The Best Fantasy Book Series

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 by Robin Hobb. These are the best fantasy book series that you simply must read. We have listed our recommendations below and we have also listened to the many suggestions made – hence the large 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.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions please leave a comment below.

A Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

Arguably the best fantasy series ever written. This is of course subject to personal opinion and fans of Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire and Robin Hobb’s trilogy of trilogies (Farseer, Liveship and Tawny Man) are quite able to put a very strong case forward for their favoured works but few can deny that the quality and ambition of the ten books that make up A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen are unmatched within the genre.

“Erikson is an extraordinary writer… my advice to anyone who might listen to me is: treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon.” Stephen R. Donaldson

“I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of the imagination may be the high watermark of epic fantasy.” Glen Cook

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

Ned Stark’s execution. Image © Magali Villeneuve
A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring

George R. R. Martin is a wonderful writer and his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire is so popular because it is excellent. This not a finished series, only five of the seven books have seen the light of day so far (but those who have watched the HBO series will have a good idea of what is coming next). Inspired by The War of the Roses, the English civil war of the fifteenth century the series features wonderful storytelling, a massive cast of characters that demand your attention and a narrative that shows that all humans of capable of being both cruel yet kind, intelligent yet foolish, brave yet cowardly. My advice to someone who has yet to read this series is this: Forget the hype, try to forget the HBO series – read A Game of Thrones on its own merit and I hope you revel in the experience. It’s rather good you know.

“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 Guardian

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn artwork (Wheel of Time). Image © Darrell K. Sweet
The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light

A saga filled with unforgettable characters and a world steeped in rich history and legend. If you truly love the fantasy genre, passing up a chance to read The Wheel of Time would be an unbelievable mistake.

“With the Wheel of Time, Jordan has come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal” New York Times

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Is all the hype about the Harry Potter books justified? In a word, yes, the books are a joy to read and possibly the most rewarding young adult’s book since The Hobbit. Hogwarts is a truly magical place, not only in the most obvious way but also in all the detail that the author has gone to describe it so vibrantly. It is the place that everybody wishes they could of gone to when they where eleven. This book is highly recommended to anybody between the ages of 8 and 80.

“One of the greatest literary adventures of modern times” Sunday Telegraph

The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Saga fantasy series) illustration by David Lupton. Image © David Lupton
The Earthsea Cycle: The Earthsea Quartet: (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu), The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea

Ursula Le Guin has a reputation for exploring psychological and sociological themes within her books and this collection is no different. These novels can be read by children and enjoyed from the perspective of magic, wizards, adventure and the beautifully imagined world of Earthsea. They can also be appreciated by adults for the thought-provoking elements that the book conjures. This is a collection that makes you think and leaves you thinking. 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

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 among the best the genre has to offer. She writes beautifully and her characters are so real you can almost touch them.

“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 Duncton Chronicles by William Horwood

Duncton Wood cover art. Image © John Barber
The Duncton Chronicles: Duncton Wood, Duncton Quest, Duncton Found, Duncton Tales, Duncton Rising and Duncton Stone

Duncton Wood is a truly breathtaking and enchanting read that reminds us how savage yet full of love the animal kingdom truly is. It is unfortunate that these works 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 is a book for adults and is at times as dark as it is uplifting, 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.

“A breathtaking achievement” Washington Post

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library is a world I want to write in. I want the opportunity to play in this sandbox, to visit the Library and meet someone new, and to take them on adventures through this intricate and magical world of alternate Earths and mysterious interdimensional libraries. If you like you worlds colourful but dark, fantastical and adventurous, this is the book for you. Speak the name of the Library in the Language and the door will open. Step through at your own risk.

The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever are a series of fantasy novels with tremendous scope and a psychological depth that had never before been attempted. They are very complex pieces of work but at heart you’ll find a good old-fashioned tale of epic fantasy. The series can not be read without the reader’s constant concentration, it is adult fantasy fiction and the casual fantasy reader may need a period of time in which to become accustomed to this – there are no lovable hobbits to ease you into the story, here you have a man that has lost everything, a man who is angry, bitter, an outcast from the life and the world he knew. But the effort spent in reading this series is rewarded ten-times over and I recommend that every fantasy fan read this seminal work.

