Post your own Top 25 Best Fantasy Books

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
I liked Deverry through most of Days of Air and Darkness. After that, it seemed that the pace slowed down and the story dulled a bit. I did finish the series, but to me the best part was the first 2/3rds.
Agreed. It dragged a bit near the end. I gave the overall series a 7.5 when I finished it some months ago.
 

ABatch

Journeyed there and back again
My list is kind of eccentric; it reflects series I enjoyed at different stages in the development of my taste as a reader of fantasy. These are works that, for whatever reason, have stayed with me longer than many others. I probably can't articulate what I liked about them, and I certainly can't defend them. They are what they are!

LOTR -- That guy
Most of Abercrombie
The Elric Saga -- Moorcock
GoT -- George R. R. Martin
Malazan Book of the Fallen -- Erikson
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn -- Tad Williams
The Riftwar Saga -- Feist (I used to love Feist, now I find him hard to read)
The Empire Trilogy -- Feist and Wurtz
Most of The Wars of Light and Shadow -- Janny Wurtz (it fizzles out towards the end)
The Last Herald Mage Trilogy -- Mercedes Lackey
The Black Company -- Cook
Any of Howard's Conan books.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
In an attempt to keep in the spirit of the topic, is this 'Your favorite 25 fantasy works' or 'The 25 fantasy works you think are objectively the best?' Although there is a bit of overlap, my two lists wouldn't look very similar, and I'd like to represent it properly.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
Well, objectivity will always contain a measure of personal bias + be limited by the things you have actually read (I don't think any of us is lucky enough to be paid to sit around and read fantasy books, so we're all going to have blind spots). So it's possible within the frame of 'it can't possibly be perfect, but may be 'pretty good.''

Doing both is always an option, but my contributions in this sort of thing, if I'm supposed to elaborate, tend to be looooooooooooooooong.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
Top can mean both, and probably already means different things to different people in this thread. It's also convenient because it's not a mouthful like your second list title :p
Write both lists, it doesn't matter. Or one combined. These are yours to put what you want. When you share them with us we will each regard them differently, so you can't even influence that anyway, but the value is in sharing and we get to see your preferences, maybe learn about a book or two we didn't know about.
As for elaboration a couple of sentences should do it. You don't have to go crazy, you can think of it as exercise in writing and practice restraint :p
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
My list is kind of eccentric; it reflects series I enjoyed at different stages in the development of my taste as a reader of fantasy. These are works that, for whatever reason, have stayed with me longer than many others. I probably can't articulate what I liked about them, and I certainly can't defend them. They are what they are!

LOTR -- That guy
Most of Abercrombie
The Elric Saga -- Moorcock
GoT -- George R. R. Martin
Malazan Book of the Fallen -- Erikson
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn -- Tad Williams
The Riftwar Saga -- Feist (I used to love Feist, now I find him hard to read)
The Empire Trilogy -- Feist and Wurtz
Most of The Wars of Light and Shadow -- Janny Wurtz (it fizzles out towards the end)
The Last Herald Mage Trilogy -- Mercedes Lackey
The Black Company -- Cook
Any of Howard's Conan books.
Great list! Pleasantly surprised te see Conan make an appearance, as he is often overlooked when compiling best fantasy lists.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
I have almost certainly said it before, but just to preface, I’m far more interested in the ‘fantastic’ aspect of fantasy than I am in the ‘grizzled mercenaries and ruthless nobles stab and backstab each other in historical analogues and I want to say it's REALISTIC’ part. Not to say I can’t appreciate the latter (several made my list), but it has to do something special to stand out for me. I’m also going to shamelessly cheat by pretending a bunch of short stories equals a book, because otherwise I would not be able to get my favorite author on this list (and in my defense, they really do constitute some of my favorite stories).

My Favorites. This list will probably not resemble anybody else's. Sorry if I failed you on brevity, Alucard.

1. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock – Everything I want in a book. A great story, good characters, dominated by a sense of magic and mystery, vivid descriptions, very readable (it’s relatively modern). May actually be too good – it’s one book in a loose ‘series’ set in the same world, and I don’t read any of the others because I don’t want them ruining the mystique established in this book, lol.

2. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold – This was one of the first non-ASoIaF, non-WoT, non-Brooks fantasy books I ever read, and it’s the reason I kept reading the genre. One of my favorite characters in fantasy, good descriptions, witty dialogue, likable people. Lacking in ambiguity though.

3. In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A McKillip – McKillip specializes (specialized? I’ve heard rumors that she’s done writing, although nothing official on it that I’ve found, and this makes me sad) in writing books that feel mythological and read like old faerie tales, and this is probably the best example of reading like a faerie tale. Some of the best, most lyrical prose in fantasy.

4. Kingdom of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes – Readable in the same basic vein as Martin, Abraham and Abercrombie, although it doesn’t try quite so hard to be subversive and ambiguous (although it does try, and apparently succeeded too well in some places). Way too underappreciated. I don’t understand the complaints about the ending of this series. It seemed to follow the established ideas pretty well to me.

5. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold – Similar to The Curse of Chalion, but with more magic. Everything that was good about that book is still here.

6. The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson – To be honest, the prose in this book starts out charmingly archaic, but it very quickly lapses into simply being archaic, dense and overwrought. Hodgson was definitely a better poet than prose writer. However, this is possibly one of the most imaginative works to have ever been written, and it was written at a time when there wasn’t a lot of weird fiction/fantasy to base it off of. The whole book reads like a dream (which actually fits, in the story).

7. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher – It’s a more standard fantasy (though it does have creativity in certain aspects), kind of the essence of adventure, and it doesn’t particularly try to swerve you. Rivals Sanderson in sheer readability, and I struggle to think of a more fun read. ‘Fun’ may not be the word people are looking for these days when it comes to books, but I think it has value.

8. Forge of Light (Kharkanas Trilogy) by Steven Erikson – It’s only one book so far, but I think this is better than Malazan. Unless you’re purely in it for word count, I feel like this book is where Erikson really hits his stride in terms of prose. It reads like it’s a play (except not vaguely lame, like reading an actual play like it’s a book sounds). Contains more of the philosophizing Erikson came to love, but worked into the story better. Nobody else reads this despite being bigger fans of Malazan than me. I’m pretty sure it’s because they’re scared.

9. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany – The modern fantasy elf was born in this book. The prose is average for today (it seems fantastic for its time). An odd cross between childish and adult fantasy (thematically…there are no sex scenes).

10. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson – You know that Miley Cyrus song ‘We Can’t Stop?’ Steven Erikson wrote that song 20 years before she sang it [citation needed], with this series. It’s not without its flaws (my problems being well documented), but it’s a masterclass in world-building and internal consistency, and the fact that it was able to end in a way that didn’t provoke fantasy nerds to want Erikson dead is an achievement all its own, considering that tetration mathematics were actually invented simply to count the number of words in this series.

11. Solstice Wood by Patricia A McKillip – The closest thing to a modern story I’ve seen her write, told in the same lyrical prose. Ever wanted to read descriptions of the modern world like they’re part of a faerie tale?

12. The Sword Dancer Saga by Jennifer Roberson – It’s a tragedy that this series isn’t a bigger deal. Very character-centric action fantasy. Has a fairly significant focus on romance, but can be both cynical and optimistic (just like real people), and is definitely not like some Harlequin bodice-ripper being packaged as fantasy.

13. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – Long time front-runner. I still think Books 1-3 constitute some of the best fantasy ever written, but achingly mediocre Books 4-5, and the endless, growing wait in between them has more or less killed my enthusiasm.

14. The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A McKillip – This was the first McKillip book I ever read, found at the library and picked up because of its unique cover (as it turns out, almost all of her covers look like this, but I didn’t know that then). To be honest, in terms of craftsmanship, it’s just average for her. But it has a special place in my heart.

15. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald – Old-timey fantasy. George MacDonald can still be read today without much lost in ‘translation’ though, which is fairly unique, particularly for a work written in 1871 (the oldest on this list!). As with all old fantasies, it prioritizes sense of wonder over pseudo-scientific explanations.

