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Top 50 Best Epic Fantasy

Best Epic Fantasy Series | Best Fantasy Books

Epic fantasy is arguably the father of all fantasy subgenres. It's also the most popular fantasy genre, with hordes of new epic fantasy books being released each month. Unfortunately, the epic fantasy genre has become cluttered with cliches. It's hard to sort through all the "fat fantasy crap" to find the best in the genre.

I've done my best here to give my recommendations for the best epic fantasy series. These books aren't your usual hackneyed fat fantasy series -- they do something new, or tell a fantastic story, have realistic characters, or exhibit qualities that put them above the rest. Indeed, these are those epic fantasy books that actually deserve to be on the bookshelves or (since we are in 2012) the Kindlestore.

Please keep in mind that I've added EPIC FANTASY to this list -- so fantasy series that don't fit that mold, no matter how good they might actually be, are not included. Please don't email asking me to add The Dresden Files, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games or any of those books to the list -- they're not epic fantasy! Epic Fantasy is a very specific kind of fantasy and a term that's often tossed on any fantasy book with a bit of magic, a hero, and maybe a villian. It's much more than that. I suggest you read exactly what epic fantasy really is before reading this list.

The rankings are a bit different from the Top 25 List and some of the other lists; this list covers only epic fantasy and I evaluate the books based on that alone.

Also note that these are what I consider "The Best Epic Fantasy", so I'm intentionally not including epic fantasy like The Sword of Truth, Shannara, Eragon, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, RA. Salvatore or David Eddings. Sorry, I don't consider that stuff good enough to make this list by far. You can read my Worst Fantasy commentary for my exact reasonings.

You'll recognize some of the books from other lists, but there are some new picks as well. If you want recommendations that are broader (i.e. just not epic fantasy), check out the Best Fantasy Series list.

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01

The Malazan Book of the Fallen

(The Malazan Book of the Fallen)

(Steven Erikson)

img Comments (3)
Award Nominations:2000 WFA

This epic 10-part series is finally completed as of 2011. It's one hell of a ride from start to finish.

Now, I personally rate Martin's A Game of Thrones (and the whole series as a whole) "better" than Erikson in broad terms. But when we are talking strictly epic fantasy, I believe Erikson's work is slightly stronger and far more epic than Martin's work.

For some people, Malazan is too "epic" to be understood or enjoyed. But we are talking about "epic" fantasy here and you can't get more epic than the Malazan books -- there's a huge cast of powerful characters that grow and mature over the series, there are super villains and super heroes, vast landscapes explored, and the series is on such a scale that it even jumps between past and present.

Basically, if you are looking for a big EPIC with a lot of stress on the EPIC part, Malazan Book of the Fallen is as epic as you'll find. It's also an adventure that you won't forget and features a large cast of gray characters with complex motivations. This book has helped change the face of fantasy. As such, it's a must read. Big points go to this series for actually being completed, unlike some of the others on this list.

Some will find it a big push to get into Erikson's work, as he doesn't make it easy for the reader; the landscape, the setting, the characters, the language, and pretty much everything is so different from what you are used to in a fantasy novel that there's a shock factor that requires some time and patience to overcome. To give this series a fair shake, you really need to invest time reading the first book and part of the second; by book three, the series really starts to pick up and you'll never ever be satisfied with regular fantasy again. So be patient, put the time in, and enjoy some of the best epic fantasy out there right now.

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A good heroic stand alone fantasy book about a girl who becomes a legendary military leader is Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion. There is a great deal of military detail present in the book (fans of The Black Company may be especially interested).

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For a different take on the whole military fantasy subgenre, you could read Naomi Navik His Majesty's Dragon. It's sort of old-style naval military fiction, but replace the ships with talking dragons. The first book has garnered some impressive reviews over the past couple of years -- it's well worth reading if you are in the mood for something different. Note, only the first couple books are great -- the series collapses after a few.

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Another series that put a lot of emphasis into tactics and military would be John Marco's Tyrants and Kings. A rather unknown book/series, which is a pity it deserves far more recognition.

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For a standalone fantasy book that's ALL military fantasy, check out Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes and his other standalone, Best Served Cold.

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A couple more suggestions for those of you who love military fantasy fiction (I know I do). Paul Kearney's The Monarchies of God could be considered military fantasy. I personally don't care what you call it, this series is one of the most under-appreciated fantasy series out there. Don't make the mistake of not reading it! You should also check out his new novel, The Ten Thousand which is military fantasy at its best. A must read if you like Glen Cook or the Malazan novels.

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And finally, if you are still scrounging around trying to find some good military fantasy books, check out books written by Chris Bunch (The Seer King series and Dragon Master series especially). He's a mixed bag in terms of quality, but you can expect a LOT of military strategy, tactics, and graphic sex in his books. Don't expect more from the author -- he died a few years ago.

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Also give Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series a go. It's a coming-of-age story set in a roman-inspired fantasy milieu. Lots of action, magic, military tactics, struggles against overwhelming military odds and so on.

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Also give David Anthony Durham a try. His recent novel, Acacia trilogy was hailed as the next best thing several years ago -- big on the epic battles and gritty dark realism of Erickson and Martin with a focus on some heroes. Unfortunately, the series fell flat by the end and disappointed. But it's still a decent read. More similar to Game of Thrones than Mazalan, however.

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Also give James Barclay's Cry of the Newborn a whirl. It's similar in style and content (though less epic) to Erickson's work. It's an example of a Fantasy military fiction done right. Barclay also knows how to write damn good battle scenes, giving even Erickson a run for his money.

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For a big big EPIC fantasy, Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive is your best bet. The story spans the ages (from what we've seen so far) and involves huge armies clashing in a fantasy version of no man's land with monsters. Big on magic, big on battles, big on magical heroes who kick ass.

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The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a military fantasy; you might want to read Glen Cook's classic The Black Company series. It's dark, gritty, and has a hell of a lot of battles. It's the book that has forever defined military fantasy and it's probably the "closest" you'll find to Malazan in terms of style and feeling. His recent series (starts with The Tyranny of the Night) is also a military fantasy series -- a series that pits men against ancient demon creatures.

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If you are after the EPIC in epic fantasy, Wheel of Time. Lots of battles, lots of characters, lots of intrigue, and lots of angry fans after Jordan derails the series around book 6 and dies before he gets it back on track. It took Sanderson to get the series back on track and to finish it off. But if you like Mazalan, read WOT, you will probably like it.

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For a "different" sort of gritty military fantasy, you might also want to give Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky a read. Some pretty novel concepts in the book and series and theres a lot of books.

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Oath of Empires might be something you could try out; it's an alternative history saga, where the Roman Empire has never fallen and magic works. Oath of Empires is epic, featuring massive magical battles and huge opposing armies (Persian and Roman) clashing so hard you can hear the horses scream. It's never become "popular" in fantasy circles, which is a pity.

