Lists

The 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time

Photo by Darran Shen on Unsplash

It was daunting, but we did it: a list of the one hundred best fantasy books of all time. What was our criteria? Well, we loved these these books and thought they deserved to be on the list. That’s pretty much it. This list is totally subjective, and with a cut-off of one hundred books, we couldn’t include all of the amazing fantasy tales out there. We hope you look through this list and agree with a lot of our picks, and that you also find some new stories to pick up. If there’s anything we left out, please add it to the comments below — we’d love to see what books would be on your list!

So without further ado, here’s what makes our list of best fantasy books of all time (arranged alphabetically)! Fair warning: your TBR pile is about to get a lot bigger.


  • 1.

  • The cover of the book Akata Witch

    Akata Witch

    Dubbed the “Nigerian Harry Potter,” Okorafor’s YA crossover novel of a Nigerian-American girl with albino skin and a deep well of magical talent is an absolutely stunning read, a gem in an overcrowded subgenre.

    Emily

     
  • 2.

  • The cover of the book Alanna: The First Adventure

    Alanna: The First Adventure

    Tamora Pierce is an incredibly influential author in young adult fantasy, and Alanna: The First Adventure is truly the first adventure in the Tortall universe, which builds out across multiple other series. Alanna is also one of Pierce’s most compelling protagonists: stubborn, Gifted, and unwilling to let the world dictate who she should become.

    Feliza

     
  • 3.

  • The cover of the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

    150th-Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has inspired countless adaptations, retellings, and nods from subtle to overt, in the years since it was first published in 1865. This whimsical tale is fantastic to read as a child, with its ridiculous situations and nonsensical words, and loads of fun to come back to as an adult, as one of the first portal fantasies in literature.

    Haley

     
  • 4.

  • The cover of the book American Gods

    American Gods

    The very definition of a modern classic. Gaiman’s novel is both expansive and focused, alluding to a larger cosmology without sacrificing character development. It’s also a perfect book for our current American cultural moment, which emphasizes how inextricably American identity is tied to immigration.

    — Emily

     
  • 5.

  • The cover of the book The Amulet of Samarkand

    The Amulet of Samarkand

    Desperately wanting to prove himself, and get back at the master magician who humiliated him, young magician’s apprentice Nathaniel summons a powerful djinni named Bartimaeus. As you can imagine, things begin to go awry from there. While you’re rooting for Nathaniel, it’s the snarky Bartimaeus who really steals the show.

    — Haley

     
  • 6.

  • The cover of the book Assassin's Apprentice

    Assassin's Apprentice

    The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

    Robin Hobb’s coming of age tale follows Fitz, the illegitimate child of a would-be king, from his beginnings living in a filthy stable to his adult life as a respected and feared assassin. An unlikely kind of hero, Fitz’s tale is sure to amuse readers grown tired of traditional fantasy protagonists.

    Matt

     
  • 7.

  • The cover of the book The Bear and the Nightingale

    The Bear and the Nightingale

    A Novel

    This Russian-inspired fantasy from Katherine Arden is bound to become a new classic. The tale follows a young girl with the ability to see the folkloric creatures in and around her village, much to the horror of her stepmother and the local Christian priest. Tensions rise as the priest tries to convince the villagers to turn away from their pagan ways, but these fairytale creatures may be all that’s keeping them safe.
    — Haley

     
  • 8.

  • The cover of the book The Belgariad (Vol 1)

    The Belgariad (Vol 1)

    Volume One: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit

    Another story that sprang from the success of Lord of the Rings, Eddings brought his own flare for fun characters thrown into the darkest of moments. Garion is an orphan being raised by his aunt and crazy grandfather. But he is part of a prophecy that spans centuries and soon he is pulled into a quest to destroy the evil Torak and restore goodness to the land. An important book in the history of the genre.

    Shawn

     
  • 9.

  • The cover of the book The Black Company

    The Black Company

    Grunts finally get their due in Cook’s The Black Company. The story of a mercenary company under the employ of a Sauron-like power, The Black Company presents war in all of its gritty and often unheroic reality. If you ever wondered what might have happened had the bad guys won in The Lord of the Rings, this is your chance.

    — Matt

     
  • 10.

  • The cover of the book The Black Tides of Heaven

    The Black Tides of Heaven

    This is silkpunk at its finest. JY Yang’s Tensorate series follows twins Mokoya and Akeha, one with the ability to see the what will be, the other with the gift to see what may be. The Black Tides of Heaven is one part of a pair of novellas, to be read alongside The Red Threads of Fortune.

    — Haley

     
  • 11.

  • The cover of the book The Blade Itself

    The Blade Itself

    Godfather of grimdark fantasy Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself introduces readers to a gritty world where anyone can die, and heroes sometimes fail. Featuring a motley crew of characters that includes a war-weary barbarian, and a torturer questioning his vocation, The Blade Itself, along with the succeeding novels in the series, sent fantasy fiction into a darker, bloodier direction.

