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Top 100 Fantasy Books

The Top 100 Best Fantasy Books Ever Written

This list continues directly from where  the Top 25 Best Fantasy List ends, starting from #26 and ending at #100 (yes, I know the list shows #1, but 1 = 26).

Frankly, there are so many good books that have come out the past 10 years and there are some real classics that one simply must give a nod to. Hence I've created this extended list. After you look at the Top 25, this list should be your next best resource.Books that do NOT make this list, well, look at the 'Great Fantasy Books' list for more stellar reads or check out one of the other specialty lists or best of sub-genre lists. 

The bottom line is, between all these lists, you should have no problem finding an awesome fantasy read for the next couple years. You can look at our Best Fantasy Since 2010, which lists some of the best RECENT fantasy that's come out the past five years. And you might want to peruse our 'Best by Year' lists which cover the best books published each year, the first which is the Best Fantasy Books of 2014.

For many of you, your very own Top 10 or Top 25 Best Fantasy Novels picks will be likely be drawn from books on this list. Individual tastes in books change, but all the books on this list are outstanding and (in my opinion) rate as the best in the entire genre. So if you've read everything on the Top 25 list, start working your way through this list. 

Sometimes you need a break from regular fantasy. Sometimes you just want to lose yourself in a slow, pedantic, and richly crafted tapestry of writing, characters, and plot.

Then A Shadow in Summer is just what the doctor ordered.

Abraham builds an impressively realized world in this series with unique characters and a truly imaginative setting. This is not your standard fantasy fare  those looking for The Way of Kings 2.0 or another entry in A Song of Ice and Fire, move along please.

Taken as a whole, The Long Price Quartet, is one of the best series / book to come out the past decade, which is saying a lot because in the 2000-2010 period, there be some real monsters in the genre that were released.

Seedy docksides come to life, impressive noble houses sparkle and glitter with wealth, raggedy beggars roam the streets begging for coin. This is a world that's completely alive folks, a world that beckons and entices. And it's a world that you want to lose yourself in utterly.

And I'm just describing the author's skill with building a living world. The plot and story are equally enthralling too, if something completely unique. It's a story that's not about dark wizards trying to take over the world and reluctant farmhands stepping up to prevent them. No there are a different set of heroes here and a completely different sort of threat  if you can call it that. There's a marvelous cast of sympathetic and realistic characters each imbued with a realism that will leave you breathless. The people, like the world, are fully fleshed out, rather than simple cardboard characters with the verisimilitude of real life. Characters are not just shoved into the plot merely to advance it. Motivations and relationships are realistic and malleable and changing.

This book / series deserves to be on a list of the top fantasy books. Are there more action-packed epics? Sure. Are there old-school classic fantasy works more deserving of this book's spot? Maybe. But without a doubt, Abraham has done something new in the genre and I believe deserves to be listed as one of the greats.

The Long Price Quartet stands different than anything else in the fantasy genre, the writing and characters are spectacular, and the story is compelling.

Daniel Abraham is one of the best writers in the genre, even in 2014, and has a solid track record of outstanding fiction.

If you want to read a truly unique (and surely one of the best) fantasy series to debut in the past couple of years, even in a world populated by great fantasy reads, check out A Shadow in Summer (first book of The Long Price Quartet).

If you are one of those sticklers for like not started a series that takes over 15 years to complete, then you have another reason to read this one! All four books have been released and they are all fabulous.

Books in The Long Price Q... Series (4)

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The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow...

The Wheel of Time. Also known as an inflated copy of Lord of the Rings.

I can truthfully say that Jordan (RIP) was a King of Fantasy, if not in epic complexity, then in epic page count. This monstrously big series spans over 13 massive books (each at least 700 pages). Including "A Wheel of Time" on this list invariably riles certain people and it's probably, for some, the most controversial addition to this list. Why? The past several years a new type of fantasy has come to the fore of the genre: gone are the hopefully optimistic village boys wielding magic swords on a quest to defeat the impossible; in their place, a gritty fantasy has arisen; a stark genre where the very conventions of what it means to be a hero are challenged: worlds are made of gray not black and white; heroes may be both villain and savior; love is powerful, but ultimately ephemeral; heroes die and villains live. It's complex stuff that is often genre blending.

Since the happier days of Jordan in the 90's, fantasy has all grown up. Postmodernism is in. Antiheroes are vogue. Happy Heroes on a quest are most definitely not in fashion. Indeed, classic fantasy with callow village boys and dark wizards are often viewed with contempt by the modern fantasy aficionado who's standards in plotting, storytelling, and characterization have evolved.

Robert Jordan hearkens back to the old school days where village boys and dark lords chase each other endlessly across a landscape. However, I (still) strongly feel that Jordan still (even in 2014) deserves a place amongst the top of the genre for, if nothing more, the enormous contribution the man has made to the fantasy genre itself. You can call the WOT pulp fantasy or not, you can spend hours debating whether Jordan's efforts fell to pieces part way through the series, you can moan about how typecast some of the characters become. It's all moot! Jordan, whether you like him or not, had a profound impact on fantasy. Is he as impacting as Martin? No. But you can bet your shoes that the man has inspired several generation of writers who went on to take the classic trappings and turned them into something darker, something newer, something with the face of classic fantasy but more mature, more edgy.

