Best Fantasy Books
These books are absolutely the best Fantasy books we’ve ever read. You might notice that nowhere in that statement did we qualify this list as being “the best fantasy books of all time”. That would just be silly. We’re not trying to elucidate any differences between The Lord of the Rings and The Worm Ourboros, or how one might apply to them a comparison of books in A Song of Ice and Fire or The Wheel of Time. Suffice it to say, there are some books out there with History (capital H), but we’re just going to talk about those that have EBR history (lowercase h), because those are the ones we really care about. Yeah?
So here they are. It should probably be said that this list will likely change as we read more books or decide that we just like something else better. We’re finicky like that, and we’re entitled to it. So don’t get too caught up on how these are all ranked. People seem to like numbered lists. So that’s how we’ve slapped them together here. Generally those at the top of the list are better, in our opinion, than those at the bottom, but any other comparisons are really going to be played fast and loose.
You’ll also notice that not all of these books are the first of a series. Or last books. That’s by design, as these are the best “books” that we’ve ever read. So we don’t necessarily want to you go getting all excited about this list and read all of these books right this minute. Read them all — yes — but don’t ruin the experience by reading a book out of series order. That would just make us sad for you. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?
If you have suggestions for our list, feel free to comment, and we’ll see if we agree with you, or if we have happened to overlook something (yes, it’s possible), or whatever.
Regardless, this list is for all of you. So, happy reading.
#1 – Skin Game
If you know Urban Fantasy, then you know Dresden Files. And if you don’t… seriously, you don’t know how awesome Urban Fantasy can be. Dresden Files is easily one of the top, if not THE top, Urban Fantasy series that has ever been written. Butcher does story so freaking well, and this book was one of the craziest, awesomest, most brilliant examples of how this series has just killed it every time it’s stepped up to bat. Honestly, there are a lot of great examples of awesome books in this series, but when thinking about this series, this book stands out to us. Once you get to it, it’ll stand out for you too.EBR Review »
#2 – The Hod King
Josiah Bancroft kind of blew us away the first time we read his stuff in the SPFBO put up by Mark Lawrence. How in the ever-loving world had this guy not been published by someone? Seriously. By the time that this book rolled around, we were so totally ready to get into the beauty and brilliance of the story built around the friends of Tom Senlin, as he does everything in his power to find his wife amidst the mercies and mysteries of the Tower of Babel. Such good reading and brilliantly-well told fantasy that deserves a position on everyone’s shelves.EBR Review »
#3 – Half the World
Joe Abercrombie is going to be near the top, if not at the top, of every kind of list for which his books may apply. We just love the way this dude writes. And his dive into the Young Adult genre both frightened and titillated us. This is the second book in the series, and is quite simply one of the most engaging and entertaining reads we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking. There are a lot of great books out there, but Joe just does that thing for us. Gives us that whammy that we love to feel.EBR Review »
#4 – The Price of Spring
This is the final book in Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet (EBR Archive), and is the culmination of all the story told in the three previous novels. It’s a book set in a world that has hints of Asian culture, and is built on the magic of the andat, power made carnate, that are controlled by the poets of the Khaiem. It is beautiful and powerful and unexpected in ways that are inevitable that make this one of the best stories to be told in the realm of fantasy fiction. This is the series that made us fans of his for life, and he’s still gone on to write even more impressive stories along the way.The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham (Amazon)
#5 – Memories of Ice
This is the series (EBR Archive) that absolutely destroyed our concept of what the “Epic” in Epic Fantasy means, and this is the book where that misconception was lost. After finishing most of this series, Erikson stated that he’d likely have chosen to start the series in a different spot, given what he knew by that point. Memories of Ice was also the tipping point in turning this amazing series from a world of difficult learning curves to a wide vista of absolute brilliance. Can’t say enough good about this series, and this book in particular.Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (Amazon)
#6 – The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch is perhaps one of the strongest examples of writers that know their craft. He has a power over words that allows him to evoke strength and subtlety and wonder and mystery into nearly everything he writes. This book was his debut novel, which is an incredibly impressive feat indeed. He introduces the city of Camorr, the characters of Locke and Jean, and a history of them both that is solid and varied.EBR Review »