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You can also try Scott R. Baker's The Darkness That Comes Before saga, a series which has big battles and the black grittiness pioneered by Martin. It's a smart fantasy too with a philosophical twist (some hate this, some love this). Think Jesus Christ decides to take over the world through war and deceit, and that pretty much sums up the series.

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George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga also features an epic scope and the gray characterization that Erickson so loves. Martin's' work is smaller is scale though and tends to be more focused, plot wise. The battles take a while to build up, but when they happen, oh boy.

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Awards Won:1997 LocusF
Award Nominations:1997 NEBULA, 1997 WFA

This book has appeared at number one on many of our lists. I make no apology for this, as the series is really the best fantasy out there. People will argue that Martin's quality has gone down in the fourth book or that he's taking too long to finish the series. Some will argue the series is too bloody, too brutal, etc.

It doesn't matter.

A Song of Ice and Fire is THE fantasy series of our age. It's influenced countless other books and has started an entire genre of subfantasy ("the gritty fantasy"), or if not started, than at least popularized.

If you want a fantasy series that follows all the standard cliches -- heroes who never die, villains who are two dimensional, wise cracking sidekicks, deus ex machina -- then read something else. If you want a fantasy series that's brutal, unforgiving, and totally unpredictable, A Song of Ice and Fire can't be beaten.

Yes, yes, the last two books have been dissapointing to some of the fans; Martin has not moved the plot threads along as fast as the fans would like. The next book looks to finally be the one we are waiting for -- I hope. Regardless of the disappointment, the series still stands at the pinnacle of the fantasy genre. 

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Try David Anthony Durham's Acacia . It's has a somewhat similar feel to A Song of Ice and Fire. The series wasn't as good as it initially promised to be by the end of it, but it's still good enough to read; the author pulls some interesting plot threads out of the blue by the end of book 2. My major complaint about the series was that I never really found the characters all that interesting

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The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, of Science Fiction fame. Marin can write villains as heroes and heroes as villains, but if you want to read about a dour world without a shred of goodness, check out Morgan's foray into the fantasyscape. Its a dark and blood and cold as ice, but there's a shit load of brutal action.

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You might also like Tad Williams newest fantasy saga: Shadowmarch which has some similar plot elements (strange fey creatures coming down from the north behind a wall of magic mist, trying to take over the world). There's a rich cast of characters scattered across the world in completely different lands (much in the way that Martin features characters living in the frozen north, characters living in exotic deserts, and so on). The creatures the north, the Quar, are similar to the Others, but more developed as mysterious, yet somewhat sympathetic entities, rather than the zombie-making horrors that Martin makes the Others to be. You might say this is the story of "The Others" and how they came to be so damn pissed off at the world of men.

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Monarchies of God -- a vastly under-appreciated series. If you like the epic struggle between kingdoms, fierce battles, strange unexplored lands across the sea, and life aboard a ship. Paul Kearny writes a compelling tale here. Elements of grim dark too.

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Because like Martin himself recommends Howard's masterpiece.

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Elements of ASoIaF's gritty and dark but at times hilarious. Well written. Think a book made up of the Tyrion chapters, centering around a band of thieving scoundrels in an Ocean 11 fantasy plot.

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The Gap Cycle by Donaldson. This is science fiction NOT fantasy and in no way is there any similar plot elements or themes, but Gap Cycle is darker than dark and features heroes who have more in common with villains. If you like the bleak outlook on flawed humanity taken up by Martin, Gap Cycle won't disappoint your disappointment in the human race.

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Take a royal family who can walk into different realities. Gray characters, squabbling siblings, alternate realities, a prince in exile.

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There are elements of Martin in this work, which I was very impressed with as debut novels go. It's very much so a dark fantasy, with brutal violence, death, magic, and some compelling characters who are all flawed. You'll feel right at home if you are a Martin lover.

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Try R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before, which features superlative prose, a unique, but fascinating storyline, and the gritty realism that Martin exhibits. It's got that world is ending element to it as well. It's also a heck of a lot more philosophical too, which may or may not be something you like. On a whole Bakker's work is sort of like Tolkien's Mordor invades Martin' Kingdoms and stirs up a lot of shit. Throw a fantasy wizard Jesus with kung fu abilities and stuff the prose subtext full of philosophy. On the surface it's a head-case trippy mix, but there is a certain power to this series.

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Another series that had a somewhat similar feeling to Martin's work is The Godless World trilogy -- there are some shared elements between the works or at least the gritty, dirty feel of A Song of Ice and Fire is shared by both works. The Godless World is actually more like a cross between Martin and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I did find the quality of the series dipped by the end of the trilogy, but it's still a good enough read. Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series. Rich characterization with characters you dislike who eventual grow on you as the story progresses; oh my god -- plot twists and turns, and magic that's not at all present until the story progresses. Not as much action and drama, but a more character driven saga.

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Elements are similar. You have incest, kingdoms on the cusp of decline and ruin, pacts made with monstrous powers. The landscape is dour and the heroes are partly villains.

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Sword of Shadows is pretty close to Martin in terms of the setting and the portrayal of gruesomeness. The setting is a cold, brutal, Arctic-ice world. It's not as "grand" or "epic" as Martin and the cast of characters is not as morally ambiguous. Still a pretty damn good read, though the author is taking her sweet time finishing the damn series already.

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I would be doing you a disservice if I did not recommend Glenn Cook's The Black Company series. It's gritty military fiction with a cast of grey characters, and great battle scenes -- something that Martin focuses on in his books. The focus of the series centers on a company of soldiers.

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Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is a must-read, and it's a finished 10 books long. There are some elements that are similar to Martin's work: it's got gritty and intense battle scenes, a cast of ambiguously grey characters, main character deaths, plenty of brutality that characters inflict on each other, and unpredictable (and utterly massive) plots. It's quite similar to Martin in the way that the line between villain and hero is quite blurred. You often end up rooting for characters on both sides of the war. No one is really "the hero" and every character is either trying to maintain their power status quo, or steal it from someone else. However, the work, as a whole, is a LOT MORE disjointed than Martin's work (even counting for the fact that Martin has lost his way a bit)

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If you like reading about Jon Snow, you might give The Farseer trilogy a read. There are some shared story elements (though the plot and world is NOTHING at all alike mind you). Farseer is pretty much the story of a young king's bastard who grows up in a castle full of intrigue. He doesn't have a lot of options and struggles to survive, and in the process gets tangled up in a series of political schemes. The main character also has a special relationship with wolves (he can speak to them mind-to-mind via a magical skill called the 'Wit') so you might read this one if you like the whole Stark and Direwolf thing. Some of the best characterization in the fantasy genre. Be warned: Jon Snow is a lot more bad-ass of a hero though.