Jordan takes the classic fantasy trappings laid out by Tolkien, and weaves together a massively complex tapestry of politics, kingdoms, and magic. Besides, Tolkien, you won't find another author that breathes as much depth into a fictional world. In many ways, Jordan, like Tolkien, has defined (for better or worse) one aspect of the modern fantasy tale. And he's perhaps was one of the most popular fantasy writers of his generation. Love him or hate him, you owe it to yourself to at least read the first book.

Jordan has left a lasting legacy on the fantasy genre and if you ignore some of his later flaws (and his handling of relationships between men and women for one and his derailed plot threads from books 5-10), has written a worthy epic fantasy tale. Sanderson finished up the tale with three books and did as good a job as possible. Now that the series has ended, I felt somewhat disappointed by the whole series (hat still off to Sanderson for finishing it and finishing it well). 

Despite the enormous contribution of Jordan's work to the genre, there are plenty of more modern (and even older) fantasy books that are BETTER than Jordan's books. And keeping Jordan on this list means those other books are kept off the list. As such, in the 2015 version of the Top 25 Fantasy Books list, Jordan's work has been removed from it.

Books in The Wheel of Tim... Series (14)

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A modern classic that weaves together themes of language, immortality, illusion and belief. Its the story of a unicorn and her young human companion as they meander through a landscape woven of myth and legend. Its a book of startling beauty the words themselves are lyrical and even if you are not delighted and captivated by the story (which you will be), the beauty of the lyrical prose will keep you spellbound. A must read.

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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.

A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom, unless the conniving Steerpike, who is determined to rise above his menial position and control the House of Groan, has his way. First, this isn't fantasy that you are used to. This is not Robert Jordan. This is not George R.R. Martin. This is not Steven Erikson. But this novel deserves -- no, needs -- to be read. It's bizarre, haunting, joyless, Gothic in the extreme and oh-so-rich in character and detail. The sheer sustained and imaginative power of this novel, the incredible attention to detail, and the stifling rigidity of the castle and cast of characters supersede pretty much every other work in the English language. Peake has been compared to Tolkien and even Charles Dickens Gormenghast is literature in the purest sense, but it's also another side of the fantasy coin and deserves to be on the list as both one of the great works of the English language, and a dazzlingly bizarre novel that refuses to be defined by any one genre. If you have a short attention span, having been weaned on the likes of magic-rich, action-heavy books like Feist and Jordan, you might not appreciate the richness of these novels. This description of the novel does seem ambiguous, but like the series itself, words cannot capture what it is. There are three novels in the series and the 3rd novel is disappointing, but the first two are like rich custard: delicious and sweet, leaving you hungering for more. But if you value yourself as a true fan of the fantasy genre, the incredibly odd and totally endearing world of Gormenghast has to be experienced once. You will never, ever forget the characters. Read it and be changed forever.

Books in Gormenghast Series (3)

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An absolute classic that deserves to be read with an unassuming story of hardship and triumphs involving...rabbit.

Yes that's right, rabbits. 

It's hard to describe this story in anything but superlatives. Reading about a band of anthropomorphized rabbits who band together to find a new warren after a vision of their current warren being destroyed tugs your heart in all the right places.

A charming story that like all great works of literature speaks on two levels -- the metaphorical level of theme and the literal level of the story. What's also awesome about this story is it's extremely well written the language and story itself is not dumbed down, but complex and sophisticated.

It's an exciting read for both adults and children and there is a story in it for each. This book is not only considered a classic in the fantasy genre, but a classic of literature and arguably one of the best of all books. 

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Comments
Award Nominations:1991 LocusF, 1991 WFA

Tigana, once shining beacon of hope to a shattered world, now a land no one can remember. To revive the memory of their beleaguered land and free a world enslaved by a sorcerer tyrant, a musician and his compatriots will embark on an impossible quest...

A novel of adventure, love, and betrayal, Tigana is an emotional masterpiece that delves deeply into the human soul. A masterpiece of fiction, Tigana has transcended the fantasy genre to become a work of literature. If you are looking for a multi-series epic fantasy, look elsewhere. But anyone who enjoys unconventional fantasy with a cast of ambiguous characters and a haunting story will enjoy this novel immensely. This book will literally wrench tears from even the most jaded. In a world where the waistline of Fantasy books is ever expanding, Tigana proves that you can write a compelling fantasy story in a single book rather than needing an entire series to tell the tale. 

Even in 2014, Tigana stands as one of the great fantasy books in the genre and is a must read for any fantasy aficionado.

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A magical fantasy series that's been highly influential. Along with his Dying Earth series, few books have had the impact on the fantasy genre that the Lyonesse series have had. The books have been hailed as fantasy classics for over three decades now, but few seem to know about the series other than the most well-read of fantasy readers.

Jack Vance is a master wordsmith and writes a classic fantasy tale that's poignant  one that will stick with you long after your finish the books. There's beauty, there's tragedy, and there's a land steeped in English myth  a mythology that blends the likes of Tolkien and Arthurian lore.

