I know what it’s like: sometimes you finish a book and you just don’t know what to read next. That’s why I’ve put this list together of 25 of the best fantasy books (in no particular order) that should be at the top of your to-read list!
Any list of the best fantasy books has to start with Assassin’s Apprentice! The beginning of the Farseer trilogy, and also the beginning of a nine book series that tells the life of Fitz, bastard son of a disgraced prince, and his remarkable, hidden role in history.
Hobb’s Fitz books are very much a coming of age story, so if you’re a fan of tight action and lean prose, pass on this one. But if you like a fantasy book that enjoys its time with the world and it’s characters, take a look at Assassin’s Apprentice.
Fitz is a great viewpoint character, flawed but full of good intentions, and he’s supported by a huge range of varied characters that are easy to love, and opposed by villains that are easy to hate.
Although this is the beginning of a story that will take nine books to tell, don’t worry about getting sucked into a nine book series; the first trilogy stands alone. In fact, I think it’s the best of the three, although the second trilogy is very good too!
A Sorcerer Slain
If you liked the sound of a murder mystery in a fantasy novel, but didn’t really want a fantasy-Sherlock Holmes, then A Sorcerer Slain is for you. It’s funny, action-packed, and clever. And perhaps the greatest praise I can heap upon this book is that the lead character and investigator, Lowmar Dashiel, thinks like a real person.
The story is set in the city of Andruan, where the Sorcerer Supreme has been murdered (he would be the sorcerer slain). This act threatens to topple the king and spark a civil war. With so many interested parties, no-one can be above suspicion. But I’ve seen too many crime stories where someone always is; there’s always someone the hero never suspects for a moment, and it’s always them that did it. Always. But Dashiel suspects nearly everyone at one point or another and I wanted to applaud every time.
This smart writing extends to the genre blending that takes place in this novel. When I first heard that Sivers was writing fantasy crime, my first thought was that those genres were unusual bedfellows. But A Sorcerer Slain is proof they make an excellent match; it calls no attention to itself, borrowing tropes from both fantasy and crime as it wills. At no point do these genres clash, and most of the time they’re perfectly balanced.
In fact, the only thing that lets down this novel is when those genres become unbalanced, and it embraces the fantasy genre too strongly. For instance, there’s a great battle which on paper sounds great for a fantasy novel. But this book is smaller, more intimate, and the battle felt out of place to me. Once things had got back to Dashiel’s smaller world, things felt more natural.
So if epic fantasy is the only kind of fantasy you’ll entertain, give this one a pass. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, this crime fantasy might just scratch that itch.
Children of Blood and Bone
If you’re tired of medieval-European fantasy, this is an excellent choice for your next read. Adeyemi has written a story of persecution, magic, and raw emotion that will catch you by surprise at times. This might be a YA novel, but it doesn’t pull any punches; alongside the smiles and the romance, there’s a lot of death, violence, and heartache too.
Children of Blood and Bone tells the tale of Zélie Adebola, whose mother was killed when tyrannical King Saran ordered the deaths of all magic-wielding magi. Saran also severed the magi’s connection with the gods, and now magic is no more. After a chance encounter, Zélie leads a quest to bring magic back with the help of her brother, Tzain, and Saran’s daughter, Princess Amari. Standing in their way is Amari’s older brother, Prince Inan, but whether he is friend or foe is uncertain, and there is a strange connection between Inan and Zélie that might be more than it seems.
Adeyemi’s novel moves at a pace, hammering through the story There’s a great sense of world, too. The Kingdom of Orisha feels huge, but there’s also a sense that there’s a big wide world beyond its borders. All of the characters have depth, too, and are full of the conflicts and uncertainties that make a character human. So much of the story hinges on these conflicting desires that I honestly wasn’t sure which way the story was going to go, which is always a good thing!
Filled with character-driven, action-filled fantasy that differs from the usual medieval-European fare, and unexpectedly moving at times, Children of Blood and Bone really is one of the best fantasy books out there.