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It's witty, intelligently plotted, the characters are all grey, and there's a ton of brutal action in the books. Abercrombie writes some of the best fight scenes in the genre, and his portrayal of war and battle is spot on (especially in his later books like The Heroes) and will make you really think about the ultimate cost of war. One of the best series that's come out in a few years -- one that actually tries to do something new in the genre. Even better, with every new book added to the series (or universe), Abercrombie gets better and better. It's similar to Martin's work in the sense that there is really a moral compass -- good and evil are just both sides of the same coin. Heroes are not made out to be noble paragons: they are just straight out meaner, stronger or more conniving than the rest. If you like the grittiness of Martin where the boundary between heroes and villains is thin, Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is an interesting take on the Anti Hero. This is the singular tale of a hero on a quest for revenge and glory (which eventually involves saving the whole world) but the flawed humanity present in Prince of Thorns channel the shades of Martin's brutal take on a fallen and immoral knighthood.

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The Dagger and the Coin

(The Dagger and the Coin)

(Daniel Abraham)

This one is epic fantasy for the thinking man. It’s tightly plotted and superbly written, something we expect from the author of The Long Price Quartet, a fantasy series that tops many a person’s top ten fantasy list. Each character is deftly drawn and complex with real motivations and flaws that they must struggle to overcome as the story progresses; I would argue that each character is a broken human looking for a way to survive in an uncaring and brutal world. And in the background, there is an ancient threat that is again rising in the shadows, threatening the status quo of a now-free humanity, a humanity once enslaved to the Dragons who ruled the world in a previous age. Particularly entertaining among the characters is the young rising star of a noble house, Geder, the real-world equivalent of an artistic introverted high schooler who’s picked on by the entire class, suddenly finding himself a hero when given unexpected command of a military company, and makes the ruthlessly logical decision to murder an entire city. This fantasy is some compelling stuff,  and looks to be some of the best epic fantasy released in the past few years. Fans of Abercrombie, Martin, and Erikson will love this one.

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How can I not put this book on a best epic fantasy series list? This series needs no explaining. The series helped shape the concept of epic fantasy. The conceits used (dark lords, callow youths, elves, dwarves, goblins, magic swords, evil creatures lurking in the dark) are standard in the fantasy genre. Because of the influence this series has had on fantasy as a whole, it's without a doubt one of the best epic fantasy series ever written. So if you are the one person who hasn't read this series, do yourself a favor and just get it out of the way.

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If you like the whole ancient mythos of Middle Earth, the histories, the tales within a tale, the small stories that Tolkien throws into his world that tell of the "early days" of mankind and of elves and of magic and gods and kings, then you'll find a lot to like in Tad William's Shadowmarch which incorporates a lot of folklore tales of gods and faeries which are directly relevant to the plot and story; there's a lot of mystery and magic to the world created by Williams. And the series is completed.

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Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle-Master is also another series(trilogy) with similarities to Tolkien's style of writing.

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If you want to see some of Tolkien's conventions turned on their heads and enjoy a noir version of a classic high-fantasy tale with a starkly realized cast of grey characters, read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy.

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Another interesting tale that plays directly on the Tolkien mythos is Jacqueline Carey's The Sundering duology, which takes many of Tolkien's conventions and mixes them up. It's a story told in all that high language, high mythology glory that Tolkien wrote in. Think of it as "Sauron's Tale" as told from the perspective of the bad guys who you find out are more misunderstood than anything else, while the good guys are self-righteous pricks. The whole thing is quite serious (this is by no means a comedy but rather a tragedy) and I thought it was a pretty compelling tale all around.

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Richard Morgan, author of some seriously kick your ass science fiction, brings his talents to the fantasy genre with some pretty damn cool gritty fantasy. In his completed trilogy, he pretty much tries to subvert every sort of Tolkien convention. Take Tolkien, change about every equation and add an unhealhty mix of violence, graphic sex, and disturbing acts of inhumanity, and populate it with a caste of seriously flawed characters and you have something along the lines of a Tolkien gone mad. I'd say this is probably the most grimdark series I've read yet.

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If you want the beautiful, almost lyrical writing of Tolkien and a world in which magic is present but still a grand mystery (i.e. not every character is throwing around magic like kids throwing sand at a beach), Sean Russell's The Swan's War is the answer.

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Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle is also a beautiful tale, full of lyrical, often sad, prose; a tale about a village boy who seeks his destiny.

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For another epic fantasy with an end-of-the-world plot and a coming-of-age (sorta) story, read Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. Words of Radiance, book two was released this year and for the most part carried the torch passed from the first book. The series is now THE epic fantasy saga everyone talking about. If Jordan took up Tolkien's world-building mantle with A Wheel of Time, Sanderson has replaced Jordan by building an even BIGGER world with this generation's new epic fantasy series. And he's a better writer than Jordan.

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For a 12th-century version of Middle Earth set in a stark (English) European landscape that's as cold as the world is gritty and brutal where main characters can die at any moment, read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga tale. Besides, everyone is now calling Martin 'The American Tolkien.' What more can I say there?

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If you want a book that's like Lord of the Rings but longer, has strong female characters, and very strong characterization (FAAAR better than Jordan's), read Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga, another classic. The series is older, yes, but it has aged remarkably well. And the writing is top notch, and good prose and good characters never age.

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Magic, Tolkien style fantasy races, multiple worlds, powerful sorcerers, necromancers, and lost magic. More along the lines of a D&D style story, but elevated. The series ends horribly, but the journey is pretty good. If you like Tolkien AND Wheel of Time, you'll dig it.

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If you like Tolkien, read Eye of the World by Jordan. This man, when he was alive, claimed Tolkien's world-building mantle: Jordan created a massive world, richly developed cultures, and a well-defined magic system. When you read Jordan, you explore an ancient world full of secrets. I have to throw out a disclaimer though: Wheel of Time is far far from perfect; Jordan becomes lost in his own world as it grows too big even for him; (some of) his characters devolve into caricatures, and Jordan's handling of romance between characters is puerile to say the least. However, many people still find the books great fun, and if you like Tolkien's epic style, Jordan is a must read. Jordan died a few years ago, but the talented Brandon Sanderson finished the series. It's now completed and Sanderson did a good job at finishing it. Overall, I was disappointed with the series though, even if Sanderson did his best. This is one of those series that started out strong but started to die around book 5 or 6. It's still worth reading though, especially if you like heroic epic fantasy that is absolutely epic in length and scope.

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This is an epic fantasy series that plays by its own rules. The series incorporates some standard epic fantasy conventions only to turn them completely on their head. You might call this series a complete subversion of the genre.

But you can forget about all that stuff. Just looking at the series on its own without comparing it to the greater genre as a whole, it's a wildly entertaining fantasy series with some vicious action, completely grey characters who are somewhat of a paradox (a barbarian killer who hates killing, a torturer who's actually a kind man, etc). The writing is sharp as a knife, packed full of wit.

Joe Abercrombie has only been getting better with each new book released -- his newest standalone, The Heroes, set in the same world as First Law, is probably his best written. His newest book Red Country is set to be released shortly.

