The Fantasy Review’s list of 6 Epic Fantasy Book Series with Jaw-Dropping World-Building.
#1 – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien had to be on this list of epic fantasy book series with jaw-dropping world-building, because it’s the original! Tolkien spent decades building his world, which is gorgeous and enthralling within The Lord of the Rings, but all the expanded literature just piles on more and more lore, mythology, peoples, and cultures.
To have a decent grasp on the overall mythology of Tolkien’s work, reading The Silmarillion is a must, and then you can pick up any of the other expanded texts. You will lose yourself in this incredible fantasy world, as countless others have before you.
I love exploring Middle-earth and have written a few articles diving deep into the lore. Some are listed here, and more are in the works!
- Lord of the Rings: A Brief History of Gandalf
- The 5 Wizards of Middle-earth Explained
- Lord of the Rings: A Brief History of Isildur
- 9 Important and Powerful Elves in Middle-Earth
#2 – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
No, it’s not finished, but as I say a lot in my articles on The Fantasy Review – I don’t care. These books and the companion books (of which there are three, and they are very in-depth) are full of some of the best fantasy worldbuilding we have ever seen.
Westeros is an incredible invention and one that, like LOTR, is so easy to become obsessed with. The sheer scale of this world is amazing, but the most in-depth aspect is its history.
The timeline is littered with important dates and fascinating individuals, some of whom we only hear of in the odd historical tale but their impact is still felt in the “present” time of the main A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Check out some in-depth articles about A Song of Ice and Fire!
- Reviews of all the books
- A Game of Thrones: Prologue Summary and Analysis
- A Game of Thrones: Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis (Bran I)
- The Game of Thrones Books Ranked
#3 – Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Those who have read these books will argue that this world should be at number one on this list, and I agree, however I have only read the first three and a half books, so it’s going at number three.
This is a shared world created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont, who have both written several series of books set in the world. It is recommended you begin with Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, then continue on with any series you want after that!
When you first start reading these books, you will be totally overwhelmed by the sheer scope of it all, with hundreds of characters, cultures, and places to remember, plus a magic system that takes a while to understand.
However, once you’ve got it, these books are some of the most satisfying experiences and everyone who has read at least the ten books in Erikson’s original series absolutely love them.
Check out some of these guides and deep-dives to learn more about the Malazan books!
- How to Read ‘Gardens of the Moon’
- Gardens of the Moon Prologue Analysis
- Rereading Books is Incredible: My Second Read Through of Gardens of the Moon
- The Malazan Books in Order
#4 – Discworld by Terry Pratchett
With 40+ books set in the world, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels take you into a world teeming with life. There are stories about witches, post office workers, soldiers, and even Death is a main character.
There are many series set in this world, so pick whatever interests you and jump right in: many veterans of the series suggest the Sam Vimes series (#1 – Guards! Guards!), or the Death series (#1 – Reaper Man).
#5 – The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
Here is a series with a reputation for making the readers cry. It’s a painful experience, but in a good way… Well, predominantly the Fitz books. In The Realm of the Elderlings we have several trilogies and one quartet; readers of the series recommend reading the books in publication order (beginning with Assassin’s Apprentice, book 1 in The Farseer Trilogy), or jumping into the The Liveship Traders Trilogy (#1 – Ship of Magic) which many say is their favourite too, and you don’t need to have read any of the other books to start on your seafaring adventure!
With over 16 books set in this world, Hobb’s worldbuilding is expansive and detailed through her incredible prose.
To get started with this series, we have a great guest post on this site giving you a Beginner’s Guide to Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series.
#6 – The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
It is no secret that I have given up reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan a few times, but that is not to say that I did not love the books I did read (1-5). This 14-book epic fantasy series (plus a prequel novel) is heralded as one of the best fantasy series of all time by its fans, and even the detractors have to admit that Jordan’s worldbuilding is great!
Because of Jordan’s detailed and precise writing style, you will discover so much about every unique town, city, village, and grand landscape you come across. Whether it is through depictions of visual landscapes or historical events, the world of The Wheel of Time is truly alive and will enthral any and all patient readers.
Some articles related to The Wheel of Time include:
- ‘The Eye of the World’ is a Beautiful Homage to ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’
- A Beginner’s Guide to the Wheel of Time
- A Beginner’s Guide to The Wheel of Time (TV Series)
- The Wheel of Time Season 2 is the Start of Something Special