    — Matt

     
  • 12.

  • The cover of the book Blood of Elves

    Blood of Elves

    While the short story collection The Last Wish introduced the world to Geralt of Rivia, Blood of Elves is the first full-length novel featuring the legendary witcher — a human made into the ultimate creature-slayer through mutations and training. These are the books that The Witcher video games are based on, but you can dive into either medium first.

    — Haley

     
  • 13.

  • The cover of the book The Blue Sword

    The Blue Sword

    Winner of numerous awards and accolades, McKinley’s classic tale of a woman finding herself in a foreign culture has captivated readers for decades. Harry is a orphan girl who finds herself appointed the King’s rider, possessor of the Blue Sword, which no woman has wielded for centuries. A fantastic read for the young and adult alike.

    — Shawn

     
  • 14.

  • The cover of the book The Book of Three

    The Book of Three

    One of the cornerstones of young adult fantasy, author Lloyd Alexander tells the tale of Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper who dreams of being a hero. He is joined by a great cast of characters as they join to enter the struggle between good and evil. An important read for any high fantasy reader.

    — Shawn

     
  • 15.

  • The cover of the book The Broken Crown

    The Broken Crown

    Michelle Sagara West’s body of work deserves to be so much more well-known than it is, and the Sun Sword saga alone is enough to rival A Song of Ice and Fire or Wheel of Time. The Broken Crown is the first book in the series, tracking the struggle between the Dominion and the Empire.

    — Emily

     
  • 16.

  • The cover of the book Brown Girl in the Ring

    Brown Girl in the Ring

    This incredible genre-bender is a mix of Caribbean folklore, dystopian sci-fi, and magical realism. Ti-Jeanne, a young woman in a future Toronto, must embrace the powers taught to her by her grandmother to stand against a local gang lord and an organ harvesting conspiracy.

    — Haley

     
  • 17.

  • The cover of the book The Changeling

    The Changeling

    A Novel

    The Changeling is a cautionary fairy tale for the internet age. Apollo’s wife has been acting strangely ever since their baby was born – but is it post-partum depression, or something more? Apollo’s quest to find her and his child is a modern odyssey, and not to be missed.

    — Emily

     
  • 18.

  • The cover of the book City of Saints and Madmen

    City of Saints and Madmen

    Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen is a masterwork of post-modern madness: an interconnected cycle of stories that jump between genres and formats like a frog on acid. The tales in this tome are all set in Ambergris: a squid-loving fantasy nation-state built upon land taken from the mysterious Gray Caps: a fungoid race of tunnel dwellers who may yet rise up and reclaim what was once theirs.

    — Shawn

     
  • 19.

  • The cover of the book City of Stairs

    City of Stairs

    Robert Jackson Bennett is a criminally underrated author, and nowhere is that more evident than in his Divine Cities trilogy. The first novel follows Shara, a diplomat and spy tracking a murderer in the former superpower of Bulikov when she stumbles on something much more sinister.

    — Emily

     
  • 20.

  • The cover of the book The Cloud Roads

    The Cloud Roads

    Fantasy worldbuilding can be difficult, but Wells makes it look simple in the Raksura series, where she crafts not only a world, but an entire race and culture of non-humans that functions as perfectly and as smoothly as if the Raksura existed in real life.

    — Feliza

     
  • 21.

  • The cover of the book The Color of Magic

    The Color of Magic

    Not all fantasy is epic or high or weird. It can be comedic and enlightening and fun. Pratchett is a master satire and his novels are laugh out loud and irreverant. The Color of Magic is where we meet tourist Twoflower and wizard guide Ricewind, following them on their always-bizarre journeys. A fast read filled with the power of the genre.

    — Shawn

     
  • 22.

  • The cover of the book Crown Duel

    Crown Duel

    Countess Meliara and her brother Bran swear to their father to protect their land from the king, but when he dies, that promise morphs into a war that they are unprepared to fight. The war is just the beginning, however; when Mel is summoned to court, she must learn a whole new set of combat rules. This is another technically-YA book, but it can be enjoyed at any stage of life.

    — Haley

     
  • 23.

  • The cover of the book The Crystal Cave

    The Crystal Cave

    The tale of King Arthur has been retold many, many times, but The Crystal Cave, first volume of Stewart’s Arthurian Saga, is the only one that presents it from the perspective of Arthur’s future advisor, Merlin. Stewart’s reinvention of this classic tale is full of adventure and magic, and stands as one of the best of its class.

    — Matt

     

     
  • 24.

  • The cover of the book The Crystal Shard

    The Crystal Shard

    The introduction to one of the most badass characters ever created. Renegade dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden has found a place to call home—Icewind Dale—even if it only accepts him begrudgingly. But soon that home faces a terrible threat and Drizzt is forced to ralley friends to face it. An novel that single-handledly helped legitimize the Forgotten Realms to all fantasy readers.

    — Shawn

     
  • 25.

