Top 50 Fantasy Books

fantasy novels 101My biggest announcement of the year (& why I haven’t been posting much for the last two months) needs a bit of a drum-roll. So I thought, what better drum-roll than an updated list of the genre this announcement is going to be about? Here’s my updated top 50 fantasy list, and for those who get to number 50, there’s a little surprise waiting for you.

Top 10 Must Read Fantasy Books

  1. __the_way_of_kings___cover_by_michael_whelan_by_arcanghell-d4ky8hlThe Way of Kings

I will inevitably change the title to the ‘Stormlight Archive’ series if the third book is as good at the first two, but having the most potential, this is undoubtedly the
Best Fantasy Book.

  1. FIRSTLAW_BLADEITSELF_VOL1_COVER_jpeg_rev3The First Law Series

No one does character like Joe Abercrombie. Consisting of six books and a collection of short stories, each better than the last, this holds my place for
Best Fantasy Series.

  1. imagesThe Dresden Files

With a style that has evolved through sixteen books, Jim Butcher has mastered the 1st person, single-arc story. This series undoubtedly holds the place for
Best Urban Fantasy.

  1. Acts-of-Caine-covers-lineThe Acts of Caine

As a standalone book, ‘Heroes Die’ could have overtaken the Dresden Files. Like many series, it’s less fantastic sequels dropped it in my ranks. It is the
Best Sci-fi/Fantasy Crossover.

  1. images (14)The Kingkiller Chronicles

This has fallen a placing for each year I’ve waited for the next book to come out. As good as the the first two books are, for the waiting time alone it gets my
Worst of the Best Fantasy.

  1. vicious-sliceVicious

This book redeemed my faith in the fantasy genre. However, this placement comes with the caveat that it stays standalone, being placed as the
Best Short Standalone Fantasy.

  1. abrahamd-daggercoinseriesThe Dagger and the Coin

I thought this series had peaked at book two but the final book released this year proved me wrong. Doing justice to older fantasy cliches justifies its place as
Best Comeback Fantasy.

  1. Jones (1)The Book of Words

My seventh placement always goes to the best work that barely anyone has tried. This works perfectly because I am convinced this series fits in this place as
Best Obscure Fantasy.

  1. gentlemanbastardThe Gentlemen Bastards

The places for nine and ten are so close that the only reason it’s above ten is because both it’s setting and main character are a lot more unique, giving it the
Best Unique Fantasy.

  1. 001The Lightbringer Saga

When the second book won the David Gemmel award, there were very high hopes for the third book. The fact that it didn’t live up the anticipation gives it the
Best Overrated Fantasy.


Best 10 Genre Specific Fantasy Books

  1. images (1)The Mistborn Saga

Brandon Sanderson’s failed heist plot reverts to the tried and true assassin’s heroes journey, redeeming itself entirely with its clever magic system, giving it the
Best Assassin Fantasy.

  1. grimcompany_bigThe Grim Company

Joe Abercrombie reinvented the noble savage character trope in dark fantasy and Luke Skull followed his mold, reinforcing it in the new sub-genre Joe predated,
Best Grimdark Fantasy.

  1. 80f3705b69cc64cb7e18ec9bce819ca1Iron Age

This new entry was so close to getting the Grimdark Fantasy placing but the ending of the final book really did change my mind considering its context, still
Best Historical Fantasy.

  1. download (2)The Demon Cycle

Abusing the exoticism and eastern noble savage trope for the sake of conflict, this series has definitely gotten better as it’s gone along to the point of being
Best Eastern Fantasy.

  1. Daniel AbrahamThe Long Price Quartet

Should have been a trilogy is something that comes to mind when I think of the last book of this series considering how good the third book was. For those three,
Best Oriental Fantasy.

  1. images (2)American Gods

If I was more artistic, this would probably be my favorite fantasy book but because I’m aware of the plot tool he uses to get the effect, this fits into
Best Spiritual Fantasy.

  1. herald-of-the-storm-richard-ford-e1376323784696Herald of the Storm

I need to read the rest of this series, but from the first book I can tell that it’s something special. The first in this series represents a great place for the
Best Military Fantasy.

  1. dirtystreets-largsThe Bobby Dollar Series

As an urban fantasy, Bobby Dollar is not as good Dresden because, like Gentlemen Bastards and Lightbringer, it quality is not consistent. For the believers,
Best Contemporary Fantasy.

  1. download (4)The Broken Empire

The Red Queen’s War, which builds on the same world as the ‘of Thorns’ trilogy, changed my mind on this world, convincing me it gets the place of
Best Post-Apocalypse Fantasy.

