10 Fantasy Books to Read Before You Die

What fantasy books should everyone read?

Um, not to shoot myself in the foot, but I don’t think you can create a definitive list. What’s excellent to one person is merely good to another. What captures one reader’s imagination won’t have the same effect on someone else.

If that’s the case, why bother with a top-10 list? Maaaybe because I needed a topic to write about. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone) 😉

The main reason is so I can share with you some of the books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. My hope is that you’ll discover a few new worlds to explore.

I’m not ranking these in order of best to worst, so don’t let the numbers distract you.

10 fantasy books graphic1. THE WAY OF KINGS

As the first novel in the epic Stormlight Archive, The Way of Kings is an achievement of mind-blowing proportions and brilliance.

I could rave all day about the sprawling, complex plot that lays a solid foundation for what promises to be an astounding series. I could praise the cast of characters, taken from all walks of life and showing a myriad of perspectives. I could gush about the depth, breadth, and creativity of the worldbuilding, which is the best I’ve seen in any fantasy book bar none.

Instead, I’ll simply say, “Thou. Shalt. Read.”

2. WORDS OF RADIANCE 

Okay…gonna break my own rule. This is the second installment in Stormlight Archive, but seriously, it’s here for a reason. All that admiration you just read for the first book? This one is better. On scale of 1-5, it deserves six stars.  ‘Nuff said.

3. LORD OF THE RINGS

Because DUH…Lord of the Rings. This is the crown jewel in epic fantasy, the father of the genre, the spark that kindled the flame. Quite simply, it changed the literary landscape and it remains one of the most popular books ever published.

If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read Lord of the Rings…what in the world are you waiting for?

4. A MEMORY OF LIGHT

The conclusion to the massive—and hotly debated—Wheel of Time Series. Personally, I enjoyed the series immensely, though it could have skipped books 6-11 and been even better.

As the culmination to such a vast tale, A Memory of Light is everything a grand climax and conclusion should be. All the promises, foreshadowed events, battles, character arcs—the very fate of the world—come to a breathtaking finish.

5. THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE

A classic, and not only for children. The themes manage to probe into deep waters while remaining simple and straightforward.

6. FROM DARKNESS WON

This book brings to a close the fantastic Blood of Kings Trilogy. As any self-respecting final novel should do, it gathers the individual plot threads together into a masterful tapestry. The fact that it’s fantasy makes everything better.

While the story is great, the characters are what make this book—and the entire series—outstanding. The way the character arcs and the book wraps up, especially for the two main characters, makes for one of the most satisfying endings I’ve experienced.

7. THE WELL OF ASCENSION

As the second book in the Mistborn Trilogy, The Well of Ascension is easily as good as its counterparts (impressive for the spot that can often be the weak link in the series). In some ways, it’s even better. It brings a fresh storyline to the well-worn path of fantasy, and includes a glorious amount of mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and surprise.

The end is a short-breath-inducing finish, with a twist so shocking it will blow your socks off.

8. THE BOOK OF THE DUN COW

An adult book about animals. Before you scoff and shake your head at how ridiculous that sounds, don’t jump to conclusions. I did, but when I read this book I discovered how wrong I’d been.

Far from being a childish tale masquerading as an adult novel, The Book of the Dun Cow is a highly unique, surprisingly grim fantasy. The themes entwined through the story are thought provoking and profound for what on the surface seems to be a simplistic story.

9. KING’S FOLLY

The first two parts, Darkness Reigns and The Heir War, have already released as ebooks. They’re both amazing. The writing, the world, the plot, the characters—all fantastic. I haven’t read the third part yet, but I can already tell King’s Folly is going to be an extraordinary novel.

10. THE EYE OF THE WORLD

The first book in the Wheel of Time Series, The Eye of the World begins the tale of a traditional epic fantasy. It’s not without flaws. The plot is a standard quest to save the world and the characters could be more fully developed.

That said, it offered a compelling tale and managed to walk a fine line by including many of the common building blocks of fantasy that readers enjoy without becoming too trite. Definitely give a try.

>>>>>

You might have noticed most of these books are part of a series, and not even the first book in the series. If you want to read some of them, you’ll have to work through the previous books.

Which means I’m suggesting way more than ten books to read. Sneaky, aren’t I? 😉

How many of these books have you read? What would go on your top-10 list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Comments

10 Fantasy Books to Read Before You Die — 14 Comments

  1. I’ve read LOTR, the Narnia chronicles and the first of the Blood of Kings book (love Jill Williamson and can’t wait to read the rest plus her new series). Sounds like you really like Brandon Sanderson as an author. I’m just not as into the epic fantasies lately… Narnia, LOTR and Jill Williamson would definitely go on my list. Storm Siren by Mary Weber, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, anything by Diana Wynne Jones. There are several other series on my radar that I expect might make the list once I finally read them.

    • Jill Williamson is an amazing writer. Her new series is going to be epic! 😀

      Yeah, Sanderson is easily my favorite author. Most of his stuff tends toward the more epic side, but he does do shorter books, and not always fantasy, either.

      Ooohhh, I just started Storm Siren. 🙂

  2. Haha! Sneaky indeed. But I think any reader trying to create a list of ten favorites and they would definitely squeeze as much as you they can into that list.

    I agree that one’s top ten might be different than another’s. But it is always cool to see what books we all have in common and discover new favorites!

    My top ten….
    1. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    2. Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
    3. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
    4. Spacetime Legacy series by K. M. Carroll
    5. Trinity by Clare Davidson
    6. The Staff and The Sword trilogy by Patrick W. Carr
    7. Atherton series by Patrick Carman
    8. The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman
    9. Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard
    10. Bid the Gods Arise by Robert Mullin

    And that’s like thirty-nine novels and two novellas. 😀 And I’m sure I’ve left some out. Ha!

    • Oh, what was I thinking! I should not be commenting on things while I am sick and sleep deprived. Ha! That should read: …any reader trying to create a list of favorites would definitely squeeze as many as they can onto that list… Can I go back to bed please? Ha!

    • That’s true, Jennette. Choosing a strict top-10 list is really hard unless you don’t read any series’ (perish the thought). Yes, it’s fun to see what books other people like and find new books to read…as if we don’t have enough in the TBR pile already, right? 😉

      Your list looks awesome. I’ve read the first 3 HP books and the first two in the Staff and Sword trilogy.

    • Thanks, Sara Beth. 🙂

      I know a lot of people slam it, especially for the pacing and poor characterization, but like I said, take out the middle chunk of books and I think it’s a fantastic series. Especially the last 3 by Sanderson. SOOO GOOD! 😀

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