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Top 10 Best Fantasy Audiobooks

By / May 5, 2012 / no comments

Update 2016: Please see our brand new Top 25 Best Fantasy Audiobooks list which replaces this post with a far improved, brand new list as of 2016.  I highly recommend you look at that list over this, much older post which is over 4 years old now .

This list was a challenging one to create because the best fantasy audio books combine the quality of the story WITH the quality of the narrator. If the book is great but the narrator sounds like a toad, the whole audio experience isn’t quite the same. So keep in mind that the quality of the narrator is JUST as important as the quality of the story when taking this list into account! There’s also a new kind of audiobook called GraphicAudio (graphicaudio.net).

These audiobooks are basically souped up features with sound effects added in, different characters having different voice actors (male and females). Pretty much as close as you can get to making an audiobook experience into a visual one. I generally enjoy Graphic Audiobooks over regular ones, though you do miss out on some of the outstanding voice actors who present some of the book recommendations I give below.

One question I always get asked is where to find (legal) audiobooks for a good price. One of the major complaints people have with audiobooks is that they are simply “too expensive” with most costing straight out between $20 – $30 dollars.

1. Audible.com

One affordable way around this is to join audible.com (you can sign up for free and get 2 free audiobook downloads). These guys have the biggest audiobook selection on the net and many of the current new release fantasy books are available. You can listen to audiobooks on your android phone, your iphone, or your computer with the Audible Player.

It’s by far the fastest way to get audiobooks (usually takes a couple minutes only) and the cheapest by far. You basically pay either around $14 bucks a month for any audiobook download of your choice or you can pay $28 bucks for the premium 2 audiobook downloads per month (this is what I do myself). A much better deal than straight out buying the audiobook CD’s via Amazon.com. Here’s a link to sign up and get any TWO audio book for the first month [Updated April 2016]

You can cancel the plan after downloading and you won’t be charged a cent (and you’ll have two free audiobook).

Bonus Tip: How to get 4 Free Audiobooks from the FREE TWO Audibook Sign UP Deal.

Now, if you are like me and like really taking advantages of these deals, here is another trick you can do to pull out ANOTHER two free audiobooks on the same offer, so you have 4 free audiobooks. Under the Audible Membership section, there is an option to RETURN a book. You can return up to 2 books you download (after you finished listening to the book) to get your audiobook download credit back, which you can use to apply to ANOTHER book. Yes, you’re being bit of a cheapskate doing this, but it’s part of their program, so why not use it.

BTW, I absolutely LOVE audible, so I do recommend you use and KEEP audible as your go to source for audiobooks. You can’t really argue with the price you pay, and you can sync your Audible Player with your Kindle version as well — so you can continue seamlessly between reading and listening right where you left off. Pretty awesome.

Note: if you want to know how to work the Amazon ecosystem to get more free ebooks and maximize your audible audiobook discounts, please read my Ultimate Guide to Audible Savings: 26 Ways to Save Money on Audible Audiobooks.

2. The Library with Overdrive.com

If you can’t afford to buy the books, you can often find quite a few audiobook CD’s at your local library. You may be pleasantly surprised to find some of the top fantasy audiobook titles available to be checked out — so it’s worth looking at.

Best Fantasy Audio Books

 (Note, this list has been replaced with the new Top 25 Best Audiobooks list over on the main site — Admin: Feb 2016)

1. Game of Thrones (George Martin)

An amazing book, the start of the Song of Ice and Fire series, and a fantastic narrator that brings the story to life. And who to narrate the fantasy version of The War of the Roses other than a Brit!

Roy Dotrice the narrator does a resounding job bringing this series to brutal life. I have in fact listened to this entire series on audiobook which has done much to bring new life to the series. A fantastic fantasy tale with a superlative narrator make this my top pick. You can find the entire Song of Ice and Fire bundled audiobook series here. Apparently, there were two other narrators who narrated a few of the books (John Lee and Roy Avers?), but seems the publisher ended getting Dotrice to re-narrate them to provide continuity to the audiobook versions). Dotrice actually made a Guinness World Record for most characters narrated because he creates unique voices for hundreds of characters over the books.