#7 – Emperor of Thorns
At times I think it’d be hard to not have all of these books be series-enders, but we can’t help it with this one. Steve picked this out as one of his favorite series ever. It’s a brilliant book in a brilliant series about the ruthless character Jorg, as he makes the decisions that he has to make to reach his goals. Such a great book. Dark fantasy to the max, yes, but that’s kind of the direction that most of our reviewers have leaned here at EBR.EBR Review »
#8 – The Liberation
This is another of those “last” books in the series that was so absolutely brilliant. Tregillis has presented an amazing alternate history, built upon the backs of the slaved clakkers (autonomous robots) that were invented by the Dutch. It’s a story of slavery and resistance, told from the perspectives of Jax the clakker, the Dutch, and their enemies the French alike, and weaves a narrative that is funny and endearing and powerful. Even though such a tale might sound science fictional, what with artificial intelligences and such, it’s very much a fantasy at heart. And it’s one that we absolutely loved reading.EBR Review »
#9 – A Game of Thrones
We’re kind of on the fence about this series, but it’s hard to deny that this first book was a great setup for the rest of everything that cam afterward. The focus on the Stark family and the political “games” that the nobility of the varied realms play that end in so much destruction for those from the north country is pretty impressive. It’s sad and enlightening and inspiring and revolting in turns. There are characters to love and characters to hate. And it’s all so incredibly well-written from this master of prose.A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (Amazon)
#10 – The Darkness That Comes Before
Easily one of the most impressive fantasy books to be published in recent years. The scope and size of the wordlbuilding is reminiscent of Malazan, and brings into the fray science fiction concepts as well. The writing is far-superior to the large majority of fantasy, and the author brings in concepts of philosophy and self-introspection that bring intelligence and study to a genre that so often gets lost in sword fights and magical dragons. Not that swords and dragons are bad, or that this world lacks those aspects (as it doesn’t), but that there is just more to this story that raises the bar for others in the field.The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker (Amazon)
#11 – The Eye of the World
In a genre that was mostly founded on The Lord of the Rings, there were many many copycats influenced by J.R.R. Tolkein’s seminal work. But The Wheel of Time (EBR Archive) took those basic elements and made them brand new. THE EYE OF THE WOLRD was first published in 1990 and in the thirty years since there’s been an explosion in Fantasy — sideways into unexplored territory. While Jordan didn’t influence writers quite so much as Tolkein, he did change how Fantasy stories were told. THE EYE OF THE WORLD takes the chosen one theme and twists it into a ginormous epic with corrupted magic, glorified witches, an impressive cast of enemies and friends, and cultures galore. A vast vision indeed.The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Amazon)
#12 – The Black Prism
This series one book isn’t necessarily better than the other, they’re best viewed as a whole because Brent Weeks does a fantastic job at building the characters, magic, and setting as he progresses across the series. The magic is unusual (drafters turn light into a physical luxin), the characters are tortured, the plotting is twisty, and while the setting starts out so-so, Weeks doesn’t squander a reader’s time. Each novel has great movement, mind-blowing events, and plenty of the weird and strange. His first series was rough, if full of potential; but The Lightbringer series is on a whole other level: big, bold, a little quirky, and definitely flashy.EBR Review »
Parent page: Best-of Lists
Have you overlooked anyone? I dunno, maybe a woman or any POC of color. Guess none of them have been good enough in the 30 year span of the books listed.
I don’t know. Have we? Make a suggestion, if you think other books deserve to be on this list of ours. If we think they belong there, then we’ll add em in.
What we’re not going to do is list books here that include “a woman or any POC of color” just because they include “a woman or any POC of color”, just like we won’t list books here that include “a man or someone that’s white” just because they include “a man or someone that’s white”.
We’re looking for awesome story and well-drawn characters. Source doesn’t matter. Inclusion doesn’t matter. Just goodness.
This list is missing “The Goblin Emperor”. Sigh.
Alas. Not all books make the cut.
I would recommend “Waylander” to represent David Gemmell. I feel like he should be in there somewhere, an award was named for him for a reason.
Deal. There’s a part of me that’s a little ashamed to admit I’ve never read any Gemmell. Have heard TONS of good stuff about him, but have just never gotten to his stuff. Will put that one on our TBR list for sure.