  1. codexCodex Alera

This series was a tricky placement with the ones below it, as they are both series of similar length, tone and plot tools. Focusing on what it does well, I give it
Best Crossover Fantasy.


Highly Recommended Classic Fantasy Books

  1. (0)Gormanghast

Predating The Lord of the Rings, Gormanghast features one of the best scheming main characters in classic fantasy and so I give it the
Best Machiavellian Fantasy.

  1. the-elfstones-of-shannaraThe Elfstones of Shannara

After abridging the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy into a single book, Terry Brooks did the next best thing for the fantasy genre, he wrote the
Best Steam Punk & Adventure Fantasy.

  1. t2ec16dhjhqe9nzezro8brpfseqv-60_35A Song of Ice and Fire

Codex Alera, Gormangast and Elfstones are above this series because, unfortunately, the scale of the plot tools leave the later books feeling jumbled, being the
Best Epic Fantasy.

  1. dark-tower-booksThe Dark Tower

Having given the post apocalypse sub-genre to another series, what makes the Dark Tower unique is that, in a sense, the world actually ends, making it the
Best Apocalypse Fantasy.

  1. The Eye of the World by Darrell K SweetThe Wheel of Time

I thought epic fantasy was a better genre to describe this massive series. Unfortunately the term wasn’t around and does not define what is generally called the
Best High Fantasy.

  1. theBlackCoThe Chronicles of the Black Company

Once again, I have come to the problem that I have already used up specific genres for the favorite specified genres. Luckily, this series also falls under the genre of
Best Dark Fantasy.

  1. bpenn11The Book of the New Sun

These next two series were hard to choose from as they are both hard to pinpoint their abstract endings. Unlike Sci-fi/Fantasy crossovers, this is the
Best Science Fantasy.

  1. images (7)Elric of Melnibone

Eric is difficult to pin down because of the amount of the stories attributed to his character. Some people says he’s an anti-hero, but no, Eric of Melnibone is the
Best Heroic Fantasy.

  1. 81+WvXc0ZTL._SL1500_The Riftwar Saga

A massive series containing multiple spin-offs which include even those from other authors. Along the with Wurt’s The Empire Trilogy, this series is the
Best Multiverse Fantasy.

  1. Covenant_sm_238The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

If the first Shannara book is the Lord of the Rings abridged into one book for children, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is Narnia for adults, being the
Best Portal Fantasy.


Genre Specific Fantasy Follow Ups Books

  1. 31_img8250-2650Tales of the Otori

As it came first, one might consider The Long Price Quartet derivative of this series. No, because it follows the exact formula of the Heroes Journey it is the
Best Oriental Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. BLOOD-SONG-FINAL-e1379336171563Bloodsong

If I hadn’t read Joe Abercrombie or Luke Skull first, this might have seemed a better book, but after I read it I thought it seemed like another
Best Grimdark Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. 10122629Elantris

This is the kind of book that is great when you read it but afterwards you realize how messy and bottom heavy the second half is. Therefore is takes the
Best Standalone Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. images (6)Malazan Book of the Fallen

‘Gardens of the Moon’ was a create first book but the series quality didn’t remain consistent throughout. For some boring books, this gets the
Best Military Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. windlass-cover-670x405The Cinder Spires

Jim Butcher’s new series jumps on the already aging Steam Punk sub-genre but until more books are released, the first book is so far the
Best Steam Punk Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. Jonathan-Strange-Mr-Norrell-296902Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Set during the Napoleon War era and dealing with concepts of the madness, although not quite as clever as the beautiful language it uses, it gains a
Best Unique Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. Genesis_HeaderArmageddon’s Children

Although Terry Brooks always planned his Shannara series to set in a post-apocalyptic setting, with the Dark Tower and Broken Empire, it’s a
Best Post-Apocalypse Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. 17fve8jq6l220jpgThe Throne of the Crescent Moon

As a standalone book, I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series. However, with a plot that rolls off of from previous fantasy in this type, it’s the
Best Eastern Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. Saga-of-Recluce-by-LE-Modesitt-JrThe Magic of Recluse

This series is an exception to this part of the list because quality-wise this is where it belongs but because there are so many books in the series, it could derivative of any fantasy book.