So if you are looking for an epic fantasy that does something different and breaks the standard conventions to pieces and with some of the sharpest prose around, one that's pretty damn funny to boot, First Law should be read.

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Lyonesse Trilogy (Lyonesse) (Jack Vance)

High kings, evil sorcerers, exiled princes, tricky fairies, and willful princesses  this highly influential series has it all. There is nothing derivative about this series, being one of the founding fantasy series in the genre, right up there with Lord of the Rings. The highly imaginative world of the Elder Isles is brought to indelible life through the superbly talented pen of Jack Vance, one of the grandmasters of the modern fantasy and science fiction genre. If you are tired with the various dry, plodding and wordy epic fantasy dreck where hack authors are surely are paid by the word, this highly original, atmospheric, and evocative series will be a huge breath of fresh air. Highly recommended for ANYONE who loves a good tale and beautiful prose.


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If you like Martin or Erikson, you’ll enjoy Kearney’s fabulous Monarchies of God, an epic fantasy that’s not derivative of either's work, as Kearney published before both the others. Monarchies of God tells the gritty tale of five kingdoms in the midst of a potential war; there are numerous characters scattered around different parts of the world, with the main character being the captain of a ship seeking to find a lost continent across the sea. There’s a lot going on in these books but the plot and pacing moves along fast – you might think of this as a lighter version of Martin and Erikson where things actually happen and characters do important plot things without requiring a thousand pages to move things along. The series has everything you like about epic – complex characters that are mostly shades of gray (though not to the level of say Abercrombie or Martin’s characters), an epic world-ending threat looming on distant lands, kingdoms gearing up for war, and politicking.

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08

The Wheel Of Time (Wheel of Time) (Robert Jordan)

No epic fantasy series evokes as much passion as does The Wheel of Time. It's got a legion of fanatical fans as well as a legion of critics. So why am I casting Robert Jordan's WOT so high on this list? Well for one, when you mention epic fantasy, it's simply impossible NOT to mention Robert Jordan in the same breath -- either as a template for what not to do or as an example of classic fantasy that does many things right and some things wrong.

Jordan is the guy who helped to pioneer the concept of the big fat fantasy series. With a story that spans over 13 books and even the death of the author (it's still being finished with the last book to come out this year by Brandon Sanderson), the Wheel of Time is truly an epic.

Yes, there are problems with the novels. As so many of you kindly love to point out in  comments, Jordan completely loses control of the plots around book 6 and the series spirals out of control for another 5-6 books. Yes, there are too many characters to keep track of. Yes, women are portrayed as two-dimensional characters. Yes, Jordan spends too much time detailing every single little detail, especially on filler stuff that becomes annoying after 10 pages, let alone 10 thousand pages.

Yes, it's currently in vogue to knock Jordan's work as trash, pulp and a variety of other less savory things. But the fact remains that the man has created a massive world with a huge plot and an unforgettable story. There are better writers writing fantasy these days, there are more clever epic fantasy series with realistically portrayed characters, there are series that do new things with the fantasy genre. But give Jordan's Wheel of Time series the credit it's due: it's changed the face of epic fantasy for good or for ill. So on that premise, the series should be read. And you know, despite all the naysayers out there slagging the work, you might find, hell, you actually enjoy it. I know I do.

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Major Events. Unlikely Heroes. Well written magic. Enthralling.

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Man, what's NOT to like about this series? It's got some great heroes, carefully constructed over the 1000+ pages of the novel. It's got some serious kick ass action (it takes a while to build up to the action, but when it happens...it happens!). It's got an end-of-the-world plot. It's got different lands, different races, and different cultures. It's got a unique and pretty fascinating magic system. hell it's even got a story (and characters) that spans, like, eons dude. And it's written by Brandon Sanderson, the man who's written another great epic fantasy series (Mistborn) and who's finishing off the Wheel of Time.

I know ONLY the first book of what's going to be a ten-book series has been released. But based on the strength of the first book and the premise of the series, The Stormlight Archive is looking to be one of the best classic epic fantasy series out there -- a verson of Jordan's Wheel of Time without the wheel falling off. Of course, time will tell as more books are released, but for now, it's a worthy epic to be read.

Yes, there are problems with the novels. As so many of you kindly love to point out in  comments, Jordan completely loses control of the plots around book 6 and the series spirals out of control for another 5-6 books. Yes, there are too many characters to keep track of. Yes, women are portrayed as two-dimensional characters. Yes, Jordan spends too much time detailing every single little detail, especially on filler stuff that becomes annoying after 10 pages, let alone 10 thousand pages.

Yes, it's currently in vogue to knock Jordan's work as trash, pulp and a variety of other less savory things. But the fact remains that the man has created a massive world with a huge plot and an unforgettable story. There are better writers writing fantasy these days, there are more clever epic fantasy series with realistically portrayed characters, there are series that do new things with the fantasy genre. But give Jordan's Wheel of Time series the credit it's due: it's changed the face of epic fantasy for good or for ill. So on that premise, the series should be read. And you know, despite all the naysayers out there slagging the work, you might find, hell, you actually enjoy it. I know I do.

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Another epic fantasy series with two books out so far as of 2014. One of my favorite series and a different take on the genre. It merges medieval Arthurian settings and peoples with epic fantasy that's about a grand battle between monsters and men, sorcerers and heroes. There's a lot of zing to it with tons of action, magic, massive battles, military strategy, and an glorious amount of medieval detail.

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Flintlock 'Gunpowder with Grit' epic fantasy. Gods, gunpowder mages, and sorcerors all go at it in this one. A heady mix of unique magic, complex troubled heroes, and troubled landscapes.

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Colonial military fantasy with a lot of action, squad combat, violence and complex heroes. After two books we are still seeing where this series is good, but is some of the best stuff out there in the past couple years.

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This series was probably my favorite epic fantasy debut last year in 2013. A remarkable release and a true epic fantasy with the word epic. The style of this fantasy is very much in like with Tolkien, Jordan, and The Stormlight Archive with big strange landscapes, a cast of many characters, strange magic, a dark threat coming, powerful heroes with personal stories, etc.

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And for a fantasy series that doesn't focus as much on magic and dark lords but more on character relationships and complex politicking (and some epic sword battles), Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire should be read.

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For more rolling epics in the high fantasy style of The Way of Kings, The Wheel of Time is probably the closest you'll find in terms of "style" and plot and setting. Keep in mind that Sanderson did write the last 3 books in the Wheel of Time to complete Jordan's massive series, so it should come as no surprise The Stormlight Archive is Sanderson's own version of The Wheel of Time.

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Malazan Book of the Fallen is also another huge epic fantasy series, but the characters are more gray (and there are a lot more of them). Still, it's one of the best epic series out there right now.