If you want a fantasy series thats beautifully written, one that's inspired generations of writers  a true classic in the genre  do yourself a favor and pick this underrated series up. Even in 2014, Lyonnesse stands as one of the best reads in the genre.

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A tale connected to Lord of the Rings, but one that's all its own. The Hobbit is a more positive adventure, a grand adventure to reclaim a lost kingdom and treasure from the dragon Smug. There's not much to say here about The Hobbit other than it's hailed as a classic in the genre. Yes, there are better books out there. Yes there are books that push the fantasy genre in new directions. But few books have inspired and uplifted millions of readers  both children and adult  as The Hobbit has. One of the most influential books ever written, The Hobbit stands tall as one of the top 100 fantasy books ever written.

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It is the color of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair that flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody... He is Elric, Emperor of Melnibone, cursed with a keen and cynical intelligence, schooled in the art of sorcery and the hero of Michael Moorcock's remarkable epic of conflict and adventure at the dawn of human history. Be prepared for a real treat if you have not yet read this series. Without a doubt, Elric of Melnibone is an outstanding fantasy, truly one of the "great" works up there with Rings, Gormenghast, and Martin. So, why should you give this series a chance? This is a dark fantasy through and through where things don't happen the way you think they should. The characters are complicated, multidimensional, easy to love but far too often, easier to hate. The brooding hero Elric is perhaps one of the most complicated and fascinating characters in the fantasy genre. This is a series made by the hero, but theres more to it than just a depressed bad-boy albino with a magic sword.The plot never drives in a straight line, keeping you on your toes. And this, folks, makes the Elric novels delicious. This is a book that tends towards the literature side of things, but for those with short attention spans, there is plenty to love for you. It's rare to find a fantasy book that can satisfy those intellectual types and those pop-corn chewing readers who love action. This is one of the most unusual and philosophical fantasy series written. It's also one of the greatest. This series is not as "popular" as some of the so called big names of fantasy in fact as of 2014, most readers probably wont have ever read Elric. But don't make the mistake of letting that fact that you've probably never heard of this author stop you from reading this book. If you want complex, non-traditional high fantasy thats inspired the current vision of the antihero, read Elric. It's good. Damn good.

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BestFantasyBooks.com DescriptionIn a world saturated by religious fanaticism, Maithanet, enigmatic spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples, declares a Holy War against the infidels. Ikurei Conphas, military genius and nephew to the Nansur Emperor, embarks on a war to conquer the known world in the name of his emperor...and himself. Drusas Achamian, spy and sorcerer of the mysterious northern sorceries, tormented by visions of the great apocalypse, seeks the promised one, the savior of mankind. Anasurimbor Kellhus, heir to the shattered northern kingdom, whose ruins now lay hidden in the deepest north, a place now desolate, home to only the No-Men. Gifted with extraordinary martial skills of hand and foot, and steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men--even great men--may be cast into ruin. For in the deep north, the hand of the forgotten No-God stirs once more, and his servants tread the lands of men...Those looking for more of the "boy becomes wizard and defeats dark lord" books that litter the bargain bins of any bookstore, look elsewhere; The Darkness That Comes Before (the two sequel books, and the sequel trilogy) is fantasy for grownups. Gritty and cerebral to its core, The Darkness That Comes before is a new type of fantasy -- a philosophical meandering about existentialism. Oh, and it has enough action and bloodletting that even Rambo fans would appreciate. Combining the gritty realism of George R.R. Martin and epic scale of Steven Erikson, The Darkness That Comes Before will grip you harder than a vice. Rest assured that the two sequels, The Warrior King and The Thousandfold Thought maintain the excellent standard set by the first book. Scott Bakker has established himself as one of the genre's top fantasy authors.There is a sequel trilogy that follow twenty years after the events of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. As of 2014, two of the three books have been released and they both continue the high quality of the first trilogy some say even better. It's very much written in the same philosophical, nihilistic style of the first trilogy. Apparently, Bakker is working on the next book which may be due 2015.

Books in The Prince of No... Series (5)

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Once every decade there comes a novel that redefines a genre and takes things in a new direction. Perdido Street Station is one such novel. It was China Mieville's debut novel and boy did it cause a stir when released.It's hard to describe Mieville's works with adjectives other than grotesque, strange, and bizarre. Despite how strange his fiction can be, Mieville stretches your imagination to a new level.For one of the best fantasy books the past decade, read this book. You may not love it, but you should read it.

Books in Bas-Lag Series (3)

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Roger Zelazny is regarded as one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of the previous century. He's written a trove of Science Fiction; however, his Magnus Opus is the Amber chronicles a science fantasy series.

Amber is an "immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape -- all other worlds are mere shadows of Amber." The books detail the story of Corwin, a prince of Amber who has been living on earth as an amnesiac. When someone tries to have him killed, he seeks to answer the questions of his lost past and find his way back to Amber...to reclaim what was stolen.

