The Best Fantasy Book Series

The Mythago Cycle by Robert Holdstock

Mythago Wood illustration. Image © John Howe
The Mythago Cycle: Mythago Wood, Lavondyss, The Bone Forest, The Hollowing, Merlin’s Wood, Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn and Avilion

For all its savagery, you are hoping that there is, somewhere in this world, a wood like this in existence. Mythago Wood is a fantasy masterpiece.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Dresden Files illustration by Javier Charro. Image © Javier Charro
The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, Turn Coat, Changes, Ghost Story, Cold Days, Skin Game, Peace Talks and Battle Ground

Great characters, a mystery that twists and turns like a corkscrew and above all, Harry, a wizard with a world weary sense of humour, who takes life on the chin.

Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde

A great combination of humour thriller, science-fiction, detective and fantasy,. In my opinion this book really takes the fantasy fiction genre further. I know I am going to repeat myself but this series is how Thursday would have said it: “mad as pants”. It combines some great elements that truly make this book comes to life in more than one dimension. Combining funny and witty dialogues but also numerous literary ideas with the bookworms and names of several of the characters make this a terrific read and should be compulsory for everyone.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower boasts some of the best characters in fantasy and the first instalment introduces to us the obsessive and lonely gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, and the innocent yet world-weary Jake of New York. And as we read they form a tender and loving relationship that is pivotal to all that follows. From the beginnings in the desert and through events and flashbacks we then visit the doomed town of Tull, visit Gilead, see the New York of Jake’s when and finally travel through the mountains to the moment when Roland faces the most difficult decision of his life. King’s magnum opus is a towering achievement.

The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

An illustration of The Banderbear from The Edge Chronicles. Image © Chris Riddell
The Edge Chronicles: Curse of the Gloamglozer, The Winter Knights, Clash of the Sky Galleons, Beyond the Deepwoods, Stormchaser, Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, Last of the Sky Pirates, Vox, Freeglader and The Immortals

Stylishly creepy; at turns gorgeous, humorous, horrifying and awe-inspiring.

“Stunningly original” The Guardian

Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook

The Black Company cover art. Image © Raymond Swanland
Chronicles of the Black Company: The Black Company, Shadows Linger, The White Rose, Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, Bleak Seasons, She Is The Darkness, Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live

There are no larger than life characters to be found in The Black Company, all contain frailties and failings that are found in all humans. This book is beautifully amoral and contains no two-dimensional characters. As I’ve already mentioned, The Black Company is a wonderfully amoral book, often dark and containing violent battles and fantastic characters. Glen Cook changed the face of the fantasy genre forever – and for the better.

Riftwar Saga by Raymond E Feist

Artwork for Magician Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist. Image © Don Maitz
The Riftwar Saga: Magician, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon, Prince of the Blood and The Kings Buccaneer

If you gain any enjoyment whatsoever from reading fantasy then this is a series that you simply cannot afford not to read. Understandably, this is one of the highest regarded fantasy series of all time.

The Rigante Novels by David Gemmell

John Howe's artwork for Sword In The Storm by David Gemmell. Image © John Howe
The Rigante Novels: Sword In The Storm, Midnight Falcon, Ravenheart and Stormrider

A book by David Gemmell is about morally grey heroes, who fight for what they believe in, and regularly get kicked in the nuts by fate. A tavern brawler who selflessly stands up when faced with injustice. A drunkard that, without a moment of hesitation, sacrifices his life in favour of an innocent family. A burly woodcutter that travels to all corners of the world to rescue his captured crush. A pacifistic priest forced to slay numerous enemies. These tales tell of honour and glory, duty and loyalty, courage and resolve, all coated in a wonderful blend of action, black humour and suspense.

Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Artwork from The Colour of Magic. Image © Josh Kirby
Discworld: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rights, Mort, Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters, Pyramids, Guards! Guards!, Faust Eric, Moving Pictures, Reaper Man and 31 more

Be careful! Once you have read and enjoyed one Discworld novel you may find yourself making your way through the whole series of 41 books.

Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody

Cover illustration for The Stone Key (Obernewtyn Chronicles). Image © Cathy Larsen
Obernewtyn: Obernewtyn, The Farseekers, Ashling, The Keeping Place, Wavesong, The Stone Key, The Sending and The Red Queen

When you put your mind to considering some of the greatest writers of the English language, it is a source of continuing pity that Isobelle Carmody’s name is not up there along with some of the greats like Tolkien, Lewis and Hemingway. Though some of her work has been criticized, writing science fiction, fantasy, children’s and young adult literature, Carmody is probably most well known and praised for her work on the Obernewtyn Chronicles.