Listen to a Sample of Roy Dotrice’s Voice

2. The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)

A rich fantasy tale with the perfect narrator voice. The narrator’s deep, booming voice really adds a fourth dimension to the tale. Hands down, my favorite fantasy audiobook narrator, bar none. Nice use of both male and female narrators for the gender roles. The audio book gets bonus points for that (face it, no matter how good a male narrator is, it’s just not the same when they are narrating a female lead).

While the book starts off slow and take hundreds of pages to build up to the action, be prepared for a roller coaster ride as you approach the end. The Way of Kings is really what epic fantasy should be and there is NO better author to bring the character of Kaladin to life — that deep booming voice IS Kaladin (the lead character) himself. Michael Kramer is probably who I consider the best narrator for those fantasy books with strong, masculine protagonists — that oh-so-deep raspy voice just fits the role.

Listen to a Sample of Michael Kramer’s Voice

Michael Kramer narrates The Mistborn Series and The Wheel of Time series.

3. Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott B. Lynch)

Part comedic Robin Hood, part revenge tragedy, and part high adventure fantasy tale.  This book is intelligent, clever, funny, and dramatically dark. The narrator Michael Page is perfectly suited for this novel. I would rank Michael Page as my second favorite narrator after Michael Kramer. His clever voicing of different characters just works and he’s got that rich British accent. The key quality I like about Michael Page is his world-class dry, sarcastic tone used in narration. This really brings to life books where there is subtle dry humor throughout the novel.

Listen to a Sample of Michael Page’s Voice

 

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The Axe and the Throne (M. D. Ireman)  

With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne audiobook is a definite “must listen” 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 all of them are portrayed marvelously by veteran voice actor Matt Cowlrick. It takes some serious range to be able to convincingly act both viking-esque Northmen and young highborn girls, but Cowlrick does so with apparent ease. And his deep, rumbly narration voice gives Michael Kramer a run for his money.

The Axe and the Throne is a complex read, involving many POVs and subtle intrigue that makes for an audiobook that requires more focus than some. The South is comprised of characters whose every utterance is a means of deception. Cassen is one of the most complex villains in fantasy, rivaling those of ASoIaF — he lies as much to himself in his inner dialogue as he does to those he is attempting to subvert. And even in the North, where listeners might assume that the bass-voiced Galatai are the stereotypical simple-minded warriors, there is a disquiet brewing beneath the surface as troublesome as any political duplicity.

Each short 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, and iTunes.

Listen to a sample of Matt Cowlrick’s voice

 

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4. The Dark Tower Series (Stephen King)

In pure audiobook terms, amazing voice work. The tale comes alive in a whole new way when narrated by the deep and powerful voiced George Guidall.

Note that there have been two audiobook narrators for the series: Frank Muller and George Guidall. Frank Muller was the original narrator of 1998 audio tape versions of the first 4 Dark Tower books. However, the publisher did a renarration of the first four books with a new narrator, George Guidall who narrates the last 3 books in the series. The reason from what I understand is that Frank Muller caught cancer and was unable to continue with the series as narrator since there were so many years between the first couple of Dark Tower books and the later sequels.

Rest assured that Guidall does a fantastic job of carrying out Muller’s style and tone. If you get ahold of the newer audiobook versions of the first couple books, there won’t be any discrepancy between narrators — you’ll only notice the change if you end up listening to the old audio tape versions (or some online rip of them).

Overall, Guidall’s recounting of (part of) the Dark Tower series is perfectly suited for the dark and chilling story that is The Dark Tower. If you haven’t read The Dark Tower, GOOD. Don’t read it, LISTEN TO IT! It’s better than reading it, seriously.