Full of mystery, adventure, and romance, Amber is complex, lyrical, and a bit weird. It's one man's journey through a colorful and sometimes bizarre landscape as he seeks to discover his past and guide his future.

The series is uneven. The first few books (the story of Corwin) are the best with the later books somewhat disappointing, when compared to the first. The first books are delicious; if you haven't read them yet, you are in for something truly special. Though 'Amber' is a classic and first published almost 40 years ago, the themes, the story, and the writing are ageless and can fully be read and appreciated just as well now, in 2014, as when it was first published.

Books in Amber Chronicles Series (10)

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Awards Won:1979 BFS
Award Nominations:1978 WFA

Stephen R. Donaldson changed the face of fantasy in 1977 with the publishing of Lord Foul's Bane (book one in The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). It took the world by storm. Hailed as a masterpiece of fantasy literature, TC went on to sell over 6 million copies. And for good reason. Donaldson's magnum opus is regarded as one the most emotionally compelling fantasy works ever created. Covenant is through and through an antihero the original anti-hero of the fantasy genre. Other works such as Elric helped develop the troubled flawed hero, but Thomas Covenant was a more filled, more relatable character a man who's lost everything, dying of cancer who believes the world he's transported to is merely a figment of his imagination. He commits the act of rape on a young girl who helps cure his cancer through magic; it is for this that many readers loathe the character of Thomas Covenant but the books are in fact the story of Covenant's redemption.

From anti-hero to hero, from tragedy to victory, this is one man's quest to save The Land from Evil and in the process, find his own redemption. If you love fantasy, READ THESE BOOKS. Donaldson is one of the best characterization writers ever. Donaldson is not afraid to explore the darker side of humanity, however. If you're looking for a saccharine fairy tale that brings a feel-good smile to the table, look elsewhere. If you want a riveting, darkly realistic tale about a flawed man's quest for redemption, you won't do better than Thomas Covenant.

This is one of those you love or you utterly hate series -- there is very rarely any middle ground. If you don't want to read about a brooding anti-hero that takes a good while to grow on you, you might want to consider skipping this series. The major complaint people have is the protagonist himself; however, the point of the whole series is to watch the protagonist evolve from a selfish anti-hero into a genuine hero who commits acts of selfless sacrifice to save many over the course of the entire story. 

You can argue the impact the Covenant books have had on the genre have been profound -- Donaldson took the ideas of the anti-hero and churned them into something new. And since Covenant, in the modern age of fantasy as it exists in 2014, there's been a renaissance of the anti-hero. The grimdark movement, which arguably was kicked off by Glen Cook's The Black Company and strengthened by other works like A Song of Ice and Fire and Mazalan Book of the Fallen. Now new authors like Mark Lawrence are taking the idea of the anti hero in new directions. As such, you can lay quite a bit of credit to Donaldson in his development of the Thomas Covenant character.

Books in The Chronicles o... Series (10)

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Before there was Tolkien there was E.R. Eddision. Before there were The Rings, there was The Worm.

The Worm Ouroboros is a rich, complex, deep work of archaic language, long sentences, and mastery of language like few other works have ever achieved. This is a book about greatness, of greatness, and very that greatness is reflected by the prose its written in. This book pays homage to the great classics literature, the Greek texts like the Iliad and the Odyssey and the great Scandinavian epics.

The average fantasy reader will never have read The Worm Ouroboros and never will. Its too old, too archaic, too complex, too verbose, too powerful a novel for the modern, short, fast-food fed attention span this work is a relic from another age and time; plot is not spoon feed, deep thinking and philosophy is not replaced with banal banter and yet another magical-action-scene.

Yetthe seeds that sprouted the modern fantasy ideals are here in the text yes, in a drastically different format, but still there indeed, bound in the archaic words, captured in the grand stories of high adventures, of Witches and Demon Lords. After all, The Worm Ouroboros is and was the grandfather of the fantasy genre, the literary inspiration for greats like J.R.R. Tolkien.

These are the stories of virtuous heroes and dastardly villains, of beautiful ladies and foul sorcery, of grand battle, sweet victory, and seething loss. Its a world of strange creatures and great warriors, yet with surprisingly dour and brutality bound into the story that, if you are familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire, you may certainly recognize. Its an overall heroic work that never forgets that to be a hero requires brutal deeds.

This is a story that launched a thousand well-known writers. If acknowledgements and high praise from writers like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula Le Guinn (to name a handful of the many) is not enough to convince you of the impact and merit this great work has had on modern writers and the fantasy genre as a whole, then nothing ever will.

The Worm Ouroboros, more than a century old, is a relic from a different age. A piece of work thats transcended to majestic literary value of great works like the King James Bible, the Greek epics, the Icelandic sagas. One of the few transcendent works of the English language to come out the past several hundred years. 

But.

This is not a book for everyone and if the thought of sentences that are longer than two lines, a rich vocabulary that harnesses over 500 years of English usage, and philosophical meandering scare you to death, then these books are not for you. But if you love reading of beauty and magnificent prose, if you love the Greek classics, if you love soliloquys of Shakespeare, if you are captivated by the majesty of the King James Bible, or if you want just want to check out the story that was the precursor to the fantasy genre, The Worm Ouroboros is for you.