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Lots of magic and action in this one. And 7 big big novels in the series. An interesting setting and an interesting magic system. It's an older fantasy (a couple decades old) and not as complex as the more modern epic fantasies to come out in the 2000's, but it's a fun read, even if the final book is a huge letdown.

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Sanderson has written a lot of other good epic fantasy that you should read. The Mistborn Trilogy series is a given. His Elantris stand alone is also great. Warbreaker, I wasn't too fond of. The last three Wheel of Time books have been finished off by him as well.

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10

The Kingkiller Chronicles

(The Kingkiller Chronicle)

(Patrick Rothfuss)

Yet another book that seems to be near the top of many a best fantasy list. The Kingkiller Chronicles is not yet complete, but the first two books deliver a great story. The Name of the Wind is not epic in the way that The Wheel of Time is -- there are only a handful of characters. It's not epic in the way of Malazan, where space and time itself is scaled. But rather, it's an epic tale about the hero of the story, Kvothe. Quite simply, it's one of the best tales I've yet read. The strength of this book is not so much the actual settings and plot, but in the telling of the story itself.

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Chronicles Of Amber (Amber Chronicles) (Roger Zelazny)

Not exactly epic high fantasy in the traditional sense, but there's enough fantasy elements to land it on the list. Amber is, for many new fantasy readers, almost an unknown series. But it's a fantasy series that should be read. There's complex political scheming, a cast of warring noble siblings, and parallel worlds.

More than a few accolades name this as the greatest fantasy series ever written. And it's true that this is one of the most original and complex fantasy worlds you'll find outside of Tolkien.

The plot is pretty complex, but this is one series you should just pick it up and start reading without looking at the plot summary. One of the greatest joys I've ever had reading a book came from discovering how this book unfolds as I read it.

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The Farseer (The Farseer) (Robin Hobb)

Another epic fantasy series that should be read. There's magic, adventure, romance, and some of the best characterization in the fantasy genre. This IS epic fantasy done right and you're missing out big if you've never read the series.

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This epic fantasy series is quite a bit different from your standard fantasy fare. If you want an epic military fantasy series where good and bad are not so clearly delineated, The Black Company delivers this. There are some of the classic epic fantasy conventions, such as a band-of-heroes against a world-ending-evil, except things are twisted around a bit. Instead of good against evil, the struggle is more or less evil versus more evil, with the heroes themselves of questionable morality. If you like the gritty military fantasy style of A Song of Ice and Fire and Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll love Black Company.

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Cold Fire Trilogy (The Coldfire) (C.S. Friedman)

If dark fantasy married epic fantasy and had a child, The Coldfire Trilogy would be that child. This series is pretty damn dark with more than a few aspects from the horror genre tossed into the mix as well. Characters are well drawn and complex -- there are no paper deep characters here, no generic fantasy landscape borrowed from Tolkien. Cold Fire sets itself apart from any other fantasy series out there, both with the novel's unique setting and the cast of characters. The protagonist is also an anti-hero character, which makes the story and plot even more interesting.

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Another fantasy series that crops up near the top of many best fantasy lists. Earthsea is a classic fantasy tale well done. While it doesn't rack up a sizable page count like some of the newer fantasy series (cough, Wheel of Time), what it lacks in size it makes up with quality. Good doesn't always mean big, folks. So for a very well written classic fantasy tale about a boy's journey to become the greatest wizard alive, Earthsea is one of the best. And the writing is just so damn beautiful to read.

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A Man Of His Word (A Man of His Word) (Dave Duncan)

This one is a lot of fun; I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the most entertaining standard fantasy tales in the genre. Duncan takes the standard fantasy clichés and makes them his own with some deft plotting, a cast of well-developed characters with complex relationships, one of the more interesting magic systems out there, and a lovable underdog hero you just love rooting for when the odds are stacked against him. This series is written with such earnestness and passion that you can’t help but love it. If you want some sort of existential tale that celebrates a good man’s ability to do bad things rather than a feel good novel about heroes who actually make you feel good about yourself, than don’t read this. But if you want a standard fantasy tale where heroes are actually, well, good and one that rises far above the standard fantasy derivatives out there, read. Highly recommended.

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Epic fantasy with a different face. All the standard conventions are there, but they are reshaped, twisted and painted with shadows. This is dark fantasy folks, strong on sex, violence, and gritty atmosphere. If you are expecting hero soldier finds magic sword and kills all the bad guys, you are NOT going to get that sort of novel here. Morgan has a knack for taking something that's been done already many times, and spraypainting a fresh coat on it -- you can see the shape but the color's different. And in this case, he starts with the hero. The hero, you see, is gay. The villains are good...and bad. This is complex, epic fantasy from a master storyteller. If you can get over the author playing around with gender (gay hero), this atmospheric fantasy series is a great read.

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A fantasy tale that people love to love or love to hate -- there is very rarely any middle ground when it comes to Thomas Covenant. My recommendation is that you should read the first series, if only to see what all the damn arguing going on in the comment section is.

The series takes a unique view of the classic epic fantasy. Instead of a hero, there's an anti-hero -- one who's pretty damn selfish. The series, if it was left to that, would be too depressing for most people to finish. But the series is also one about transformation and redemption. Through the Chronicles, you slowly start to see Thomas Covenant move from anti-hero to hero, from selfish bastard to altruistic hero.

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The Warded Man (Demon ) (Peter V. Brett)

This doesn't do anything smart, new, or fancy. But what it does, it does pretty damn well: the story of one man's struggle against a world dominated by demons who terrorize humankind at night.

This is a dark epic fantasy with a lot of zing to it. If you are looking for some GREAT heroic epic fantasy with a lot of action and character building (with a pretty cool magic system), The Warded Man delivers this in full force. It's also one of the more exciting fantasy reads out there -- I promise. The sequel, The Desert Spear, does not deliver on the promise of the first book due to the author's handling of the plot threads and characters. The first part of the second book still makes for an enticing read, however. Looking forward to seeing where things go in book three; let's hope the author brings the story back on track.

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Memory, Sorrow, And Thorn

(Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn)

(Tad Williams)

There are writers who like to write pulp and there are some writers who like to write fiction. Williams is the latter. Memory, Sorrow, Thorn. This series has made pretty much all the other fantasy lists. It's a good series that many people don't have the patience to read. And that's a right shame. If you stick with the story, a rich fantastical tale will unfold. It just takes TIME. Tad Williams has recently completed another epic fantasy, Shadowmarch. My feeling is that while Shadowmarch has a lot more action and fantastical elements (fairies, gods, half gods, strange magic), Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a deeper fantasy tale with a lot more under the hood than Shadowmarch. That's not to say that Shadowmarch is not a great epic fantasy series -- it is -- but I like Memory Sorrow, Thorn better. Still, if you find Memory, Sorrow, Thorn too slow, then look at Shadowmarch -- you'll like it better.

