Our top 10 fantasy series recommendations
Okay. I confess, there are more than 10. But there were only 10 when we started. Honest. It’s just grown, that’s all.
From the Taoist beliefs of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books to the complexity of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. From the ambition of Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books to the beautifully written Realm of the Elderlings. These are fantasy series that you simply must read. We have listed our recommendations below and we have also listened to the many suggestions made – hence the larger selection!
The criteria? For the purpose of this list we have decided that a series must consist of at least four books. So no trilogies, that is deserving of a page all of its own. So without any further ado, here are our recommendations, beginning with Ursula Le Guin.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin
Earthsea is a magical world, full of enchantment. The Wizard of Earthsea must fight off the forces of evil and darkness in their various shapes before, ‘done with doing’, he flies off on his dragon to ‘the farthest shore’. These prize-winning stories are brilliantly crafted, richly imagined and engaging. Comparable with the work of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the Earthsea books follow the fortunes of the wizard Ged from his childhood to an age where magic is giving way to evil. As a young dragonlord, Ged, whose use-name is Sparrowhawk, is sent to the island of Roke to learn the true way of magic. A natural magician, Ged becomes an Archmage and helps the High Priestess Tenar escape from the labyrinth of darkness. But as the years pass, true magic and ancient ways are forced to submit to the powers of evil and death…
The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb is an author of rare skill and imagination and the books (13 and counting) that make up her Elderlings series are amongst the best the genre has to offer. She writes beautifully and her characters are so real you can almost touch them. It is glorious classic fantasy combining the magic of Ursula Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea with the epic Mastery of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship. But when Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life; weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving people soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much risk to himself as it does to his target: for Fitz is a threat to the throne, but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.
The Farseer Trilogy
The Liveship Traders
The Tawny Man
Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out – and Empress Lasseen’s ambition knows no bounds. However, it seems the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces gather as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…
Steven Erikson has no peer when it comes to action and imagination and A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen has established itself as the most significant work of epic fantasy since Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Erikson is the master of lost and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics drawing upon fantasy to recreate histories and legends as rich as any found within our culture.
The Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood
Duncton Wood is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. This book is about moles and unlike anything you have ever read before. The animal kingdom is savage and survival of the fittest is a fact of life (or death). This is a book for adults and is at times as dark as it is uplifting. The book was first published in 1980 and has since become a best-selling novel. A story of courage, loyalty and the power of love… inspired by the shadows and light of England’s most beautiful countryside.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever are a series of fantasy novels with tremendous scope and a psychological depth never before attempted. Written by Stephen R. Donaldson the Chronicles reveal the existence of another Earth, and recount the otherworldly adventures and struggles of a human from our Earth, Thomas Covenant.
First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
- The Wounded Land
- The One Tree
- White Gold Wielder
Third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
George R R Martin’s glorious high fantasy tells the tragic story of treachery, greed and war that threatens the unity of the Seven Kingdoms south of the Wall. Martin unfolds with astonishing skill a tale of truly epic dimensions, thronged with memorable characters, a story of treachery and ambition, love and magic. Set in a fabulous world scarred by battle and catastrophe over 8000 years of recorded history, it tells of the deeds of men and women locked in the deadliest of conflicts and the terrible legacy they will leave their children. In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. And in the bitter-cold, unliving lands beyond the Wall, a terrible winter gathers and the others – the undead, the neverborn, wildlings to whom the threat of the sword is nothing – make ready to descend on the realms of men. Fantasy literature has never shied away from grandeur, but the sheer mind-boggling scope of this epic has sent other fantasy writers away shaking their heads… Its ambition: to construct the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction, with characters so venomous they could eat the Borgias.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
The Spook’s Series by Joseph Delaney
‘Someone has to stand against the dark. And you’re the only one who can.’ For years, the local Spook has been keeping the County safe from evil. Now his time is coming to an end, but who will take over? Many apprentices have tried… Some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive. Just one boy is left. Thomas Ward. He is the last hope. But does he stand a chance against Mother Malkin, the most dangerous witch in the County?
The Mythago Cycle by Robert Holdstock
Deep within the wildwood lies a place of myth and mystery, from which few return, and none remain unchanged. Ryhope Wood may look like a three-mile-square fenced-in wood in rural Herefordshire on the outside, but inside, it is a primeval, intricate labyrinth of trees, impossibly huge, unforgettable . . . and stronger than time itself. Stephen Huxley has already lost his father to the mysteries of Ryhope Wood. On his return from the Second World War, he finds his brother, Christopher, is also in thrall to the mysterious wood, wherein lies a realm where mythic archetypes grow flesh and blood, where love and beauty haunt your dreams, and in promises of freedom lies the sanctuary of insanity…
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Harry is the best at what he does – and not just because he’s the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they look to him for answers. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting. Magic – it can get a guy killed.
Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde
There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of a new crime wave’s Mr Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing. Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you , and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.