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Brilliant books. Brilliant author. Brilliant writing. The His Dark Materials trilogy (which starts with The Golden Compass) are sort of like the anti-Narnia books. I won't bother trying to summarize the plot, given the explosion of popularity this book has gained since the motion picture for the first book, A Golden Compass, was released several years ago. Yes, the protagonists are mostly children, but like any great literature, there's a story going on at two levels -- the surface level and the thematic level -- and His Dark Materials is full of themes and a rather strident anti-religious message the whole way thorough. These are books for all ages. Adults will appreciate the meaning behind the message and kids will fall in love the characters. Ignoring the subtext of the novel, the actual story, plot, and writing are are all top notch  -- this is a story you can lose yourself completely in, one full of magic, mystery and childhood wonder. And a lot of dark nasty things happen too -- children characters or no -- so it's not all candy and sugar.If you haven't read these yet, you are in for a treat.

Books in His Dark Materia... Series (3)

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Award Nominations:2010 NEBULA, 2011 HUGO, 2011 WFA

A richly realized fantasy world with a developed mythology, complex and fascinating characters, an interesting heroine, and a work that stretches your imagination. The premise of the series asks the simple question:what if the gods were alive but enslaved by humans.The series has plenty of betrayal, murder, and romantic tension  so if you are fans of complex fantasy that incorporates these elements into the entire fabric of the story, you'll love this series. The series has a definite romantic bent to it, so if you like your fantasy with a romance being a major part of the plot, this series will appeal. Each book in the trilogy follows a different character and a different period of time but is interconnected with the other books a unique idea that absolutely works here. 

Not only is this series tell an interesting story, but the writing is very strong Jemisin is a talented wordsmith who values not only what her words say but how they sound, the structure of how the connect. In short, she's a bit of a poet when it comes to the written word.

If you love your fantasy with lots of romantic tension (though this is not the only aspect of the novel and sequel books  it's definitely a core part of the story, this is one of the best romantic fantasy tales in the genre one that's well written with a great premise.

Books in The Inheritance Series (3)

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Memory, Sorrow, Thorn is William's answer to Lord of the Rings. But his answer is not a clone, but a challenge. This is the series that first made Williams name. It's a profoundly influential series, one that help paved the way for modern fantasy works like A Song of Ice and Fire.  Williams did something new in the fantasy genre with his work; he took Lord of the Rings and deconstructed the story, reconstructing it with modern sensibilities, A Lord of the Rings fit for the 90's. Before William's work, the fantasy landscape was somewhat barren, with many epic fantasy works directly ripping off Lord of the Rings (cough Terry Brooks Shannara), badly written Conan reconstructions with erotica thrown in, or pulpy D&D works written for the masses. But Williams helped changed all that with his serious take on fantasy.Get ready to explore a vivid world and journey to the far yonder. A story where the journey is perhaps just as important as the destination, where the minute details, descriptions, settings, and vast landscapes form a mural, where no one piece stand out, but taken together a beautiful image takes shape. This is what that series is about -- a story and a journey.William's characterization is top notch; you follow the journey of young Simon from boy to man, from kitchen scullion to hero. The plot is thick and often crawls at a snail's pace, but the series is an undisguised jewel. A must for any fantasy aficionado! There is a reason why after so many years, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn remain near the top of many fantasy lovers' list.  While the series may be old, and while it may not hold close to the grimdark fantasy conventions that are all the rage now, there's something powerful about this simple yet complex tale. Yes, it's slow. Yes, Williams relishes the telling of the tale a bit too much. But this is all part of the draw. It's a book that you have to dig deep into, but once you do, once you give it a chance, it reaches out and grabs onto you. I highly recommend you let this book wash over you for a few hundred pages -- it takes that long before things pick up! But if you do have the patience, there is something special in wait.Read it to find out why! Apparently, Tad Williams is now working on a sequel trilogy to his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series.

Books in Memory, Sorrow, ... Series (3)

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This is a book that's impossible to categorize as it mixes in sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery. It's a well-regarded classic, however, and it delivers a wacky, yet entertaining adventure. Part of the appeal, of course, is how Fforde stuffs a crazy amount of complete wackiness into the setting. The setting is 1985 England, but an England you've never seen before. Time travel is common and the biggest superstars are the characters in literary classics. It's also a universe where it's possible to travel into books and affect a change upon the existing story. Strange, yes, but it works. The heroine, is part of the Literary Division, a crime force tasked with protecting the integrity of literature by chasing baddies into fiction and preventing them from changing the story.

There's a lot of serious satire in the book you probably won't be able to stop laughing at parts. But beneath all the wackiness, there's a solid plot that drags you along for the ride  once you get used to all the strangeness. This is a book that clearly evinces the author's enormous creative effort the whole way through. And it's a book that's so different than anything else out there, you will never forget it.

If you are a reader that enjoys plenty of wordplay, loves literary references, and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor you'll especially enjoy this book. It's a fantastical plot and a fantastical setting, but once you get into the meat of the novel, it's all very believable. And hell? Who wouldn't want to jump into a Charles Dickens novel and stir shit up? If you can't do it, the next best thing is reading about someone who does!