Or, give it a listen: I got a copy of the audiobook for Children of Blood and Bone, and I can’t recommend enough experiencing the book this way. It’s beautifully narrated by Bahni Turpi, whose work is reason enough to take out an Audible trial.
The Blade Itself
Read the dust jacket for The Blade Itself and you might think this is more than mere epic fantasy. In fact, the book description even seems to sneer at the genre, which is an odd position to take as this is a very epic, very fantasy novel.
You have the legendary warrior, Logen Ninefingers, who is without purpose until he meets the wizard, Bayaz, and they begin a journey across the land. You have the bitter old Inquisitor Glokta, who is searching for the truth and probably isn’t as disillusioned as he seems. And you have the naive and selfish young man who is clearly destined to be a warrior. There’s war and intrigue and magic.
That said, The Blade Itself is far more Game of Thrones than The Lord of the Rings in its approach to fantasy. So if you’re looking for something gritty and violent without elves and such, this might be the book for you!
The Lies of Locke Lamora
I always think of The Lies of Locke Lamora as Ocean’s 11 meets epic fantasy. It’s not a perfect analogy; for instance, Scott Lynch’s novel doesn’t feature Don Cheadle gamely trying to squeeze as much Cockney rhyming slang into his dialogue as he can. But if you love a good heist but you like fantasy worlds too, this is the book for you.
Locke Lamora is a member of the Gentlemen Bastards, a gang of thieves working under the leadership of Father Chains. They all find themselves wrapped up in the mysterious machinations of the Gray King, and the story is filled with twists, double crosses, and desperate races to save the day, not all of which are entirely successful.
Locke is a witty, smooth-talking character, so don’t come to this novel for a gritty time. Yes, there’s violence, but there’s also jokes and hijinks too. The body count gets pretty high, and there’s even a bit of torture thrown in for good measure. But the general tone is less Game of Thrones and more, well, Ocean’s Eleven. It’s a good time, and a classic for a reason.
Ship of Magic
Fresh off the back of the Farseer trilogy, Hobb wrote a new trilogy set in the same world, but with a very different setting.
Where the Farseer trilogy dealt with magic and dragons, this new trilogy deals Liveships, ships made from wood imbued with magic that makes the ship come alive. These ships absorb the personalities of the people who have died on deck, which is a fascinating and slightly disturbing idea!
If you read Assassin’s Apprentice and you weren’t a fan of the main character, Fitz, then give Ship of Magic a chance. It’s full of very different characters: a woman trying to become captain of a ship; a boy taken from his life training to be a priest; a pirate who would be king. Because it’s a book about ships; of course there are pirates!
Hobb’s writing is as strong as ever, and there are some interesting, subtle links to her Fitz books for the eagle-eyed, but this trilogy stands apart from her other work.
Brian Jacques’ Redwall is the first in an epic fantasy series for children starring English woodland animals. It’s quaint and it’s sweet and it’s fun. It’s a fantastic introduction to fantasy for children or, if you’re an adult, it’s a great read between thick fantasy tomes.
The eponymous Redwall is an abbey, populated by mice, which faces the threat of Cluny the Scourge, the appropriately named rat leader of an army curiously hell-bent on conquering the abbey. The hero, Mathias, is a young mouse who is always being told by his elders to be calm and mindful, but lusts for adventure and excitement. Naturally, it falls to him to somehow find a way to defend Redwall against the oncoming threat.
There’s legendary warriors, an ancient sword, and riddles that will puzzle and please young minds (although quite how the logic works will puzzle older ones). Redwall should definitely be on your reading list, and is undoubtedly one of the best fantasy books around!
The Lord of the Rings gets all the hype and the glory, but I think The Hobbit is not just under-appreciated, but even (dare I say it) more deserving of a place on a list of the best fantasy books than it’s younger, bigger brother.