16. Karavans by Jennifer Roberson – Feels like a traditional quest fantasy, but with modern sensibilities and self-awareness. I have yet to get Book 3 of this series, though I’ve been looking for a few years (I don’t understand my aversion to simply ordering books off Amazon, but I definitely have one).

17. The Hyperborean Cycle by Clark Ashton Smith – Smith is the best writer of the ‘Lovecraft Circle,’ as well as the most progressive and experimental of them. The Hyperborean Cycle is a series of Lovecraft tinged fantasy stories, and arguably the progenitor of the style used by authors like China Mieville.

18. The Blood of Roses by Tanith Lee – If you ever see this book for cheap, buy it. I had my copy stolen in a move, and now I can’t find it for less than $100. It’s vampire-themed fantasy, with some familiar vampire tropes, but doesn’t descend into Anne Rice territory (despite skirting it), or any of the other less mentionable recent vampire fiction (despite skirting those too…and coming out nearly two decades earlier).

19. Zothique Cycle by Clark Ashton Smith – This was fantasy of the Dying Earth subgenre before there existed such a thing. Remember what I said about experimental? Yeah.

20. Averoigne Cycle by Clark Ashton Smith – More standard Lovecraftian fiction. Can be directly compared to Lovecraft if you want to see the differences between them. Also, what's the obsession with calling these things 'Cycle?'

21. The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman – Imaginative sci-fi-ish fantasy. It’s constantly called ‘dark’ fantasy, and it is, but it doesn’t even register on the Prince of Nothing scale.

22. Awake in the Night Land by John C. Wright – More modern fantasy, more readable, but written in the spirit of The Night Land, so kind of a blending of worlds. Wright is INTENSELY Catholic (if you’ve ever read a comment by him, or even the intro of this book, this will come across pretty strongly), but his characters are balanced, and not simply echoes of him trying to shoehorn a message.

23. Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard – May also be cheating, since I’m not referencing a single story, but rather all the stories he wrote counted together. Definitely has that pulp feel, but it’s not campy like the Arnold Schwarzenegger films suggest. Considered the birth of the sword and sorcery genre. Uses things we now regard as tropes, but also existed before the idea of these tropes ‘existed,’ so it wasn’t limited by them, or writing within a framework.

24. The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham – Very strange series with a unique premise. When people write gritty fantasy, I wish they’d do it with the skill and imagination of a work like this. Then I wouldn’t hate that word so much.

25. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson gets on this list because of the strength of his imagination and world building, and this one has the most balanced example I’ve found. While his prose is very easy to read, I find his stories often obsessive about minutiae that either doesn’t matter, or that shouldn’t matter even if it does (like the whole ‘people screaming out cryptic pseudo-biblical phrases when they die’ thing…I don’t care if it matters, it’s stupid).
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
Meanwhile, if asked to objectively rank books by merit on my own scale (scoring for Storyline, Setting, Characterization, Prose, Readability and ‘Intangibles’), my list looks like this. There are certainly similarities, but some notable differences. Only writing something for works not listed on the other.

To note, this is actually 1-25 of a much higher number, and the scores here range from 9.0 down to 7.33, while my list actually goes down to 3.8 (The Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham), so it’s not really ‘best to worst’ but ‘best to above average and in the same range as a bunch of other things.’

1. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

3. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

4. Kingdom of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes

5. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold

6. The Kharkanas Trilogy by Steven Erikson

7. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

8. The Abarat Quintet by Clive Barker – This is apparently a YA series. Positives of this mean that it gets Clive Barker’s boundless imagination, without his usual focus on sexual perversion and weird fetishes.

9. The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A McKillip – Bizarrely scores higher than books by her I like better.

10. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson – One of three books to occupy the same spot on both lists!

11. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien – The things that are good about LotR (language, prose, storytelling, world building) are here without LotR’s drawbacks (terrible characterization and dialogue). Actually reads like the ‘bible’ that it’s supposed to be.

