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Top 25 Best Fantasy Books Since 2010

The Best 'Modern' Fantasy Books of the Past Five Years

Sometimes you don't want to wade through older books when picking out your next selection of best fantasy to read. As impacting and awesome as some of the older 'greats' are, it does get a bit tiring seeing 'Lord of the Rings', Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Black Company, The Name of the Wind, and Game of Thrones tossed on pretty much every best fantasy list ever made and posted to the web somewhere.

The solution was pretty easy: cook up a list of the best books that have been published the past five years (2010+). And exactly this did I do. I've carefully selected what I feel are the best, most significant fantasy reads to come out the past four/five years. So you can think of this as a "Best Fantasy of the Past Half Decade' list.

Note...this ONLY includes books and series that have been published from 2010 to the present (2014/2015). Any series that was published before 2010 but has had books released the past couple years won’t be shown. So if you folks leave angry comments asking why Lord of the Rings or some other book PUBLISHED BEFORE 2010 has not been included on this list, I'm going to be angry :)

Do keep this list updated by adding your own suggestions in the comments!

Feb 2015

A remarkable trilogy that's one of the best fantasy tales to come out the past decade. This is the quintessential post 90's fantasy, the gold standard of a more evolved, more thoughtful, more realistic, and far more depressing fantasy.  

It's a tale about finding the end of the rainbow and realizing there might not be that pot of gold waiting after all for everyone. There are no winners, just those who lose and those who lose more. It's a twisted hodgepodge of The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter with the child sensibilities scraped away and all the cutie creatures revealed as monsters.

And it's such a damn compelling read. This is real fantasy, grown up fantasy, post modern fantasy. This is, folks, the quintessential fantasy of the 21st century. It's complex, complicated, sad, depressing, and ultimately by the end of it...redeeming.

You may not like it, you may not enjoy it, but you better damn well read it.

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Epic fantasy that hearkens back to Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time. It's big, it's sumptuous, and it's exactly what we all want to read. The Way of Kings is classic epic fantasy that doesn't do anything new, but what it does, it does very right. 

Sanderson has become the preeminent fantasy author of our generation, succeeding not by doing anything new or genre redefining, but by doing the same thing better than everyone else. He's got an uncanny knack for writing exactly what people most want to read. 

For better or worse, Sanderson represents the direction epic fantasy has taken in the 2000's -- and the direction it's going to be going for the next decade until the next renaissance in the genre.  As such, he's writing the gold standard for the form that epic fantasy is currently taking and The Way of Kings is the result.

If you are one of the 10 people who have not yet read it, check it out. You might just see why the world has gone all gaga over The Stormlight Archive series.

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The Prince Of Thorns

(Mark Lawrence)
(The Broken Empire)

The fantasy antihero has been around for a long long time. Usually, the antihero is good with a little bit of bad. However, Lawrence does something new here and reincarnates the Antihero in the form of Jorg Ancraft, with the ratio of a lot of bad to a tiny bit of good. 

Jorg goes about doing bad stuff all the time, arguably for the greater good, but not convincingly so. Yet we still root for the little bastard to win. Throw in a dying world, a compelling plot, vivid descriptions, and insightful musings on the  human condition and you have a book (and series) that's somewhat genre redefining.

Lawrence appeared like a storm a few years ago and has continued to strike with lighting with each new book. Prince of Thorns stands as one of the best fantasy books released the past couple years and arguably takes fantasy in a slightly new direction.

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.


The Heroes

(Joe Abercrombie)
Comments (5)
Award Nominations:2012 BFS

Abercrombie isn't as prolific as we'd all like him to be, but when he does release a book, the fantasy world takes note! Made a big name in the genre with his subversion of the standard fantasy cliches in his First Law trilogy, Abercrombie has continued to push out more goodness in the same First Law universe, with each book loosely affiliate with the events of his original trilogy. 

The Heroes, a standalone, is his best work so far; Abercrombie's sarcastic and subversive take on war and the heroes that are made during it. He's had a number of books since The Heroes, but this is his masterpiece still. 


The Heroes is absolutely one of the best books to come out since 2010 and my favorite standalone read in the genre.

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City Of Stairs

(Robert Jackson Bennett)

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millionsuntil its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itselffirst shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon itstands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.  Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seemand that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over. Robert Jackson Bennett is one of those authors, like Neil Gaiman, when he releases a new book every couple years you pay attention because you know the man plays a serious game when it comes to fiction.