Listen to a Sample of Frank Muller’s Voice

George Guidall  also narrates Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

5. The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)

The most disputed series out there in terms of “good or not”: many will argue the WOT has lost it’s mojo and just as many others will dispute this, especially with Brandon Sanderson finishing off the last 3 books in the series after Jordan died. Regardless of what you think of the printed version, the audiobook versions are very well done and the story comes to life. Even better, the books are narrated by Michael Kramer who I consider to have the best narrator voice in the fantasy genre.The female roles are narrated by Kate Reading which adds another dimension to the books.

Listen to a Sample of Michael Kramer’s Voice

6. Abhorsen Trilogy (Garth Nix)

Fantastic fantasy tale and even better narration. Curl up by the fireplace, put a pillow on your rocking chair, and listen to this dark fantasy tale. The books are perfectly narrated by Tim Curry, who’s made quite a name for himself in the horror genre, narrating some of Steven King’s books. So for dark fantasy or horror fantasy, I’d say Tim Curry is one of the best fantasy narrators.

Listen to a Sample of Tim Curry’s Voice

Tim Curry has narrated: The Dune House Trilogy and a number of books set in the horror genre. Basically, the perfect narrator for a dark and creepy tale.

7.The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss)

A stellar book. The second book has mixed reviews (some people love it, while some thing the author spends the entire book talking about…nothing), but overall it’s a worthy tale and wonderfully written. You lose yourself in the world of Kvothe — and a fascinating world it is indeed. The world is brought to life by Nick Podehl, who’s perfect pitch draws the listener in.

Listen to a Sample of Nick Podehl’s Voice

Nick Podehl also narrates the very excellent YA series, The Skinjacker Trilogy

8. The Warded Man (Peter V. Brett)

Action, Adventure, and Horror combined into an epic fantasy setting where night is ruled by the dark. If you want a book that will keep you glued to your seat, this is a one such book. The narrator Pete Bradbury is the perfect fit for this story — his deep voice will lull you into the tale and keep you listening till the end.

Listen to a Sample of Pete Bradebury’s Voice

Pete Bradbury also narrated Daniel Abraham’s excellent The Dragon’s Path

9. The Magicians (Lev Grossman)

This was one of the most clever and entertaining fantasy book’s I’ve had the privilege of reading. Take a spoiled, rich-kid versions of Harry Potter and co. on downers then send them off to try and rule an ostensibly harmless fairy kingdom that turns out to be as dangerous as it is charming. It’s some entertaining fantasy that’s as serious and deep as it is sarcastic and funny. This is not epic fantasy with Dragon Ball Z like powerups, but rather something more sophisticated that explores some deep questions. It’s not fantasy for everyone, but those who “get it” really “get it.” Some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read — I mean “heard.” The sequel, Magician King, is even better.

The narration by Mark Bramhall is spot on and makes an already entertaining book even more so. Don’t read this book. Listen to it.

Listen to a Sample of Mark Bramhall’s Voice

10. The Heroes (Joe Abercrombie)

Basically can be summed up as “war sucks really bad.” Read this book and you’ll banish any thoughts about the romance of battle. The Heroes is Joe Abercrombie’s BEST work to date. It’s loosely set in the same world as the First Law (The Blade Itself and sequels) so if you want to be a real stickler to following the chronology of things, you’ll probably want to read The First Law trilogy first as some of the characters do make cameo appearances, but you don’t necessary have to. I also suggest if you want a more traditional fantasy tale, then start with The First Law trilogy. Keep in mind that Joe likes to play tricks on “traditional,” however.

The book is narrated by the awesome Michael Page who also did a standup narration job on Lies of Locke Lamora is PERFECTLY brings his dry sarcastic tone to this book.