  1. indaichikizaMemory, Sorrow and Thorn

Coming after both Lord of the Rings, Shannara, yet dense high fantasy trilogy was easy to overlook once the Wheel of Time got underway for the
Best High Fantasy Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. neverwhere2Neverwhere

American Gods would be a very hard act to follow and removing the spiritual aspect that gave it its depth left this book as the
Best Urban Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. wotf-headerWar of Flowers

Once again, Neil Gaiman’s experiment into a new fantasy sub-genre didn’t bare as much fruit as American Gods, leading to the
Best Portal Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. images (13)The Word and the Void

A Shannara prequel trilogy before the author had even confirmed its connection to the overall series, set in the pre-internet world as
Best Contemporary Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. mogworld01Mogworld

Written by well known game reviewer, its not surprise that there is some meta and gaming elements to this fantasy book, being the
Best Science Fantasy Follow Up.

  1. night-angel-trilogy-by-brent-weeksNight Angel

This is the worst derivative fantasy I have read, including a heroes journey, vague Deus ex Machina powers, and blood relative twists along with the
Best Assassin Fantasy Follow Up.


Most Bearable Young Adult Fantasy

  1. Half_the_World_by_Joe_AbercrombieShattered Sea

What can I say? Even when it’s the young adult demographic, winning the Locus Award show Joe Abercombie can find away to make a trilogy the
Best Young Adult Fantasy Series.

  1. His_Dark_MaterialsHis Dark Materials

This series is an atheist’s young adult fantasy wet dream, but there’s depth to them that can change a reader’s views, this being the
Best Spiritual Young Adult Fantasy.

  1. book-ptolemy-s-gate-the-bartimaeus-trilogy-book-Bartimaeus

For a series about summoning demons, Bartimaeus is told from the perspective of one of the demons, giving the books a beautiful cynicism
Best Unique Young Adult Fantasy.

  1. Steelheart_coverSteelheart

Along with Ristmatist, Steelheart showed the Sanderson could write a decent Young Adult book, although the sequels let it down a bit. Still, it’s the
Best Young Adult Fantasy Book.

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  1. Stuck in the Game?

FINALLY, for those who have read this far, you get something a little bit special…
A shameless plug! That’s right, a few month ago I signed a contract for a Young Adult book that will be published in August by Future House Publishing. And due to my somewhat ironic, self-aware narcissism, I think this is the perfect place for my
Best Young Adult Science Fantasy.

Does it deserve this rank? Find out yourself by reading it. Also if your favorite book is missing, you might want to check my 10 Most Overrated Fantasy list where you might find it… probably because that’s where it belongs.

8 Responses to Top 50 Fantasy Books

  1. Akaluv says:

    Story overload!!! I have a lot to read now! =)

  2. Bookstooge says:

    Ok, here I go. Good luck!

    Way of Kings. Read it, won’t be reading the rest until the series is finished. Robert Jordan taught me a hard, but valuable, lesson about sprawling epic fantasies that I care about.

    Abercrombie has always struck me as too dark and grim for my taste.

    I tried to like Dresden, but me and Urban Fantasy don’t get along very well.

    I read the first Kingkiller book, along with all the promises that Rothfuss made about the trilogy being completed already and just needing to be published. Now, 9 years later, I’d gladly stick a dull spoon through him for lying to me…

    I read some of Abraham’s Long Quartet and disliked it enough that I never even tried his other series. Until I read the Expanse series. So at some point I’ll probably try the D&C.

    I’ve obviously read Weeks 😀

    I don’t do grimdark, not on purpose anyway.

    Brett had with the first book and lost me with the 3rd. Never even tried to read the 4th.

    Butcher’s Codex Alera was some of the best fantasy I’d read in a long time. Really enjoyed it!

    I only read 1 king book a year and after reading what Bookwraith’s had to say about the final book, I have had no desire to ever start this series.

    Own all the WoT books.

    I have the last Black Company book, Soldiers Live, still to read. Have been enjoying it overall.

    I read Elric as a teen and just ate up the angsty melodrama. Same for Corum, Hawkmoon and Castle Brass.

    I read the original Riftwar books but then didn’t care for later stuff, so never got invested beyond the first 4.

    I read, and own, the Tales of the Otori. I really like the covers you show.

    Read Bloodsong but will probably never follow up the rest of the trilogy. It just never “got” me.

    I have the 10th anniversary edition of Elantris around. I liked the original and am hesitant to mess with my good memory of it 🙂

    Going to be re-reading the Malazan books in ’17 and I’m already dreading the final 3 books…

    Liked Aeronaut’s Windlass. Almost as much as Codex Alera.

    Hated Strange and Norrell. I like Dickens but this took everything that is bad about Dickens and amped it up. Never understood the hype or excitement of those who blogged the heck out of it.

    the crossover between Brooks’ series is where he lost me as a reader.

    Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, good to say about Crescent moon.