Books in Thursday Next Series (8)

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The Curse of Chalion won the World Fantasy award. 

For most authors, this would be a big deal. But for Bujold, just another day at work she nears the top of the list of the most award winning author  she's won Nebulas, Hugo's, and now a Word Fantasy Award for her works.

To say that Bujold is a fine writer is a bit of an understandment. She's able to create realistic characters and well-spun plots. Her books are always character-driven. Bujold also likes to write about anti-heroes, or if not anti-heroes in the strictest sense, then at least about unassuming heroes. And there is always a strong romantic subplot.

Bujold is a top-notch characterization writer who can spin a great romantic tale. The Curse of Chalion is Bujol's best work in many years it's her first foray into fantasy (she's been as science fiction writer for years) and she delivers on all fronts. It's basically the story of a broken man a war hero who was captured, tortured, and made a gallery slave. Years later after the war ends, he's sent home as a broken man damaged in both mind and spirt. Yet, even damaged goods can still have destiny. The setting is highly influenced by a baroque 15th century Spain and the world itself is quite interesting.

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Award Nominations:1991 LocusF, 1991 WFA

A demon and an angel, tasked with bringing down the apocalypse upon humanity, find they really don't want to end the word; you see, they've grown a bit soft on humanity.

Good Omens, a legendary collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is one of the most entertaining, funny, and thought provoking reads in the genre. There is really no reason you won't like this one. Sharp, witty, insightful and pretty downright funny, Good Omens deserves to be read. It's a modern classic and definitely one of the top 100 fantasy books ever written.

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Every Neil Gaiman is Top 100 material and more than one of you will pick a different book as your favorite. Of all his works, American Gods was his most profound, Ocean at the End of the Lane his most nostalgic, The Graveyard Book his most enduring, Stardust his best fairytale, but Neverwhere has been and maybe will always likely be his most eclectic and wildly imaginative work  and the most to fun to read.

It's crazy, it's zany, and mixes magic, weird science, alternate dimensions, and the hidden London side you never see. Yes, Gaiman has newer work that's more polished, deeper, and all that (Neverwhere was his debut novel) as he's grown as a writer since the publishing of it, but there's just something powerfully fun about reading Neverwhere. There's something in it for every type of reader.

Neverwhere is the story of every-man Richard whose day to day is completely broken by a random act of kindness, which causes him to fall between the cracks into London Below, a quasi-mystical realm haunted by strange beings and even stranger reality.

It's a sort of coming of age (or maybe a coming to terms with the true reality) in the midst of a dark cracks beneath the urban sprawl that is London. It's the story of gods and monsters, of talking rats and religious cults that worship them, and of shadowy creatures in the dark. But most of all, it's a grand adventure down a dark rabbit hole that you won't want to come back out.

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Ryhope Wood, England's last primeval forest, is a place with a secret, a secret so powerful that one man's life will forever be changed. Steve Huxley, unaware of the consequences, is drawn into the strange reality of Ryhope Wood when he falls in love with Guiwenneth of the Greenwoodas, the latest incarnation of a woman spawned from ancient myths -- a woman loved by both his dead father and mad brother. But when Guiwenneth is kidnapped, Huxley will leave behind the trapping of civilization and confront the savagery of a land untouched by modern man: a dark journey into the very heart of myth and legend that may drive him to the very edge of insanity...  An astounding journey into a strange other world, a world where tribes from different ages coexist, given life by the power of ancient myth and legends. In Ryhope Wood, mythical archetypes of primitive man come to life. For a fascinating Fantasy that's truly unique in the genre and a rattling good story, pick up a copy of Mythago Wood. I encourage you to give this novel a read; this novel demonstrates that there are other fantastic Fantasy subgenres out there other than the standard epic fantasy.

If you love mythic fantasy (American Gods by Gaiman, Ysabel by Guy Gaverial Kay, American Elsewhere by Robert Bennet Jackson), Mythago woods is arguably the best of the best in the genre and certainly one of them most poignant and beautifully written of them all.

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Mistborn: The Final Empire is a strong novel (the start of a wonderful trilogy) that delivers something special the genre. Relentless action, a completely unique magic system (one of the best in the genre) characters you can empathize with, villains who are not entirely bad, and a strong plot.

The whole series is in fact a subversion of some of the classic fantasy tropes the series starts out a long period of time after the Dark Lord defeats the hero of prophecy and ushers the world into Dark Age of tyranny.

These books are right up there with some of the other fantasy greats written by likes of Martin, Hobb, Erikson, and company.

Sanderson is one of the most popular authors in the genre right now and Mistborn was his breakout series. Even better, Sanderson has written the first book of a new trilogy (Alloy of Law) set 300 years in the future and plans on writing a trilogy set in the present and one more trilogy set in the distant future. Woah!

If you want to treat yourself to a unique magic system, great cast of characters, and one of the more endearing fantasy heroes you'll read about (Kelsier), and a series that's going to have a lot of longevity with future trilogies set in different time periods, pick these books up.

