If you hadn’t guessed, my favourite genre is fantasy. I love to delve into new worlds, cultures and even inventive new species. Fantasy books are fantastic for escaping and broadening your horizons. Often people don’t consider reading fantasy to really be “reading” but the imagination and continued concentration it takes to write about these fantastical things takes an awful lot of brainpower.
I’ve read quite some epic fantasy books and so my knowledge of what makes a great one and what makes an average one, I like to think, is quite high. To make a great fantasy novel it needs to have a well-realised world, genuinely interesting characters, no continuity errors and more. Some of these books are higher fantasy than others – this essentially means they have more fantasy elements. For example, some books in this genre have created worlds, species and characters, others have simply a newly created world but they’re a little more realistic elsewhere.
All of these books I rated five stars and are the first in their relevant series.
1. The Last Wish by Andrej Sapkowski
The Last Wish is the beginning of The Witcher series. The Last Wish is technically 0.5 in the series which means it has since been considered a prequel to the main book series. However, I’d highly recommend starting with The Last Wish as it tells some fantastic short stories prior to the main Ciri-based storyline that the latter books focus on.
This first book tells some incredible shorter stories that develop characters, introduce fascinating “monsters” and tell genuinely deep tales.
2. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
You can’t mention the best fantasy books without mentioning the Wheel of Time series. The Eye of the World is the first in the series and introduces you to just a taster of what to expect from the upcoming fourteen books (I’ve only read five so far). You’re introduced to the main characters you’ll follow throughout the series and just a few of the cultures.
The Eye of the World suffers from an aging view on character development with few really standing out as overly interesting. However, the incredible story, deep cultures, religions and more make this an absolute benchmark for anybody looking to develop a deep and fully realised fantasy series.
3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Quite possibly my favourite book series, let alone fantasy book series. Utterly incredible. Sanderson has an incredible talent for writing engaging characters, well-developed cultures and worlds and also some incredible endings that have you so very hooked. Every book in this series is over 1,000 pages so ready yourself for the long haul but I promise you, you won’t regret it.
4. The Nothern Lights by Philip Pullman
An absolute classic in the genre is The Northern Lights and its sequels by Philip Pullman. A story that really shows the imagination of Philip Pullman and captures the minds of everyone who reads it. A genuinely heroic young main character and some truly fascinating elements added in to make the world(s) feel authentic are real highlights of this series.
5. Jade City by Fonda Lee
And last but by no means least, one of the more modern entries on this list is Jade City by Fonda Lee. This is one of the lower fantasy books that focuses on a fantastical Asian-inspired world where different gangs run different parts of the country and they must fight or remain in peace to ensure their business’ remain intact. The series focuses mainly on the Jaul family and the struggles and challenges they must go through as part of their respective roles within the family business.
The first novel is a fantastic introduction to the family and the element of “jade” which is essentially a drug that brings out abilities in certain people across this world. It’s a great fantasy element that acts more an accompaniment to the rest of the story rather than constantly being used and thrown in your face. I love the blend of Asian-inspired fantasy and Godfather-like elements.
One of the best things about reading is hearing everybody else’s opinions on different books. These are currently MY five favourite fantasy books/series. But what are yours? Would you strongly disagree with any of my choices? I know I’ve missed out the likes of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings on here. Would you add these on? What are your favourite fantasy books of all time? let me know below or on your social media platform of choice!