Core Best Fantasy Lists
- Top 25 Fantasy Books
- Top 100 Fantasy Books
- Nominated Fantasy Books of 2018
- Top 10 Best Fantasy Books of 2017
- Best Fantasy Books of 2017
- Best Fantasy Series
- Best Stand Alone Fantasy
- Best Young Adult Fantasy
- Top 50 Coming-of-Age Fantasy
- Top 25 Best Indie Fantasy
- Best Fantasy Audiobooks
- Best Fantasy You've Never Read
- Most Influential Fantasy
- Best Non-English Fantasy
- Great Fantasy Books
- Good Fantasy Books
- Worst Fantasy Books Ever
Best Yearly Lists
- Best Fantasy Books of 2017
- Best Fantasy of 2017 (SO FAR)
- Best Fantasy of 2016
- Best Fantasy Books of 2015
- Best Fantasy Books of 2014
Best Decade Lists
- Best Fantasy Since 2010
- Best Fantasy Books of the 90's
- Best Fantasy Best of the 80's
- Best Fantasy Books of the 70's
- Best Fantasy Books of the 60's
- Best Early Modern Fantasy (30's to 50's)
- Best Pre-Tolkien Fantasy
Best Thematic Lists
- Best Anti-Hero Fantasy
- Best Asian Fantasy
- Best Feel Good Fantasy
- Best of the Tolkien Clones
- Best of the Dresden Clones
- Fantasy That Will Blow Your Mind
- Best Fantasy Books for Women
- Best Strong Female Heroine Books
- Best Fantasy Books by Female Authors
- Best Fantasy Books for Children
- Best Vampire Books for YA
- Best Vampire Books for Adults
Best Subgenre Lists
- Top 50 EPIC Fantasy
- Best Heroic Fantasy
- Best Grimdark Fantasy
- Best Gritty Fantasy
- Best LitRPG Books
- Best Military Fantasy
- Best Vampire Fantasy
- Best Urban Fantasy
- Best Dark Fantasy
- Best Assassin Fantasy
- Best Steampunk Fantasy
- Best Literary Fantasy
- Best Sword and Sorcery
- Best Fantasy Mystery Books
- Best Romance Fantasy
- Best Paranormal Romance Fantasy
- Best Vampire Romance
- Best Dragon Fantasy
- Guide to Fantasy Genres
- How to Find Your Next Read Here
- Guide to Vampire Books
- Beginner's Fantasy Guide
- Best Science Fiction Books
- Epic Fantasy
- High Fantasy
- Low Fantasy
- Mundane Fantasy
- Hard Fantasy
- Young Adult Fantasy
- Juvenile Fantasy
- Quest Fantasy
- Coming-of-Age Fantasy
- Heroic Fantasy
- Sword and Sorcery Fantasy
- Swashbuckling Fantasy
- Wuxia Fantasy
- Gods & Demons / Shenmo Fantasy
- Grimdark Fantasy Books
- Colonial Fantasy Books
- Silk Road Fantasy Books
- Flintlock Fantasy Books
- Gunpowder Fantasy Books
- Military Fantasy
- Gritty Fantasy
- Dark Fantasy
- Vampire Fantasy
- Urban Fantasy
- Contemporary Fantasy
- Paranormal Fantasy
- Fantastic Romance
- Romantic Fantasy
- Erotic Fantasy
- Classical Fantasy Books
- Medieval Fantasy
- Court Intrigue Fantasy
- Fantasy of Manners
- Science Fantasy
- Sword and Planet Fantasy
- Dying Earth Fantasy
- Futuristic Fantasy
- Steampunk Fantasy
- Arcanepunk Fantasy
- Gaslamp Fantasy
- Weird West Fantasy
- Political Fantasy
- Literary Fantasy
- Magic Realism
- New Weird Fantasy
- Weird Fiction
- Fantastic Poetry
- Comic/Humorous Fantasy
- Magical Girl Fantasy
- Series Fantasy
- Super Hero Fantasy
- Media-tie-in Fantasy
- Prehistoric Fantasy Books
- Historical Fantasy
- High Historical Fantasy
- Alternate History Fantasy
- Alternate World Fantasy
- Crossworlds Fantasy
- Portal Fantasy
- Christian Fantasy
- Celtic Fantasy
- Arthurian Fantasy
- Mythic Fantasy
- Legend-Retelling Fantasy
- Allegorical Fantasy
- Fables/Fairy Tale Books
- Anthropomorphic Fantasy
- Dragon Fantasy Books
- Bangsian Fantasy Books
- Assassin Fantasy Books
- Arabian Fantasy Books
When someone mentions Sword and Sorcery, what comes to mind is Conan the Barbarian, arguably the greatest representation of the genre.