Tolkien’s first major work benefits from being a sleeker, more focused thing. It’s not a big, sprawling epic, but an adventure story. A treasure hunt, in fact, with a dragon to vanquish and humorous events and coincidences along the way. The narrator has a knowing tone, sharing asides and commentary with the reader that are intended to delight and surprise. I’ve always had a soft spot for the invention of golf in Middle-Earth; this is accredited to a Took’s fortuitous decapitation of a goblin.
The origin of golf sums up The Hobbit rather nicely, in fact. This is a fantasy adventure that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. That doesn’t mean that the stakes aren’t high, or that there aren’t thrilling scenes and perilous moments. But this is fantasy without the grit and grime, so it’s perfect for when you need a spot of levity and adventure in your reading list.
This is a bit of a different one. If you like your fantasy full of adventure, give this one a miss. But if you’re in the mood for something contemplative, take a look at John C Gardner’s exploration of the monster Grendel.
That’s somewhat misleading, in a sense, because there are times when this book feels less like an exploration of a character, and more that the character is simply a vehicle for an exploration of philosophy. In fact, there were times when reading Grendel that I wondered if Gardner was simply using the tropes of fantasy to write a philosophical treatise. Which feels unfair, because even in those moments I found myself enjoying the story.
But that, in a sense, is why I always recommend Grendel, because it’s by no definition a standard fantasy novel. I won’t lie to you: once you’ve read it, you might not want to read something like it again. But fantasy is such a huge, wide genre that can encompass so many different stories. Grendel is a contemplative fantasy, and it’s a masterclass in taking what was a fairly nondescript monster (from Beowulf, if you weren’t sure), and turning it into something you can not only empathise with, but end up rooting for.
The Prince of Thorns
You might have heard this before: dispossessed prince seeks to reclaim his throne. But it was something of as surprise to find that this prince was a bit of a monster.
Lawrence certainly isn’t the first person to write an anti-hero, but I was surprised at how much I liked Jorg, even as he did some pretty unpleasant things. As is often the way, the anti-hero is saved by offering scathing yet honest opinions that no-one else will voice, as well as a minor and earnest romantic subplot. Sometimes, Jorg even commits decent acts, although almost by accident.
I was also somewhat surprised to discover that this wasn’t a medieval fantasy, but instead a fantasy set in a far-off, post-apocalyptic world. Lawrence does a very good job of weaving in hints of this world without being heavy-handed, which I appreciated; all too often, such a setting is handled with the subtlety of a brick to the face.
The only downside to The Prince of Thorns is that the ending is almost too neat for the first in a trilogy; the force driving you to read the next book isn’t really the plot, more just your enjoyment of reading this one. That’s hardly a terrible sin, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for a cliffhanger.
My relationship with Dungeons & Dragons was brief. In fact, I played a Dragon Quest once, and Warhammer Quest once. That’s it. But it was enough to familiarise me with the tropes, and so I took great joy in watching Adrian Tchaikovsky turn those tropes into a fun, engaging, thoughtful novel.
The setup for Spiderlight is simple enough: the good guys are stalwart warriors of hope and faith, the bad guys are ugly and monstrous. Tchaikovsky turns that on its head pretty much straightaway. In fact, the idea that good guys aren’t always good and bad guys aren’t always bad runs through the entire novel.
Unfortunately, that means that twists and surprises aren’t overly surprising. What was surprising was that I didn’t mind so much. Considering that much of Spiderlight feels like it’s based on D&D tropes, I was actually beginning to enjoy reading about the characters. This is a stand-alone novel, so there isn’t much room for the stakes to get to the usual dramatic heights of epic fantasy, but they felt high enough for an enjoyable read.
And, while Spiderlight might not revolutionise the fantasy genre, I was too busy empathising with a creepy, giant spider to really notice.
To say that Brandon Sanderson is prolific is an understatement. While that’s great for his fans, sometimes a huge body of work can be somewhat intimidating. Where do you begin? Once you start, are you committing yourself to read dozens of books to get the full picture? What if you just want a taster to see if you like the author’s work before you dive in? Warbreaker is the taster you’ve been looking for.