The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney

You could say that if Ursula Le Guin and The Sixth Sense merged then the outcome may be as good as The Spook’s Apprentice. I would heavily recommend The Spook’s Apprentice to young adults looking for a fantastic series. Chilling, memorable, full of wonderful characters and written in a fluid style that makes the narrative accessible to all ages.

216 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy Book Series”

  1. I like this ideas for reading. I do think it would be interesting to round out the list with Jack Forsithe’s books, Head in the Cloud and Heart in the Cloud. They bring fantasy and reality together in way that is compelling. At least I thought so.

  2. Great feedback. I do love Jack Forsithe. It is fantasy, but well blended with today. Has all the important elements, love, lust, karma, and offbeat humour.

  3. I enjoyed the sword of truth series until I read Faith of the Fallen. It tried to paint charity, compassion and mercy as evil. Not Goodkind by nature!

  4. Mike B,

    The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb is listed above and includes the Tawny Man, Farseer, Liveship Traders and Fitz & the Fool trilogies.

    Your disappointment is misplaced as I would assume are the examples of other missing series you could easily have included. But didn’t.

    Please go and be disappointed somewhere else, I’m sure you’ll find faults everywhere if you look hard enough.

    Have fun being cantankerous.

  5. A little disappointed that Robin Hobb’s numerous series of Fitz, The Fool, Liveships, Rainwilds etc are not here anywhere. But to be fair, there are others missing I could easily include.

  6. I agree with these comments, and have also heard of some books I didn’t know about so that’s always a plus! Currently I am reading Sara Pascoe’s book Being A Witch and Other Things I Didn’t Ask For. It’s more geared at YA, but that doesn’t bother me usually so I recommend it!

  7. The first 2 books of Kingkiller Chronicles are the worst fantasy books I’ve ever read. I can’t get the hype for this trilogy.

  8. I’ve seen no mention of Cecelia Dart-Thornton’s, Crowthistle Chronicles. I thought they were real page turners. Are they considered too light – or are they young adult? Just a thought.

    I’m surprised no one thought this all started from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carter of Mars or the Conan stories from Robert E. Howard

  9. I am somewhat surprised to not see Terry Brooks mentioned as having written the magical kingdom of Landover series a great read for all ages also I think Robin hobbb is missing from this list Michelle there’s so many more series I just can’t think of this moment also please forgive the typos I’m blind and my iPhone is a pain for corrections

  10. Nice to see how people’s taste can be very different. The Sword of Truth is my number one…
    But i agree with Blood Song. Needs to be on the list!

  11. The Name of the Wind & The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss are the best books I have ever read, but the wait for the next book is killing me.

  12. Just read “the land” by Aleron Kong. It is incomplete at book six, but it is a good read and I couldn’t put it down

  13. To “Anonymous” and others. This is clearly stated as a list of favourites that includes more than three books. The Lord of the Rings you will find, hopefully to your pleasure at number one on the trilogy top list.

    Now. Have you taken Joe Abercrombie off this list?? Why? I can understand including authors because there is a lot of people enjoying their books. I can not understand why you would exclude an excellent author because he’s less popular though.

    Anyway, I’ll leave you with an utterly enjoyable pastime: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. If I had to compare him to anything I’d say a somewhat lightweight, fast action Neil Gaiman. Very entertaining!

    (@ Will. Love the authors you mention but, Lawrence’s books will be treated as two triologies (search for the author on the home page and you will get all reviews), Lynch, only a triology so far, Stover is free standing books mostly sci fi.
    Great authors all of them but wrong criteria for this list.)

  14. Thank you so much for this list. I get tired of falling in love with a world or character only to have the adventure end all too abruptly for me. I will have tour start looking at some of these. I might add that the Belgariad is a wonderful series by David Eddings and his wife. Easy reading but very enjoyable.

  15. lol this list snubbed Lawrence, Lynch, Abercrombie, AND Stover but the commenters are whining about “Butth muh Peeeeers ANTHUH’NEEEE! Wheres Terry Brooks ermagerd!” But i must give credit where credit is due. I’m glad Wheel of Time, Ice&Fire, and Malazan made the list.

  16. LOTR is a must of course and that has been true for decades.

    Jack Forsithe’s Heart in the Cloud is an interesting one. I couldn’t put down once I started reading and at first did not realize it was fantasy. Then suddenly it was and it was believable too, sort of like track 9 1/2.

  17. Where is The Lord of the Rings? The History of Middle-Earth, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and Tales from a Perilous Journey? Any real fantasy-lover should read LOTR.

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