The Troupe was a beautiful book (and made the Top 25 list), his American Elsewhere an even better read, and his newest, City of Stairs, his best yet. I'll put it out there and say this one is arguably one of, if not the best, new novel of 2014  and with a string of strong releases this year from other authors, that's saying a lot hell of a lot indeed about this book indeed.

Bennett is also a decorated writer, having been awarded the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson, and the Philip K. Dick Citation of Excellence, but somehow flying under the reader for most fantasy genre readers. He seems to occupy that tricky space that writers who write genre-bending novels often get put in  their works are hailed as imaginative and unique, but the general readers of the genre never read them. Well, with this book, Bennett deserves his due as one of the best writers in the genre, right up there with Neil Gaiman, China Meiville, and Guy Gaverial Kay.

First and foremost, Bennet is a writer in the truest sense of the word, taking themes and ideas and weaving them into a mysterious and evocative story that always captures your imagination and the hypnotic prose. Bennett is awesome at exploring interesting ideas with his story while also captivating with his words. Basically, unlike many of his contemporaries, this man knows his wordcraft and his storycraft. In his last few books, Bennett has played around with myths and mythology, often with a story about normal people suddenly taken out of their reality and exposed toothe uncanny. In City of Stairs, Bennett takes a usual break from his genre-crossing Urban Fantasy and jumps into the epic fantasy genre, completely inventing his own mythology. And I'm glad he did  he brings his strong skills the genre and weaves together a new cloth from the fabric of existing ideas

City of Stairs, has all the classic trademarks of a Benedict novel: a highly imaginative world, a compelling story, and a cast of normal characters who find out reality is not what it appears to be. Bennet's characters are always fleshed out, always relatable people the everyman or the everywoman who through trials and tribulations illuminating what it really means to be human in the face of the uncanny. For a fiercely imaginative fantasy world, strong characters that you fall in love with (just reading about Sigrud is enough to merit picking up the novel), and a plot that no clich  sucks you into another dimension, do pick this book up.

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Feb 2015

Miles Cameron, a historical fiction author, burst onto the fantasy scene in 2013 with The Red Knight (read our review here). It was a collage of sword and sorcery action, incredibly detailed medieval word building (the author has a degree in Medieval History), and a pretty damn exciting plot. --  kind of a cross between A Game of Thrones, The Once and Future King, and Mazalan Book of the Fallen with a bit of RA Salvatore thrown in to boot. 

 Surprisingly, the whole thing kind of worked. One thing I liked about this series (so far) is that there are strong elements of horror tied into the story; it's not just a story about man struggling against man, but man struggling against The Wild -- the creatures and monsters that live in the untamed wilderness who are inimical to mankind. The author utilizes man's natural fear of the dark and fear of the unknown effectively in the narrative, as the heroes struggle against dark creatures.

Look for powerful heroes, knights and ladies, sorceresses and wizards, monsters, and siege warfare. One of the most exciting books I've read the past couple years. If you want battles, action, and magical mayhem set in a very detailed medieval period setting (told by someone who knows a lot of shit about medieval life, knights, and warfare). Unlike some of the other fantasy out there, the hero and villain characters are fleshed out, the writing evinces a genuine understanding of how to portray a medieval world that's real and alive, and the magic system is well developed and unique. 

Two books of the series have been released so far with the second book, The Fell Knight, fixing many of the issues with the first book, I feel. Overall, one of the more interesting new fantasy voices to spring forth this past five years.

So if you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.

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The Golem and the Jinni

(Helene Wecker)
Feb 2015

This is one of the more non-traditional fantasy, literary picks on this list, but don't be scared off: The Genie and the Golem is one of the most heart-warming, touching novels you'll likely read. It's hard to categorize this fantasy specifically. If I had to take a stab at it, I'd say its part fantasy, part historical fiction.

This is a story of an unlikely friendship between two fish out of water characters who don't quite get along but need each other. And it's in that relationship between these two characters, of the need for companionship overpowering the desire to be alone, that the author spins a lovely tale. The story is set in the early 20th century New York and introduces to a modern setting some old fairy tale creatures we all know and love. Think of it as an adult fable.