The novel is fairly standard fantasy fare, with kingdoms in peril and such. I did, however, appreciate that the magic system creates what are essentially walking gods. One of them was even my favourite character; Lightsong is somewhat jaded and disconnected from his life of luxury, so he’s in the best position to make jokes and wry observations. Unfortunately, Lightsong’s story takes a while to get going, which creates an odd dissonance between his laconic existence and the more traditional fantasty antics of the other characters.
But with a magic sword, a king to overthrow, and a few surprising twists and turns, this is definitely worth a read.
The Looking Glass Wars
What is it about Alice in Wonderland that has led so many writers to reinterpret its story and themes? Whatever it is, Frank Beddor certainly has a fresh take on things.
Take Alice in Wonderland and put it in the epic fantasy blender. There’s a lost princess whose throne has been usurped, a kingdom under a tyrant’s rule, and an assassin; yes, the Mad Hatter has become the Hatter Madigan, and he’s a badass assassin now.
There are certainly times where the story veers into epic fantasy cliches, but it’s almost a pleasure to see how Beddor twists the classic tale to fit the cliches. Unfortunately, it looks like this book is out of print, so you might have to hunt it down. I recommend you do. I had a lot of fun reading it and, if you enjoy epic fantasy and alternative takes on Alice, you will too.
The Broken Sword
Published the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring (and therefore uninfluenced by Tolkien), The Broken Sword is a novel that has all the matter-of-fact grimness of Norse legends (and some of the characters and settings, too), whilst telling an epic fantasy tale in much less space than Tolkien ever managed it.
The book tells the story of the son of Orm the Strong, Scafloc. Unfortunately, elves steal that son and replace it with a changeling, Valgard (who is half-elf and half-troll). Orm raises unwittingly raises Valgard, the elves raise Scafloc. There’s wars, the eponymous broken sword, and betrayal. There’s also incest, murder, and the general sense of inevitable doom that comes from a culture whose philosophy ends with Ragnarok in which everyone dies (well, almost everyone).
This is fantasy that isn’t inspired by Christian values or even traditional good vs evil narratives. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys the Norse mythology, this is a fantasy novel for you. And if you’re looking for something a little less spiritually uplifting than traditional fantasy, you should give this a go too.
If you ask me, Mort is the perfect Discworld book. It’s early enough in the series that it serves as a great starting point, but it’s late enough that Pratchett has got a grip on his creation. It tells the story of Mort, a young boy who somehow ends up the apprentice of Death. Yes, the skeletal chap who reaps souls and TALKS LIKE THIS. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and it’s full of clever observations of life that make you think a little too much, and laugh plenty.
But the humour isn’t what makes this a great fantasy novel. It’s Pratchett’s inventiveness that does that. He likes to indulge in all the tropes of fantasy, and play and lampoon them in clever ways. For instance, magical rites are performed with plenty of pomp and ceremony, but Pratchett reveals that this is more to do with pride and professional prestige; most magic can be performed with very little indeed. I also liked the way Pratchett incorporated the idea of morphogenetics, ludicrous in real life but fascinating “science” for a fantasy novel. And, of course, the way Ankh-Morpork reflects every major city is always insightful and hilarious.
But the truth is that I like this book so much because of Death. Of course, Death has become such a huge character that we’re no longer surprised when the embodiment of death isn’t grim and murderous. But it’s still a pleasure to see Death so likeable, so hapless, and even funny. He isn’t a killer at all. He’s simply performing an existential duty. He’s doing the job we gave him, which he’s very good at, and trying to understand people, which he isn’t good at. Which brings us back around to the comedy again, as Death tries to understand people, and people try to explain things that don’t make much sense when you think about them too long.
If you’ve never read a Discworld novel, this is the one to start with. If you’ve read Discworld, but haven’t read this one, do so. And if you don’t think Discworld is your cup of tea, do yourself a favour and give this one a try.
