Introducing: The Fantasy Review’s Top 10 Epic Fantasy Books of All Time!
Your list may be different, probably very different, as there are many books and many readers, but this is ours and we hope you see some favourites, but also find some new reads to add to the endless TBR!
The comment section is OPEN! So, please comment below with your top 10 epic fantasy books of all time lists, making us regret forgetting some favourites we missed!
Our Top 10 Epic Fantasy Books of All Time
#10 – Inda by Sherwood Smith
Inda is a fantastic fantasy book, with an enthralling world and characters that will have you glued to their every move on the page. There’s politics, war, magic… What else do you want?
Read our Review of Inda by Sherwood Smith.
#9 – The Fury of Kings by R.S. Moule
One of the latest books to be added to several lists on The Fantasy Review, The Fury of Kings is one of the most underrated epic fantasy books out right now.
Don’t expect a fast-paced start as this book begins slowly, gradually introducing you to the characters and the world, laying the foundations of the narrative so when things do explode, they are exciting and immersive.
#8 – Last of the Wilds by Trudi Canavan
The Fantasy Review would not be here without this book, or any of Trudi Canavan’s work. I picked up these books when I was 11 years-old and was hooked immediately into reading adult fantasy.
Last of the Wilds is the second book in the Age of the Five trilogy, and it’s the best one, but the whole trilogy is fantastic. It sets up two countries with different religions, both claiming that their gods are real. This leads to both countries trying to ally themselves with neighbouring countries, and, of course, fighting one another.
There is more, though. The cultures of all the countries across this world are so vivid and alive; so incredibly inventive and exciting to discover more about the further you read into the series. And don’t forget the mysteries! The impact of the reveals is Sanderson-like, and will have you hurtling through the final 100-odd pages!
#7 – The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
The Poppy War trilogy didn’t end brilliantly, but it peaked at The Dragon Republic, making this second book in the trilogy one of the best fantasy books of all time.
These books are dark. No, seriously, extremely dark. It’s even darker when you learn that some of the worst parts of these books are based on events that actually occurred…
If you are okay with disliking the main character, having little to no light moments to relieve you of the grimdark atmosphere, but exploring a rich and exciting world with an awesome magic system and fantastic war-focused plot, this is a great series for you!
#6 – The Curse of the Mistwraith by Janny Wurts
The final book in this series (Wars of Light and Shadow) just had a cover reveal, with the incredible art for the cover also done by Janny Wurts, so let us go back to the beginning of this 11-book epic fantasy series!
The first book in the series is the chosen of the 11 on this top 10 epic fantasy books of all time list, for the simple reason that it was impossible to pick a favourite. This book has a self-contained arc (unlike future books which jump around in time and have arcs spanning several books – but they all come together for one larger narrative).
Now, about the book itself! The prose is fantastic, but maybe not to everyone’s tastes. It has an old-school fantasy feel to it, with a modern twang, but the word choices are poetic and rich. If you’re after a long fantasy series with intricate worldbuilding (history and lore in abundance) and great characters, I give you Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts.
#5 – The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson always pops up on these lists and I can only apologise, but, as with other names on this list, there is a good reason for it. Sanderson is a fantastic writer with worldbuilding and characters that live rent-free in your head for years. Kaladin, the primary point of view character in The Way of Kings, will stay with me forever.
This 1000+ page tome will keep you busy for a long time, but I remember burning through it in seven days. I had university assignments to do and I ignored all of them to devour this book.
I think those of us who read a lot sometimes forget the magic of being so engrossed in a book you never want to let it go. Our lives are so busy, and there are so many books which are, let’s be honest, samey, but then comes along a book like The Way of Kings and the whole world stops.
I hope that feeling sells this book, if you haven’t picked it up yet!
Sure, the Mistborn series could also be on this list, but to be honest, it is nowhere near as grand in scale as The Stormlight Archive, despite also being a great trilogy.
#4 – Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson
It was either Deadhouse Gates or Memories of Ice, and it was impossible to pick!