Although, that doesn’t help us much with regard to the earlier comment about a decided lack of authors on our list that are women and/or POC. 🙂
Thanks for the suggestion, Cliff. Appreciate it.
Going to publish my review of Legend tomorrow. Such a good read. I’m sort of on the fence about including it on this list (mostly due to the quality of more recent books), but Gemmell is absolutely going to make our list of Best Fantasy Authors, a page that will eventually be added to the site.
Thanks bundles for the suggestion, Cliff. Appreciate it.
Agree with most of your list. Haven’t read Ian tregillis and Josiah Bancroft books, looking forward to reading these series. One series- author that can be their on your list could be Robin Hobbs Farseer Trilogy
Ritika! Been a while. 🙂 Glad to see you back around.
Thanks for the new suggestion. I think we’re going to have to work something into the site to track all suggestions for these lists.
If your talking fantasy, Terry Brooks needs to be in the list. Something from the word and the void, or Shannara book 4-7 come to mind. I’m gonna check some of the books out from this list, thank you
Reminding me yet again that I need to get some sort of “reader-suggested books” list on these pages.
Man, it’s been a long time since I read the Shannara books. I definitely remember enjoying the second series even more than the first, which was still some solid-good story telling.
Thanks for the comment, Troy. Hope you can find some goodness in the other entries on our list here.
Hello! It looks like our lists overlap a little bit!
George R.R. Martin is a phenomenal writer. He has an almost academic way of writing that appeals to readers of all skill levels. He has also mastered the art of vivid imagery that will entertain even the most twisted of minds.
**I read your comment about females and POC, BUTTTT if you would like an excellent female suggestion, Robin McKinley’s “Deerskin” is a must-read.**
I did read Deerskin and while it was great (as are most of McKinely’s stuff) I’m not sure it has the epic quality Dan was looking for. It definitely would make a list for great myth/fairytale re-tellings.
Some of my favorite fantasy novels:
Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
Nightfall by Mickey Zucker Reichert
The Chosen and the Changeling (The Waterborn, Blackgod) by J Gregory Keyes
Declare by Tim Powers
Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Well reasoned and put-together list. Mr. Correia or his co-host on the Cast made me find my way here and what I´ve seen so far it looks like a great site.
Thanks, Dane! Hope to see you around.
The Chronicles of the Black Company – Glenn Cook.
Gah! You are, of course, correct there. Will have to remedy that. Have a copy of this book in my library, but it’s been an age since I read it. Will throw it onto the top of the TBR pile and put together an entry for it when I’m done. Thanks for the course-correction there, Robert.
You can see a nice list over here:
There are some good entries there as well. Although, I will never be convinced that The Night Circus is anything other than a complete waste of time. Hated that book. Ugh.
Thanks, Dan. Based on the suggestions in this page I picked up the Senlin series…WOW !! Josiah Bancroft knows his craft !! Loved all 4 books of the Senlin series (although I thought the ending was left a bit too ‘open’).
From there, went on to read all 3 books of broken empire trilogy considering that it was Mark Lawrence who brought the brilliance of Josiah to the world. Am a sucker for dark fantasies and absolutely loved the books . Honorous Jorg Ancrath is a brilliant character!!
What do you think about including some of Leigh Bardugo’s work from the Girshverse here in this list ? How about Six of Crows ? Loved that duology and I would rate Kaz Brekker as powerful a character as Jorg of Ancrath !!
Cool. Glad we could help steer you in a direction that paid dividends. Vanessa actually did a review for Six of Crows a few years ago (EBR Review) and she seemed to like it quite a bit.
Agreed with this list entirely! Have you read Quantum by Roy Magara? It’s a fantasy novel that was published this year. Awesome start to a trilogy and worth a read if you are into new and upcoming authors.
Haven’t read that one, but we’ve cut waaaaaay back on what we’re getting through these days. Will have to check that one out though. Thanks. 🙂
I would recommend the Chronicles of an Urban Druid series and Casefiles of an urban Druid series by Auburn Tempest and Michael Anderle out of all the series that I’ve read lately it was nice to read a fantasy that had some humour.