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The Chronicles of Narnia are classic of the genre and hail from a different era when fantasy was more positive. While there may be more complex modern fantasy written, Chronicles was a highly influential work on the genre  this is why it's one of the top 100 fantasy books written.

CS Lewis, the great English novelist, and friend of Tolkien, penned this series for kids. He masterfully creates an extended metaphor for Christianity in his Chronicles of Narnia.

However, one does not have to be a Christian to appreciate his tales. Set in a world full of nymphs, dryads, fawns, giants, heroes, and kings, these books will draw you into a fascinating world. This is a tale for all ages. Don't call yourself a fantasy aficionado until you have read this series, it's a classic for a reason. It's also one of the best children's fantasy tales. 

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Influential does not begin to describe Robert Howard's original Conan tales  this is a book that's transcended the original pulp medium it was written in gaining status as literary work, then beyond this, jumping into pulp culture. Conan has inspired movies, inspired comics, inspired games inspired countless writers for nearly a hundred years. Howard's Conan and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd the Grey Mouser tales were the original Sword & Sorcery, books that single handedly spawned an entire subgenre. 

Robert Howard is one of the five most influential writers in the fantasy genre  along with HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, CS Lewis, and Tolkien. You can the influence in Conan in modern works too, in the celebrated Elric of Melnibone, in every sullen anti-hero who's picked up the sword and dared to conquer and take and dominate and protect.

Conan is the eternal sullen heroic myth, given flesh and a sword -- that character from a thousand ancient tales, given new breath. He's in the Beowulf saga, in the Odysseus, in those works that celebrate the poignant power of the human hero. Reading Conan is like coming face to face with the unhindered, raw human spirit that which takes what it wants, when it wants. 

Despite being nearly 100 years old by now, Howard's Conan stories are shockingly well written. Despite the pulp status they had at the time, Howard's prose is no hack job. A thousand Goodkinds, a thousand Brooks, a thousand Meyers  despite their popular status and commercial success, could not, in entire book, equal one page of Howard's powerful prose. 

The words are evocative, descriptive, seething and roiling with power. Lyrical pose practically drips from the pages. And it's this with prose so sweet you can eat it and passages that resonate with lyrical beauty that the description of pure brutality and sullen heroic anger and of creeping horror and evil magic that provide the perfect juxtaposition.  

This is not the Conan from the dumbed down films, the ridiculous comics, or whatever contact you've come into with Conan through secondary, often pop culture, sources. This is the real Conan, sullen, hard, and powerful. 

Don't make the mistake of skipping out on a work that's been imitated for generations but never, ever duplicated. There is dark majesty in these stories that you should not miss.

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Dark gritty fantasy the way it's meant to be: violent, brutal, mythical, and supremely well written. Much has been made about the recent grimdark movement, with much credit being given to authors like Martin and Cook for their role in it. But Poul Anderson is one of the original gritty fantasy works, before such was even acknowledged as an artistic and literary movement.

Poul Anderson, an established author in the genre, has never received the modern acclaim her rightfully deserved. Anderson's best work was The Broken Sword, a book that draws very heavily on Norse myth along with western myths and Greek myth. Here, you see a mixing of Vikings-like cultures, trolls, capricious Viking gods, and elves.

There's a hell of a lot to like here: action and adventure, love and betrayal, sorrow and joy  and all packed into a short novel that moves at supersonic speed. 

The whole premise is itself one big tragedy a human and an elf are switched at birth, each growing up in the other's stead, living a different life, and finding they don't at all fit in and longing for what's been missing. Of course, things go sour for everyone involved. This story at its core one grand tragedy from the start to end. 

One of the more interesting and, beneath it all, complex reads in the genre and a book that few people seem to know about. The villains, particularly, are complex and flawed  their actions dastardly but completely understandable. They do bad, but you empathize with the why. If you love Nordic myth, you can't do better than this fantasy classic it's really some of the best Nordic-inspired fantasy in the genre. The key elements of Norse legend are all here in this book: super human heroes who are fated to die tragically; mythical creatures such as dwarves; elves, trolls, and gods  all who clash with humans and each other who populate a harsh, icy world; heroes and villains who all motivated by hatred and love; and capricious gods manipulating events and humanity for their own oblique reasoning.

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Classic tale of true love and high adventure about sums this book up perfectly. The status of this book is as a modern classic, to quote one Goldman's characters in the book is inconceivable. 

And this is no exaggeration. The Princess Bride is one of those books that's timeless -- it reaches to all ages for all ages. It's been stamped as a classic in the genre and you'll regularly find it near the top of any best list on the web; it even makes those top 100 books you should read before you die type of lists. Particularly entertaining is the dialogue which is just as memorable as the wacky characters and over-the-top high adventure story.

This is one of those books that on the surface may come off as a light adventure for your little ones, but there's a startling depth to the novel and a story and themes that, like in all great literature, speak to all ages. It's a novel that captures the essence of all that makes a story grand and great, exciting and thrilling. 

As one amazon reviewer (Oddsfish) puts it perfectly: 'Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles. GREAT LITERATURE.'

