Top 100 fantasy books: #1 - #10

The Fantasy Book Review top 100 fantasy books. Let us begin with the top 10 fantasy books (in our opinion). Are they the best fantasy books? Great fantasy books? Or just good fantasy books? Why not let us know?

1 The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth still it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. On his eleventy-first birthday, Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin, Frodo, the Ruling Ring, and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the wizard, Merry, Pippin and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider...

There's no salvation for a fantasy fan who hasn't read the gospel of the genre. The influence of The Lord of the Rings is so universal that everybody from George Lucas to Led Zeppelin has appropriated it for one purpose or another. Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it's the product of a truly top-shelf mind. Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth's Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance. Tolkien carefully details this transition with tremendous skill and love, creating in The Lord of the Rings a universal and all-embracing tale, a justly celebrated classic.

"Amongst the greatest works of imaginative fiction of the twentieth century." Sunday Telegraph

"It is hard to put into words the happiness that can be felt when reading a fantasy book as good as this and anybody who has never read it should set aside some time to do so." Fantasy Book Review

2 A Tale of the 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 kind of epic narrative that will have you scrambling for more. Steve Erikson afflicts me with awe... his work does something that only the rarest of books can manage: it alters the reader's perceptions of reality" Stephen R. Donaldson

"The Malazan series is a towering achievement: Brave, ambitious and skilfully executed." Fantasy Book Review

3 The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself - and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind's past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

"The Way of Kings is epic in every sense. Sanderson has built a world that leaps to life, a cast of varied characters and a vast history that slowly unfolds. While Sanderson cuts from the familiar cloth of fantasy, his narrative impetus and meticulous world building bode well for future volumes." The Guardian

"It is, in every sense of the word, an epic beginning to what I can only guess (and hope) will be an epic story told over, apparently, ten books with the second one nowhere near being published. In essence, Sanderson has just begun the next Wheel of Time-like series." Fantasy Book Review

4 The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain River Traders when only a liveship, fashioned from wizardwood, can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? A liveship is a difficult ship to come by. Rare and valuable, it will quicken only when three family members, from succesive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening, as Althea Vestrit's father is carried to her deck in his death-throes. Althea waits with awe and anticipation for the ship that she loves more than anything in the world to awaken. Only to find that her family has other plans for her... And dark, charming Kennit, aspiring pirate king, also lusts after such a ship: he well knows the power of wizardwood, and has plans of his own...

"Hobb is one of the great modern fantasy writers! what makes her novels as addictive as morphine is not just their imaginative brilliance but the way her characters are compromised and manipulated by politics." The Times

"The Liveship Traders trilogy has it all - intricate plot, realistic characters and a sense of magic." Fantasy Book Review

5 Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin

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 …

Ursula Le Guin's creation, Earthsea - an ancient world of wizards, magic, darkness and light, and an ever-shifting balance of power - is an acknowledged masterpiece.

"One of the major works of fantasy in this century." Observer

"Stunning, thought-provoking fantasy." Fantasy Book Review

DID YOU KNOW?

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien has sold approximately 150 million copies. This places it second only to A Tale of Two Cities (approximately 200 million) in the list of best-selling single-volume books. The Hobbit (1937) has sold approximately 100 million copies.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling has sold approximately 107 million copies since its publication in 1997.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) is the best-selling of all the Narnia Chronicles with sales of approximately 85 million copies.

Watership Down by Richard Adams, Charlotte's Web by E. H. White and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling have each sold approximately 50 million copies.

6 The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me'"So begins the tale of Kvothe - currently known as Kote, the unassuming innkeeper - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, through his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.

"The Name of the Wind, Day One of the Kingkiller Chronicles, quickly made its way into my top fantasy series list. The book, which is essentially an autobiography of a once famous now reclusive musician, arcanist and adventurer named Kvothe, is revolutionary - to my eyes at least - in its storytelling method. Autobiographical for the most part, it starts, finishes, and occasionally reverts to a narrative telling of the interview from whence the autobiographical information springs." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

7 Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy trilogy overturns the expectations of readers and then goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world. A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy - the magic that lies in all metals. A word of mouth success in the states the Mistborn trilogy has, this year, broken onto the New York Times Bestseller list.

"If you want to read one of the best fantasy books published in the last decade, then this definitely has to go at the top of your list. With two books you can read immediately after, characters that jump off the page, and a story that continues beyond this book but still leaving you fully satiated, Mistborn: The Final Empire is a must have for any reader of good fantasy." Fantasy Book Review

8 The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

First published in 1937, The Hobbit is one of the few real classics of English children's literature. A story to stand beside Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down. And while the book recently voted the most popular of the 20th Century might need no introduction, The Hobbit nevertheless is one to The Lord of the Rings, for that novel is the epic sequel to this, smaller, simpler, but no less enjoyable tale. Here are the first steps where "roads go ever ever on", until one day we come to journey's end, changed forever by JRR Tolkien's enchanted way with words. Really, every child, of every age, should own one.

"A flawless masterpiece ... One of the most influential books of our generation." The Times

"The Hobbit is quite simply a must read, a real delight." Fantasy Book Review

9 Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant King Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful land cannot be spoken or remembered.

But not everyone has forgotten. A handful of men and women, driven by love, hope and pride, set in motion the dangerous quest for freedom and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana.

"Tigana is so perfect I don’t think I could bear it if Kay wrote a sequel" Interzone

"I was 19 and fresh out of Fionavar when I snatched this book off the shelf. I was totally swept away by the grand scope of the adventure that the young singer Devin d’Asoli found himself in. How could any young person not become the character themselves to live the life of adventure?" Fantasy Book Review

10 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

"An elegant and witty historical fantasy which deserves to be judged on its own (considerable) merit." Sunday Telegraph

"A genuinely original story, beautifully told." Fantasy Book Review

Your comments

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Daniel from UK

I agree with most of the titles on here. If I could make a suggestion it would be to add The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and to move some of the very best David Gemmell up into the top 10.

Keanu from England

I like The Hobbit. I've nearly finished. Try it. It's good :)

Veresa from Nigeria

Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author. The Stormlight Archives and Mistborn series are amazing!

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Rating books is by nature highly subjective. So we would love to know what you, the reader, feels about the books listed in our top 100. Which titles you agree with? Which titles do you disagree with? Which titles do you think should be on this list but are not? Please let us know by submitting a comment below, you will be helping us to further improve this top 100 as all quality comments will impact on where where books place.

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DID YOU KNOW?

In April 2003 the BBC's Big Read began the search for the UK's best-loved novel. The Lord of the Rings topped the poll and numerous other genre title listings show just how loved fantasy and science-fiction is in the UK.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
53. The Stand, Stephen King
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho