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Fantasy Books That Will Blow Your Mind

Fantasy That Changes You...

Occasionally, there are books that blow your mind; books that once you read, you never ever forget. 

Perhaps it’s because the startling new ideas in the book find fertile ground in your mind, expanding your thinking process, or perhaps it’s because the characters are so unforgettable, the world so intriguing or plot so outstanding that the book sticks with you long after you've finished reading it. 

Or maybe it’s a book that’s done something so outrageously bad that it leaves a permanent mark (or maybe more accurately, a scar) in your mind (we are going to aim for GOOD books on this list, not mindbogglingly bad ones, however). Whatever the case, these are those blow-the-fuck-out-of-your-mind books that will change your reading forever.

They might not be the 'best' ever books, but they do something marvelously unique in some way and deserve to be read by everyone who loves fantasy (or science fiction). 

A stunning work of unforgettable imagination that brings the word epic to the science fiction landscape. It is such a complex weave of ideas, intrigue, mysticism and unique landscapes are present in Dune that you'll never, ever forget your first read through it.

The exotic desert setting, tapestry of complex characters, and intricate plot threads that come together into a dramatic climax just straight out blew my mind.

Dune's been called science fiction's answer to Lord of the Rings for good reason. I mean when you can surf giant sand worm monsters through a desert full of sand dunes, how can you not love or forget a book that does that?

Books in Dune Chronicles Series (8)

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Ninteen Eighty-Four

(George Orwell)

The novel that blew everyone's mind and coined the term Big Brother (no, and I'm not talking about the hideous TV show either). What's so mind blowing about 1984 is that many of the concepts envisioned by Orwell have become a disturbing present reality.

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Words become paint and Gormenghast is the canvas. I don’t think I’ve seen another writer with as much mastery over the English language as Mervyne Peake. He deftly creates such a vividly realized world; the world of Gormenghast unfolds in your mind every bit as real is if you see the world with your eyes. An outstanding literary achievement on the part of the writer who completely sucks you into his gothic world.

Books in Gormenghast Series (4)

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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.

I read this when I was 9 – four times that is. Maybe I was just a kid, but I had never seen or imagined anything like this series. You might say it started me off on my lifetime love of fantasy books; certainly, I’m not the only one who’s felt this way, especially among those of you who were reading fantasy in the early 80s when Tolkien was THE fantasy. The rich world of Middle Earth and the vivid mythos that Tolkien developed as the backstory just blew my mind. These days, such world-building is common fantasy fodder with the requirements of every epic being to mimic Middle Earth in some form or the other. While Middle Earth has often been copied, why has it never been truly replicated? Why? Because while some authors might spend a year or two building up a fantasy world, Tolkien spent a large portion of his entire life building Middle Earth, infusing it with an ancient history and multiple (real) languages. Tolkien through Middle Earth saw a means of recreating the ancient English folktales and mythos through his stories. And, who can argue that he didn’t succeed at that?

Books in The Lord of the ... Series (3)

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Starship Troopers

(Robert A. Heinlein)
Comments (5)
Awards Won:1960 HUGO

No, not the movie, a travesty that should have never been made. I’m talking about the book, one of the greatest science fiction books ever written, and Robert Heinlein’s best work, a writer who’s already consider one of the fathers of science fiction. What’s standout about Starship Troopers is that it gives you both a gripping story of a young man’s journey away from home, from boot camps to hard intense action against relentless as a foot soldier on the frontier battlefields and a deep political and philosophical look at society, government and of course, war. This is the perfect blend of intense action, story, and deep concepts that will have you thinking about deeper issues, whether you want to or not. Should I again repeat that the movie is nothing like the book? If you have not yet read the book, do yourself a huge favor and make this your next read, even if you are not a science fiction fan. This is a book that appeals to all tastes. So read it -- you seriously won’t forget it.

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Tolkien reborn in America. A grand tapestry of politics, magic, and kingdoms. Whats really famous about this series is Martins creation of a world of ambiguities where heroes are villains and villains are heroes; a world where heroes can and do die and the story carries on. Martin was really one of the first to create a complex fantasy tale woven from threads of gray rather than black and white. For many, this series stands as the paragon of modern fantasy.

Books in A Song of Ice an... Series (7)

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Blew my mind with how epic and grand the scale of the tale is. Over the course of the series, the tale only grows larger in the telling. If there is a modern fantasy version of Iliad and Odyssey, Malazan Book of the Fallen is about the closest you’ll find.

Books in The Malazan Book... Series (10)

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The book just worked. A perfect blend of pure story that just captivates, wonderful well-developed characters, awesome world-building, and beautiful prose. The novel is a subtle mix of stories within stories that frame the whole story as a whole. If you’re a bit jaded by fantasy books or not even a fan of fantasy books, this book will restore your faith in the genre.

Books in The Kingkiller C... Series (3)

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Comments (3)
Award Nominations:1990 BSFA, 1992 CLARKE

A grand intelligent space opera tale that also tells a series of very personal tales. This juxtaposition between epic and the personal gives real life to the story. The whole thing is also told with an interesting narrative device -- a science fiction version of Canterbury Tales. And yes, it’s pretty damn exciting to read too. Who doesn’t like the whole theme of humans fighting for their existence against an implacable alien enemy? Throw in super smart AI’s, an immortal, incomprehensible godlike creature made from metal spikes, different worlds, time travel and a bunch of bitter heroes who are trying to die and you have something special.

Books in Hyperion Cantos Series (4)

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Comments (1)
Awards Won: NEBULA, 1986 HUGO
Award Nominations:1986 LocusSF, 1985 NEBULA

Cards best work by far. Without getting too much into the plot details, lets just say its got some pretty big twists going on. This is the science fiction version of Lord of the Flies: a bunch of gifted kids are forced to compete in a series of training games to help prepare them as future soldiers who will defend the earth from an alien invasion.

Books in The Ender Quinte... Series (4)

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A complete subversion of the typical fantasy clichés. At first, the novel sets itself up like a well-written Tolkien clone, but as things progress (especially as you progress to the sequel novels), the standard fantasy conventions are completely flipped on their head. Love it. The author is only getting better and better and is, in my opinion, one of the best authors writing in the fantasy genre.

Books in The First Law Series (3)

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The City & the City

(China Miéville)

A startling premise that was so foreign yet so fascinating. This is a detective novel like you've never read, with such a distinct setting that you'll never forget it.

And it's got one of the best endings ever.

This is one of the more under stable Mieville novels than some of his more fantastical works. It's also my favorite.

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Anti-hero assassin brought to a whole other level of badass. Caine the killer makes all other fantasy assassin heroes look like Edward from Twilight. There’s also an interesting world and plot that I guarantee you won’t ever have seen before.

Books in The Acts of Cain... Series (4)

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This book is the quintessential literary fantasy (well, it’s actually a science fantasy). Grand ideas, beautiful poetic writing, stunning concepts, and narrative devices built within narrative devices. This is not a book for the average fantasy or science fiction reader, and it requires readers to have something between their ears to really understand what’s going on in the book, and what’s going on behind what’s going on. But if you are an intelligent reader, and you like intelligent, fantastical reads, you won’t find anything better than Book of the New Sun

Books in The Book Of The ... Series (5)

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Some of best battlefield action scenes I’ve ever read. You literally feel the rush of adrenaline, the shock, confusion, and horror of the battlefield. There is literally never, ever a dull moment in the novel. While the vehicle used to tell the story is a science-fiction setting (ant-style creatures being the implacable enemy, power-armored humans as the soldiers, and space and alien planets as the setting), this tale could be anywhere – in Vietnam, in Korea, in the trenches of World War 1. The point is not the setting, but rather the human story itself. And while Armor has some of the best battlefield action you’ll find in any book, it is so much more than just vivid action scenes; it’s a subtle and often compassionate look at the human suffering caused by war, and the heroism and sacrifice made by desperate soldiers. Armor clearly questions the whole point of war, but it never shies away from the necessity and suffering it causes. This was a subtle blending of Starship Troopers and The Forever War, but also something unique as well. One of the greatest science-fiction books ever written. I would also put in Starship Troopers as a startlingly good book.

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Perdido Street Station

(China Mieville)
(New Crobuzon)

My first encounter with the New Weird subgenre of fantasy. This is one of those books you love or you hate. It’s strange, gross, and you’ll have smoke leaking from your ears as you try to visualize the absolutely bizarre world that Mieville crafts. It’s so…different that it blows your mind. And underneath all that weirdness, there’s actually a pretty good story and all that.

Books in New Crobuzon Series (3)

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Comments (0)
Awards Won:1979 BFS
Award Nominations:1978 WFA

I quite liked this one. I think it's probably the best next It’s dark, gritty, and it dose new things in the genre. Yes, it’s got some of the elements of the Dresden novels, but there’s enough here that it’s no simple clone. What’s particularly refreshing is that protagonist is not some super powered magical freak that features in most of the supernatural detective-noir books out there. He’s basically a normal guy who gets caught up in power games that are far beyond his ability to deal with and he’s just trying hard as hell to walk away in one piece. He’s basically a lower power version of Dresden without all the magical tricks. It makes the novel interesting knowing the hero can’t simply pull out yet-another-magical trick out of the bag to one up the bad guys. Highly recommended. there.

Books in The Chronicles o... Series (3)

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Opened my eyes to what fantasy could be. Single-handedly invented military fantasy; morally ambiguous heroes  evil heroes and good villains; intense military action on the battlefield from both a personal view and a bird's eye view.

Books in The Chronicles o... Series (11)

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The Long Price Quartet

(Daniel Abraham)

(Long Price Quartet)

One of the most interesting fantasy settings and stories that has come out of the genre in many years. Some unique concepts surrounded by a fascinating plot and some wonderful writing.

Books in Long Price Quart... Series (4)

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What Harry Potter should have been. A subversion of a number of fantasy books and a rather depressing look at the cost of power. I know a number of people don’t like the book, but I think it’s brilliant and certainly something that’s new. 

Books in The Magicians Series (3)

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Comments (0)
Awards Won:2003 PKD

A fascinating sci-fi premise mixed with hard-boiled detective noir. This one just really caught my attention and wouldn’t let go.

Books in Takeshi Kovacs Series (3)

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robably one of the most depressing books I’ve read in my life. Oh yes, it’s well written, brilliant maybe, and all that. However, this book stripped all hope away and just left me feeling shallow and empty. Reading it was like watching a slow-moving bus plow into a crowd of people – you want to stop and look away but you just can’t.

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One word: alomancy the best magic system I've encountered in any fantasy book or series. Sanderson has built a reputation on creating well-developed, internally consistent magic systems that are unique. The one present in Mistborn (alomancy) is his best. The story is good, as are the characters, but I feel it's the magic system that sets this book apart.

Books in Mistborn Series (6)

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On the surface: a fantastical adventure pitting the heroism of men against barbarous wilderness and savage cultures. The Skinny: Women should be dominated, humiliated, abused then dominated, humiliated, and abused again. After a few cycles of this, women cast off their feminized shell and reveal that they truly like being abused and become more beautiful for it. I think I finally finished with the books after seeing yet another beautiful and headstrong woman thrown into a pit of rapists to “teach her how to be beautiful”. At that point, I realized there was no greater message here.

Books in Gor Series (28)

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This blew my mind in a bad way. Out of the thousands of fantasy books I’ve read, I have never, ever seen a book backed by a major publisher that’s so utterly bad – and that’s saying quite a lot, as quite a few fantasy books are drivel. But in the words of Jesus, “many are called but few are chosen”. And let me tell you, The Fifth Sorceress is certainly a special book, the antithesis of a good fantasy book. There are only a few authors out there I’d actually pay to stop writing and Newcomb is one of them. Virtually every single review of this book has expressed outrage, loathing, and sheer astonishment that this book was actually published (by a major publisher). To be so universally reviled takes a special sort of skill, and requires an author to firmly meet this challenge: The plot has to be unimaginative and uninspiring, the setting laughable, the characters outrageous, and the writing truly atrocious. This book and the unfortunate sequels stand up quite well to this challenge. I won’t ramble on any more about this work other than to say it reads like the unedited dreck it actually is and there is nothing redeemable about it.

Books in The Chronicles o... Series (3)

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