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The Fionavar Tapestry

(The Fionavar Tapestry)

(Guy Gavriel Kay)

An epic fantasy by a really talented writer. This is not your standard epic fantasy. Or rather, it's epic fantasy with a lot of emphasis on characterization. Yes, there is the good guys versus dark lord plot in the series, but the series is not so much about slaying bad guys as it is the story of how normal people react in bad situations -- both the good and the bad. Don't take this to mean this series is boring -- it's not. But rather, this series is a far more intelligent epic fantasy than many of you may be used to. Oh whatever, just read it.

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The Red Wolf Conspiracy

(The Chathrand Voyage)

(Robert V. S. Redick)

This is a newer fantasy series -- a sort of naval epic fantasy. And it's a very well done series, two books into it with the third coming out shortly.

There's a lot going on in this series -- a cast of well realized characters that include mad god kings, miniature warriors, sentient animals, assassins, sorcerers, princesses, and ship boys, all locked in a life and death struggle for an evil artifact aboard a giant ship. It's a complex fantasy series that's different from a lot of the standard high epic fantasy. An exciting read and one of the better fantasy debuts I've read in a long time.

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Codex Alera (Codex Alera) (Jim Butcher)

Classic fantasy done right. Good story, good plot, terrific action, and fantasy set in a Roman milieu (something unusual in fantasy). As a big bonus, the entire series has been completed -- and unlike some other fantasy epics, this one maintains its quality.

You'll really like the novel fantasy setting -- it's not too often that you read a fantasy tale that's not set in some world parallel to Tolkien's own. The author's magic system is quite unique too and interesting.

Codex Alera also has quite a bit of a military aspect to it as well -- so if you are the type who likes outnumbered armies duking it out with superior forces (ala Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Black Company, The Instrumentalities of Night, etc), this series has plenty of that sort of thing.

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Another classic epic fantasy series. I'm not a huge fan of Feist's later works, but his first two books, Magician and Magician's Apprentice are a great intro into the world of epic fantasy. There's really everything you love about epic fantasy found in these two books: the rise of a nothing boy to a powerful magician, magical worlds, different cultures, romance, and of course, a lot of magical action.

Feist is lambasted in some circles for his "simplistic" fantasy. And I agree, most of his fantasy is pretty simplistic. But if you want some of that non-thinking classic fantasy where it's possible for boys to become wizard heros who save damsels in distress, then this series is for you.

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The Long Price Quartet

(The Long Price Quartet)

(Daniel Abraham)

Another epic fantasy that doesn't necessary fit the classical definition of an epic fantasy. Anyone who's tired of the generic Tolkien-derived fantasy and paper-thin characters won't have anything to complain about with this series. This is a more "literary" fantasy series and the author is quite the wordsmith. Those of you who want a slower paced, more complexly plotted book with non-standard fantasy characters leading the story, The Long Price Quartet is a series you'll want to sink your teeth into. I suspect lovers of fiction written by China Mieville, Guy Gavriel Kay, Sean Williams, and Tad Williams will enjoy this series immensely. If you are the sort of fantasy reader weaned on action fantasy like The Wheel of Time, David Gemmell, or Raymond E. Feist, this series won't be for you.

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The Prince Of Nothing

(The Prince of Nothing)

(R. Scott Bakker)

Epic fantasy for the thinking man, that's what R Scott Bakker's fantasy series is. Full of characters who are not what they seem and featuring some wicked action and a grim story, The Prince of Nothing is a different type of fantasy series. It's not a series that everyone is comfortable with, but it's a series that doesn't follow the standard fantasy mold. I find the Prince of nothing series a refreshing breeze in an otherwise stagnant fantasy genre.

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Prince Of Thorns (The Broken Empire) (Mark Lawrence)

Not so much your classic epic fantasy but more of an epic tale of revenge. Its basically the story of a young boy who leads a brutal crusade to regain his throne a throne he abandoned when he fled from his home after watching his mother and brother being brutally murdered. This is one hot fantasy series, a dark, gripping fantasy that has some similarities to K.J. Parkers works, though set in a more typical fantasy landscape.

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The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower) (Stephen King)

Not so much your classic epic fantasy but more of an epic tale of revenge. It’s basically the story of a young boy who leads a brutal crusade to regain his throne – a throne he abandoned when he fled from his home after watching his mother and brother being brutally murdered. This is one hot fantasy series, a dark, gripping fantasy that has some similarities to K.J. Parker’s works, though set in a more typical fantasy landscape.

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A Sword Of Shadows (Sword of Shadows) (J. V. Jones)

A delightfully atmospheric fantasy tale that's got a lot going for it, including a cast of well-realized characters, a dark and bitter landscape, and an interesting hero. Unlike some of the modern fantasy tales out there, characters are more black and white than gray, but some of the villains, as much as you love to hate them, are complex characters too. A good amount of action present in the story with a gripping plot. This is one of my own favorite epic fantasy tales.

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Watership Down (Watership Down) (Richard Adams)

You might frown on the inclusion of this novel on a list about epic fantasy, but the tale, while ostensibly about rabbits, reaches much further than a mere animal story. It’s an allegory, it’s an epic fantasy, it’s a children’s tale for adults and an adults' tale for children, it’s anything you want it to be and everything you imagine it to be. Banish all thoughts or pre-conceived notions about what this novel is or what it should be. Just read it. You will never, ever forget this startling tale. 

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Acacia is written in the epic Fantasy tradition that Tolkien pioneered. Epic Fantasy is probably the most popular type of Fantasy and the real "poster boy" for the Fantasy genre (something that I personally believe should not be the case). If you like Acacia, then it's a sure bet that you will love these other series. You should definitely read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, which is the best epic fantasy series currently out there (and my top pick). Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is also another excellent epic Fantasy in the tradition. The Greg Keyes' Kingdom of Thorn and Bone is also another spectacular epic fantasy series that's several notches above most other series. And of course the daddy of epic Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. For a more anti-hero protagonist, Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is another great series to read. You want epic Fantasy that brings new meaning to the word "epic," then read Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen . And if you want some epic Fantasy that really breaks or twists in some way most of the standard conventions of epic Fantasy, read Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself .

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This is an epic fantasy in the tradition of George Martin -- the characters are gray, good and evil are not so clearly defined, and there are four royal children who are forced to flee their kingdom because of treachery.

I'm a big fan of this series. Despite the comparisons with A Song of Ice and Fire, this series is NOT George Martin. I like the political intrigue present in the novel and the gray characters. Book two carries on the plotline, though it's harder to connect with the characters who survive from the first book. This may turn off some readers who want to connect with the protagonists in the way that you might connect with Kvothe from A Name of the Wind or Fitz from The Farseer. I was disappointed with the series, however and I didn't feel the author did as good of a job with the characters or their relationships. Still a good epic fantasy.