The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Quint, son of sky pirate captain, and new apprentice to Linius Pallitax, the Most High Academe, has been set some highly important tasks. Just how important, Quint is about to find out as he and Linius’s only daughter, Maris, are plunged into a terrifying adventure that takes them deep within the rock upon which Sanctaphrax is built. Here, they unwittingly invoke an ancient curse – the curse of the gloamglozer…
The Quint Sequence
- Curse of the Gloamglozer
- The Winter Knights
- Clash of the Sky Galleons
The Twig Sequence
The Rook Sequence
- Last of the Sky Pirates
Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more…
- The Black Company – Books of the North
- Shadows Linger – Books of the North
- The White Rose – Books of the North
- Shadow Games – Books of the South
- Dreams of Steel – Books of the South
- Bleak Seasons – Books of the Glittering Stone
- She Is The Darkness – Books of the Glittering Stone
- Water Sleeps – Books of the Glittering Stone
- Soldiers Live – Books of the Glittering Stone
Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Life in Emond’s Field has been pretty boring for Rand Al’Thor and his friends until a strange young woman arrives in their village. Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magician with the ability to wield the One Power, and she brings warnings of a terrible evil awakening in the world. That very night, the village is attacked by bloodthirsty Trollocs – a fearsome tribe of beast-men thought to be no more than myth. As Emond’s Field burns, Moraine and her warrior-guardian help Rand and his companions to escape. But it is only the beginning of their troubles. For Moraine believes Rand Al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn, and that he is fated to unite the world against the rising darkness and lead the fight against a being so powerful and evil it is known simply as the Dark One.
- The Eye of the World (1990)
- The Great Hunt (1990)
- The Dragon Reborn (1991)
- The Shadow Rising (1992)
- The Fires of Heaven (1993)
- Lord of Chaos (1994)
- A Crown of Swords (1996)
- The Path of Daggers (1998)
- Winter’s Heart (2000)
- Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
- Knife of Dreams (2005)
- The Gathering Storm (2009)
- Towers of Midnight (2010)
- A Memory of Light (2013)
Riftwar Saga by Raymond E Feist
At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician – and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever. Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders swarm the land. Pug is swept up into the conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an odyssey into the unknown has only just begun. Tomas will inherit a legacy of savage power from an ancient civilization. Pug’s destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic.
The Rigante Novels by David Gemmell
Fierce and proud, the Rigante dwell deep in the green mountain lands, worshiping the gods of air and water, and the spirits of the earth. Among them lives a warrior who bears the mark of fate. Born of the storm that slew his father, he is Connavar, and tales of his courage spread like wildfire. The Seidh – a magical race as old as time – take note of the young warrior and cast a malignant shadow across his life. For soon a merciless army will cross the water, destroying forever the timeless rhythms of life among the Rigante. Swearing to protect his people, Connavar embarks on a quest that will take him into the heart of the enemy. Along the way, he receives a gift: a sword as powerful and deadly as the Seidh who forged it. Thus he receives a name that will strike fear into the hearts of friend and foe alike – a name proclaiming a glorious and bitter destiny… Demonblade.
Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind decided, meant idiot. Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. It plays by different rules. Certainly it refuses to succumb to the quaint notion that universes are ruled by pure logic and the harmony of numbers. But just because the Disc is different doesn’t mean that some things don’t stay the same. Its very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the arrival of the first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. But if the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death is a spectacularly inept wizard, a little logic might turn out to be a very good idea…
- The Colour of Magic
- The Light Fantastic
- Wyrd Sisters
- Guards! Guards!
- Moving Pictures
- Reaper Man
The above are just the first ten books in the Discworld series, click here for the complete list.
Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody
In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. But for Elspeth Gordie, born with enhanced mental abilities, it is also dangerous. Survival is only by secrecy and so she determines never to use her forbidden powers. But it is as if they have their own imperative and she is brought to the attention of the totalitarian Council that rules the Land. Banished to the remote mountain institution of Obernewtyn, she must throw off her cloak of concealment and pit herself against those that would resurrect the terrible forces of the apocalypse. Only then will she learn most truly who and what she is …Elspeth is determined to uncover the plot and so, accompanied only by her cat, Maruman, embarks on a terrible adventure full of danger, the conclusion to which promises not just uncertainty about her safety but also that of many around her.
A Tale of Einarinn by Juliet E McKenna
In Einarinn, the secret of magic is known only by an elite few. They live in deliberate isolation, under the watchful eye of the Archmage. But nothing last for ever. Livak is a part-time thief and a full-time gambler, long accustomed to living by her wits and narrowly avoiding serious trouble. When she attempts to sell a stolen antique to a passing merchant, she finds herself pulled into a new and dangerous world of political intrigue in which the stakes are higher than anyone involved can imagine. For the antique she has acquired dates from a particular period in the history of Einarrin about which little is known, but much has been speculated. And when the truth begins to emerge, Livak decides to take the greatest gamble of her life.
The Deverry Cycle by Katherine Kerr
the celebrated Deverry series, an epic fantasy rooted in Celtic mythology that intricately interweaves human and elven history over several hundred years.
The Drenai Novels by David Gemmell
The Legend. Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering on the clouds. There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death. The Fortress. Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai empire. And now it was the last battleground, for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes. And hope rested on the skills of that one old man…