  • The cover of the book The Deed of Paksenarrion

    The Deed of Paksenarrion

    As awesome as fantasy literature is, there just aren’t that many novels about capable female heroes. The Deed of Paksenarrion is one of the few, and one of the best high fantasy sagas around, bar none. The story of a woman who flees an arranged marriage and ends up becoming a warrior in service to the gods, The Deed of Paksenarrion set a standard for heroic literature that few others can meet.

    — Matt

     
  • 26.

  • The cover of the book The Devourers

    The Devourers

    This is the queer anti-colonialist own-voices shifter fantasy novel you didn’t know you needed. Das’s writing is sublime, beautifully counterbalancing the darkness and violence of the narrative, where werewolves stalk the Indian subcontinent.

    — Emily

     
  • 27.

  • The cover of the book The Dragonbone Chair

    The Dragonbone Chair

    The first book in an epic fantasy trilogy that both George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have called quintessential to their own success. Simon is a kitchen boy but when ancient evil stirs, he is pulled into a war as unlike any his world has seen, leaving the only home he has ever known to battle creatures once thought lost to the past. Williams is a wordsmith unlike any other.

    — Shawn

     
  • 28.

  • The cover of the book DRAGONFLIGHT

    DRAGONFLIGHT

    Dragons have long been a part of the fantasy genre and are therefore a difficult trope to reimagine. McCaffrey did just that though with Dragonflight, a science fiction novel with fantasy elements set on the world of Pern. When the Thread returns to wreak havoc upon her world, Lessa’s telepathic bond with a dragon may be the one thing that can save her people and set right the ills of her past.

    — Shawn

     
  • 29.

  • The cover of the book Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume I)

    Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume I)

    Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were almost single-handedly responsible for bringing to carefully scripted overarching narratives to Dungeons & Dragons’ ready-to-play adventures. The best of them were the Dragonlance adventures: a series of modules set in their own dragon-plagued world of Krynn. Dragonlance was supported by a series of spin-off novels, the first of which, The Dragons of Autumn Twilight, found an eager audience even among non-gaming readers. The novel set a precedent for gaming fiction that the D&D line continues to expand to this day.

    — Matt

     
  • 30.

  • The cover of the book The Dreaming Tree

    The Dreaming Tree

    Cherryh’s Arafel saga, the first two volumes of which are collected here, is a masterwork of Celtic-inspired fantasy. The Dreaming Tree presents a gorgeous, tragic view of the Faery realm and the relationships between men, elves, and the Sidhe.

    — Emily

     
  • 31.

  • The cover of the book The King of Elfland's Daughter

    The King of Elfland's Daughter

    Tolkien is commonly credited with the birth of modern fantasy literature, but he never would have gotten there without Lord Dunsany. It’s no secret that Tolkien loved Dunsany’s work, and housed his books in his personal library. The Elf King’s Daughter, a tale of troubled romance between a human king and an elven princess is a foundational work of the genre that every fantasy fan should read.

    — Matt

     
  • 32.

  • The cover of the book Elric: The Stealer of Souls

    Elric: The Stealer of Souls

    The saga of the doomed Prince Elric and his soul-eating, demon sword Stormbringer is as much an indictment of sword and sorcery cliches as it is a stirring fantasy adventure all its own. Written as a response to the capable, muscle-bound barbarians of heroic fiction, Moorcock’s saga and its antihero have become perennial favorites among fantasy fans.

    — Matt

     
  • 33.

  • The cover of the book The Eye of the World

    The Eye of the World

    No best fantasy list would be complete with The Eye of the World. While epic fantasy existed before Jordan, some would argue that it took The Eye of the World to become truly epic. The beginning of a massive multi-volume story, the opening novel introduces several fantasy-favorite characters and all set against the backdrop of a world with massive scope and originality.

    — Shawn

     

  • Want more like this? So You Want to Read Epic Fantasy: Here’s Where to Start


  • 34.

  • The cover of the book The Fellowship of the Ring

    The Fellowship of the Ring

    The Lord of the Rings: Part One

    Sure, The Fellowship of the Ring is a no-brainer, but it’s on everyone’s list of top fantasy novels, but it’s there for good reason. Tolkien’s trilogy is a masterwork of world-building: a perfect synthesis of European myth and personal vision that grows more layered with every book. Despite the intricacy of Tolkien’s world, The Fellowship of the Ring and its sequels are approachable, page-turning reads.

    — Matt

     
  • 35.

  • The cover of the book The Fifth Season

    The Fifth Season

    There’s not enough that can be said about Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth trilogy, which follows a woman seeking her daughter during an apocalyptic-scale event. A mix of social commentary, climate fiction, and adventure, The Fifth Season is set to endure as a defining story of our time.

    — Feliza

     
  • 36.

  • The cover of the book A Game of Thrones

    A Game of Thrones

    A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One

    A Game of Thrones is the novel that brought fantasy to the bookshelves — and television screens — of an audience that may have never considered themselves fans of the genre. An ambitious and bloody tale that combines the scheming and fighting of the War of the Roses with supernatural elements like dragons, zombies, and witches, A Game of Thrones and its sequels will undoubtedly stand as one of history’s great fantasy novels.

    — Matt

     
  • 37.

  • The cover of the book Gardens of the Moon

    Gardens of the Moon

    Like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the great fantasy epic that begins with Gardens of the Moon is a tapestry woven in shades of grey. There are no cartoonish Good Guys and Bad Guys to be found in this tale of empire and ambition. One taste of Gardens of the Moon is likely to spark a hunger that can only be satisfied binge-reading through the nine novels that follow.

    — Matt

     
  • 38.

  • The cover of the book The Goblin Emperor

    The Goblin Emperor

    It can be hard to find a satisfying standalone fantasy novel these days, but this is my go-to recommendation. It’s half fantasy of manners, half court-intrigue, and it’s a delight to watch Maia, our reluctant yet competent protagonist, navigate his new court responsibilites.

    — Emily

     
  • 39.

  • The cover of the book The Golden Compass, 20th Anniversary Edition

    The Golden Compass, 20th Anniversary Edition

    No list would be compete with His Dark Materials, one of the finest young adult fantasies perfect for adults. Lyra lives in Oxford with her daemon familiar friend Pan. But when her friend Roger is stolen away, she must confront the evils of those in power while growing up in a world tied to multiple dimensions. A magical story for everyone.

    — Shawn

     
  • 40.

  • The cover of the book The Golem and the Jinni

    The Golem and the Jinni

    I read this novel when it came out in 2013 and I still think about it at least weekly five years later. Chava, a golem without a master, meets Ahmad, a jinni freed from captivity, and together they navigate the complex melting pot of turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.

    — Emily

     
  • 41.

  • The cover of the book The Grace of Kings

    The Grace of Kings

    This Nebula Award-nominated fantasy tale is a silkpunk masterpiece. While bandit Kuni Garu and former duke’s son Mata Zyndu fight side-by-side against the tryannical emperor, their relationship turns south after his downfall as they grapple with their own ideas of power and justice. Full of political intrigue, airship battles, and richly crafted characters, this book will take you on an incredible journey.

    — Haley

     
  • 42.

  • The cover of the book Half Magic

    Half Magic

    A childhood classic of comic fantasy and whimsical adventures: a group of cousins discover an enchanted coin that grants wishes – but only by half. It’s a delight and a treasure, and a perfect successor to E. Nesbit’s books.

    — Emily

     
  • 43.

  • The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    I mean, of course. Indisputably the most influential fantasy book and series of… well, ever. When a book gets this popular, the patina of cultural opinion can make it hard to remember what made the original text so appealing in the first place, but you need only dip back into Sorceror’s Stone to be reminded of the magic here.

    — Emily

     
  • 44.

  • The cover of the book Herland

    Herland

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman is better known for her horrifying psychological short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but her 1915 novel Herland shouldn’t be missed. Three male sociologist stumble upon a utopian hidden society composed entirely of women, and what they find there changes their perception of femininity and gender constructs forever.

    — Emily

     
  • 45.

  • The cover of the book His Majesty's Dragon

    His Majesty's Dragon

    Novik’s Temeraire books put aerial dragon warfare into the Napoleonic era. The nine-part series is a wonderful sweeping alternate fantasy, both well-researched and gorgeously written.

    — Feliza

     
  • 46.

  • The cover of the book THE HOBBIT

    THE HOBBIT

    The Hobbit. The Shire. The Wizard. The Ring. The Dragon. And Gollum. While Lord of the Rings is one of the most important books of the fantasy genre, it all began with The Hobbit, a book that proved to children that magic really does exist and sometimes the most unassuming of characters can carry it in their pocket. This enchanting tale will continue enchanting for centuries to come.

    — Shawn

     
  • 47.

  • The cover of the book The Bloody Crown of Conan

    The Bloody Crown of Conan

    Robert E. Howard created many heroes — Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull the Atlantean — but none are more famous than Conan the barbarian. Howard wrote many short stories featuring this wandering warrior, but only one novel: The Hour of the Dragon. This tale finds Conan, now middle-aged and the king of a great empire, threatened with a conspiracy to depose him — one that involves an ancient demonic presence.

    — Matt

     
  • 48.

  • The cover of the book Interview with the Vampire

    Interview with the Vampire

    The grande dame of vampire fiction. Anne Rice has been inventing and reinventing vampires for decades now, but Interview With the Vampire remains unparalleled in its imagination, its danger, and its thrills.

    — Emily

     
  • 49.

  • The cover of the book Jade City

    Jade City

    Following rival clans who war with magic in addition to guns and fists, Jade City immerses readers in an incredibly fleshed-out universe that stands out among even some of the most gorgeously-crafted fantasy worlds.

     
  • 50.