    Read all, or almost all, of Recluse. I’ve lost track to be honest.

    Read and own in hardcover, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn.

    Read Bartimaeus and was pretty meh about it.

    Steelheart was ok but I didn’t care enough about the sequel to read the final book.

    • Lazarinth says:

      Sanderson’s a prolific writer and has vowed to release a Stormlight book a year, they’re fantastic so far but we’ll see if keeps his promise. Abercrombie’s a kitten in comparison to Martin, Jones and Watson. Dresden’s like the ultimate urban fantasy, so if don’t like that, there won’t be much that could change your mind. Although Wiseman’s Fear is great, Rothfuss himself is an ass for dragging his popularity for the sake of his charity. D&C is far superior to Long Quartet, actually deserving 5 books unlike the latter’s 4. So no grimdark or urban fantasy, what about post apocalypse or cyber fantasy? If so Heroes Die is an absolute must.

      Have you ever heard of Jon Sprunk? He’s like combination if Brett and Weeks. The only thing that put me off about Alera was it’s whiny main character. “I fell in love with The Gunslinger because of the amazing world Stephen King produced by his amalgamation of different writing genres.” – Bookwraith. Although the last 2 books are crap, the first one’s worth a shot and it’s tiny. Lol don’t you mean TWoT? Although I loved Croaker, I seriously couldn’t get past Murgens dream shit. Moorecock’s pure story without the fappery. Hah, Otori. With this and Night Angel, Alera and M,S&T , I’m beginning to think you love bildungsroman hero’s journies, considering they follow it to the T. Did you like Ergon as well?

      The other Bloodsong books are nothing special, I’m beginning to think the same of the Emperior’s Blades books as well, although I enjoyed the first one. Yeah, I’m thinking nostalgia is affecting my view of Elantris as well. Good luck with the Malazan reread, most of those books were way too dense for my tastes. I the guess the saying unique doesn’t mean good resonates with you for Strange and Norrell, I found it refreshing after reading so many high and epic fantasys. Armageddon’s children was as far I went with Shannara, although heritage nearly killed me. I’m guessing you only read his first two series if you stopped there?

      Crescent Moon’s appeal to me was that after reading so many fantasy books that tried to add an exotic middle eastern element, it actually had some legitimacy. I only read the first two Recluce books, but I enjoyed them, especially for books written in present tense. M,S & T, yup, another bildungsroman heroes tale. Mistborn and Lies Locke Lamora would be right up your alley. I’m editing one that’s about to be published, tell me if the plot sounds familiar. Young man discovers a magical object wanted by an evil group, hears about a wise master and learns from him magic and fighting before using what he has learned to face a rival corrupted by the evil group, who have their own magical object to fight his, and he must win to stop an empending doom. Sound familiar? The only differing feature is that it’s grounded in Maori mythology.

      • Bookstooge says:

        PA is a chancy thing with me. I like some it but it wears on me. Not sure what cyber fantasy is. Is it different from cyber-punk?

        You wrote Ergon. Did you mean eragon? If you did, I did not like it, but that was because it was a case of a kid writing derivative fiction with NO originality. I read the whole quartet though and if Paolini ever writes anything else, I’ll probably try it out.

        Strange and Norrel was just magical realism for me and that is another genre that has to be done “just right” to keep me interested.

        Part of my problem with Crescent Moon was that I went in with some really high hopes and they were dashed like ships upon the rocks. That, and there were just way too many instances of people sitting around drinking coffee. It committed the grave sin of boring me.

      • Lazarinth says:

        Good thing you didn’t read Armageddon’s Children if that’s how you feel about PA.

        Its pretty much cyber-punk, think more fantasy than sci-fi though, things even Clark’s third law would be hard-pressed to consider scientific, like a planet with almost every Tolkien fantasy creature or tech that manipulates lucid dreams onto a template and transfers the brain waves onto a fantasy gaming server where thousands interact rather than simple VR.

        Yeah, I was just asking about Eragon because it’s similar to the other stories you mentioned liking that follow its derivative plot structure, although it’s admittedly done a lot worse.

        Can you think of a magical realism book that does it “just right”? I thought Ocean at the End of the Lane wasn’t bad.

      • Bookstooge says:

        When I think of Magical Realism and Urban Fantasy done right, I think of the Rook duology by Daniel O’Malley.
        And for just plain UF, Correia’s Monster Hunter International series is one that I’ve read every book

  3. Bookstooge says:

    Nice! I have read a bunch of these, so give me a minute and I’ll list those I’ve read, or avoided on purpose.

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