It’s true that the story of Conan has been more influential than any other genre work. Its been imitated time and time again, but never duplicated. Conan is a figure from pulp fiction that’s transcended into myth, impacting an entire generation of writers and even making a dent in Hollywood as well.
Many know Conan from the films and movies, but if you haven’t actually read the source of Conan, Robert Howard's pulp fiction stories, than you’ve never encountered the real Conan.
Conan, Howard’s hero, dominates the landscape much in the way the ancient heroes of the Iliad and Odyssey were masters of the Greek domain. Like the primal Greek heroes and gods, Conan is an indestructible force of nature, a pure hurricane gale that obliterates all obstacles.
The raw Conan is a character shaped from myth, a figure who’s both a force of nature and a human being. The world of Conan is a landscape not unlike our own past, but it’s a world woven from a patchwork of imagination, history, and legend. Conan is the archetype for an enduring human myth, a raw, primal force of humanity and instant. Conan defines the essence of true Sword and Sorcery.
Don't just limit yourself to the stories of Conan -- Howard wrote other non-Conan tales which are also considered Sword and Sorcery classics. Try Kull: Exile of Atlantis and The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane .
The number two pick for the best classic Sword & Sorcery story is the Elric series.
Michael Moorcock is the guy who first coined the word Sword and Sorcery in the 1960s. Michael Moorcock set out to start a new type of S&S that would counter the conventions of his time. In many ways, Elric is the anti-Conan character. And many will argue that Moorcock succeeded. Elric is certainly one of the most interesting fantasy characters.
Elric is a much more complicated character than some of the other classic S&S characters. He’s an anti-hero character through and through, requiring the use of drugs and evil magic to transform himself from pale weakling to kick-ass killer, he’s the prince of a dying kingdom (dying in part because of his own actions), he's got a vampiric blade that sucks the soul out of its victims, and he derives his power from a bunch of evil gods. In any other story, Elric would be the bad guy.
Like all Sword & Sorcery novels, the Elric tales take place in the moment. The focus of the story is more on Elric’s serial adventures rather than some grand overarching plot.
Books in Elric Series (9)
Leiber helped to pioneer the sword-and-sorcery genre and is widely hailed as one of the most influential fantasy writers ever. Unfortunately, he's never received the credit he deserves for such an influential work. Many people have heard of Conan, but of the Gray Mouser, no.
The trappings of fantasy are present in the Gray Mouser stories, -- there are evil wizards, magicians, and barbarians -- but it’s all done in such a way that it’s not “the same old thing.”
What’s really refreshing about this series is the strong characterization of the two heroes, who, at the start of the novel are more anti-hero than actually hero. Leiber does a good job exploring the meaning of relationships as the tale progresses – complicated stuff for a “mere sword and sorcery” tale.
True to the classic Sword and Sorcery form, the backdrop, world-building, and mythology of Leiber's world are thin; the focus is on the adventures of the two heroes and not so much the world which they live in.
These are small novels (less than 300 pages), but there’s a lot of substance to them and no matter what type of fantasy you enjoy, there’s something for everybody in these great stories.
Roger Zelazny’s classic has been ignored by an entire generation of new fantasy readers, which is a tragedy since these books are classic sword and sorcery at their best. Amber reads like a lucid dream – strange worlds, strange characters, and strange events all connect by a tightly woven thread. And moving through this malleable landscape is Corwin, Prince of Amber -- Zelazny’s own version of Conan.
Unlike some of the classic Sword and Sorcery, the world (or should I say worlds) of Amber are more fleshed out, though hazy as if in a dream. And that's as it should be, as Amber is a world with many refections, each substantially less real then the true source of them all. Amber can’t adequately be described, but must rather be explored and experienced. Fortunately, it's a world WORTH exploring.
Books in Amber Chronicles Series (11)
A story about one of the first S&S heroines. Pretty much unknown by those not well versed in the classic Sword and Sorcery tradition, but Moor's work helped pioneer the way for female writers of speculative fiction (she was one of the first). These tales were written in 1934.
This author, together with Robert Howard and HP Lovecraft, helped pioneer a whole genre of "weird tales" that the public had never encountered before. Clark blends together different genres: horror, fantasy, and science fiction. In his collection of short stories, there are a number of classic Sword and Sorcery tales: necromantic kingdoms and dark worlds of sorcery among the bunch. The writing is raw and beautiful -- Smith is surely a wordsmith.
If you are the sort of person who loves to read about violence dressed up in the prettiest of words, you need to read Smith.