216 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy Book Series”

  1. Some of what you mentioned are among my favorites, but for the best of the best these days my advice goes to Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson (everything they have written that I have read is absolutely fabulous.
    And of course I would mention you probably know who, but waiting 10 years for the last book of a trilogy… can’t recommend that to anyone!

  2. I’m just very curious as to why the Deryni historical fantasy novels by Kathrine Kurtz aren’t listed here and strangely are not even mentioned at all in the comments section below the list? I find that extremely interesting. Those books are well-written and certainly worth the read and it is hard to imagine serious fantasy lovers not being familiar with them. Did I miss something?

  3. Hail and well met!

    This is such a stunning and complete collection of the best and most timeless fantasy fiction I’ve ever seen! Some of these I’ve read, like the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever back in my mid-teens, even buying and reading the Second Chronicles, and buying and TBRing the third trilogy. The Hobbit, The LotR trilogy and after conveniently reading a book on Gnosticism, finding a first edition of The Silmarillion and enjoying its cosmology, as many of the Discworld novels as I could possibly lay hands on (an acquired taste, but oh, when it acquires you!), Earthsea, Narnia of my childhood and so many more!

    Finding a place full of so much lore, it dawned on me it is where I should ask if anybody knows the name of the author and the title of a particular story that came back to me today while reading, of all things, Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and reaching a point where calling cards are mentioned as being left for people of the house to know who had come by while they were out or not receiving visitors.

    I remembered that there was a whole galaxy of inferences to be made by visitors when they’d see other caller’s cards in the tray: someone wrote a fantasy version of that in which, I think, people lived in a castle and used rings as calling cards. They’d give them to other people and if accepted a bond of subjection and power was formed. By seeing whose rings people wore you’d know whose patronage and favour they enjoyed. When visting they’d put their ring on the tray, the servant would take it in and I can’t remember the rest, whether the ring returned or was kept.
    Does this ring any bells with anybody? Who wrote this? Was it a short story in some collection or part of something more far-reaching? I’d greatly appreciate it if there were an aha! Thanking you in advance!

  4. This is a great list of appealing titles and a great ride throughout fantasy. I enjoy the reading and the list that you provide on this site. Quite a great work! Nevertheless, there is one book that I have accidentally found while scavenging for fantasy and I find it hard that it appears nowhere on good reviewers site. I am not trying to sell anything here since we all have our own POV. But I believe that this one deserves some attention. Try this book and you’ll thank me in the future. Tales of a Phoenix: Odyssey to the Underverse. By a certain C. G. Blackstone. First time I ever heard of him. Anyway, I have enjoyed his story.

  5. Wars of Light & Shadow series by Janny Wurts – such an amazingly gifted author who has co-written the Empire Trilogy with Raymond Feist; once familiar with her writing style you see much of her influence in the collaboration – it’s a mystery why she just doesn’t get the airtime that her writing truly deserves!
    First introduced to her writing in The Cycle of Fire trilogy – Stormwarden / Keeper of the Keys / Shadowfane which hooked me for anything she produced in future; check out her standalone book To Ride Hell’s Chasm for those wary of multi-book series.
    I’ve followed Janny over 20 plus years and delighted that the final volume is well into development for Wars of Light & Shadow:
    1. Curse of the Mistwraith
    2. Ships of Merior
    3. Warhost of Vastmark
    4. Fugitive Prince
    5. Grand Conspiracy
    6. Peril’s Gate
    7. Traitor’s Knot
    8. Stormed Fortress
    9. Initiate’s Trial
    10. Destiny’s Conflict
    11. Song of the Mysteries (Not Yet Published) – check out her website for ongoing updates

  6. That’s an interesting point on Piers Antony but I have to admit I’ve read all the series you’ve mentioned as well as a few others (Adept series, battle circle, mars tyrant ) and never noticed any pedophile content. Probably over 40 years since I read them so might not be remembering But my recollection was that there was very nothing sexual across age groups. Just some same age teenager fumbling. When you consider the explicit nature of current young adult fiction they seem rather innocent. Plus unlike modern YA fiction most of their main characters get to the end of the series intact without being killed off or suffering psychological damage 🙂
    The mars tyrant had some sibling sex but in the context a lot less distressing than the key rape scene that kicks off Thomas Covenants adventures.
    I think it is fair to say that Fantasy contains far more sex and violence than other genres, but I don’t think the authors are like that, or that Anthony is any worse than the others. I doubt there is a single book in the whole list that doesn’t contain something profoundly inappropriate. Excepting perhaps Tolkien and C S Lewis.