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Acacia is written in the epic Fantasy tradition that Tolkien pioneered. Epic Fantasy is probably the most popular type of Fantasy and the real "poster boy" for the Fantasy genre (something that I personally believe should not be the case). If you like Acacia, then it's a sure bet that you will love these other series. You should definitely read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, which is the best epic fantasy series currently out there (and my top pick). Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is also another excellent epic Fantasy in the tradition. The Greg Keyes Kingdom of Thorn and Bone is also another spectacular epic fantasy series that's several notches above most other series. And of course the daddy of epic Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. For a more anti-hero protagonist, Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is another great series to read. If you want epic Fantasy that brings new meaning to the word "epic," then read Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen. And if you want some epic Fantasy that really breaks or twists in some way most of the standard conventions of epic Fantasy, read Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself .

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The Swan's War (The Swans' War) (Sean Russell)

A beautiful and deftly woven fantasy tale that rings strong with a lot of the elements that make Lord of the Rings so captivating.

Why might you want to read this? Let's look at a little checklist: A mysterious landscape that's almost poetic. Check. A strong mythos of the world underlying the conversations, references, and history. Check. Magic is mysterious and rare. Check. The world is under threat by some unknown force. Check. Beautiful, lyrical prose. Check.

This three-book series proves you don't need to have ten-thousand page books to tell a proper high fantasy tale. 

If you love reading epic fantasy with rich history and myth built into the story, complemented by beautiful language, pick this series up. You certainly won't go wrong reading it. Magic is very much a mystery in this series; part of the pleasure of reading this series is the sense of mystery and wonder. If you want to get lost in mysterious lands on a quest to save the land from an ancient evil, this should be your next series. It's epic fantasy that's got a lot of the familiar themes, but it's damn well written epic fantasy.

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J.R.R. Tolkien's A Lord of the Rings. The Swan's War trilogy seems both similar to yet different from Lord of the Rings. The mysterious and rare nature of magic is a trait shared by both books, as is the beautiful prose that seems half poetry, half fiction (though Russell's work is more "modern"and novelistic). Also give Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea a try: the book has that sense of mystery and wonder that permeates The Swan's War.

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Imajica (Clive Barker)

You might also call this one The Lord of the Rings of horror books – a somewhat apt description that describes what this is. It’s not a book that will appeal to everyone (fans of easy-to-read epic fantasy where all the cards are laid out on the table by page 10 probably won’t), but what I will guarantee is that Imajiica is a feast of the senses and the imagination. Not all “epic fantasy” is derivative of Tolkien or Jordan. Imajiica is an epic fantasy with a new face – rather than an all-consuming struggle against an implacable and unstoppable outside force of evil, it’s a struggle to save mankind from itself. This is a monster of a book at almost 1200 pages, but it’s a book that will have you captivated the whole way through; there is no useful filler, only laser-sharp plotting and even sharper prose. The setting is quite unique – a mystical fantasy universe, Imajiica, made up of 5 worlds/dimensions (called Dominions). The 4th Dominion, our world, has been separated from the other 5 worlds. The last great attempt to reconcile our world with the other 5 backfired, and nearly all the metaphysically talented people died (Shamans, Magicians, etc.). But now, things are again ripe for another attempt, and this time if the worlds are not reconciled, mankind will certainly destroy itself in the future. Barker is famous for writing his stories where there is another world underpinning the reality of our own, just a pin prick away, if one knows exactly where to prick. This makes for a creepy, atmospheric setting, much in the way of a Lovecraftian novel. The quality of the writing is high too with beautiful atmospheric prose.

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Crown of Stars saga (Tudor) (Jean Plaidy)

Mystery, magical realms opening into the world, complex political plotting, evil villains, the world descending into a dark and chaotic place, strange creatures haunting the world. This series has it all. It also officially passes the "fat fantasy test" with seven books in the series (which is complete). On the whole, Crown of Stars is an enjoyable series with a cast of strong characters. Elliot is a talented writer. The way Elliot is able to bring some of her characters to life reminds me of Robin Hobb's style of writing -- which is a pretty big compliment for any writer.

My only complaint with this series is that it's too long. It should be a 4- or 5-book series and not 7 books. The series kind of loses focus in the last couple of books, but as a whole, it's a creative epic fantasy that's well worth reading.

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Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, Thorn saga. William has beautifully reinterpreted Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (and no it is not in the least bit a clone, and no, there is no One Ring), creating a vast world of mystery and magic. Characterization is top notch.

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Abhorsen Trilogy (Abhorsen) (Garth Nix)

I'm a very big fan of this epic fantasy / dark fantasy series. The series follows the story of Sabriel (and her children) as they venture from the New Kingdom (the modern world) into the mysterious Old Kingdom, a magical world behind a wall bordering the two realities where strange things happen -- the dead haunt that land, magic exists, and evil lurks around every corner. The series is exciting and chilling at the same time. If you want to feel scared while reading epic fantasy, this series will do it! Especially good is the first book which will just blow your socks off. Read it with the lights turned down when you are by yourself and expect to be scared.

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I am no big fan of D&D-type literature, and Weis and Hickman expend a lot of energy writing those types of books. However, this massive epic fantasy saga is wholly original. It's massive, ambitious, and well worth the read. I gleefully lost myself for a few weeks in this very addicting saga. If you like the hero-driven, magic-riddled worlds of Robert Jordan, and Raymond E. Feist, then you will probably love the Deathgate Cycle saga.

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Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Farland? Runelords. Raymond E Fiest's Magician books.

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37

The Chronicles Of Prydain

(The Chronicles of Prydain)

(Lloyd Alexander)

A timeless classic that's been around for a while and will stay around. It's an epic fanasy that many have never read, which is a shame because it delivers a wonderful tale that mixes heroic fantasy and Welsh folklore. While it's not on the same level as, say, Lord of the Rings, it's still a worthy epic to read. Yes, it doesn't do some of the new and fancy existentialist things that modern fantasy in the vein of Martin, Erikson, Bakker, Lawrence, and Abercrombie have been doing, but that's ok -- sometimes you want to read about a good hero who does good things simply because they are the right thing to do. What makes Alexander's series stand out above many of his newer, more modern epic fantasy contemporaries is that his prose is absolutely sublime; each word belongs and sentences as a whole are works of beauty. Alexander is perfectly able to combine the right element of sorrow and humor at exactly the right times. Wonderful. This may be categorized as a children's classic, but it can be and should be read by every adult too. 

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This is some epic fantasy done right. While it doesn't do anything new for the genre, Keyes uses the good old fantasy conventions to tell a really damn good tale. The quality of the writing, the great characterization, the great plot, and rolling end-of-the-world adventure makes this a magnificent tale. I haven't ranked this series as high as others, mainly because the series doesn't do anything new for the genre, but don't let that stop you from reading it. Kingdom of Thorn and Bone is one of the best classic epic fantasy tales to be released in the past few years. It's all finished, something that's much appreciated by eager readers everywhere (yes, this is a jab at George Martin).