Books in Works by Clark A... Series (9)
True to classic Sword and Sorcery, there are plenty of barbarians, wizards, and seductresses lining the pages of this classic work. The story centers on Gath of Baal, a barbarian guarding a realm that borders both a desert empire and a forest kingdom. Gath forms an alliance with a seductive sorceress. Mayhem for all involved results.
Fans of true sword and sorcery fiction will love this series with oodles of bloody battle, evil sorcery, and dark demons. There are a lot of similarities between this series and Robert Howard's Conan tales.
Books in Frank Frazetta's... Series (5)
You don't normally read about an African hero in fantasy literature, but Saunders creates a compelling episodic Sword & Sorcery tale with Imaro.
The titular hero grows up as an outcast from his tribe, born to a mother who was banished from the tribe. He returns to the tribe to train as a warrior and though despised and mistreated as the son of an outcast, grows into the role as the greatest warrior in a tribe famous for great warriors.
This work is basically episodic in nature. Readers will see in Imaro the same qualities found in other famous Sword and Sorcery heros (Conan). What makes this hero unique is that he's African and not of European decent.
Books in Imaro Series (4)
This is a different breed of fantasy fiction than its pulp fiction brethren. However, there are many elements found in the Black Company that have Sword and Sorcery qualities to them.
Glen Cook is one of the modern authors who writes what you might call modern Sword and Sorcery. Black Company is not traditional Sword and Sorcery, but there are enough elements to loosely class it as such. Cook, Erickson, Lynch, and Kearney all write fantasy that modernizes some of the older Sword and Sorcery traditions -- instead of the almost serial adventures present in S&S such as Conan, these authors incorporate a more "epic" fantasy style in the the sword and sorcery traditions.
The Black Company is a true classic -- a thrilling tale of magic and might, where the characters are neither good nor evil, and evil itself has shades of good. I recommend reading the Books of the North followed by The Books of the South. Many will argue that the series loses some of its appeal after that (in part because the narrator of the story changes to a different character).
Books in The Chronicles o... Series (11)
This is more of an epic fantasy, but with quite a few Sword and Sorcery elements to it. First it's a dark world where morality is questionable. There's the loner hero with an emerging power. The landscape is one of ice and stone, a setting that fits perfectly with the brooding hero of the tale. Yes this is epic fantasy -- there is a world that's in grave peril and an emerging hero who steps up to set this world-gone-wrong back on the right path. But there's also a hack and slash quality to the series.
If you are looking for a modern sword and sorcery mixed with epic fantasy, a combination that works perfectly in this case, read Sword of Shadows.
Books in Sword of Shadows Series (4)
Gemmell specializes in heroic fantasy. His best book is widely regarded as Legend. Legend doesn’t try to be anything but what it is: a heroic adventure with lots of blood, battles, babes, and badass magic. There’s a plot in there somewhere, but in true Sword and Sorcery form, the focus is on the action itself and not so much the plot. Gemmell explores a lot of themes in this book -- the idea of true heroism for instance. And there’s a hell of a lot of action and blood.
So if you’re in a mood for a rousing adventure that would put Braveheart to shame, David Gemmell’s Legend is a good pick.
Books in The Drenai Series (9)
Paul Kearney's Sea-Beggars series which starts with The Mark of Ran. Kearney reported that these stories were inspired by some of the original Fritz Leiber stories.
Sea Beggars would be a modern sword and sorcery by any interpretation: there’s a lot of action present in the series and there’s no world-endangering threat to defeat. You might also want to try his The Ten Thousand novel for another similar sort of tale, though one that focuses even more on action and battle.
Books in The Sea Beggars Series (2)
While these are epic fantasy, there's are more than a few sword and sorcery elements present in the series to land them on this list. Gray morality. Check. Dark, brooding heros. Check. Super powerful villains. Check. Heros who can beat unbeatable foes. Check. Sorcery. Double check.
Books in The Malazan Book... Series (9)
This series draws on Nordic influence and European myth. You get a good dose of ancient Norse gods, the beginnings of Christianity, beings from Irish mythology, and even a few half-gods from Greek mythology tossed in for good measure. Into this melting pot of myths is thrown the human hero, Scarfloc -- a man whose very love for his adopted immortal parents has doomed them all. This is the tale of his struggle to save them.
The Broken Sword is a dark tale and the heavy influence of the dour Norse mythology is present on every page, in every word. But for a sword and sorcery tale that's quite different from anything else out there, The Broken Sword is a recommended read.
A perfect blend of sword & sorcery, science fiction, and heroic fantasy. Caine brings back to mind some of the classic S&S heroes -- a raw heroic force unleashed upon an untamed world, unstoppable as the wind. This hero matches sublime martial prowess with an equal level of intellect.
