The Best Fantasy Book Series

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun artwork. Image © Alex Preuss
The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, Sword & Citadel, The Sword of Lictor, The Citadel of Autarch, The Urth of the New Sun and Shadow & Claw

The Book of the New Sun is a science fantasy classic that improves with every read. Too often overlooked, possibly due to being dense in allegory and symbolism, the joy of coming to understand Wolfe’s craft is part of the joy of reading it. The lead character Severan, is an unreliable narrator, and this adds another layer of complexity. If you’re a fan of both science fiction and fantasy, it is a must-read.

A Tale of Einarinn by Juliet E McKenna

This is a series which looks at a whole range of different cultures and how they interact with one another, and how a relatively normal girl who was making a living on the outskirts of society managed to land in extraordinary circumstances. If you’re looking for a great fantasy series to get into, give this a go.

The Drenai Novels by David Gemmell

The Drenai Novels: Legend, The King Beyond the Gate, Waylander, Quest for Lost Heroes, Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf, The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, The Legend of Deathwalker, Winter Warriors, Hero in the Shadows, White Wolf and The Swords of Night and Day

David Gemmell is a master of heroic fantasy. Gemmell’s characters are always struggling with their inner demons: past mistakes, hubris, greed, you name it. Yet in spite of these ‘flaws’ the protagonists fight for what they think is right. Or just because they like fighting… The worlds Gemmell creates are dark, cruel and full of danger.

The Ravens Series by James Barclay

Book covers from The Ravens series, by James Barclay
The Ravens Series: Dawnthief, Noonshade, Nightchild, Elfsorrow, Shadowheart, Demonstorm and Ravensoul

Every now and again you come across an author who manages to write unlike any other. Known as action fantasy The Ravens series features a realistic depiction of everything from full scale battles to one on one swordfights. Barclay is a masterful storyteller, and a genius penning a battle and mercenaries.

Green Rider Series by Kristen Britain

The Green Riders series book covers
Green Rider series: Green Rider, First Rider’s Call, The High King’s Tomb, Blackveil, Mirror Sight and Firebrand

Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, her simple promise to deliver a letter is about to become a race against time… and a race for her life…

Captivating, intelligent, and excellently wrought in the telling, the Green Rider series is at magical and realistic, yet deceptively simple. An amazing story that doesn’t slacken at all, Kristen Britain writes so beautifully you’ll never want to put her books down. Top notch heroic fantasy.

Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

The Sword of Truth series book images
Sword of Truth: The First Confessor: The Legend of Magda Searus, Debt of Bones, Wizard’s First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen, The Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire, Chainfire, Phantom, Confessor, The Omen Machine, The Third Kingdom, Severed Souls and The Law of Nines

Goodkind’s characterization is exceptional, his plot lines keep moving at a steady plod, galloping at the right times to draw the reader into a frisson of excitement. Goodkind again elevates Richard Rahl beyond the normal, emphasizing that the inevitable change that sweeps behind this war wizard can also be achieved by simple calm and goodness. As good as Jordan, and grandiose as Eddings, the Sword of Truth is a fine example of a fantasy author at the peak of his literary powers.

The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix

The Keys to the Kingdom book covers
The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday

Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues – and seven sins. The moment Arthur meets sinister Mister Monday, the world turns inside out. The next seven days will bring seven fearful challenges – and a billion grisly ways to die. As his world is attacked by a plague of hellish creatures, Arthur retreats into a mysterious house , a house that only he can see. Inside, unlikely hero Arthur must unravel the secrets of the Seven Keys, battling monsters and treacherous Denizens in a bid to save his world…

Fallen Blade Novels by Kelly McCullough

Once a fabled Blade of Namara, Aral Kingslayer fought for justice and his goddess alongside his familiar, a living shadow called Triss. Now with their goddess murdered and her temple destroyed, they are among the last of their kind. Surviving on the fringes of society, Aral becomes a drunken, broken and wanted man, working whatever shadowy deal comes his way. Until a mysterious woman hires him to deliver a secret message – one than can either redeem or doom him.

  • Broken Blade
  • Bared Blade
  • Crossed Blades
  • Blade Reforged

Read sample / Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Read sample / Buy on Amazon.com

The Belgariad by David Eddings

A battle is coming… And in that battle shall be decided the fate of the world. Myths tell of the ancient wars of Gods and men, and a powerful object – the Orb – that ended the bloodshed. As long as it was held by the line of Riva, it would assure the peace. But a dark force has stolen the Orb, and the prophecies tell of war. Young farm boy Garion knows nothing of myth or fate. But then the mysterious Old Storyteller visits his aunt, and they embark on a sudden journey. Pursued by evil forces, with only a small band of companions they can trust, Garion begins to doubt all he thought he knew…

  • Pawn of Prophecy
  • Queen of Sorcery
  • Magician’s Gambit
  • Castle of Wizardry
  • Enchanters’ End Game

Read sample / Buy on Amazon.co.uk
Read sample / Buy on Amazon.com

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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