A Game of Thrones
If you’re someone who loves a grounded fantasy full of detail and lore that also feels like it could actually happen, the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series is for you. You can understand why it takes George R R Martin so long to write one of these, because they’re packed to the gills with story and world.
But be warned: there are no happy endings in Westeros.
One of the reasons A Game of Thrones has attracted so much attention is that it is a fantasy novel like no other. It is brutal, it is coarse, it is harsh and it has no remorse. Martin doesn’t tip-toe around the truth of the story. Characters have sex, get hurt, get maimed, and die. Love that character? They’re going to die. Hate that character? Well, they’ll probably die too; everybody does. In this way the novel is very fair: nobody gets what they want. Especially the reader.
Speaking of endings, you might be put off reading this because the ending of the TV series was somewhat controversial. Put that out of your mind; the novels are taking their own path, and even if the endings are similar, Martin’s work will make much more sense. So if you’re tired of books with happy endings, and you’re looking for something gritty and grounded, you can’t go wrong with A Game of Thrones.
If you’ve ever read Neil Gaiman, you probably know what to expect. If you haven’t, this is a good place to start.
The basic premise is that gods are real. All of them. And they walk among us. Anansi, Anubis, Bilquis, Ēostre, Odin. You might not have heard of them, because they’re the ancient gods of all of the various cultures that came to America countless generations ago. As time went on, people stopped believing in them, and they became less powerful. But still there.
American Gods tells the tale of Shadow Moon, a man who leaves prison and is drawn into this world of ancient gods by the enigmatic Mr Wednesday. The novel is, effectively, a road trip across America, meeting gods both old and new, while Shadow tries to figure out what’s going on.
Because new gods rose to take the old gods’ place. Gods of technology and television, the Internet and the stock exchange. It’s a fun concept, and it’s always interesting to turn a page and see which entity Gaiman decides we’ve decided to immortalise as a god.
Shadow is the stereotypical clueless narrator, serving as a way for the other characters to explain what’s going on, but they don’t often bother. This means there’s a huge mystery beneath the surface, and while every mystery can be sometimes infuriating ( why won’t someone just say what’s going on?), the payoff is totally worth it.
But watch out for the middle section; it’s a bit slow, and it puts people off, but stick with it: it’s totally worth it.
The Darkness That Comes Before
It only occurred to me when writing this that The Darkness That Comes Before reminds me of A Game of Thrones, only with less swearing and sex. But it has that same density to it; it’s not an easy read, but it’s stuffed with lore and story.
Like A Game of Thrones, true heroes are few and far between; most of the characters are instead varying degrees of reprehensible. The Darkness That Comes Before also tells a complicated story of political scheming and a potentially supernatural threat. However I feel that Bakker’s novel is far more labyrinthine than Martin’s. The Darkness That Comes Before defies simple explanation; try to find a plot summary and you’ll reach the end more confused than when you started reading it.
But don’t let that put you off. This is certainly no straightforward adventure fantasy, and it’s a book that requires all of your attention to keep it straight in your mind. But I have never read a fantasy novel that felt so real and even as it threatens to confuse you with its complexity at every step, it develops in you a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Even as the novel abuses your mind, you can’t help but start to admire it. And soon, you’re recommending that other people read it.
Rivers of London
I went through months of people telling me that this book reminded me of them before I read it and realised they’re absolutely right; Rivers of London reads like a book I narrated. It’s sarcastic and a little cynical with some dark humour mixed in. In fact, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is the sort of book I should be writing…
Rivers of London is an urban fantasy, telling the story of regular policeman Peter Grant who stumbles across the existence of a secret branch of the police that deals with the paranormal. A fairly standard urban fantasy plot so far. But the way Aaronovitch builds his world has a surprisingly Neil Gaiman-esque vibe to it; I saw surprising because of the humour that’s laced throughout the book. Seriously, if you ever needed a book called A Practical Guide to Sarcasm, this book would be a contender.
But I happen to think sarcasm is funny.
