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Every year I spend a great deal of time compiling my choice picks for the best fantasy books. These are my informed opinions, however, and many readily agree as well as vehemently disagree with my choices. However, I now can provide a TRUE list of what the internet thinks (or people who’ve visited this site and voted on the list) should be on a Top 25 list.
Now surprise surprise that my picks are actually pretty damn close to what the public has voted. There are some disparities, of course, but for the most part the books I feel should be on a Top 25 show up according to public votes. Now keep in mind that when it comes down to “public voting” it’s often the more popular authors of the day who get the votes while lesser known authors who might write outstanding books but are less well known don’t get the votes because people don’t know about them. It’s just the nature of the game.
My Comments: Quite a few of these books are more literary in scope (The Troupe, Ghormenghast, Jonathan Strange) and others are less well-known (Heroes Die, Black Sun Rising, The Engineer Trilogy) under-appreciated works that the average fan raised on The Wheel of Time and Sanderson bread won’t have had the chance to read. Still others like Lord Foul’s Bane didn’t make the reader’s top 25 list, probably because it’s so controversial.
My Comments: The Sanderson books were omitted because I already have The Way of Kings on The Best Fantasy Books list and I wanted to keep the list to ONE AUTHOR per entry. I still maintain that The Way of Kings is Sanderson’s best work. Harry Potter, a super popular book, but not one of the best books in the genre. The Night Angel trilogy is popular with action fantasy/pop corn fantasy fans, but it’s not a “good” series in terms of plot, characters or even writing — not enough to be the best in the genre. Weeks Light Bringer series is a vast improvement though and while not anything special in terms of writing, it’s wildly entertaining. Feist’s Magician was replaced with his Empire series which are better written by far.
I ranked him #5
Lord of Epic Fantasy and besides JK Rowling, the most well known fantasy author in the world.
I ranked this #8
Many haters will say this is only the first book and it’s far too early to “call it in” so to say. I agree, to a degree. But this book was good — everything the WOT aimed to be but failed. Or at least the first book is. I suspect if Sanderson drops the ball on the sequel, people are going to start taking a big dump on this series/book. But has Sanderson disappointed with any single book he’s written yet? Not to my knowledge.
I ranked this #13
Still a fan favorite and finally completed. I personally was disappointed at the how it all turned out. I don’t blame this on Sanderson, however, who was pretty much handed the impossible task of making the series work. And he did, to a degree. Now that the whole series is completed, I’d probably move it down to something like the 20th spot. It still deserves to be mentioned on a Top 25 just from the sheer epicness and scope of the series.
I didn’t include this on my Top 25.
Here’s where I dropped the ball and my opinion diverges from “The Crowd.” The series is great, no doubt, especially the first book which should have been left alone. I only wanted to include ONE series/book per author though, so I choose The Way of Kings over mistborn.
I didn’t include this on the Top 25
If it comes to a “Top 25 Most Popular List” than Harry Potter deserves a spot. But I disagree that it belongs on a “The Top 25 BEST Fantasy Books.” It’s popular, yes. It created an entire generation of new fantasy readers. It’s beloved by millions. But the writing, plot, and characters are really nothing too special. The right time, the right place. Oh, it’s not a bad read and I’d say it’s a good fantasy series. But not the best. My take is that because it’s been so widely read by kids who’ve now become voting adults on this site, it’s getting that nostalgia vote. But whatever, the Crowd has spoken.
I ranked this as number 9
My ranking and the voting ranking are pretty much the same, mine being 9 and The Crowd being 10. Safe to say, both me and the internet agree it’s one of the best fantasy books/series out there. So get reading.
I didn’t include The Warded Man on the Top 25.
A hugely popular book that landed it on the Top 25. The first book was great, the second poor, and the third horrible. There are so many flaws with this series, I don’t know where to begin. If you are not picky about your fantasy (thinks like plot holes, mary sueisms, ham-fisted romance, and dues ex machina), then this series is a great read. If you notice flaws easily in writing, this series, the characters, and plot are going to drive you mad. Brett does a fantastic job creating a world. His action scenes are dramatic. And some of his characters are likable (in the first book). I’ve personally lost hope that Brett can redeem this series.
I didn’t include The Light Bringer series on my top 25.
I was really impressed with Week’s last book, so much in fact that I’d consider adding this series to the Top 25. Yes, it’s the writing is simple, the plot somewhat simple. But the action, adventure, and unique magic system make this one of the funnest fantasy series out there to read. And that counts for a lot.
I ranked this as #6; Readers voted this as #19
A big divergence between my ranking and the readers. The book style is a bit different than what you might expect if you are weaned on Wheel of Time and Brent Weeks sort of fiction which probably explains why he’s been relegated to the #19 spot by reader voting. But the writing, the grey characters, and the realistic military life depicted in these books make for a special treat IF you get it. The fantasy genre owes Cook a big thanks for pretty much pioneering the whole “gray” character thing, unpredictable plots, and that sort of thing. Really, if you like Martin, Erikson, and Abercrombie, you’ll probably like Cook.
I didn’t include it on my Top 25
Two authors get mentioned at least twice via Reader Voting: Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson (the books!). That means something. Elantris stands as one of the better standalone fantasy books out there. I have this ranked on my Best Stand Alone Fantasy books list. But as I tried to keep my Top 25 list with ONE book/series by author, I opted for The Way of Kings which is Sanderson’s best work so far, imho.
Name of the Wind is ranked #1 by Reader Voting. The sequel is ranked as #21 by Reader Voting. That might imply that most people were somewhat unhappy with the sequel or not as impressed with it as the first book. Still, not bad when a sequel makes the top 25. So if you haven’t read The Name of the Wind yet, you better.
I ranked this #14; Reader Voting ranked it as #22
New kid on the block, Lawrence, make pretty big waves with his first book. The usually complaint I get is “good book, but over-rated.” Lawrence probably has created the best loved anti-hero in the genre. Other authors like Donaldson craft great antiheros, but in such a fashion that a good majority of people end up hating them. Lawrence manages to create an empathetic antihero that while you might not love, you certainly want to succeed. There’s also some sharp writing here and I particularly loved Jorg’s monologues about the nature of man (reminded me of Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing dose of philosophy).
I ranked this #19. Readers ranked this as #23
One of the most compelling and beloved of all young adult/childrens’ fantasy books (but can be read by adults and appreciated just as much). I replaced Abhorsen with this one as I felt it was a better read overall, though Garth Nix would come in pretty close as a replacement. The Skin Jacker trilogy by Shausterman is also one of the better young adult fantasy reads too. Sanderson’s new The Rithmatist was a thoroughly enjoyable YA fantasy read too.
I ranked this as 23. Readers ranked this as #25
The internet and I agree.
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.
Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!