game of Thrones, multiple perspectives, gray areas.

Books in Acacia Series (3)

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Acacia is written in the epic Fantasy tradition that Tolkien pioneered. Epic Fantasy is probably the most popular type of Fantasy and the real "poster boy" for the Fantasy genre (something that I personally believe should not be the case). 

If you like Acacia, then it's a sure bet that you will love these other series. 

A Song of Ice and Fire

You should definitely read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, which is the best epic fantasy series currently out there (and my top pick). 

The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is also another excellent epic Fantasy in the tradition. The Greg Keyes' Kingdom of Thorn and Bone is also another spectacular epic fantasy series that's several notches above most other series -- at least for the first couple books. The series fails after the third book and the last book is dreadfully disappointing.

The Lord of the Rings

And of course the daddy of epic Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings

The Malazan Book of the Fallen

For a more anti-hero protagonist, Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is another great series to read. You want epic Fantasy that brings new meaning to the word "epic," then read Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen

The Blade Itself

And if you want some epic Fantasy that really breaks or twists in some way most of the standard conventions of epic Fantasy, read Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself.

A beautiful and deftly woven fantasy tale that rings strong with a lot of the elements that make Lord of the Rings so captivating.Why might you want to read this? Let's look at a little checklist: A mysterious landscape that's almost poetic. Check. A strong mythos of the world underlying the conversations, references, and history. Check. Magic is mysterious and rare. Check. The world is under threat by some unknown force. Check. Beautiful, lyrical prose. Check.This three-book series proves you don't need to have ten-thousand page books to tell a proper high fantasy tale. If you love reading epic fantasy with rich history and myth built into the story, complemented by beautiful language, pick this series up. You certainly won't go wrong reading it. Magic is very much a mystery in this series; part of the pleasure of reading this series is the sense of mystery and wonder. If you want to get lost in mysterious lands on a quest to save the land from an ancient evil, this should be your next series. It's epic fantasy that's got a lot of the familiar themes, but it's damn well written epic fantasy.

Books in The Swans' War Series (2)

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The Lord of the Ring

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

The Swan's War

The Swan's War trilogy seems both similar to yet different from Lord of the Rings. The mysterious and rare nature of magic is a trait shared by both books, as is the beautiful prose that seems half poetry, half fiction (though Russell's work is more "modern"). 

The Wizard of Earthsea

Also give Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea a try: the book has that sense of mystery and wonder that permeates The Swan's War.

You might also call this one The Lord of the Rings of horror books -- a somewhat apt description that describes what this is. It's not a book that will appeal to everyone (fans of easy-to-read epic fantasy where all the cards are laid out on the table by page 10 probably won't), but what I will guarantee is that Imajiica is a feast of the senses and the imagination. Not all 'epic fantasy' is derivative of Tolkien or Jordan. Imajiica is an epic fantasy with a new face -- rather than an all-consuming struggle against an implacable and unstoppable outside force of evil, it's a struggle to save mankind from itself. This is a monster of a book at almost 1200 pages, but it's a book that will have you captivated the whole way through; there is no useful filler, only laser-sharp plotting and even sharper prose. The setting is quite unique -- a mystical fantasy universe, Imajiica, made up of 5 worlds/dimensions (called Dominions). The 4th Dominion, our world, has been separated from the other 5 worlds. The last great attempt to reconcile our world with the other 5 backfired, and nearly all the metaphysically talented people died (Shamans, Magicians, etc.). But now, things are again ripe for another attempt, and this time if the worlds are not reconciled, mankind will certainly destroy itself in the future. Barker is famous for writing his stories where there is another world underpinning the reality of our own, just a pin prick away, if one knows exactly where to prick. This makes for a creepy, atmospheric setting, much in the way of a Lovecraftian novel. The quality of the writing is high too with beautiful atmospheric prose.