It's a wonderful, lyrical tale that touches on deep themes but never gets lost in being too thematic or literary that you can't enjoy the tale for what it is: a heartwarming, heart-tugging tale about two very different friends who need each other to survive. 

One of the best literary fantasy works to come out the past decade. If you are a fan of Margret Atwood, Guy Gaverial Kay or Susanna Clarke you'll especially love this book. Or if you want a heartwarming fantasy tale that doesn't involve heroes trying to slay demon dark lords or save kingdoms.

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Ocean At The End Of The Lane

(Neil Gaiman)

Not all stories have to be the size of the bible in the telling of them. Not all must be complex, complicated power struggles between kingdoms with a large caste of dirty heroes. Sometimes there is beauty in something as simple as a child growing up.  Ocean at the End of the Lane is that book. It's a book that about probing forgotten childhood memories and the complications of growing up. Ostensibly a simple story about a seven year old boy living life as boys do, things get complicated and creepy. 

Of course, this is Gaiman we are talking about, who takes the familiar trappings of a fairy tale for children and spins the tale into an adults. In the telling of it, there's a battle between innocence and mythic forces, a story about sacrifice, themes about growing up, and even an explanation of the space time continuum thrown in to boot. All of this taking place in a lovely bucolic country setting and wrapped about with Gaiman's rich prose. The tone, setting, and themes are pitch perfect the whole way though. This is certainly Gaimen's closest stab at writing literary fiction and there's nothing else out there quite like this one. All under 200 pages to boot.

One of the best books to come out in the past five years; it deserves to be read. But it's a Gaiman book, so I'm sure you already know that.

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Under Heaven

(Guy Gavriel Kay)
Comments (14)
Award Nominations:2011 LocusF, 2011 WFA

Kay return true to form with an impacting novel; while he's written some good stuff the past few years, none of his recent stuff has left a mark on me like Under Heaven. After dallying with (alterative) European history, Kay makes his foray into the Far East. And what an attempt; Under Heaven is pretty much perfect.

This book is one of the better books of the decade, with its brilliant depiction of an alternate china on the brink of collapse (loosely based on the real Tang dynasty) and compelling (through first person no less) cast of characters that are completely believable in their noble or not-so-noble motivations. Few authors in the Fantasy genre outside of Kay are able to write characters who jump from the pages as living entities. And the prose is so god damn beautiful. Kay is a poet and his words reflect his talent.

This is a novel that blends a number of genres, but does so seamlessly. Kay weaves magic into the story subtly, but the focus of Kays work has been and will ever be the characters and the almost poetic writing. If you are looking for another dark lord to slay, skip this book. But if you want to reach a rich fantasy tale set in a magnificent, alternative china, full of realistic characters and told through gorgeous, lyrical prose, this is your book.

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The Night Circus

(Erin Morgenstern)
Feb 2015
There are two types of fantasy readers. Those who feast on action-packed epic struggles for kingdoms, glory, and maybe to save the world from certain destruction from inimical forces. And there are fantasy works that focus on the human story. The Night Circus is one such story. There's a magical completion. There's two magicians locked in a competition by mysterious sponsors. There's the requisite romance. There's betrayal and anger. There's resolution. But most of all, there's The Night Circus itself, a setting that's evocative and utterly captivating  a magical place that will have you running away and joining the circus (because who didn't dream of doing just this when you were a kid). This is one of the better fantasy novels to come out the past few years; it's a book that has quite captivated the mainstream. There's a reason for this, but you have to read it to find out!

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The Grim Company

(Luke Scull)
(The Grim Company)

A book heavy on inspiration from Abercrombie, but does so with an unabashed boldness. There is no shyness to author's borrowing of Abercrombie's style of grimdark, he takes the aesthetic movement and makes it completely his own. And I'm completely fine with that because the result is rip-roaring read the whole way through. Yes, we've seen all of it before: troubled Northmen; evil, heartless mages to kill; dead gods disrupting the world order; a cast of troubled heroes, yada yada. If you've read Abercrombie or any other of the best grimdarks, you should be well familiar with this sort of book.

But before you roll your eyes, know that it's not these (now) cliched elements that make this story so awesome, it's in the telling of the story. And Scull knows how to wind up a good story. This is one of those books you'll start and you just won't put down. The Grim Company was one of the best books I read in 2013 -- and it was a book that took my by surprise. If you love Abercrombie's First Law, this is about as similar a book you are going to find to it.