  • The cover of the book The Book of Jhereg

    The Book of Jhereg

    Vlad Taltos isn’t really anyone’s idea of a hero. He’s an assassin, witch, and crime lord with a venomous miniature dragon as a pet. You can’t blame him for being a little rough around the edges: It’s hard to get by as a human in a world dominated by statuesque elf-like beings who wield powerful magic and consider Taltos’ type little better than animals. If you like mafia stories, and love good guys who are more than a little bad, then Jhereg belongs on your shelf.

    — Matt

     

  • Magical book recommendations, right to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter here for curated lists, author essays, and more!


  • 51.

  • The cover of the book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

    England. Magicians. And magic. All set during the Napoleonic War. The people of England believe magic no longer exists until the odd Mr. Norrell emerges, becoming a celebrity overnight. Then Jonathan Strange becomes his student — the two of them joining their magic to fight against France. But when Strange is drawn toward the more perilous magics, it strains their relationship and puts everything they are fighting for at risk. This book won all the awards and is gorgeously-written.

    — Shawn

     
  • 52.

  • The cover of the book Kindred

    Kindred

    This time-traveling journey by speculative fiction master Octavia Butler should be on every American reader’s shelves. It follows a young black woman who is transported from 1970s California to 19th century Maryland in order to save the life of a white slaveowner’s son, and while it’s a speculative title, its raw portrayal of the lives of American slaves is rooted in a realism that will keep readers thinking about the book long after reaching the last page.

    — Feliza

     
  • 53.

  • The cover of the book Kushiel's Dart

    Kushiel's Dart

    This series is full of such luscious prose, you’ll never want to leave. The story follows Phèdre, a courtesan and spy in a world of political intrigue. The scarlet mote in her eye marks her as Kushiel’s chosen — one who is bound to find pleasure in pain. Don’t let the sensuality in the book turn you off; the complex world-building and artful plotting make this one of the best fantasies out there.

    — Haley

     
  • 54.

  • The cover of the book Lagoon

    Lagoon

    While first contact stories tend to fall into the science fiction category, Lagoon incorporates a combination of speculative elements that ultimately weaves a story that leans much more towards the fantastic.

    — Feliza

     
  • 55.

  • The cover of the book The Last Unicorn

    The Last Unicorn

    Patrick Rothfuss says it best, “The Last Unicorn is the best book I have ever read. You need to read it. If you’ve already read it, you need to read it again.” It is a magical read, a fairy tale and yet not, one filled with the precision of a master storytelling at the height of his craft. Beagle has written a classic, perfect for all ages.

    — Shawn

     
  • 56.

  • The cover of the book The Library at Mount Char

    The Library at Mount Char

    This was, hands down, my favorite novel of 2015. Hawkins’ writing and worldbuilding are remarkably assured, especially considering this is his debut novel. The story tracks Carolyn, once human, now a student of the being known as Father, who oversees the library of creation. When Father disappears, his students turn on each other, and the consequences are earth-shaking.

    — Emily

     
  • 57.

  • The cover of the book The Lies of Locke Lamora

    The Lies of Locke Lamora

    Widely considered as one of the finest fantasies alongside The Name of the Wind and A Game of Thrones, Lynch has created one of the most complex characters in Locke Lamora. It is more than that, though. The author uses poetic language and has created a brilliantly-wrought world beside Locke. A must read.

    — Shawn

     
  • 58.

  • The cover of the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    Inkling C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series begins with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a portal fantasy that finds a group of English children in a magical land of talking animals and faerie beings. Toss in a visit from Santa Claus, an ice queen, and loads of candy, and you’ve got the recipe for a fantasy novel that has enthralled generations of children — and adults!

    — Matt

     
  • 59.

  • The cover of the book The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I

    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I

    The Chrestomanci series is a delightful entrance to a universe comprising multiple worlds, and the eponymous Christopher Chant is a boy with nine lives who can travel between those worlds.

    — Feliza

     
  • 60.

  • The cover of the book LORD FOUL'S BANE

    LORD FOUL'S BANE

    A foundational book in epic fantasy but one also featuring one of the first great anti-heroes. Thomas Covenant is a divorced leper living a life of seclusion. “Don’t touch me” is his rule. But when he is pulled into the Land as the reincarnation of its savior, he must decide what is real and what is not as he goes up against the evil Lord Foul.

    — Shawn

     
  • 61.

  • The cover of the book Magician: Apprentice

    Magician: Apprentice

    Raymond E. Feist’s Magician: Apprentice introduced readers to Midkemia: a fully realized fantasy setting inspired by the author’s own Dungeon & Dragons campaign. This tale of a lowly orphan with a great magical destiny is as classic a fantasy tale as it gets, and is the gateway to a sprawling universe of Midkemia novels.

    — Matt

     
  • 62.

  • The cover of the book The Magicians

    The Magicians

    A Novel

    Imagine if Harry Potter and his fellow students were college-aged city kids who partied hard in between their lessons in thaumaturgy. Now forget that, because it doesn’t really do justice to the originality of Grossman’s tale of magic, parallel dimensions, and the troubles of young adulthood. If you think you know the story, then prepare to be surprised.

    — Matt

     
  • 63.

  • The cover of the book Magic's Pawn

    Magic's Pawn

    Magic’s Pawn is one of Mercedes Lackey’s first books, and a great way to break into her richly imagined Valdemar universe. The story follows a young man whose desires don’t conform to the expectations of his family — especially because his magic is one of the rarest in the land, and rather than become a warrior, he wishes to be a Bard instead. But with power like his, his path is destined to be perilous no matter which one he chooses.

    — Haley

     
  • 64.

  • The cover of the book Mistborn

    Mistborn

    Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series cannot be missed. This is a world that lost to the ultimate evil overlord long ago, but there are still a few people resisting his rule. Enter: Kelsier, his band of thieves, and an orphan girl with unexpected powers. They plan to pull off the greatest heist in the history of the world, and with it, overthrow their godlike tyrant.

    — Haley

     
  • 65.

  • The cover of the book The Mists of Avalon

    The Mists of Avalon

    The Arthur legend has always been fertile ground for modern day storytellers but Bradley managed to write arguably the most important chapter in its two thousand years–the tale told through the eyes of the powerful women behind the throne. It is a remarkable achievement, a necessary read like Dune or The Lord of the Rings.

    — Shawn

     
  • 66.

  • The cover of the book Monstress, Vol . 1

    Monstress, Vol . 1

    A dark fantasy comic about a woman possessed by a monster, Liu and Takeda’s story stands out among contemporary comics with the East/Central Asian-inspired worldbuilding and the intricate eldritch art deco art style.

    — Feliza

     
  • 67.

  • The cover of the book MY FATHERS DRAGON

    MY FATHERS DRAGON

    Okay, this is a children’s book – but it’s a classic. When young Elmer hears the tale of a baby dragon imprisoned on a faraway island, he undertakes a journey to free the dragon, and encounters incredible sights and creatures along the way. The book is unsurpassably charming, and the illustrations iconic.

    — Emily

     
  • 68.

  • The cover of the book My Soul to Keep

    My Soul to Keep

    The first book in Due’s African Immortals series finds Jessica entangled in a dangerous mess she never asked for when she discovers that her new husband, David, is a member of an immortal sect whose unending lives come at a terrible price.

    — Emily

     
  • 69.

  • The cover of the book Mythago Wood

    Mythago Wood

    Mythago Wood is a haunting work of modern fantasy that sinks its hooks in and never lets go. This story of a man drawn into an forest larger within than without that is haunted by living folkloric archetypes known as “mythagos”, Holdstock’s novel takes the fantasy novel into deep psychic territory.

    — Matt

     
  • 70.

  • The cover of the book The Name of the Wind

    The Name of the Wind

    While the story itself has all of the cliches and tropes that make up high fantasy, Rothfuss has managed to write an engaging tale with beautiful prose and musical words. Orphaned when his parents are killed by the Chandrian, Kvothe tells the tale of his rise from the streets of Tarbean to the University and beyond as he hunts for the ways of revenge. One of the most important books of the last quarter century.

    — Shawn

     
  • 71.

  • The cover of the book The Night Circus

    The Night Circus

    A mysterious circus serves as the backdrop of a years-long duel between two magicians, who have always known they must compete against one another, despite not knowing their competitor or the reason behind the competition. The characters and plot are splendidly drawn, but it’s the circus itself that will draw you into this mesmerizing tale.

    — Haley

     
  • 72.

  • The cover of the book Night's Master

    Night's Master

    Tales From the Flat Earth, arguably Tanith Lee’s most popular series, is based loosely on the Thousand and One Nights – this world of demons, gods, and mortals is a treasure to read, even forty years later.

    — Emily

     
  • 73.

  • The cover of the book The Once and Future King

    The Once and Future King

    Who doesn’t love a good King Arthur story? The classic tale by T.H. White is a staple for any fantasy buff, following the journey of a young boy named Wart as he grows from Merlin’s pupil to Arthur, King of the Britons.

    — Haley

     
  • 74.

  • The cover of the book One Hundred Years of Solitude

    One Hundred Years of Solitude

    A classic in its own right, One Hundred Years of Solitude‘s fantastical aspects tend to be overshadowed by the literary accolades (rightfully) awarded to it. You need only look at the passage where a minor character ascends into Heaven while hanging laundry to feel the power of Márquez’s talent.

    — Emily

     
  • 75.

  • The cover of the book Outlander

    Outlander

    A Novel

    The book that began the TV series phenomonon. Complex characters. Great storytelling. And all set amidst historical backgrounds that the reader becomes swept away within. Claire Randall is a former British combat nurse who finds herself pulled into a past that threatens her life even as it threatens the love in her heart. An amazing story of time travel and romance.

    — Shawn

     
  • 76.

  • The cover of the book Palimpsest

    Palimpsest

    A Novel

    Catherynne Valente’s prose is a consistent marvel, and her books are endlessly original. Palimpsest is a novel of linked stories of characters from different walks of life who’ve all found a way to the titular city, a magical place only accessible after a night of passion with someone who’s already been there – it’s a sexually transmitted city. If that doesn’t catch your interest, I don’t know what will.

    — Emily

     
  • 77.

  • The cover of the book Perdido Street Station

    Perdido Street Station

    A book that, when published, showed the world how weird and beautiful fantasy can be. Filled with marvelously different characters and rife with scientific splendor, the magic that Mieville writes with is unparalleled in the genre. Isaac has spent a lifetime at research in New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. An amazing tale for those who love the written word.

    — Shawn

     
  • 78.

  • The cover of the book Prince of Thorns

    Prince of Thorns

    The fantasy genre is constantly evolving. Prince of Thorns is a part of that evolution, one of the most important grimdark pieces to the overall puzzle. Jorg is a young prince who has lost everything and is on a quest for revenge, no matter what it takes and the lives he must kill to gain his goal. Gruesome, dark, and bloody, take a quest with the Road Brothers.

    — Shawn

     

  • Want more like this? So You Want to Read Grimdark: Here’s Where to Start


  • 79.

  • The cover of the book The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

    The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

    Adventure, romance, revenge, swordfights – everything in Goldman’s comedic “abridged” fairy tale is the very base of what readers look for in a fantasy. The novel also served as source material for the cult classic movie of the same name.

    — Feliza

     
  • 80.

  • The cover of the book The Queen of the Tearling

    The Queen of the Tearling

    Don’t let the cover copy fool you – this is high fantasy, but high fantasy with a post-apocalyptic twist. Centuries in the future, humanity has made the Crossing to a new land, and civilization takes a turn for the brutal. Kelsea undertakes a journey to be crowned queen – but she’ll have to survive first.

    — Emily

     
  • 81.

  • The cover of the book Redemption in Indigo

    Redemption in Indigo

    Karen Lord’s stunning fantasy is woven from the threads of a Senegalese folktale, full of trickster gods, magical objects and resourceful characters. It follows Paama, who is gifted a Chaos Stick after leaving her gluttonous husband — but an indigo djombi isn’t so keen on her possessing that power. — Haley

     
  • 82.

  • The cover of the book Redwall

    Redwall

    What happens when a man tells a story to blind children at their school? He paints with words, words that would ultimately become Redwall, a wonderful first novel that would become a bestselling series. Jacques tells the story of the peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey, who must defend themselves against Cluny the Scourge and his battle-seasoned army of rats. If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior, they might have a chance…

    — Shawn

     
  • 83.

  • The cover of the book Riddle-Master

    Riddle-Master

    Technically a set of three books contained in one volume, Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master is well worth the journey. In a world where wizards have vanished, leaving behind their knowledge in the form of riddles, a young prince travels through this strange land in search of his destiny.  — Haley

     
  • 84.

  • The cover of the book The Rook

    The Rook

    Funny and exceptionally well-realized urban fantasy featuring one of the freshest protagonists I’ve encountered in recent memory. O’Malley creates a riotous cast of characters with a good sense of humor that never undermines the intrigue of the plot.

    — Emily

     
  • 85.

  • The cover of the book Rosemary and Rue

    Rosemary and Rue

    Rosemary and Rue tracks the origins of urban fantasy October Daye, a half-human half-Fae woman drawn back into the immortal world by a horrendous murder. McGuire is a prolific author, so if you love Toby Daye, you’ve got dozens more novels to pick up next.

    — Emily

     
  • 86.

  • The cover of the book Running with the Demon

    Running with the Demon

    One of the first an best examples of modern urban fantasy. Nest Freemark is an Illinois teenager with a secret–she can do magic. But when a broken Knight of the Word comes to find her, she will learn that the past and her family’s secrets can be as deadly as the demon that hunts her. A masterpiece of dark contemporary fantasy.

    — Shawn

     
  • 87.

  • The cover of the book Sabriel

    Sabriel

    Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy is inventive and compelling, and stays with you a long while after you’ve finished. It revolves around Abhorsens, keepers of the border between life and death. In book one, Sabriel is on the hunt for her missing Abhorsen father, and must face down creatures of the dead with the help of a set of necromantic bells and a powerful talking cat.

    — Haley

     
  • 88.

  • The cover of the book Sorcerer to the Crown

    Sorcerer to the Crown

    Set in a Regency-era alternate Britain, the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers has fallen into disrepute as the country’s store of magic has been drying up. The new “unsuitable” head of the organization is determined to find out why, and the solution may be quite drastic. If you’re looking for Pride & Prejudice meets fantasy, this is the tale for you.

    — Haley

     
  • 89.

