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.

217 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy Book Series”

  1. @ Mike Pinter, I think you may have read the Patrick Rothfuss books, the unfinished trilogy, the rings on the trays are in this.

  2. Some of what you mentioned are among my favorites, but for the best of the best these days my advice goes to Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson (everything they have written that I have read is absolutely fabulous.
    And of course I would mention you probably know who, but waiting 10 years for the last book of a trilogy… can’t recommend that to anyone!

  3. I’m just very curious as to why the Deryni historical fantasy novels by Kathrine Kurtz aren’t listed here and strangely are not even mentioned at all in the comments section below the list? I find that extremely interesting. Those books are well-written and certainly worth the read and it is hard to imagine serious fantasy lovers not being familiar with them. Did I miss something?

  4. Hail and well met!

    This is such a stunning and complete collection of the best and most timeless fantasy fiction I’ve ever seen! Some of these I’ve read, like the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever back in my mid-teens, even buying and reading the Second Chronicles, and buying and TBRing the third trilogy. The Hobbit, The LotR trilogy and after conveniently reading a book on Gnosticism, finding a first edition of The Silmarillion and enjoying its cosmology, as many of the Discworld novels as I could possibly lay hands on (an acquired taste, but oh, when it acquires you!), Earthsea, Narnia of my childhood and so many more!

    Finding a place full of so much lore, it dawned on me it is where I should ask if anybody knows the name of the author and the title of a particular story that came back to me today while reading, of all things, Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and reaching a point where calling cards are mentioned as being left for people of the house to know who had come by while they were out or not receiving visitors.

    I remembered that there was a whole galaxy of inferences to be made by visitors when they’d see other caller’s cards in the tray: someone wrote a fantasy version of that in which, I think, people lived in a castle and used rings as calling cards. They’d give them to other people and if accepted a bond of subjection and power was formed. By seeing whose rings people wore you’d know whose patronage and favour they enjoyed. When visting they’d put their ring on the tray, the servant would take it in and I can’t remember the rest, whether the ring returned or was kept.
    Does this ring any bells with anybody? Who wrote this? Was it a short story in some collection or part of something more far-reaching? I’d greatly appreciate it if there were an aha! Thanking you in advance!

  5. This is a great list of appealing titles and a great ride throughout fantasy. I enjoy the reading and the list that you provide on this site. Quite a great work! Nevertheless, there is one book that I have accidentally found while scavenging for fantasy and I find it hard that it appears nowhere on good reviewers site. I am not trying to sell anything here since we all have our own POV. But I believe that this one deserves some attention. Try this book and you’ll thank me in the future. Tales of a Phoenix: Odyssey to the Underverse. By a certain C. G. Blackstone. First time I ever heard of him. Anyway, I have enjoyed his story.

  6. Wars of Light & Shadow series by Janny Wurts – such an amazingly gifted author who has co-written the Empire Trilogy with Raymond Feist; once familiar with her writing style you see much of her influence in the collaboration – it’s a mystery why she just doesn’t get the airtime that her writing truly deserves!
    First introduced to her writing in The Cycle of Fire trilogy – Stormwarden / Keeper of the Keys / Shadowfane which hooked me for anything she produced in future; check out her standalone book To Ride Hell’s Chasm for those wary of multi-book series.
    I’ve followed Janny over 20 plus years and delighted that the final volume is well into development for Wars of Light & Shadow:
    1. Curse of the Mistwraith
    2. Ships of Merior
    3. Warhost of Vastmark
    4. Fugitive Prince
    5. Grand Conspiracy
    6. Peril’s Gate
    7. Traitor’s Knot
    8. Stormed Fortress
    9. Initiate’s Trial
    10. Destiny’s Conflict
    11. Song of the Mysteries (Not Yet Published) – check out her website for ongoing updates

  7. That’s an interesting point on Piers Antony but I have to admit I’ve read all the series you’ve mentioned as well as a few others (Adept series, battle circle, mars tyrant ) and never noticed any pedophile content. Probably over 40 years since I read them so might not be remembering But my recollection was that there was very nothing sexual across age groups. Just some same age teenager fumbling. When you consider the explicit nature of current young adult fiction they seem rather innocent. Plus unlike modern YA fiction most of their main characters get to the end of the series intact without being killed off or suffering psychological damage 🙂
    The mars tyrant had some sibling sex but in the context a lot less distressing than the key rape scene that kicks off Thomas Covenants adventures.
    I think it is fair to say that Fantasy contains far more sex and violence than other genres, but I don’t think the authors are like that, or that Anthony is any worse than the others. I doubt there is a single book in the whole list that doesn’t contain something profoundly inappropriate. Excepting perhaps Tolkien and C S Lewis.

  8. I’d add Zelazny – both lord of
    Light and princes in Amber series are phenoms

    Amazed at the lack of due Tolkien gets nowadays. the silmarillion is the finest elegance world building i’ve read

    What I do find interesting is the large support for Robert Jordan and the potter novels. Great imagination but some of the worst writing I’ve ever encountered from supposed professionals. I can’t finish either due to the headache they both give me. Goodkind similarly.

    Martin is Jordan who can actually write.

    I’d namecheck Tanith Lee as a wonderful spinner of yarns

    Michael moorcock’s various series are simply before their time.

    And finally – where TF is Jack Vance in all these lists – I speak extemporaneously ofc. If you haven’t read vance’s Fantasy novels and short stories you simply have not read fantasy.

    Appalling that pulp like Harry Potter sells millions while real savants like Vance and moorcock seem somewhat underappreciated.

  9. I’m SO glad you didn’t recommend Piers Anthony. I used to be into his books, creepy as they were, but got turned off by his switch from subtly pedophilic in his first 8-9 Xanth books to his full on pedophilia apologist in the Incarnations of Immortality series and later Xanth books. It just feels like he was trying to groom young readers into being accepting of inappropriate sexual advances by predatory adults. (I stopped reading Marion Zimmer Bradley after it came out about her sexual abuse of her daughter, because there are some scenes in her Mists of Avalon and Firebrand that are pretty uncomfortably graphic).

    Although I disagree with his political, social, and religious beliefs, I would recommend Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming Saga (i.e., the Book of Mormon in a Futuristic Earth / Alt-Planet), and Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

  10. Thank you for your excellent comment Tim, it’s not just a “where the hell is …” rant but a helpful and thoughtful examination of titles we likely have not yet read. It’s perfect, not just for those of us who run the site, but more importantly for those looking to read the very best the fantasy genre has to offer. I would like to wish you many more years happy reading!

  11. I am 61 and have been reading fantasy since I was introduced to LOTR and Titus Groan 50 odd years ago. I therefore feel entitled to mention a few titles your list has overlooked, and other posts have not said much about. I could list 100 but will settle for 10 classics. But first let me say I greatly appreciate these lists as it’s great to have new series to discover.
    1. Malcolm Moorcock Dancers at the end of Time. Hilarious and wonderful.
    2. Tim Powers The Anubis Gates. I also enjoyed The Stress of Her Regard, but after that I found him a bit repetitive.
    3. Mccaffrey Crystal Singer series. Also the dragons of Pern series.
    4. Julian May Saga of the exiles and its sequel
    5. McAvoy Tea with the black dragon. Might be a bit dated now though.
    6. Jean m Auel clan of the cave bear series. More fantasy than prehistory.
    7. Alan dean foster spellsinger
    8. Piers Anthony Xanth novels plus lots of others.
    9. Gordon Dickson dragon and the George series
    10. Jessica day George Tuesdays at the castle etc. Much younger audience.

  12. So many I’ve never heard of. I’m considering trying some of these out. I cannot predict how much I will enjoy some of these since enjoyment is mostly opinion based on life experience and relating between the characters. Anyhow, I am excited to start listening to one of these series using audible. I really appreciate you cataloging all these stories. At this point its not really much of a top best as much as it is an informer that the stories listed exist. Fantastic job in creating this.

  13. Enjoyed the list, thank you. Still some I need to get around to reading.
    I have a new suggestion: Robert J Marsters The Karrak Trilogy, The Ascension of Karrak, The Bane of Karrak and The Cessation of Karrak. Good fast paced storytelling.

  14. Thank you for this list. I have read many of the series on your list and noticed they are left off of most “main stream” list . It was refreshing to find a fantasy book review that mirrors my own opinion of some of these great “forgotten” series. I book marked your page and will definitely use it for my future reading list. Thank You!!!

  15. Way to go, I think all of my favorites are in there, though I am still searching for The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien in the list in vain.
    A new author that could go all the way is Renata Cattleya Levy, whose work I read only recently. Of course, she is a new author and debuted with her first book ‘The Black Shade of White – Justice’ (as far as I know) late in 2019. This book was a great read and I am recommending it to people everywhere who love cross-genre books.

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