Fantasy worlds are awesome.
Bursting with unvisited places, hidden haunts where secretive races or unsavory creatures may lurk, and myriads of cultures and cities and customs, they offer a readymade playground for our imaginations.
We can explore for months, even years, and never fully mine the riches buried in fantasy worlds. Adventures, dangers, exotic locations, breathtaking cities—all this and more waits at our fingertips.
Fantasy reflects our world in many ways, but often infused with the impossible that seizes our imaginations and whisks us away in a vicarious experience. We venture into forbidden kingdoms, walk the hallways of lavish palaces, sail uncharted seas. There’s no end to the possibilities and adventures.
Sorry, serious geek moment there. I could rave about the beauty and joy of fantasy worlds until the sky falls…but don’t worry. I’ll refrain 😉
One knock against fantasy is its apparent inability to move beyond the medieval blueprint. However, there are plenty of fascinating fantasy worlds out there. Here are five of my favorite.
Earthsea is one of the few worlds that straightaway stands out in the crowd.
Because it’s unique. The geography happily abandons the shackles of traditional fantasy and presents a world of islands, diverse people groups, magic, and hundreds upon thousands of nooks and crannies left to our imaginations to fill in.
It also has floating islands where people live.
And did I mention the dragons? 😉
No list of fantasy worlds would be complete with Middle-earth. After all, it’s the grandfather of fantasy worlds. It proudly stood as a rich, expansive, vivid world before they were hip and trendy.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said in praise of Middle-earth?
- Elves, dwarves, hobbits
- Magic and wizards
- Millennia of history
- Languages, races, and family trees to boggle the mind
- Humble towns and majestic cities
- Mysterious kingdoms
Middle-earth truly is a groundbreaking achievement.
THE WORLD FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME
It’s hard to imagine, but the world found in the Wheel of Time series is almost as impressive as Middle-earth in its scope. The level of detail achieved is amazing. Each kingdom is unique in its culture and feels like a real place—if not too easily stereotyped, which was unfortunate.
Still, this world stands out to me despite the flaws. One of the main reasons is the magic system, which is easily one of the most fascinating I’ve encountered in my fantasy wanderings.
THE 5 REALMS
The Kinsman Chronicles by Jill Williamson promises to be epic. Any fantasy that wants to achieve such status needs a world pulsing with energy and life. The 5 realms certainly fit that description.
The tale has only just begun, but already I’ve been far and wide across the lands of Armania, Sarikar, Magonia, Rurekau, and Tenma. They each add their own distinct notes that when blended make for an exceptional symphony.
A perfect example of a well-crafted fantasy world.
This is the most interesting, entertaining, incredible fantasy world I’ve had the pleasure of entering. Ever.
- Magic and science blend together to play a part in everyday life.
- Wars rage in unexpected locations, some barely more than the petty pursuit of wealth gained from harvesting the gemhearts from terrifying beasts.
- Hurricane-like storms whip across the world in regular cycles.
- The cultures and races, infused with ingenious customs, are varied and vibrant.
- It’s layered history points backward to fascinating antiquity and forward to impending doom.
- It’s both as deep as the sea and as expansive as the sky—without ever sounding cliché or repetitive.
If I could pick any fantasy world to visit (preferably via the TARDIS), I’d choose Roshar in a heartbeat. Fantasy world at its best.
What are your favorite fantasy worlds? I’d love to hear your thoughts.