  • The cover of the book Storm Front

    Storm Front

    In the scope of the fantasy genre, urban fantasy has become a heavyweight in readership. Butcher’s Dresden Files is a large reason for that. The long-running story of Harry Dresden begins with a grisly double-murder in Chicago, one that thrusts Harry into the darkest depths of magic, fairies, and Courts. Readers love Harry and the numerous characters and creatures he comes into contact with–and it only gets better with each published novel!

    — Shawn

     
  • 90.

  • The cover of the book A Stranger in Olondria

    A Stranger in Olondria

    Sofia Samatar will make you cry, either through the sheer towering beauty of her prose or through her story of a merchant’s son who falls in love with reading, only to journey to a distant land and find himself haunted by the ghost of an illiterate girl.

    — Emily

     
  • 91.

  • The cover of the book Swordspoint

    Swordspoint

    Swordspoint has been called a cult classic by many, and there’s a reason for that. Political ambitions, swashbuckling battles, and amorous affairs infuse this novel with a sense of thrilling urgency and just pure fun. If you’re familiar with Serial Box’s Tremontaine, it’s set in the same world as Swordspoint, and is just as deliciously written.

    — Haley

     
  • 92.

  • The cover of the book Tales of the Dying Earth

    Tales of the Dying Earth

    Jack Vance practically invented his own genre with The Dying Earth: a series of stories set millions of years into the future. Under a dying red sun, on an Earth where technology has become indistinguishable from magic, the doomed human race spends its final days engaged in games of trickery and death. Written in a flowery, not quite purple style reminiscent of Lord Dunsany, The Dying Earth oozes decadence and perfidy. There is truly nothing like it.

    — Matt

     
  • 93.

  • The cover of the book Throne of the Crescent Moon

    Throne of the Crescent Moon

    Ahmed’s novel is an own-voices epic fantasy magnum opus strongly rooted in Arab folklore. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is a ghul hunter on the verge of retirement who’s drawn back into the fray by two young fighters and a planned coup. Don’t miss these compelling characters and luscious world-building.

    — Emily

     
  • 94.

  • The cover of the book Tigana

    Tigana

    Anniversary Edition

    When it comes to masterpiece stand alone fantasy novels, look no further than Tigana. Kay is adept here at storytelling, magic, politics, and the complex and amazing characters that infuse epic stories. It is widely considered to be his best novel–although I think several of his other novels rank up there as well. Tigana will enchant you as it has others for two decades.

    — Shawn

     
  • 95.

  • The cover of the book The Traitor Baru Cormorant

    The Traitor Baru Cormorant

    I think of this book as bureaucratic fantasy, which makes it sound like a real drag – but trust me, Dickinson writes each economic policy change like a jolt of pure adreniline. Baru is a preternaturally gifted bureaucrat dedicated to taking down the Empire of Masks from within in this world-class novel.

    — Emily

     
  • 96.

  • The cover of the book War for the Oaks

    War for the Oaks

    Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks was one of the very first works of urban fantasy, flipping the traditional, vaguely-Medieval-European fantasy world on its head with a gritty, urban setting instead. In this tale, rock singer Eddi McCandry’s future is looking dim, until she’s drawn into a hidden war between the faerie folk of Minneapolis.

    — Haley

     
  • 97.

  • The cover of the book Watership Down

    Watership Down

    Who would have thought that this book about a bunch of rabbits would become so important. But it did, an instant and timeless classic for all ages. It is a tale of adventure, courage and survival following a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. A lot of literary meaning to this one and a beautiful read regardless.

    — Shawn

     
  • 98.

  • The cover of the book Wildwood Dancing

    Wildwood Dancing

    Juliet Marillier’s luscious fantasy novels are not to be missed. While you could start with her acclaimed Sevenwaters Trilogy (book one is Daughter of the Forest), a better place to begin is her enchanting standalone novel Wildwood Dancing. The story is loosely based on the fairy tale “The 12 Dancing Princesses,” and takes place in the woods of Transylvania, following young Jena and her sisters as they grapple with magic, love, and dark motivations.

    — Haley

     
  • 99.

  • The cover of the book Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower IV)

    Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower IV)

    Last gunslinger Roland Deschain seeks the Dark Tower to set right the erosion of his world — but he wasn’t always the last gunslinger. Wizard and Glass tells the story of Roland’s youth, a prequel tale featuring his fellow gunslinging friends and how his choices affected numerous worlds at once. Argued by many readers as the best Dark Tower novel, it is also a stand alone and one of the most important books in the genre.

    — Shawn

     
  • 100.

  • The cover of the book A Wizard of Earthsea

    A Wizard of Earthsea

    Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea was a groundbreaking novel in many ways, among them its representation of people of color as fantasy heroes. In addition to that, it’s just a great read that reinterprets the sorcerer’s apprentice trope in new and exciting ways. Like many other great works of young adult literature, A Wizard of Earthsea has plenty to offer readers of all ages.

    — Matt