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Coming Soon...
If there's one thing that can be taken from our own history, it's that that watching monarchies fight for and over power is fascinating. As long as you don't get your head chopped off in the process. It's this kind of intrigue that drives the plot of Crown of Stars and makes it such an enthralling read.Why it made this listThe series requires a serious investment of time – each title is long and needs some energy to get through. Fortunately, it's worth it to spend some time with the characters. They're complex and complicated – with all the motivations, strengths and flaws of people in our own world. For this reason, they feel real and easy to identify with. You can't help but become attached to them.Elliot manages to paint a world that's rich in detail without sacrificing any pace in the action. Not something that's easy to find in long sagas like this one. And it's lucky she's so skilled at it because reading this series becomes and immersive experience – one that would suffer if it got weighed down by lengthy expositions or descriptions.The themes explored in the series are easy to relate to; the kind of things we content with throughout our lives. Through the relationships between the characters, she challenges readers to explore notions concerning the cost of power, the fine line between love and obsession and the complex nature of fulfilling duties in the face of contention.

Books in Crown Of Stars Series (5)

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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga. William has beautifully reinterpreted Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (and no it is not in the least bit a clone, and no, there is no One Ring), creating a vast world of mystery and magic. Characterization is top notch.

Liveship Traders
Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders. Romance, adventure, and lots of romantic tension driving the narrative.

The Curse of Chalion
The Curse of Chalion, which has as strong narrative driven by characters. Even more, read the sequel, Paladin of Souls which is from the perspective of a middle aged woman looking for love again.

Symphony of Ages
You might also might like the Symphony of Ages books which is very much driven by romance the whole way through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Death Gate Cycle has been praised endlessly for its world-building, so it’s no surprise that an incredible magic system backs it up. Humans are split into two races, the Sartan and Patryns. Following a nuclear war, Earth was split into four worlds, each representing an element. The Sartans created a fifth for the Patryns, a prison known as the Labyrinth. Both possess different ways of harnessing magical power. Sartans cast with their hands and with song, drawing runes in a hexagonal grid, linking them together for powerful and devastating effects. Patryns have runes tattooed onto their skinand combine their power by pressing one body part to another. Magic itself comes from the manipulation of ‘probability waves’. Users are able to view all of the possible outcomes of an action and select which one they wish to occur. The more unlikely the outcome is, the harder the spell is to cast, and the greater the consequence of doing so. Each spell has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning that raising the dead, for example, will result in an early death elsewhere. The combination of this with a number of worlds, warring races, and an excellent plot makes for a highly entertaining classic fantasy series.

Books in The Death Gate Cycle Series (6)

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Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. 


Magician books.

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

Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)

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

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

Lord of the Rings

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

The Earthsea Cycle

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

The Swan's War

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

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

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

The Kingkiller Chronicles

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

Paks is one of the earlier examples of a strong, realistic female heroine who appeals to men and women. She becomes a badass paladin in her world of dwarves, elves, and gods when an arranged marriage gives her a nudge out of her farmhouse door to join a mercenary band. She is passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to fight for what's right, discovering her talent as a paladin along the way. She never comes off as pompous or self-righteous, she's just out there fighting for her cause; though she does seem to be a bit of a lightning rod for incredible circumstances. She has her flaws, and doesn't always know what's going on as just a pawn in a larger strategy. Moon writes so vividly and clearly that the world is nearly tangible. If you're not into the trappings of high fantasy (good vs. evil, valiant warrior, evil monsters, etc.) you probably aren't going to dig this one. If you enjoy a heroic ride, realistic combat, magic and harrowing adventures, you probably will.
Epic fantasy has become so cheap it's now at the dime-a-dozen price range. Every author and wannabe-author is trying to pour out epics faster than beer at a Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day. It makes for some seriously substandard, watered-down reading. Tad Williams has his own style of epic fantasy; he doesn't copy Jordan, Martin, or even Tolkien. Some of the greater Tolkien elements are there, as are some of the fantasy archetypal characters. But Williams is best when he's writing an epic.Everything is so finely detailed that it can take a while to get the story rolling -- this is something that some love or hate about a Williams novel. But if you give his works a fair shake and invest some time plowing through the slow pacing of the first few hundred pages, you're treated to something majestic. Shadow March combines some of the elements from A Game of Thrones with the mythos and world building of Tolkien. There's a vast wall of mist in the very northernmost part of the lands that separates a race of mysterious fairies from humans. There's an emperor in the southern desert lands dreaming of conquering the entire world and mortality itself. There's a kingship dispute, treachery, and invasion. And there is a firm mythos woven into the story threads, giving insight into the world as it used to be eons ago, stories that do connect with the current plot.I really enjoyed how Williams incorporates faeries into the story. The series are full of ancient mythology, lost realms, strange magic, and just a whole lot of adventure. And of course, as a Tad Williams novel, there's great characterization and beautiful writing present too. Well worth reading!  This is an epic fantasy for those who like to read good fantasy. Williams doesn't always give everything to you right away and you are required to dig into the books a bit before things get moving. Williams spends more time than you like detailing the daily routine of the settings around the characters, but on the whole, it's a great series and one that you should read.