Naturally, with Grant being a policeman, there’s a mystery to solve. To be honest, I found myself less bothered by the mystery than perhaps I should have been. That’s because I was enjoying the sheer pleasure of the writing, the banter, and poor Grant’s cluelessness (yes, this is a new world to him, but it seems pretty obvious that, for example, pale people who don’t go outside might be more than they seem). Ordinarily, such cluelessness would annoy me, but Grant is so likeable that it’s hard to be irritated with him. Although it does make you wonder about his detective skills.
Still, the hype around this series is deserved. Even if you’re not a big fan of sarcasm, give it a read: I think you’ll agree it belongs on a list of the best fantasy books.
Yes, Pratchett is on this list twice, but considering how many books the man wrote, it’s amazing that Terry Pratchett doesn’t dominate the entire thing! And, quite frankly, Truckers deserves a spot because it’s great and I love it.
I actually first encountered Truckers via the kids TV series, which was a great adaptation, and you should watch it), but quickly discovered the book is far superior. The idea is simple; Masklin’s tribe of tiny nomes find their way into a (soon to be demolished) department store where the nomes don’t believe in the outside world.
This leads to a great deal of humorous misunderstandings about rain and wind which will delight a child, and there’s plenty of Pratchett’s trademark wit that makes the books fun for adults too.
Being for kids, Truckers is a quick and easy read, so it’s perfect for when you haven’t got much time for reading. It also means there’s no excuse for not reading, so get to it!
A Monster Calls
This book is so good I had to stop reading it because I was about to cry on a train.
The basic premise is that young boy Conor is watching his mother succumb to cancer. He’s isolated and scared and lonely. And one night, a gigantic monster comes to his bedroom. It promises to tell him three true stories, and then Conor must tell a story. If the story he tells is not true, the monster will destroy Conor.
What follows is a story that moved me very deeply. A Monster Calls offers no easy answers, no saccharine solutions. It paints the world as tricky and complicated. Conor’s pain and isolation is handled perfectly; Ness never fumbles for your heartstrings. And the monster’s stories are delightfully old, filled with the dark injustices and terrible vengeances of ancient tales.
It’s hard to find a criticism of this book, to be honest. I must strongly recommend you buy the illustrated edition, though; there are few pages that aren’t touched by Jim Kay’s dark and energetic work, but it supports the text rather than overshadowing it.
Oh, and try not to read it in public places. Unless you’re okay with crying in public.
The Raven Tower
Ann Leckie is a phenomenal writer, and I try to hold off from buying her books because I devour them in a matter of days, leaving me left to wait until the next one is released. The Raven Tower is her first fantasy book, and I’m so confident that it’s going to be great that I’m recommending it without reading it first.
And I can do that because her Imperial Radch trilogy was just so good. It told the tale of Breq, a person who was also a spaceship which had been destroyed many years prior. Breq is making her way in a world where gender isn’t a consideration and everyone is referred to by feminine pronouns, and much of the known universe is ruled by a being who has hundreds of bodies.
If that sounds delightfully weird, it’s because it is. But although the setting is strange, the story is rooted in reality (which sounds impossible, but trust me). This makes for a powerful combination of marvellous and believable storytelling. And The Raven Tower promises to deliver the same. Bear in mind what I just told you about her Imperial Radch trilogy when you read the synopsis:
Listen. A god is speaking.
My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle. The castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne. You want to help him. You cannot.
You are the only one who can hear me.
You will change the world.
Now tell me that this doesn’t sound like it could be great.
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
It’s a classic for a reason, and you’ll never look at Turkish Delight the same way again.
What child hasn’t daydreamed about a secret doorway that takes them to a magical world? Even better, a magical world where they’re royalty. Such daydreams take on an almost unbearable pathos when Lewis makes them real for four kids during wartime Britain, but let’s be honest: we’re here for Narnia, not the Second World War. And Narnia doesn’t disappoint.