Listen to a Sample of Michael Page’s Voice

11. The Shadow of What Was Lost (James Islington)

Here’s a 2016 bonus addition. Check out The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington. This is my BONUS entry to the list (The Shadow of What Was Lost made our best indie fantasy books list, near the top). Absolutely listen to this one if you love The Wheel of Time by Jordan. This book (it’s a trilogy), is ultimately very much inspired to The Wheel of Time and is the closest reading experience I’ve had that channels Jordan’s original series. It’s a remarkable indie effort and every bit as good as a traditionally published work.

Even better, the very great Michael Krammer — you know, the same narrator who narrates The Wheel of Time, The Way of Kings, and the Mistborn books — narrates this one, giving you even more of a Wheel of Time experience.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, The Shadow of What Was Lost is an impressive epic fantasy debut and an example of classic epic fantasy done right. It is very much in the same vein as The Wheel of Time, but without a lot of the bloat added on in the later parts of the series.

So for fans of Wheel of Time or traditional epic fantasy, don’t miss this great audiobook.

Listen to a Sample of Michael Krammer’s Voice as he narrates The Shadow of What Was Lost

A Few Other Recommendations

Want even MORE audiobook recommendations? Here’s a few Honorary mentions to look at. All of these are outstanding fantasy books, and in many ways, even better audiobooks. Many of the following might even be on your own top 10 best fantasy books and near the top of your own audiobook best list. Also check our our new, Top 25 Best Fantasy Audiobook list on the main site.

The Black Company (Glen Cook)

Superb narration by Marc Vietor of an already superb series leads to one of the best fantasy audiobook experiences out there. The voice of Croaker truly comes to life with the narrator, who even has the same raspy sort of voice you’d imagine “Croaker” would have. Note, you’ll have to get these from Audible as you can’t buy the normal Audio CD’s.

Mark Vietor also narrates the totally awesome Hyperion series, which would certainly rank near the top on any Top 10 Best Science Fiction Audiobooks list I make.

Listen to a Sample of Mark Vietor’s Voice

Malazan Book of the Fallen (Steven Erikson)

These days, this series is right up there with Martin as the best fantasy series. In fact, many people feel that Martin dropped the ball with his last 2 books (Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons) and the series is no longer the best (I don’t necessary agree with this). However, the Malazan books on a whole are pretty stellar reads, from the first book to the last book (the last book is controversial with some liking the ending and others not so much).

I have mostly read this series, but I have listen to one of them in Audiobook form and was not disappointed for the first four books of the audiobook narration. However, the narrator changes to a different person (Page) who fails to deliver on some of the character voices. As such, I recommend the first four audiobooks but the rest of the series declines in terms of how good the audiobooks are. The series itself is awesome and absolutely worth reading, but I only feel the first four audiobooks are standout.

If you are looking for a complex, dark and sweeping epic with loads of battle scenes, complicated magic, and so many characters that you’ll have problems keeping them all in your head as the series progresses, this is YOUR series.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

One of my favorite fantasy books done just right with the narration. The rich British narrator brings this Dark Fantasy Version of a Jane Austen novel to life.

The book is narrated by Simon Prebble who also has narrated many classics by Charles Dickens, HG Wells, and Jules Verne among others.

Listen to a sample of Simon Prebble’s voice

Ghormenghast (Mervyn Peake)

All that’s good about this novel is captured by the narrator. People often complain about how “hard” it is to get into the almost poetic descriptive language of this series. The solution is the audiobook which brings to life all the richness of the language used to write it — and it’s understandable! Listen to it.

Robert Whitfield narrates Ghormanghast. He’s also narrates Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Basically, the perfect voice for Gormenghast.

Listen to a sample of Robert Whitfield’s voice

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

One of my favorite Audiobooks. Narrator and story are superb.

Update 2016: Please see our brand new Top 25 Best Fantasy Audiobooks list which replaces this post with a far improved, brand new list as of 2016.  I highly recommend you look at that list over this, much older post which is over 4 years old now .

If you readers have YOUR OWN FAVORITE FANTASY AUDIOBOOKS, please share them in the comments.

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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