I am making my way through the series slowly (finishing up book 7, Reaper’s Gale, over the next week or so), but my favourites so far have been books 2 and 3, Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is hyped up to be super complicated, and it is, but it’s also not. It’s a book designed for people to read, so it’s not a huge uphill battle some claim it to be – try our How to Read ‘Gardens of the Moon’ guide, and see if that helps.
There is something incredible about Deadhouse Gates that has stuck with me for such a long time. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and once again a few months ago, and rereading these books is one of the most intense reading experiences you can have. In every sentence, every chapter, there are layers of themes and meaning and foreshadowing and… you get the picture.
The Chain of Dogs is one of the most harrowing, soul-destroying experiences. It will break you, but you will be a better person because of it.
5 Honourable Mentions:
It’s cheating, sure, but we couldn’t let these five great books go unmentioned on this list of our top 10 epic fantasy books! Some are very familiar names, but a couple might surprise you…
- The Way of Edan by Philip Chase – an endlessly glorious fantasy book, written with a deep love for the genre.
- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – Here we would just insert the whole of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series, so the first of the Farseer Trilogy will stand in for those 16 books! An incredible fantasy series that only gets better with every book (for the most part!)
- Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill – A recent addition to many people’s Top 10 lists, this independently published series is incredibly popular, and for good reason. The worldbuilding, the characters, the epic scope and HUGE books… you can’t go wrong with this series.
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – The only reason this isn’t in the main list is because although it is written very well, it lacks the incredible plots and worldbuilding of the other titles in this list. But it is well worth a read for an interesting magic system, impressive and poetic prose, and a main character you either love or loathe.
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Another book that is often a favourite, more so amongst YA readers, but this is a series for any adult fantasy reader. The worldbuilding is incredible, and the plot is fast-paced and exciting! Sure, there’s some YA tropes, but they are done well.
#3 – Illborn by Daniel T. Jackson
This is a very high place to put an independently published fantasy novel, but I believe it has earned the spot. Along with the recent sequel, Aiduel’s Sin, this is my third favourite fantasy series of all time and I will treasure these books forever.
It is in Aiduel’s Sin this series truly starts to shine incredibly brightly, but Illborn was what introduced me to these characters and this world, and structurally it is a slightly better book.
It is impossible to convey how brilliant these books are, so please read the reviews linked below for my full thoughts, or just take my word for it and go buy them!
Read our Review of Illborn by Daniel T. Jackson.
#2 – A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings is the best book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, with Storm of Swords being a close second (many would switch them around – they are both great books!).
After the colossal impact the ending of A Game of Thrones has on Westeros, A Clash of Kings expands the worldbuilding and brings in all these false, would-be kings, all focused on the Iron Throne. Everything intensifies, from the bloodshed to the political backstabbing.
Martin’s writing style, much like Janny Wurts, might not be for everyone, but it is incredibly purposeful. These books are filled with passages depicting faces or landscapes that could be printed out and stuck on walls.
You might be put off reading these books because the final books are not completed, and we don’t know when/if they will ever come. I say these books alone offer an incredible experience you will not want to miss. There is a reason the fanbase is so upset there aren’t more books – because the ones that have been published are amazing.
#1 – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I remember reading a paperback edition of this book years ago and not thinking much of it. It was fine, but nothing overly special.
I have since reread The Lord of the Rings with the audiobooks, read by Andy Serkis, and they brought this world to life in a way that reading the old-fashioned language on the page could not. These audiobooks have done for this story what Peter Jackson’s movies did.
This is the greatest fantasy story ever told, and perhaps one of the greatest narratives of all time, across any genre. For decades, the fantasy genre was just books designed to read like Tolkien, to be similar to that story, but none ever came close. The best was The Wheel of Time, which after The Eye of the World, became its own thing.
You probably rolled your eyes at this placement of The Lord of the Rings and I get it, I almost agree with you, but on this list of the top 10 epic fantasy books of all time, it stays at number 1.