12. The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham

13. The Dark Tower by Stephen King – A good illustration of the problems with objective metrics. Stephen King scores extremely high in every category because he’s a great writer. I bombed him on purpose in Intangibles to keep him from topping the list, because a) the last two books, while imaginative, were pretty terrible, and THAT ENDING OH MY GOD, and b) I was never a huge fan of the series, despite it doing a number of things very well.

14. The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham – The closest thing you’re getting to ASoIaF. Also actually continues to have books released for it, so it may slingshot above it in the future. As of right now, I’ve only read the first two books, because NO BOOKSTORES CARRY DANIEL ABRAHAM. I don’t understand how he sells books, because I can never find them ANYWHERE.

15. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany

16. In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A McKillip

17. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams – The best written ‘traditional fantasy in a modern style.’ For me, it competes with Karavans, but outpoints it modestly.

18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Despite my not being a fan of these books at all, they nonetheless score above average. They probably deserve to, but still.

19. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

20. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – Very imaginative premise, easy read. In addition to being consummate Sanderson, it also established what consummate Sanderson WAS.

21. The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold – Old fantasy book written by her in the mid-90s. You can see the themes of her later books developing. More of a romance than straight up fantasy, but still good. Didn’t find it as compulsively readable though.

22. The Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker – I don’t know here. I really enjoyed these books when I read them, but looking back, I don’t get why. This is gritty fantasy with a weird quasi-focus that is somehow heavy on characterization while also somehow being scant on characterization, and heavy on gritty ass machinations, full of self-aware protagonists with tons of inner monologue. Not really like anything else out there that I’ve ever seen. Also kind of reads like a journal written by opposing backstabbing nerds.

23. The Sword Dancer Saga by Jennifer Roberson

24. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb – After awhile, I became deadened to the emotional manipulation rife in these books, which is why I’m not a bigger fan. Does most things really well though.

25. The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold – You see this, Sneaky Burrito? That’s right. Come at me, sis. It’s very heavy romance (the heaviest on the list), scores high on readability, characterization, setting, charm, lower on storyline. I haven’t actually finished the series, the conclusion of which will probably change its score.
 

Sparrow

Journeyed there and back again
Meanwhile, if asked to objectively rank books by merit on my own scale (scoring for Storyline, Setting, Characterization, Prose, Readability and ‘Intangibles’), my list looks like this. There are certainly similarities, but some notable differences. Only writing something for works not listed on the other.

To note, this is actually 1-25 of a much higher number, and the scores here range from 9.0 down to 7.33, while my list actually goes down to 3.8 (The Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham), so it’s not really ‘best to worst’ but ‘best to above average and in the same range as a bunch of other things.’

1. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

3. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

4. Kingdom of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes

5. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold

6. The Kharkanas Trilogy by Steven Erikson

7. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

8. The Abarat Quintet by Clive Barker – This is apparently a YA series. Positives of this mean that it gets Clive Barker’s boundless imagination, without his usual focus on sexual perversion and weird fetishes.

9. The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A McKillip – Bizarrely scores higher than books by her I like better.

10. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson – One of three books to occupy the same spot on both lists!

11. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien – The things that are good about LotR (language, prose, storytelling, world building) are here without LotR’s drawbacks (terrible characterization and dialogue). Actually reads like the ‘bible’ that it’s supposed to be.

12. The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham

13. The Dark Tower by Stephen King – A good illustration of the problems with objective metrics. Stephen King scores extremely high in every category because he’s a great writer. I bombed him on purpose in Intangibles to keep him from topping the list, because a) the last two books, while imaginative, were pretty terrible, and THAT ENDING OH MY GOD, and b) I was never a huge fan of the series, despite it doing a number of things very well.

14. The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham – The closest thing you’re getting to ASoIaF. Also actually continues to have books released for it, so it may slingshot above it in the future. As of right now, I’ve only read the first two books, because NO BOOKSTORES CARRY DANIEL ABRAHAM. I don’t understand how he sells books, because I can never find them ANYWHERE.

15. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany

16. In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A McKillip

17. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams – The best written ‘traditional fantasy in a modern style.’ For me, it competes with Karavans, but outpoints it modestly.

18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Despite my not being a fan of these books at all, they nonetheless score above average. They probably deserve to, but still.

19. Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

20. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – Very imaginative premise, easy read. In addition to being consummate Sanderson, it also established what consummate Sanderson WAS.

21. The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold – Old fantasy book written by her in the mid-90s. You can see the themes of her later books developing. More of a romance than straight up fantasy, but still good. Didn’t find it as compulsively readable though.

22. The Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker – I don’t know here. I really enjoyed these books when I read them, but looking back, I don’t get why. This is gritty fantasy with a weird quasi-focus that is somehow heavy on characterization while also somehow being scant on characterization, and heavy on gritty ass machinations, full of self-aware protagonists with tons of inner monologue. Not really like anything else out there that I’ve ever seen. Also kind of reads like a journal written by opposing backstabbing nerds.

23. The Sword Dancer Saga by Jennifer Roberson

24. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb – After awhile, I became deadened to the emotional manipulation rife in these books, which is why I’m not a bigger fan. Does most things really well though.

25. The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold – You see this, Sneaky Burrito? That’s right. Come at me, sis. It’s very heavy romance (the heaviest on the list), scores high on readability, characterization, setting, charm, lower on storyline. I haven’t actually finished the series, the conclusion of which will probably change its score.

Yikes, do you ever have low standards.;)
The Silmarillion, isn't even readable by a modern audience.
The Farseer Trilogy, written by a hack... who hacks out book after atrocious book.
The Sharing Knife, really, you must be joking.
The Abarat Quintet, 'Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War' can be considered a classic and is one of my all time favorite books... but the sequel 'Absolute Midnight' was an absolute train wreck.
The Spirit Ring, the scary thing is that you aren't joking... this book does not belong on any top list, unless it's a top 1000 list in which it may just sneak in if you're feeling incredibly charitable.

I won't go on about most of your other selections, but I must say that is one of the worst top 25 lists I've ever ran across.
Do you realize you've posted a top 25 fantasy books list that doesn't mention Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia, Neverwhere, The Black Company, Watership Down, or anything remotely *classic*. Oh the horror of it, the horror.;)
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
Yikes, do you ever have low standards.;)
The Silmarillion, isn't even readable by a modern audience.
The Farseer Trilogy, written by a hack... who hacks out book after atrocious book.
The Sharing Knife, really, you must be joking.
The Abarat Quintet, 'Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War' can be considered a classic and is one of my all time favorite books... but the sequel 'Absolute Midnight' was an absolute train wreck.
The Spirit Ring, the scary thing is that you aren't joking... this book does not belong on any top list, unless it's a top 1000 list in which it may just sneak in if you're feeling incredibly charitable.

I won't go on about most of your other selections, but I must say that is one of the worst top 25 lists I've ever ran across.
Do you realize you've posted a top 25 fantasy books list that doesn't mention Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia, Neverwhere, The Black Company, Watership Down, or anything remotely *classic*. Oh the horror of it, the horror.;)
troll.jpg



@Amaryllis , great post. Obviously we have somewhat different tastes (I only read 5 out your first 25 list and 10 out of the second) but, since I posted my own top 25 list here a few months ago and I know how much time it takes, I appreciate the time and effort you put into it. Been planning to read Mythango Wood for some time - may have to bump it up on my TBR list.
 

Fantam

Journeyed there and back again
@Amaryllis , great post. Obviously we have somewhat different tastes (I only read 5 out your first 25 list and 10 out of the second) but, since I posted my own top 25 list here a few months ago and I know how much time it takes, I appreciate the time and effort you put into it. Been planning to read Mythango Wood for some time - may have to bump it up on my TBR list.
Agreed ! The book descriptions were informative and interesting to read in both posts.

I also appreciate the time and effort to make them, and look forward to trying some of the authors recommended, which I have not yet read. :)
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
To be honest, the prose in this book starts out charmingly archaic, but it very quickly lapses into simply being archaic, dense and overwrought.
Well then no wonder it's all the way down at number six. Just kidding. Anyone who lists Greg Keyes' masterpiece at number 4 on both lists is A-OK in my book. (Holds up hand in OK sign. Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "all I want is one of these"...Holds up OK sign with sad sad look on his face.)