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. Two of my personal favorite fantasy series are not present on this list so I wanted to mention/recommend them. “The Dwarves” by Marcus Hietz, and “The First Law” by Joe Abercrombie are amazing. In fact, they round out my top 3 of all time along with “A Song Of Ice And And Fire” by George RR Martin. If you have not had the pleasure of reading either series, I strongly recommend that you do so. You will thank me and will also wonder why they are not near the top of this list.

  2. I love the fact you included the Belgariad, but you missed Eddings other series the Elenium. Also how can I take this list seriously when you didn’t include ANY of the series by Terry Brooks? You have the popular Shannara series, the Landover series and finally the Word & Void series.

  3. My favorites are probably the Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip and the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. I am a fan of Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin but I doubt whether we will see a conclusion to either series. The same could be said for J.V. Jones’ excellent The Sword of Shadows. I am a big fan of Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson and Harriet)’s Wheel of Time but many of the criticisms leveled at it are valid. One series for which I don’t understand the appeal would be the Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Granted, I’ve only read the first novel but I found the characters to be shallow, the plot overly linear and the thematic elements weak. I was also put off by the author’s preachy, objectivist evangelizing. If these elements were to improve in later volumes, please let me know, as I would be open to revisiting, but will need some significant convincing

  4. Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series is a fantastic read. Nikki, the Sister of the Dark, has grown into her own series lately. I would suggest reading them in the order they were published, though, as Debt of Bones has tie-ins with Temple of the Winds and Soul of the Fire, and Magda Searus has tie-ins with The Omen Machine and The Third Kingdom.

    To those who didn’t like the first novel, Wizard’s First Rule, I would suggest trying to get through it and Stone of Tears to Blood of the Fold, which, though gory at times, is more-or-less the introductory book to the entire saga’s premise: that Richard and Kahlan are more than just some prophecied saviours, but that they will face the most incredible dangers and suffer the harshest journeys of any hiterto heroes I have ever read of, and still find a way to rise above it and save the day. Each novel is written as a stand-alone story, and any one of them could be picked up to introduce you to world of the Sword of Truth. If you’re not interested in reading the entire series, perhaps the best of those samples is Faith of the Fallen, or Temple of the Winds, though The Pillars of Creation or Naked Empire are just as excellent. But of course, if you’re like me, you like to read them in order.

    The YA crowd will still love it for its fantasy elements and intrigue, but it’s an adult story, and the characters actually act like adults. As the saga unfolds, it remains involving and fantastic, romantic and humorous, intriguing and valid, humble and noble, dangerous and rewarding. It reminds the human in us that we ourselves are each important and that our nobility of spirit can overcome all obstacles.

    The first few books are much like a test. If you can get through the despicable tortures Richard suffers in Wizard’s First Rule, and the depravities of the world represented in Stone of Tears and Blood of the Fold, then you will find Temple of the Winds a breath of fresh air filled with political intrigue, dark magic, bravery and sacrifice, ancient conspiracies, threats from the Old World, and an ever-growing love story between Richard and Kahlan that is inspired and inspiring.

    Before the Sword of Truth series became my favourite, I favoured:
    Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn
    Maggie Furey’s The Artefacts of Power
    Melanie Rawn’s Sunrunner series
    David Eddings’ Elenium series
    Terry Brooks’ Voyage of the Jerle Shannara
    Rose Estes’ Saga of the Lost Lands
    David Farland’s Runelords series
    Irene Radford’s The Dragon Nimbus

    and some others not mentioned here.

  5. Thanks for creating the list, I’ve gotten a lot of new authors off of it to try out. I’ve been a fantasy reader for over 45 years, originally sparked by Tolkien . From there I discovered Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara series, a wonderful read. One author that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in your post or in the comments is Melanie Rawn and her Dragon prince series.

  6. Where is skulduggery pleasant it’s one of the greatest series of all time they should have thought about it

  7. Very dissapointed that I didn’t se Cassandra Clare, Derek Landy and especially Rick Riordan here. Here’s a list of some of their book series:
    Cassandra Clare : The Mortal Instrument, The Infernal Devices, The Dark Artifices, The Bane Chronicles
    Derek Landy: The Skulduggery Pleasant series
    Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Trials of Apollo.
    These authors are all amazing, and their books well written and cherished by many; they deserve recognition.

  8. Hi Emma. I too love Robin Hobb & have been re-reading them for many years. You may enjoy The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I personally love Stephen King’s Dark Tower series & all the works of William Horwood. I hesitate to recommend Steven Erikson’s Malazan books despite loving them myself, just because they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Brandon Sanderson & Mark Lawrence are very highly regarded in the genre. Good luck finding your next read!

  9. Help!! So many recommendations! Where to start?? I’ve just finished all of Robin Hobbs books & I fear nothing will ever compare ever again. Maybe I should resign myself to reread them forever. Admittedly I thought the same after I finished GoT & David Gamell before that, adored JV Jones Book of Words trilogy which started me off in fantasy fiction, waiting forever for her to finish her Sword of Shadows series. I just can not get into The Magician, have put it down twice now, just don’t care about the characters. I can’t face starting another book that I’m not going to devour. Anyone got any tips or advice, help lines for how to replace dear old Fitz?

  10. To those of you saying Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth is horrible… how dare you! That is hands down my favorite series. But where is Tamora Pierce? She has many books written for 2 universes and is still adding to it with the Numair Chronicles. Of course her Lioness series was great but it was when I read the Immortals series that I was hooked!

  11. Top F/SF series of all time
    Amber – Zelazny
    The Dying Earth – Vance
    Worlds of the Imperium – Laumer
    Imperial Radch – Leckie

    You have some excellent selections listed. But seriously, these should have been the first four on your list.

  12. Sorry folks, but fans of the Malazan series should probably look away – it’s a marmite series, you either love it or hate it and no surprises which category I fall into. John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen series has propelled him into one of the few ‘autobuy’ authors I have. Just a joy to read.

  13. Brilliant comments Squiggler, completely agree with everything you said. Hope you enjoy the Duncton books & I will update the Realm of the Elderlings listing on your excellent recommendation! Lee.

  14. Malazan as the ‘high water mark of epic fantasy’ — good call Glen Cook. I just finished my second tour of the 10 book series and it was twice as good the second time around. Anybody with a bit of free time should try Gardens of the Moon (Malazan book 1) on for size (though if you love Gardens, I think you’ll find the other books–2-6 especially–even more enthralling).

    Reading through this list brought back some great memories and sparked some new ideas (as inspiration for my reading list) — many thanks for that. I’m excited to pick up Duncton for the first time (on your recommendation).

    PS: you might want to add the Rain Wild Chronicles to your Elderlings list for the sake of any tenacious new devotees adding these titles to their reading list as a chronology. I believe you skipped straight from Tawny Man to Fitz and the Fool.

  15. I’m upvoting for Amber, hopefully for it to be added to this list. I understand that a series ‘isn’t your thing’, but that doesn’t change the fact that Zelazny’s prose isn’t top notch. Cheers though for the rest of the included series.

  16. You’ve made a great post. Love it. This books are amazing. I recommend everyone to read them. I was able to read some of them last week. I have added your website in my toolbar so i can return with just one click when i feel the need to read your great posts. You’ve just gained another constant reader. I must say i’m impressed with your articles. With much love and warm <3

  17. I really loved your list. There are 12 series that I have added to my ‘must read’ list and 2 I think I will revisit and see if they generate enough interest to finish the series. I appreciate the comments and have added a couple of series from the recommendations. The books listed in the comments have nicely rounded out your list.

Leave a comment