Even better, the sequel, Sword of the North is coming out in a few months at time of writing this -- May 2015. I hear from people who've read the ebook version, it's even better than the first book.

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One novel that was hyped to the moon per-publishing but actually lived up to most of the hype  a rare thing I find. This book marks the rise of Flintlock Fantasy, a sort of steampunk take on the fantasy genre that features technology and magic coexisting together (think Alloy of Law by Sanderson). Flintlock Fantasy focuses specifically on well guns. It's a fantasy, like Lawrence's Prince of Thorns, strays from the fantasy normal and is rightfully rewarded for this risk.

The style of writing, the plotting, the magic are all reminiscent of a Brandon Sanderson novel. Surprise surprise when I found out the author actually studied writing under Sanderson!

The book is all about gritty action and a violent world. There is no long rambling exposition about the way things work, you simply are tossed right into the middle of the action. Its a good change from all the usual epic fantasy where you spend more time reading about the worldbuilding than the actual story.

The Flintlock magic system is unique, the characters are complex, the action is intense, and amidst the political turmoil, theres an end of the world plot thrown in. Overall, this series takes fantasy in a slightly new direction, and is certainly the vanguard novel in the now-hot Flintlock fantasy subgenre. There are only two books out in the series so far, but both are great reads, with the second book improving on things in the first.

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Feb 2015

More great flintlock fantasy and a cool magic system. This book takes epic fantasy and turns itcolonial which is a new modern twist on the established way of things. It doesnt also slightly tweak the genre, but it does so with a bang so loud you can hear the force of it blocks away. No element is completely unique (weve seen a lot of this in the genre before), but it combines them so well and with so much panache, the sum is greater than the parts. This is a debut that makes title waves.

Fans who liked Glen Cook's Black Companys detailing the going-ons of a company forced to survive in foreign lands among hostile locals will find themselves right at home in this novel.  Add into the mix a strange magic system thats cool, well-developed characters, a barren desert setting, and you have a real winner here. The whole colonial theme is usually used as a commentary on the evils of imperialism, but Django Waxler blithely avoids all that which I didnt mind at all. 

One of the more action packed, exciting fantasy reads of the past couple years. It doesn't try to be too complex with an epic cast of grey characters like many other books, but focuses more on a couple characters and their struggles. Theres a delineated line between good and bad characters, so you won't be needing to root for heroes who act like villains.

For one of the most exciting military epic fantasy reads of the past few years, pick this book up. As of 2014, there are two books out with both books delivering (the second book trades in foreign colonial invaders vs desert tribes theme in for a more standard city and kingdom politics theme).

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While reading about Assassins in fantasy has never really gone out of style in the genre (some of the best books, such as The Farseer, have been about Assassins), this subgenre has experienced a bit of a renaissance the past couple of years. 

And at the forefront of the movement would be Douglas Hulick's much heralded Among Thieves: A Tale of the Kin series. Like many of the books on this list, Among Thieves does something slightly different than its peers in the genre: a tale about a lucky, mostly unexceptional protagonist who usually happens to be in the wrong place at the right time. But it's in the protagonist's pure charm and the cast of interesting characters that surround him that drive this tale forward. There's plenty of world building  mysterious magic artifact, immortal kings, secretive governments  but it never overcomes the plot or the characters. The world too brings to mind Thieves World  it's dirty, grimy, not all that pleasant but has a certain charm to it.

This is a fantasy that's more about the story and the characters than the world. And what a bunch of characters these are  pure entertainment to read. If you want a unique fantasy tale about the criminal underside, packed with quirky, interesting characters, give this book a read. 

If you like The Lies of Locke Lamora or the Vlad Tados novels, you'll certainly enjoy this offering.

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

(N. K. Jemisin)

(The Inheritance)

Feb 2015

N.K. Jemisin takes a simple premise and delivers a magnificently written fantasy trilogy out of it: What if the gods who created humanity were real and who at one time ruled the world now walked among mankindas slaves.

Theres a lot going on here with politics, kingdoms, and angry gods and at the center of this maelstrom is Yeine, exiled granddaughter the ruling Arameri family, who has lived her life in seclusion in the barbarian lands, is summoned back to the kingdom by her grandfather and thrown into the very politics shes avoided as shes forced into a win-or-die contest against her cousins for the throne and its a game that will likely end with her sacrificed.

Its a complex tale of love, war, politics, assassination, and racism that delivers on all fronts. Theres a lot of romance in this one, so fans of Kushiels Legacy or The Seven Waters trilogy will particularly enjoy it.

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Throne Of The Crescent Moon

(Saladin Ahmed)

(The Crescent Moon Kingdoms)

Comments (0)
Award Nominations:2012 NEBULA, 2013 HUGO
Adventure fantasy that's unlike anything you've read before. Take the setting and wonder and magic of The Arabian Nights, mix in the modern fantasy traditions, and bake it with some strong characterization and out pops Throne of the Crescent Moon -- a fantasy adventure set in a magical middle eastern world.It's so well done, with so much action, adventure, and pure FUN, that I can't help but recommend Throne of the Crescent Moon as one of the better (and wildly different) fantasy books to come out since 2010. And it doesn't hurt that the prose is wonderful to boot.My only complaint here is the author has not yet published a sequel to this wonderful read. If you haven't picked up this zany tale (and I suspect most of you haven not), treat yourself to this book. It's like nothing you've read before.

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An absolutely engaging fast paced epic fantasy tale that sucks you in and won't spit you back out till you've turned the last page. This is one of the more classical fantasy books on this list  a modern take on the classic hero fantasy tale.

The martial version of The Name of the Wind, this indie novel took the publishing world by storm and was picked up by a major publisher. It's the coming of age story of Vaelin Al Sorna, son of a famous war leader, who morphs from scared little boy to natural born leader and famous warrior.

The book doesn't concern itself with moral quandaries or whining as the protagonist walks a fine balance between becoming a murderer and maintaining his honor as a monk warrior  two conflicting trajectories that his differing obligations and duties pull at.

It's a great book, overall, and channels many of the elements that people love about The Name of the Wind: a frame story with the older protagonist reflecting back on his coming of age tale; a young man taken from his father and forced into martial school as a warrior monk-in-training; a secret order with mysterious goals the protagonist must work against; concepts of brotherhood and friendship; an interesting magic system; plenty of action, angst, and violence; and the pursuit of love. 

While the writing is uneven at times and not as well written as The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss is a superior writer and wordsmith by every measure), The Blood Song is a pretty damn exciting read and one of the best NEW fantasy debuts of the decade. The sequel, The Tower Lord, fails on almost all the marks The Blood Song hit, so it remains to be seen whether Anthony Ryan can pick things up again in Book 3, but the first book is an astoundingly good new debut.

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While Sanderson excels at writing epic fantasy, Steelheartwas a pleasant surprise. Sanderson takes on the superhero fantasy genre andwrites a uniquely compelling tale about a band of ordinary humans whospecialize in taking down once-humans who have been granted special powers(think super-villains here) and use these powers to dominate, rule, andterrorize the world.

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The Black Prism

(Brent Weeks)

Weeks really hit his stride with this series and the books are one non-stop thrill ride of action, violence, and excitement and feature one of the most unique magic systems in the genre.

But it wasn't always this way. This is a series that's really grown on me the past couple years. The first book, The Black Prism, was a bit uneven, suffered from too much exposition, and to be honest, I kind of wrote Weeks off as a one series wonder, a failed attempt by Weeks to capture the magic of his original Night Angel trilogy.  For the new series to have any real merit after the first book, book two would have to literally blow your socks off. And what were the chances of that right? The second book in the series are usually worse than the first. 

Well, in fact book two did blow my socks completely off, and delivered on all fronts; it was a spectacularly exciting read and made me a serious fan of the series right away. It's one of the best sequel books I've read and a fine example of how to write a modern action-packed fantasy tale. There's action galore (the action is pumped up by even a few more notches), a cast of compelling and interesting characters, very much fleshed out, and quite a few plot twists as well. By the end of it, you are chomping for the next book (which is out already).

Weeks writes some of the best heroic action fantasy in the genre and The Lightbringer is his finest work. There are three books out now.

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Abraham wowed everyone with his Long Price Quartet books, a fundamentally different sort of fantasy tale that was beautifully written and character driven, very much a different fantasy than you've ever read before. He's also done a good job in the science fiction genre, with a modern take on old school Soap Opera with his The Expanse (written under a pen name).

Abraham decided to get his hands wet with a more traditional epic fantasy yarn with his Dagger and the Coin series. Epic fantasy yes, but it's a Abraham novel, meaning it's first and foremost a character driven tale first with everything else secondary. There's action, magic, mystery, and politicking, but many of these are very much in the background while the story spends a long time building up the characters, their relationships with each other and their place to the world around them. But once things get going (warning, it can take a couple books in), things get going! There's a lot of plot twists and it's hard to see where the story is going. He's almost wrapped it all up though. 

So for a traditional fantasy epic with awesome writing, awesome characters with a darker bent, read this series. It's one of the best new fantasy epics and certainly one of the better character driven fantasies in the 2000's.

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The Dirty Streets Of Heaven

(Tad Williams)

(Bobby Dollar)

The start of a new series by Tad Williams that brings his top notch writing to the Urban fantasy genre. Williams was still finding his stride with the first book, by book two is even better and book three better than the second. This is a real alternative to The Dresden Files, but darker, grittier, and a lot more sarcastic. And it's not some clone either  Williams takes the Heaven and Hell conceit and twists it around. 

Angels, you see, walk among us in human bodies. And so do Demons. Bother are engaged in a titanic struggle for the fate of human souls. Bobby Dollar, is an Angel mascaraing as a human who's responsible for defending human souls from Hell's prosecution. But you see, Bobby's not really that good of an angle and when a soul goes missing, he gets caught up in events and things go to hell, literally.

Unlike The Dresden Files, not every hero becomes a overpowered hero who you know will never die. Williams wisecracking hero, Bobby Dollar, is an interesting character he's not the most powerful guy in the room, but he's got a knack for going up against much stronger guys and walking away. Part of the fun is watching him get thrown to the wolves and somehow survive, albeit very much busted up afterwards.This gets my vote as the best new Urban Fantasy series since Dresden. And since the premise is a new take on heaven, hell, angels and demons, it's not another wizard's vs wizard's urban fantasy.

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Another hyped up fantasy that actually delivered on the premise. I was skeptical about this book at first but found this to be one of the best fantasy debuts of 2013 and one of the best epic fantasy books the past few years.

Nothing is particularly new in this book, but all the elements fit together and the story delivers the goods. The book follows the trials and tribulations of three royal children, separated for 8 years, each of whom live completely different lives. There's Valyn, the youngest son sent to train with an elite spy regiment. There's Adare, the headstrong girl raised in the royal palace and cutting her teeth on kingdom politics. And there's Kaden, eldest and heir to the throne, sent to live on the outskirts of the kingdom to toil away as a monk in a monastic order. Then the Emperor dies and chaos erupts. And the ancient inimical immortal gods who founded the original empire just might not be as dead as everyone thought. 

Ancient dead gods stirring and royal siblings being cast out into the world has been done before (think Acacia or A Song of Ice and Fire), but The Emperor's Blades does a superb job of weaving each story line together; you get three very different stories in one book with each connecting to the overarching plot. There's plenty of moral ambiguities the characters face, developed characters, dilemmas aplenty, and fresh new world with an in interesting history. This series very much feels like a cross between A Wheel of Time and A Game of Thrones.

Expect interesting characters, a complicated and well-drawn world, and lots of action. One of the more exciting fantasy novels to come out the past five years. If you have read this yet, pick it up.

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There's a number of Dresden-like clones out there, but none are as well done as Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series. Many of those Dresden like trappings are there  White and Black magician councils in a power struggle, an outcast mage (and former apprentice of an evil mage) caught in the middle of the conflict, and a likable cast of supporting characters. Very much Dresden-ish. But this is no clone. Verus si not some super powered wizard like Dresden who keeps leveling up. He's rather under powered but with a singular ability  to predict the near future. He uses this talent to great effect as he's set against much stronger opponents. 

There are five books out now and each book keeps on getting better. If there is any series that can give Dresden a run for the money, Alex Verus can. I argue it's a better series overall  it's generally darker in tone.

When Jim Butcher himself says this about Alex Verus 'Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendouslyand be a little nervous around him" you know you have a winner -- especially if you are a big fan of Dresden.

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(Joe Hill)

In the tradition of Steven King, the spiritual father to Joe Hill's style of horror, NOS4A2 is a novel about the tricky space of growing up and the uncanny shit that happened to you as a child It's a novel about the unresolved past coming back to haunt you and your family. 

Released to critical acclaim, NOS4A2 is the story of Victoria McQueen who as a child in a fit of rebellion, casually hitches a ride on a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraitha with Charles Manx, an avuncular fellow who turns out to be anything but. Vic is taken for the ride of her life into a nightmarish landscape, into an alternative reality built on the screams of children, a place where no child has ever escaped. But escape she does. But theres a price to pay years later. And that price is her son.

This book is pure horror, but one of those complicated literary spaces where pure horror and pure fantasy can both occupy the same shelf in the bookstore. Certainly, this is one of the best horror reads to come along in a long time.

NOS4A2 is a horrifying tale the whole way through  it grabs that part of you that scares and continues to prod it with horror after horror; I dont think it's an exaggeration to say it's a scary ride the whole way through. 

If you want your scare on, pick this book up. One of the best horror reads this decade and one hell of a ride you wont forget. Just dont read it at night and keep your little ones close!

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A highly underrated author and book that's never gotten the attention it deserves. Granted, with so many heavy hitter fantasy authors and awesomely good fantasy book releases since 2010, it's hard to make a name for yourself as a debut author. Perhaps because of this, Three Parts Dead never got the recognition it deserved.

And it deserves recognition, believe me.

Like many of the books you'll find on this list, the author does something unique with the genre and story. With so much good fantasy out there both traditional and non-traditional  the onus is on authors to take the genre somewhere few have tread before, if only to stand out from the pack. Gladstone has certainly done this, and did it superbly well (especially since this was a debut novel). But for whatever the reason, most people don't know about it.

The novel combines steampunk fantasy with that of a legal thriller. Sounds like strange mix of genres and it is but it absolutely works in this case. Gladstone introduces a lot of old familiar tropes  gods walking among humans, interacting in affairs;

Anyone who's read any fantasy has seen the well-trodden paths of the pirate, of the investigator, of the swordsman, of the hero; this time around, however, the lawyers are getting their movement to shine in the fantasy genre.

Gladstone took a risk too with making the protagonist not only a female lawyer but a black one at that. As much as we like to pretend age-old prejudices don't exist, they still do. And Gladstone bucked that trend by making the heroine a lawyer and a black one to boot. 

For a novel (now part of a series with 3 books released) with strong, realistic characters, fiercely imaginative world building, a well-crafted plot that slowly builds before reaching a stampeding crescendo, Max Gladstone's Three Part's Dead hits the mark. It's a unique blending of well-worn sub genres steam punk and the legal thriller using worn tropes, but blending them together into something wholly new.

One of the best, mostnovel fantasy release of the decade. If you are tired of epic fantasy andcankering for something that marches to its own beat, you can't do better thanThree Parts Dead. And you can be secure in the knowledge the other books in theseries are also fantastic.

Books in Craft Sequence Series (4)

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This was one of those books that blew me away when I first read it; Peter V. Brett hit the nail on the head perfectly with this dark fantasy about a world infested by demons; a story where humanity pushed to the brink of extinction, eking out an existence during the day, but trapped behind shelters, protected only by wards that (sometimes) kept the demons at bay. The concept developed by Brett was/is completely unique which was part of the appeal it was a sort of story that hadn't been told yet, something kind of new.

The story told by Brett was something new, exciting, and completely enthralling. In some ways, we all could related to the feelings of terror and utter helplessness suffered by the inhabitants of Brett's world. It wasn't Brett's prose that won you over, but the world and the dark story you just had to keep reading to see how the struggling heroes made their way through the dark, demon infested landscape that took over when the sun went down, a time when all humans are little more than prey, trapped behind their protective wards, hoping to live one more day.

Sound exciting? It was. Now, unfortunately Peter V. Brett's work was a one hit wonder. The two sequel books were huge disappointments huge on action, but low on characterization. The way the characters started behaving didn't really mesh and the plot often became ridiculous, with stuff just happening out of the blue unexpectedly. We'll see where the series goes with book 4 around the corner, but so far, books 2 and 3 were massive disappointments. 

Still, you can't take away from the original brilliance of the first book, which was one of the most exciting fantasy readers to come out the past couple years. Yes, there have been more complex fantasy released into the genre since then. Yes, there have been better written books published by other authors. But few books in the genre have offered as pure an exciting, as addicting, and as thrilling a read as Brett's The Warded Man. Now if only he never wrote the sequels

Books in The Demon Cycle Series (5)

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