Books in Shadowmarch Series (3)

This is epic fantasy with a face you've never seen before. The series centers on an alternative Rome where magic works. And like the real Rome, this Rome is a bloody world. Take all those juicy battles and toss in the addition of magic, demons, monsters, and mages. If you like your fantasy rife with magic, fighting, and action with super powerful heroes and terrible villains, Oath of Empires is a great read. It's never reached critical mass, which is a shame -- it's better than a lot of the other fantasy series out there.
A High fantasy series that's never gotten the love it deserves. I read this series a few years ago and was thoroughly addicted. Lots of politics, fighting, strange magic, and some pretty compelling characters. Recommended.This is more of a classic fantasy tale than the newer, more gritty complex fantasy that's come out the past decade, but it's still a tale very much worth reading if you like magic, politics, treachery, and kingdom's on the brink.
A new epic fantasy series that just hits pitch perfect notes. This is really one of the best new fantasy series to come out the past decade.There's royal siblings separated as children, a kingdom in turmoil facing threats both inward and outward, extinct immortal races that might not be so extinct after all, meddling gods, mysterious magic, an empire up for grabs, stolen thrones, princes on the run, more betrayals than a Shakespeare play, and hordes of invading armies. And this series is well written the whole way through with book two even better than book one.How can you not want to read this one? If you like The Stormlight Archive, A Game of Thrones, or The Wheel of Time, man you are going to feast til you die on this one.Don't make the mistake and pass on it.;

Books in Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne Series (5)

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

Books in The Traitor Son Cycle Series (6)

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

Books in The Magicians Series (2)

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

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

The Night Circus

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

Harry Potter

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

The Wizard of Earthsea

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

Ocean at the End of the Lane

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

The Secret History

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


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

Narnia & Alice in Wonderland

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

The Lightbringer series holds one of the best magic systems in fantasy, straight from the mind of Brent Weeks. It manages to be simple in concept, yet holds tons of extra depth for those looking for it. Essentially, it works through colors. Chromaturgy allows its users (Drafters) to turn light into a physical substance named Luxin. However, to form Luxin, drafters must stare at the light, absorb it through their eyes, and tear it out through the skin. As a result, the strength of the user is dependent on their eyesight. The ability to differentiate colors is key, and only the Lord Prism can use all of them without consequences. Each color has different properties and categories, with some more powerful than others. Red Luxin, for example, is flammable and often used in warfare. Blue is great for weaponry, while superviolet, which sits outside the visible spectrum, can be used for invisible manipulation. Sadly, like all good magic systems, it has a cost. The whites of drafter’s eyes begin to color, signalinga reduced lifespan. Use too much, and they will go crazy, red drafters becoming rage-filled, while blues will become hard and logical. As you can tell already, Weeks has put incredible thought into this system, and it echoes throughout all aspects of society. As well as regular power dynamics, there are gender ones, with women far more likely to see colors accurately. On top of this is an expertly crafted, tense plot, life-like characters, and sprinkles of humor. It’s a must-read for any magic lover, and that’s why it tops our list.

Books in Lightbringer Series (6)

This starts off decidedly on a non-epic note: a band of thieves go about robbing the rich lavishly and just because they can. There is not great evil to defeat or kingdom at risk, just the personal narrative of a couple thieves. But as the books progress, the effects of Locke's decisions start having wider and wider consequences for the world at large. Basically, as you progress, the stakes grow larger as the world expands and as Locke finds out more about who he really is. By the end of book three, there's an character epiphany, and his former role in the larger events of the world, that will shake you to your boots.Besides all that 'spiciness' stuff, it's a brilliantly written novel, full of goody unexpected plot twists you don't see coming, thieving anti-heroes, and a mix in of other genres like sword and sorcery (heroes with magic, sword fighting, and plenty of high-stake action scenes) and epic fantasy (world building, magic system, a prevailing ancient mythos to the world with detailed history). So is The Gentleman Bastards counted as epic fantasy? I'd say yes, it is. And yes, read it.

Books in Gentleman Bastards Series (10)

What best list would be complete without throwing on something funny: a book that fully critiques the very archetype carrying the story forward. If you were to toss in Terry Prachett's name here, then you would be completely correct in your guess.We delve into his Discworld canon and pull out one that parodies the epic fantasy genre by in fact telling an epic. that would be Pratchett's Guards, Guards, a story which has the very heroes of the story questioning the nature of epic fantasy while trouncing around in one. Cl every, insightful, witty, and mostly pretty fucking funny the whole way thought. 

Books in Discworld Series (72)

A series that's immensely well written and one that takes quite a few of the epic fantasy archetypes and runs away with them in a slightly new direction.Expect complex politics, heavy world building, an kingdom on the bring and in need of saving...and a whole lot of other epic fantasy complexities stuffed in -- all wrapped together in a new package, giving a fresh take on old ideas.This is definitely Jemisin's homage to epic fantasy and one that really explores some difficult and relevant real-world issues through the context of the story.Epic fantasy? You bet, but one that's wearing a slightly different face than you may be used to. Even better, it's completed -- no need to wait a decade between new books.Definitely read if you want to lose yourself in a fresh, superbly well written, interpretation of some of the standard fantasy archetypes.
One of the more complex fantasy works on this list, The Folding Knife is another one of those epics that don't initially made the standard epic fantasy criteria until you start digging down deep to find the bones of it.The Folding Knife is an example of an epic fantasy that lacks many of the epic fantasy qualities that you are familiar -- like magic while still maintaining the high stakes involved in an epic.The Folding Knife is an epic that focuses on the ethics of things -- specifically on the making of difficult ethical decisions. There's a lot going between the pages and while there is no standard evil dark lord to slay or a detailed magic system, but it's a story about a man's willingness to do anything and everything strengthen the kingdom he comes to lead.This novel is probably the most eclectic of the books on this list (especially added to an Epic Fantasy list), but don't just it and give it a read. You might find there's a real power The Folding Knife and become a life long fan of one of the best -- and most underrated -- authors in the genre.
Anyone who plays fantasy video games will be familiar with Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher books, and the RPGs developer CD Projekt Red based on them. The titular 'witcher' (mutated, sorcerously-powered professional monster hunter – cool, I know) is Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, lover of women, slayer of monsters, and kicker of asses. He's just about the coolest protagonist a reader could ask for, and the stories he finds himself in are as horrifying as you'd expect from books based on eastern European fairytales and monster legends. The monsters Geralt hunts are the real deal. These are the sorts of nightmare-fuel that could only be generated from hundreds of years of stories told by the fire in Sapkowski's native Eastern Europe. Forget Sleeping Beauty, the princess Geralt encounters turns into a flesh-eating horror every night. Despite this, the true monsters Geralt encounters are always human ones, and he considers his mission of 'killing monsters' to include the all-too human variation. He fights with a combination of swords, potions and sorcery, and he's just plain cool. I feel like I'm gushing, am I gushing? I'll stop now. Read this book if: you want to join to throngs of fantasy fans who idolize Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf.

Books in Saga O Wied?minie Series (7)