So if you are looking for a mix of different speculative fiction genres with a good dose of sword and sorcery blended in and one of the most vicious ass-kicking characters ever created in the fantasy world, read the Acts of Caine.
Books in The Acts of Cain... Series (4)
A lesser known work by Jennifer Robson, but a great romantic sword and fantasy read. It’s not complicated nor does it do anything new in the genre. And you know what? That doesn’t matter one bit.
The series is a wild ride, with each (small) novel a page turner. Those who particularly enjoy romantic fantasy novels with lots of action and good characterization will enjoy this series.
Tiger and Del are some of the more well painted characters in the Sword and Sorcery genre. You slowly see how the characters change over the series -- Tiger is a hero in the truest sense, but he's a flawed one. He transforms from machismo hero to a softer, more understanding character by the end of the series. The female lead Del's hard-ass edge begins to melt away into a more softer aspect. Overall, Robinson does a very good job with her characters and the slowly built romance in particular.
Robinson breaks the traditional Sword and Sorcery convention and paints a richly detailed landscape with vibrant cultures and traditions, even incorporating different languages into the mix.
Books in Tiger and Del Series (6)
Another modern sword & sorcery tale. There’s a lot of swashbuckling swordplay, adventure, and romance present in this novel. While some might say the series is more high fantasy than sword and sorcery, there’s enough swashbuckling in the novel to list it here. The plot’s pretty sharp and the Chester does a great job with the characters – they live and breathe as real people, something you don’t normally find in a Sword and Sorcery series. Chester also takes some of the standard Tolkienesque conventions (elves) and reworks them into a new form. This series is entertaining in a B Action movie sort of way -- you can enjoy it for the fast paced action and the cheap thrills.
Books in Sword, Ring, and... Series (3)
A great tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously and one that doesn’t get bogged down with the little details. This fantasy marks the heyday of the 60s and 70s style of fantasy. Because of this, the series is easy to read and harkens back to the pulp classics of the Robert Howard era.
You may find Saberhagen's prose a bit off-putting at first, if you are used to the bloated prose common in the epic fantasy of today. But move past the idea that bulk equals quality mind-set that most younger fantasy readers have these days, and you'll find a series with a lot of substance to it.
Books in Books of Swords Series (3)
I'm treading loosely on the term Sword and Sorcery by including this work here, but Duncan's hack n slash "with style" series, Tales of the King's Blade, brings to mind some of the old Sword and Sorcery classics. This series is all about raw action. Unlike the classics in this genre, Duncan spends a great deal of time building up the hero and the world around the hero. The hero, unlike Conan,Fafhrd, and Elric (the Sword and Sorcery archetypes by which all characters in this sub genre must be compared), is not a force of nature or a myth given form and life yet still incomprehsible. The hero is rather brought fully to life as a living and breathing man.
This is a series with a lot of action, but it does bring to mind some of the older Sword and Sorcery days.
Books in King's Blades Series (6)
Our Version of the List
At a Glance
- 1 Conan The Barbarian (Robert E. Howard)
- 2 Elric Of Melinbone (Michael Moorcock)
- 3 Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser (Howard Chaykin)
- 4 Chronicles Of Amber (Roger Zelazny)
- 5 Jirel Of Joiry (C. L. Moore)
- 6 Works by Clark Ashton Smith (Clark Ashton Smi...
- 7 Death Dealer (Frank Frazetta)
- 8 Imaro (Charles Saunders)
- 9 The Black Company (Glen Cook)
- 10 A Sword Of Shadows (J. V. Jones)
- 11 Legend (Marie Lu)
- 12 Sea Beggers (Paul Kearney)
- 13 Gardens Of The Moon (Steven Erikson)
- 14 The Broken Sword (Poul Anderson)
- 15 Heroes Die (Matthew Woodring Stover)
- 16 Sword-dancer (Jennifer Roberson)
- 17 The Sword, The Ring, And The Chalice (Deborah...
- 18 The Book of Sword (Fred Saberhagen)
- 19 Tales Of The King's Blades (Dave Duncan)
Publicly Ranked Version of the List50 items >>
- way of kings (Brandon Sanderson)
- The Black Company (Glen Cook)
- Kane (Karl Edward Wagner)
- Legend (Marie Lu)
- Acts Of Caine (Matthew Stover)
- Book Of Swords (Fred Saberhagen)
- Sword-dancer (Jennifer Roberson)
- Kings Dark Tidings (Kel Kade)
- Uprooted (Naomi Novik)
- Skin of the Wolf (Sam Cabot)
- Changeless (Gail Carriger)
- Relics (Maer Wilson)
- Defy Series (Sara B. Larson)
- Wicked Gentlemen (Ginn Hale)
- Sea Beggers (Hugh. Popham)