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Readers’ Choice: Top 25 Best Fantasy Books

By / May 30, 2013 / no comments

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.

You can see the Top 25 Reader Voted list here or see the full Best 200 Fantasy Books reader voted list here. Both are the same list.

Books I included on My Top 25 list that the Public did NOT include:

  • Ghormenghast
  • A Shadow in Summer(Abraham)
  • Black Sun Rising
  • The Troupe (Robert Bennett
  • The Engineer Trilogy
  • The Darkness That Comes Before (Scott Bakker)
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
  • Lord Foul’s Bane
  • Heroes Die

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.

Books on the Readers’ Choice Top 25 Fantasy Books that I did not include on my Best Fantasy Books list:

  • Elantris
  • Mistborn
  • Harry potter
  • The warded man
  • The night angel trilogy
  • Magician
  • The light bringer series

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.

 

Readers Top 25 Best Fantasy Books (by Vote Position) — May 2013

 

#1. The Name Of The Wind (Patrick Rothf…) 2015 429

I ranked him #4. With over 2000+ positive votes, The Name of the Wind gets the top spot.
I’m not surprised this book tops the Top 5. Rothfuss made waves and wrote one of the most beloved fantasy books out there. Yes, some didn’t like the sequel, but it remains you guys have voted him number on.

#2. A Game Of Thrones (George R.R. Mart…) 2002 603

I ranked him #1. With over 2000 votes, Martin gets the #2 spot
With the evergreen popularity of Martin BEFORE the HBO series and with the wild success the TV show has garnered, it’s not surprising that Martin tops the charts at number 2. In sheer popularity, Martin is King. But damn it, he also knows how to craft a complex fantasy world with interesting characters.

#3. Lord Of The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) 1866 464

I ranked him #5

Lord of Epic Fantasy and besides JK Rowling, the most well known fantasy author in the world.

 

#4. The Way Of Kings (Brandon Sanderson…)  1277 166

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.

 

#5. The Wheel Of Time (Robert Jordan) 1319 424

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.

 

#6. Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson) 1017 246

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.

 

#7. The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie) 805 225

I ranked this #2.
A bit of a divergence between my ranking at #2 and the crowds ranking at #7. However, still in the top 10, where it belongs. Some people don’t get Abercrombie’s brand of humor and sarcastic wit. My major complaint is that Abercrombie seems content to muddle around in the same universe instead of crafting something completely new. Every new book seems just like the last one.

#8. Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) 1101 657

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.

 

#9. Lies Of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch)  594 160

I ranked this #11.
My ranking of #11 and your ranking of #9 is pretty close. Now if Lynch would just suck it up and finish Republic of Thieves dammit.

 

#10. assasin’s apprentice (Robin Hobb) 720 316

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.

 

#11. The Dresden Files (Jim Butcher) 542 168

I ranked this as #25
The Crowd voted this with 542 votes as #12. Dresden is one of those books that appeals to the wider audience, not necessary the fantasy hardcore. That means people who are like vampire/romance books might just have exposure to Dresden. And besides, it’s a pretty damn compelling series that, gasp, only seems to be getting better (yes I’m looking at you Blake).

#12. Gardens Of The Moon (Steven Erikson…) 614 250

I ranked this as #3; Readers Voted #13
Quite a big divergence between my ranking and the readers. Malazan is one of those complex and hard to follow fantasies that you just get after a while. But the learning curve before you get it can be pretty steep — like a couple books in. That means you need to be fully devoted to trudging through hundreds and hundreds of pages of thick prose, various impossible to pronounce names, and a huge cast of characters — some not even from the same era/timeline. For those that “get” this series, it can be substantially rewarding. I posit that Erikson appeals to the hardcore fantasy niche, but not so much to the more mainstream fantasy reader.

 

#13. The Warded Man (Peter V. Brett) 522 167

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.

 

#14. the night angel trilogy (Brent Week…) 527 192

I didn’t include this on my top 25.
Another author that’s hugely popular. Weeks is sort of the Shonen anime (those who get this will know what I mean) made fiction. You don’t ask too many questions when reading it, you just accept it for what it is. I don’t feel this series is anywhere close to a Top 25 however. For fans of weeks, I will say that his new light bringer series, is great though — especially his most recent book which had me glued to the pages the whole time. Again, Weeks could never challenge any of the ‘better writers’ for ‘best prose in fantasy’ but he does not how to spit out entertaining, action packed books.

malazan book of the fallen (Steven …) 540 226

A  double entry on the list

 

#15. Magician (Raymond E. Feist)  415 149

I didn’t include this on my Top 25. It’s under the Great Fantasy Books
This was on my previous list incarnations but I took it off after realizing how much better Feist’s Empire Series was. Magician is great classic castle boy becomes powerful wizard tale. But it’s a conceit that doesn’t age well in line with the more modern fantasy expectations. We can’t necessary hold that against the book though. I refuse to pick up another Feist book, however. He’s pretty much been writing drivel the past few years, with each new series just a clone of the previous with an even more “bad guy” up the bad guy chain. When reading him, I now feeling like I’m reading the fantasy version of Dragon Ball Z with the endless bad guys popping up after the last one gets killed.

 

#16. the lightbringer series (Brent Week…) 340 108

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.

 

#17. The Black Company (Glen Cook) 375 151

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.

 

#18. elantris by brandon sanderson (Bran…) 347 122

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.

 

#19. a wise man’s fear (Patrick Rothfuss…) 252 42

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.

#20. Prince Of Thorns (Mark Lawrence) 283 132

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).

 

#21. Daughter Of The Empire (Raymond E. …) 245 104

I ranked this #24; Readers ranked it #23
The internet agrees with me here pretty much.

#23. The Amulet Of Samarkand (Jonathan S…) 261 133

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.

#24. American Gods (Neil Gaiman) 319 225

I ranked this as #21; Readers ranked it #25
The internet and I agree on this pick.

#25. Memory Sorrow And Thorn (Tad Willia…) 253 164

I ranked this as 23. Readers ranked this as #25

The internet and I agree.

About the author

Ben

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!

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