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Another classic fantasy tale that's just pure joy to read. Follow along with Morgan as he seeks to solve the mystery of his birth. Maybe along the way he's save the world and find true love. Classic epic fantasy that's beautifully written. Fans of Earthsea and Swan's War and Middle Earth will like this one for sure.

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40

The Half-made World (The Half-Made World) (Felix Gilman)

A fascinating premise with this one: the world is still yet unfinished, with the mysterious outer edges of the lands unformed and pliable. Two great forces of the world battle it out using humanity as sword, the Gun – demons of chaos who empower select humans with superhuman abilities and special weapons – and the Line – giant steam-engine demons who employ human armies with biological and steam technology. This epic merges the western genre with epic fantasy.

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41

Godless World Trilogy

(The Godless World)

(Brian Ruckley)

Cold gritty fantasy in the same style as Martin's A Game of Thrones. There are strange lands, monsters, ancient magic, and non-human races. I thoroughly enjoyed the dark gritty feel present in the entire trilogy. While there were some flaws with the books, on the whole it's a series well worth reading, especially if you are a fan of dark, gritty fantasy. 

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42

The Deed Of Paksenarrion

(The Deed of Paksenarrion)

(Elizabeth Moon)

A farm girl rises above her station to become a legend. A reversal on the usual male epic fantasy tropes and the best example in the genre of how to take standard fantasy tropes and weave them into something completely new that stands out above the rest. This series should be a case study for upcoming fantasy writers on how to have some individuality when you write epics.

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43

The Dark Is Rising Sequence

(The Dark is Rising)

(Susan Cooper)

One of the best YA epic fantasy series. Well-developed characters that are stereotypical but still exhibit a surprising amount of depth. A standard save-the-world plot, but one that still evokes a good deal of pleasure as you watch the characters struggle to save the world.

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44

Initiate Brother (Initiate Brother) (Sean Russell)

Epic fantasy with an Asian twist; instead of farm boy heroes you have a young monk with supernatural martial arts prowess; and instead of a clichéd medieval landscape you have a fantastical ancient China. Sean Williams is a master wordsmith – for some well-written epic fantasy with a completely different taste to it, I highly recommend this one. Sort of like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Lord of the Rings.

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45

Empire In Black And Gold

(Shadows of the Apt)

(Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Points for a completely new setting and a vivid imagination. I can safely say this series is unique. The author re-imagines humanity divided up by insect traits they exhibit, with each trait providing a different set of strengths and weaknesses. It’s an empire of politics and war with a lot of the former and even more of the latter. On paper, the whole idea comes off as a badly designed video game made book, but once you actually start reading, the implausible setting actually comes off as quite convincing. So if you want an epic fantasy founded on a unique premise, read this one.

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46

Shadowmarch (Shadowmarch) (Tad Williams)

Epic fantasy has become so cheap it’s now at the dime-a-dozen price range. Every author and wannabe-author is trying to pour out epics faster than beer at a Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day. It makes for some seriously substandard, watered-down reading. Tad Williams has his own style of epic fantasy; he doesn’t copy Jordan, Martin, or even Tolkien. Some of the greater Tolkien elements are there, as are some of the fantasy archetypal characters. But Williams is best when he’s writing an epic.

Everything is so finely detailed that it can take a while to get the story rolling – this is something that some love or hate about a Williams novel. But if you give his works a fair shake and invest some time plowing through the slow pacing of the first few hundred pages, you’re treated to something majestic. Shadow March combines some of the elements from A Game of Thrones with the mythos and world building of Tolkien. There’s a vast wall of mist in the very northernmost part of the lands that separates a race of mysterious fairies from humans. There’s an emperor in the southern desert lands dreaming of conquering the entire world and mortality itself. There’s a kingship dispute, treachery, and invasion. And there is a firm mythos woven into the story threads, giving insight into the world as it used to be eons ago, stories that do connect with the current plot.

I really enjoyed how Williams incorporates faeries into the story. The series are full of ancient mythology, lost realms, strange magic, and just a whole lot of adventure. And of course, as a Tad Williams novel, there's great characterization and beautiful writing present too. Well worth reading!  

This is an epic fantasy for those who like to read good fantasy. Williams doesn’t always give everything to you right away and you are required to dig into the books a bit before things get moving. Williams spends more time than you like detailing the daily routine of the settings around the characters, but on the whole, it’s a great series and one that you should read.

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47

Winds Of The Forelands

(Winds of the Forelands)

(David B. Coe)

Complex political weaving, powerful magic, and a cast of well-developed characters. A cut above the normal fantasy epics.

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48

Oath Of Empires Saga (Oath of Empire) (Thomas Harlan)

This is epic fantasy with a face you've never seen before. The series centers on an alternative Rome where magic works. And like the real Rome, this Rome is a bloody world. Take all those juicy battles and toss in the addition of magic, demons, monsters, and mages. If you like your fantasy rife with magic, fighting, and action with super powerful heros and terrible villains, Oath of Empires is a great read. It's never reached critical mass, which is a shame -- it's better than a lot of the other fantasy series out there.

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49

The Night Angel Trilogy (Night Angel) (Brent Weeks)

For many readers, this is a fast-paced assassin-epic fantasy in which a sort of gutter rat becomes a super assassin. The writing, while not deep or particularly sharp is fast paced and there's plenty of action. There's an end-of-the-world plot in the background somewhere, there's romance (though I must say, it's handled in such a two-dimensional way), there are kings and princes, wars and civil wars, and there's lot and lots of powerful magic and heroes practically on every page. There's a gritty feel to the books, especially the first book when the story details the protagonist's survive-by-any-means escapades on the street. This early part of the first book is by far the strongest part of the series and there's a lot of potential hinted at here during the first book.

But that potential is not held throughout the first book, nor the sequels. My major complaint with this series is that it seems pretty much like power rangers set in a fantasy landscape. There's an overabundance of super-powerful characters who powerup with even more power just when it's needed most. I felt like I was reading a fantasy version of Dragon Ball Z for part of the novel. For some though, that's exactly what they want in an epic fantasy; as they say, different strokes for different folks. If you are looking for a deeper, more complex sort of fantasy, this is not it. Fans of Gemmell or R.A. Salvatore or Feist or Jordan will find a lot to love with this series.

If you like this fast-paced, magic and action heavy sort of fantasy that doesn't really take itself too seriously or try too hard to hard to maintain internal consistency of both the magic systems and plots, it's a great, fun read. You'll also get a big kick out of Week's newest fantasy series (which follows along the lines of a more traditional fantasy epic, though with a pretty interesting magic system based on colors) The Light Bringer (two books out now). Also check out The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan and Legend by David Gemell for other authors that write in a similar style.

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50

Boreal Moon Trilogy (Boreal Moon) (Julian May)

A High fantasy series that's never gotten the love it deserves. I read this series a few years ago and was thoroughly addicted. Lots of politics, fighting, strange magic, and some pretty compelling characters. Recommended.

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