100 recommended fantasy books / series: #1 - #10

Fantasy Book Review's list of 100 fantasy books / series you simply must read!

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
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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

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
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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

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
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For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo - aide to the true heir to the throne - arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself... and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

"The Raven Tower is a magisterial tour de force of subverted narrative expectations that wrestles with what it means to find identity as a human, and as a god. Unlike anything being written, Ann Leckie will likely be remembered as a literary pioneer, and not as similar to someone else. A masterpiece of storytelling that leaves a willing reader humbled, The Raven Tower is quite simply the best book of the year – mighty, subtle, captivating, unputdownable."

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
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The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
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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

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.

The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb
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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

Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin
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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

The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
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"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

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
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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

Red Queen's War by Mark Lawrence
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The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth getting back out alive and with Loki's Key is all that matters. Loki's creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jal's fortune back in the living world. Jal plans to return to the three Ws that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other, larger, plans... The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster and it will crack the world unless it's stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there's nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jal and Snorri face many dangers - from the corpse-hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue; but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim will exert its power. In the end it's win or die.

"These books have everything - magic and sci-fi, humour and horror, truths and lies, and then some more lies. There is no unnecessary obfuscation of secrets within secrets behind secrets - the Red Queen's war is a rather transparent war that creates drama by putting characters in situations with many viable solutions, and not knowing which one the characters are going to pick. This trilogy is essential reading for all fantasy readers."

Top 100 fantasy books: 1 - 10 | 11 - 20 | 21 - 30 | 31 - 40 | 41 -50 | 51 - 60 | 61 - 70 | 71 - 80 | 81 - 90 | 91 - 100

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