Some people think of fantasy when they think of hobbits and magic wardrobes. Others think of a wizard P.I. in Chicago or a gunslinger in a magical Wild West when they think of magic. And that’s what makes it so great. There are many things that make fantasy so great, like making new worlds, species, and magic systems. Elves can fall in love with humans and street urchins can use magic, which isn’t possible in real life. Fantasy introduces readers to stories with villains who want to take over the world and heroes who want to help others (or, sometimes, tender-hearted villains and amoral heroes). Fantasy is a genre that has a lot of strength and beauty.
To honor the history of the genre, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fantasy series of all time. Enjoy reading our picks (listed in alphabetical order by series title).
The Black Company by Glen Cook
First Book in the Series: The Black Company (1984)
In Glen Cook’s Black Company series, he does a great job of setting up the world. Ten novels, three subseries, and a lot of short stories follow. They cover 400 years of rich history. The title of a series isn’t always a good indication of what happens in the stories inside. The Black Company is a perfect fit because the series looks at morality in a group of hired mercenaries in a world of wizards and magic. Real-life soldiers also liked The Black Company because it was more like how mercenaries in real life would deal with their jobs and their lives. This made Cook’s book more appealing to real-life soldiers. Tyler R. Kane says this:
The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence
First Book in the Series: Prince of Thorns (2011)
In the Broken Empire Trilogy, Mark Lawrence weaves together a war epic, a family drama, and a coming-of-age story to make a multi-layered fantasy series that is filled with dark magic. Jorg Ancrath, the “Prince of Thorns,” was physically and emotionally scarred after he saw his mother and brother killed. As a child, he went from being a tortured child to a callous leader who wants to be king. Lawrence’s trilogy isn’t just about the characters. It also has a twist on the typical “teen fighting to unite the land” storyline: this protagonist won’t be afraid to leave a trail of dead bodies in his wake. In this case, Frannie Jackson is talking.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
First Book in the Series: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
A lot of the time, C.S. Lewis’ kind Narnia series feels like the yang to Tolkien’s dark and serious yin, which makes sense because the two Inklings were close friends for many years and worked together on many projects. Many people only think of Lewis’ series as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is a bad thing. Some of them, like Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician’s Nephew, have a sense of grandeur and heraldic magic that the other books don’t have. There’s also a gentle but persistent sense of regret that permeates the series because time moves so quickly in Narnia and not in our own world. They even have their great empires swept away by the time they reach their next entry. This shows us many different sides of Narnia. —Jim Vorel said that.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
First Book in the Series: The Book of Three (1964)
During this time, any successful tween series is being talked about as a movie franchise, but Lloyd Alexander’s pentalogy has stayed out of the public eye (Disney’s 1985 film The Black Cauldron is an exception). With a little help from Welsh mythology but not too much, this coming-of-age story about Taran and his friends is both high fantasy and heartwarmingly real. Consequently, the series is a great way to learn about the genre, because Taran, Eilonwy, Flewddur Fflam, Gurgi, and Doli are characters who will stay in your mind even if you read about famous hobbits and lions. —Michael Burgin says that.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
First Book in the Series: Lord Foul’s Bane (1977)
Description: Stephen R. Donaldson’s trilogy is based on Tolkien’s work, but the author pulls one of the best switcheroos of reader loyalty in fantasy: the protagonist is one of the most grating main characters to ever lead a series. This is one of the most well-known examples of this. Thomas Covenant has a lot of reasons to be unpleasant, but leprosy isn’t one of them. This list shows that Donaldson’s trilogy has a lot more to offer than just the Bloodguard and some great fights. Yet, I love the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because I love the land. This is why I love the land. It’s a world where you can see how people interact with things like stone, wood, and animals in a way that makes you care about them. Tolkien is a fan of the Hobbits, as well as of Gandalf and Legolas. You root for the Hobbits with The Lord of the Rings because you want them to win. But you don’t like Thomas Covenant. Instead, you root for the Land and against the people who try to take it away. It just so happens that this self-loathing leper is the only way to defeat Lord Foul and his gang. —Michael Burgin says that.