Lewis was a contemporary of Tolkien, and it shows: you won’t get gritty or grounded fantasy, but something far more allegorical. In fact, the Aslan/Jesus parallels are almost a little too on the nose at times, but you’ll let Lewis off the hook because Aslan is great. And if he’s a little too perfect, the White Witch is a little too frightening really.
Seriously, I’ve never been able to give Turkish Delight a fair shake because of this book. But then, Turkish Delight is gross. Quite why it’s such a temptation to these kids is beyond me…
The Armoured Saint
The title and the cover art for this one had me hooked straightaway. Perhaps it’s because it reminded me of the Sisters of Battle, a power-armoured ecclesiastic army in Warhammer 40,000, a game I used to play as a teenager. So I was looking forward to seeing this armoured saint in action.
But, when it comes to action, The Armoured Saint is slow to get moving. There’s action, sure, but this novel really feels like it’s setting up the rest of the series. It could serve as a prequel, even. And the foreshadowing is a little too obvious. As soon as the suit of armour appears on the page, you know what’s going to happen. Except it doesn’t happen for a long time. This, to be honest, was frustrating.
So why is it on this list? Because when the action finally does kick off, it’s worth the wait. There might have been too much build-up, but I still finished this novel with a sense of satisfaction and a desire to read the next in the series.
(Hot tip: I actually listened to the audiobook version, but the narration is dreadfully slow: this is definitely one to listen to at 1.25x speed!)
Michael A Stackpole writes a fantastic line in late-80s fantasy fiction. It might seem quaint by comparison with the grittier fare that is modern fantasy, but there’s something quite sweet in Stackpole’s first novel pairs with the story of Nolan, a young man training to be a Justice.
Let’s be clear that this novel is not a weighty tome; it’s a fun, straightforward affair, and enjoyable for it. The story is split between the trials of Nolan’s training and the present day, in which he is tasked with protecting the man who killed his family. Both of these throw challenges into Nolan’s path, but they’re nearly always dealt with quickly. Even the huge conflict of protecting a man he blames for slaughtering his family is quite easily handled. But that’s not really a huge criticism.
That’s because Stackpole writes an uncomplicated novel; challenges and trials are action set pieces, overcome so the action can continue. And there’s plenty of action. Goblins and sorcerers, wood elves and the undead. This is a galloping blockbuster of a novel, and if it doesn’t require a lot of thought, it’s a lot of fun to read. Is that enough to warrant a place on a list of the best fantasy books? I think so. Not every fantasy book has to be a sprawling epic, a mighty trilogy, or an overwrought drama. Sometimes it’s just a fun piece of escapism, and Talion: Revenant is certainly that.
And a fun read seems like a good place to end this list. Even better would be a comment from you about books you think everyone should read next. I’m always looking for a new read, so leave a comment and tell me all about the titles you think should have been on this list!
P.S. I’d be a fool if I didn’t mention…
Don’t think I’m being egotistical and trying to include my own novel in a list of the best fantasy books! But it would be madness not to at least mention The Fey Man. Obviously I’m biased, but I think you’ll like it!
It’s the first book in the Realm Rift Saga, and it tells the tale of Thomas Rymour, the prophet who cannot lie. An elf lord hatches a plot to save the world by stealing a legendary sword; a sword that, it turns out, only Tom can wield. Tom is forced to break his oath in order to save the world. But while terrifying dragons scorch the skies, the immortal creatures of Faerie hatch their own dark plans for the mortal realm.
And these creatures aren’t delightful little fairies. Oh no. They’re fearsome monsters that take pleasure in anything that alleviates the boredom of eternity. That ranges from wordplay and innocent pranks all the way up to torture and murder. Whatever takes their fancy.
From the frozen heights of the world to its labyrinthine depths, Tom will face immortal creatures, terrifying dragons, and undead monsters on his impossible quest to save the people he loves and the world they live in. But how can he defeat an enemy that cannot be killed?
What do you think is the best fantasy book?
Originally published at https://jamestkelly.com on August 20, 2019.