  7. I’d add Zelazny – both lord of
    Light and princes in Amber series are phenoms

    Amazed at the lack of due Tolkien gets nowadays. the silmarillion is the finest elegance world building i’ve read

    What I do find interesting is the large support for Robert Jordan and the potter novels. Great imagination but some of the worst writing I’ve ever encountered from supposed professionals. I can’t finish either due to the headache they both give me. Goodkind similarly.

    Martin is Jordan who can actually write.

    I’d namecheck Tanith Lee as a wonderful spinner of yarns

    Michael moorcock’s various series are simply before their time.

    And finally – where TF is Jack Vance in all these lists – I speak extemporaneously ofc. If you haven’t read vance’s Fantasy novels and short stories you simply have not read fantasy.

    Appalling that pulp like Harry Potter sells millions while real savants like Vance and moorcock seem somewhat underappreciated.

  8. I’m SO glad you didn’t recommend Piers Anthony. I used to be into his books, creepy as they were, but got turned off by his switch from subtly pedophilic in his first 8-9 Xanth books to his full on pedophilia apologist in the Incarnations of Immortality series and later Xanth books. It just feels like he was trying to groom young readers into being accepting of inappropriate sexual advances by predatory adults. (I stopped reading Marion Zimmer Bradley after it came out about her sexual abuse of her daughter, because there are some scenes in her Mists of Avalon and Firebrand that are pretty uncomfortably graphic).

    Although I disagree with his political, social, and religious beliefs, I would recommend Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming Saga (i.e., the Book of Mormon in a Futuristic Earth / Alt-Planet), and Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

  9. Thank you for your excellent comment Tim, it’s not just a “where the hell is …” rant but a helpful and thoughtful examination of titles we likely have not yet read. It’s perfect, not just for those of us who run the site, but more importantly for those looking to read the very best the fantasy genre has to offer. I would like to wish you many more years happy reading!

  10. I am 61 and have been reading fantasy since I was introduced to LOTR and Titus Groan 50 odd years ago. I therefore feel entitled to mention a few titles your list has overlooked, and other posts have not said much about. I could list 100 but will settle for 10 classics. But first let me say I greatly appreciate these lists as it’s great to have new series to discover.
    1. Malcolm Moorcock Dancers at the end of Time. Hilarious and wonderful.
    2. Tim Powers The Anubis Gates. I also enjoyed The Stress of Her Regard, but after that I found him a bit repetitive.
    3. Mccaffrey Crystal Singer series. Also the dragons of Pern series.
    4. Julian May Saga of the exiles and its sequel
    5. McAvoy Tea with the black dragon. Might be a bit dated now though.
    6. Jean m Auel clan of the cave bear series. More fantasy than prehistory.
    7. Alan dean foster spellsinger
    8. Piers Anthony Xanth novels plus lots of others.
    9. Gordon Dickson dragon and the George series
    10. Jessica day George Tuesdays at the castle etc. Much younger audience.

  11. So many I’ve never heard of. I’m considering trying some of these out. I cannot predict how much I will enjoy some of these since enjoyment is mostly opinion based on life experience and relating between the characters. Anyhow, I am excited to start listening to one of these series using audible. I really appreciate you cataloging all these stories. At this point its not really much of a top best as much as it is an informer that the stories listed exist. Fantastic job in creating this.

  12. Enjoyed the list, thank you. Still some I need to get around to reading.
    I have a new suggestion: Robert J Marsters The Karrak Trilogy, The Ascension of Karrak, The Bane of Karrak and The Cessation of Karrak. Good fast paced storytelling.

  13. Thank you for this list. I have read many of the series on your list and noticed they are left off of most “main stream” list . It was refreshing to find a fantasy book review that mirrors my own opinion of some of these great “forgotten” series. I book marked your page and will definitely use it for my future reading list. Thank You!!!

  14. Way to go, I think all of my favorites are in there, though I am still searching for The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien in the list in vain.
    A new author that could go all the way is Renata Cattleya Levy, whose work I read only recently. Of course, she is a new author and debuted with her first book ‘The Black Shade of White – Justice’ (as far as I know) late in 2019. This book was a great read and I am recommending it to people everywhere who love cross-genre books.

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