The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore
First Book in the Series: Homeland (1990)
Role-playing games and fantasy novels have been together for most of their history, but it can be dangerous for people who aren’t very knowledgeable about the genre to go down this road. It’s possible to get into a game-based world in a way that would be impossible in real life. On the other hand, it can be hard to read clumsily written fantasy stories. That hasn’t been a problem for people who like Dungeons and Dragons’ Forgotten Realms area. In the Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore has written some of the best books about Drizzt Do’Urden. One of the best is The Dark Elf Trilogy, which brings the elf’s colorful history to life. This is one of the few times that a series like this one reached a lot of people. The last book, Sojourn, was on the New York Times bestseller list. Tyler R. Kane says this:
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
First Book in the Series: The Gunslinger (1982)
Description: You may think of Stephen King’s name when you think of horror, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t write other kinds of books. He does a great job of mixing dark fantasy, westerns, and horror in The Dark Tower, which came out between 1982 and 2012. Eight stories were released in that time. The setting of the story might not seem like the best place for a fantasy story, but the Gunslinger’s trials and journeys are more Lord of the Rings than Clint Eastwood. The Dark Tower series has been talked about for decades, even though fans have different opinions about which books are the best, how the series is connected, and whether it will get the film adaptation it deserves. Tyler R. Kane says this:
Discworld by Terry Pratchett
First Book in the Series: The Colour of Magic (1983)
Terry Pratchett was a voice that was sorely needed in the fantasy genre, where so many authors thought they could be the next Tolkien. That wasn’t Pratchett’s thing. His Discworld books thought about what would happen if the characters of a high fantasy-like world grew up a little, only to develop modern flaws and anxieties. To get answers to fantasy questions that no one had even thought to ask, Pratchett moved the majority of the book’s action to the stench and grime of an industrial-era city. For example, what kind of menial city work is appropriate for trolls to do? There are many different parts of the Disc continent that are shown in the comics, but they also return to groups of characters from different social classes, like the City Watch, the Witches, and Rincewind (who isn’t very good at magic). It’s important to note that Pratchett’s comedy is based on absurdism. Each entry has real character development and an outside threat that builds to a madcap conclusion with world-wide consequences. —Jim Vorel said that.
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
First Book in the Series: Dragonflight (1968)
I still remember the feeling of reading the first Pern books as a child. The wonder of dragons who could communicate with their riders through their minds was almost too much to bear. I wanted to protect my world from the plague of Thread while riding on my fire-breathing steed and best friend. There was no job more appealing than that. But I would have been happy to be a harpist like Menolly and write songs with telepathic fire-lizard pets to keep me company, just like her. Her land of dragons had enough stories to fill 22 novels and two collections of short stories. Her first two trilogies are still popular today, and many people still enjoy reading them, even though they were written a long time ago. Josh Jackson: —
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
First Book in the Series: Storm Front (2000)
A hard-boiled detective story set in Chicago with a wizard as a PI? This is one of the best “Why didn’t I think of that?!” combos since the introduction of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. Jim Butcher’s stories have a pre-made structure that fans of both fantasy and detective noir will recognize right away. At the same time, the author can skip some of the more time-consuming parts of world-building and get right to the action, all the while polishing the very tropes and clichés he used to get a head start. You get a modern and retro pulp series that has enough books and anthologies to keep you busy for a long time, just like any good pulp series. —Michael Burgin says that.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
First Book in the Series: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle is one of the many fantasy books that did a lot of world-building and inspired writers like Neil Gaiman. The Lord of the Rings gets a lot of attention in the fantasy world. From 1968 to 2001, six books were published in the series, which dived into a world that was very different from our own. If you read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, you might first think of wizarding education. Many people think it started in Earthsea, which is in the same series. It is a story about a young wizard who has a hard time bringing balance to the world of magic. This is a theme that many American moviegoers know about in 2016. A strong pulse is still felt in the fantasy world because of Le Guin’s work. Tyler R. Kane says this: