Fantasy Recommendations by Subgenre

fantasy novels 101Fantasy is a tricky genre to do a recommendations list for because it has such a wide variety of sub-genres under it. This being the case, no one can truly know what type of story they will be getting into when they are recommended a fantasy novel without first asking what kind of settings or characters it focuses on. With this in mind, I have organized my recommendations list by these sub-genres to help anyone who reads this to know what type of fantasy books they will be getting into if they decide to read them. Because many of these sub-genres overlap, I am going pair them up by how similar they are to each other.

High/Epic Fantasy

These sub-genres are generally separated more by their focus rather than their setting or characters. The most common settings for them resemble Medieval Europe and they generally have a large cast of characters with each one getting their own large scale story arcs which all come together in the end.

Number One Recommendation:
The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson


The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
The Lord of the Rings, The Original Shannara Trilogy, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, The Riftwar Series, The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Dagger and the Coin

Heroic/Assassin Fantasy

These sub-genres both focus on a single main character. In these novels the settings are not as important as the kind of character the book is about, whether it’s a young character learning to become someone important in the world or an older character trying to redeem themselves it generally brings up questions morality and heroism.

Number One Recommendation: 
The King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss


The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
The Lightbringer Saga, Mistborn, Night Angel, Across the Nightingale Floor, The Magic of Recluse, Shadow Saga, Elric of Melibone, The Belgariad, The Sword of Truth

Dark/Military Fantasy

These sub-genres both usually focus on multiple relationships between teams or groups of characters and how that group, when working together, effects the world overall . These generally take place during a wartime setting and focuses on being dark and gritty and sometimes on the art of war and the cost of being a warrior.

Number One Recommendation:
The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie


The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
Chronicles of the Black Company,  The Grim Company, Malazan: The Book of of the Fallen, The Book of Words Trilogy, Bloodsong, Steelhaven, Spec-Ops, Codex Alera

 Urban/YA Fantasy

Although there are a wide variety of settings and character types for these books, the most common attributes between these sub-genres is the light narrative styles,  majority but not exclusively urban fantasy environments and young or new adult characters. Urban fantasy can also focus on supernatural elements like vampires and the occult.

Number One Recommendation:
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
American Gods, Steelheart, The Bobby Dollar Trilogy, The Magicians, His Dark Materials, Bartemaeus, Abhorsen, Rithmatist, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl

Post Apocalypse/Science Fantasy

These sub-genres blur the lines between fantasy and science fiction either because of the futuristic settings creating fantasy like elements or science fiction/fantasy elements leading to a post apocalyptic setting. In this regard, these plot tools can lead to a barren or fantasy-like future world sometimes indistinguishable from fantasy.

Number One Recommendation:
Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover


The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
The Dark Tower, The Broken Empire, Book of the New Sun, Speak for the Dead Trilogy, Armageddon’s Children, Dune, Dragon Riders of Pern, Perdido Street Station

Alternative/Steam Punk Fantasy

These are the fantasy series with alternative worlds that don’t resemble the classic medieval settings. Because of this they can have settings resembling either eastern or middle eastern settings, renaissance settings or even fantasy versions of the Napoleonic era. There is also a tendency towards steam powered devices for some reason.

Number One Recommendation:
(Still Deciding)


The Best Series in this Sub-genre:
Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell,  Demon Cycle, The Gentlemen Bastards, Powdermage, Gormunghast, The Black Earth, The Empire Trilogy, Throne of the Crescent Moon, Cinder Spires, Mortal Engines, The Long Price Quartet, His Dark Material*