And that folks sums it up right there.

If you are in a mood for some high adventure, some swashbuckling piracy, kissing, and a bit of true love thrown in, The Princess Bride is perfection.

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The polish author of great acclaim who's taken many of the Tolkien conceits in a new direction. Gritty, dark, and complex, the tale of Geralt of Rivia journey into a world of darkness and of hope.

The themes, stories, and world are familiar yet at the same time completely unfamiliar. Sapkowski weaves in real fairytales into the story, but gives them new life in the story of Geralt. 

These books present a world that's many shades of grey, where the surface may not be the whole truth of it, where the monstrous-looking may be kind and the beautiful and righteous might be perverted and foul.

The Witcher books have been absurdly popular in Poland (the author is Poland's most famous author) but the books are finally just starting to gain recognition in the English world as one of the next great fantasy works.

Dark and utterly captivating, The Witcher books are some of the best new stuff to hit the fantasy genre as a whole. If you haven't yet read the tales of Geralt of Rivia, you are missing something powerfully good. To read Sapkowsk's masterpiece is to become a captive fan for life.

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Awards Won:1983 PKD
Award Nominations:1984 LocusF, 1985 BSFA

Powers is one of the most talented writers in the genre, a man of many literary talents who can, it seems, write anything in any genre and make it outstanding.

His books are always full of literary references  and sometimes, these references are part of the story, as characters. His most accessible work is The Anubis Gates, an absolute roller-coaster ride from start to finish  a tale that involves heroic scholars, poets, time travel, Egyptian mythology and magic.

The story is well written, packed with literary references, wit, well-drawn characters, and a fantastical set of events that won't let you put the book down. Powers really throws everything but the kitchen sink into this novel, yet the novel still stands out.

There are a lot of august reads on this Top 100 list  books that you should read because they've impacted and influenced the genre. And then there are the reads that are just pure damn fun to read. This is that book  -- it's thousands of years and hundreds of miles of fun packed between two covers. It's impossible NOT to fall in love with The Anubis Gates. 

Read.

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In a genre that's collapsing under the weight of cloned Tolkien worlds, hackneyed plots, and stick-thin characters, it's hard to find something new and interesting. That is until you read Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus, a clever take on the young adult fantasy genre.

While the books are geared towards Young Adults, don't be fooled by this label  the book will appeal every bit as much to adults as it does to kids.

Bartimaeus is a much darker work of fiction than others in the genre, a far more complex novel than the Harry Potter fiction that's ubiquitous now. The protagonist, Nathaniel dwells in a world where magicians are the ruling class of society and who maintain power by harnessing the power of enslaved spirits (genies, imps, etc). Everyone (including the protagonist) is driven by the unquenched thirst for absolute power, wealth and revenge and will do anything and everything to achieve it.

Despite the darkness of the world and the characters, Stroud manages to create a compelling world and cast of characters fighting to survive and even prosper  in it. The plot is very strong with this one and the pacing moves along very fast. You won't ever get bored. Plenty of action, mystery, and twists to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Bartimaeus touches on several other works in the genre including Harry Potter, Lord Darcy and Atemis Foul; but the tale is fresh, and the themes darker, deeper, and more complex.

This series is a classic in the making and stands in as perhaps one of the best young adults fantasy series out there, going head to head with other greats in the genre like Susan Coopers The Dark is Rising and Pullman's His Dark Materials. If you thought Harry Potter was a dark read, you'll be hiding in the closet after reading this one  Bartimaeus makes Harry Potter seem like a light Jane Austen novel.

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List more than a few entries on this Top 100 list, Talion is a completely underrated fantasy book. Stackapole is a prolific author, writing everything from Star Wars novels, video game stories (he was part of the writing team for the recent 2014 Kickstarter-backed Wasteland 2 PC game), to fantasy.

Talion, however, is his best book. And not only is it Talion's best book, it's also one of the best heroic fantasy books in the genre. What's remarkable is that it's Stackapole's first fantasy book. What sets Talion apart from other similar books is the heavy dose of pathos pervading the novel. It's not a "happy" type novel; there is a deep sadness that rings through the prose the whole way through. But the characterization of Nolan, a young man forced to choose between love and honor, is fantastic. You literally can't put the book down until the last page.

So for a top notch heroic fantasy, Talion: Revenant must be read.

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In my opinion, the best of David Gemmell's work. He passed away before completing the last book, but his wife, with his notes, finished off the trilogy. Troy has all those signature elements that made Gemmell's career. Powerful heroes, evil villains, good guys who are good, bad guys who are bad. However, this work is more reflective and deeper than Gemmell's previous works and his characters showing more shades of color than the mere black and white of his older books, showing Gemmell's maturity as a writer,The Troy trilogy is also a series that is influenced by the Greek classic but does not follow it exactly. This leaves the reader NOT fully knowing what's going to happen. So don't think you are just reading another rewrite of the classic story. You are not, this is different.If you love vicious action, powerful heroes, political scheming, and Greek stories, pick this one up. Hell if you even remotely like Gemmell's work, don't pass the BEST of his life's work up.

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Ostensibly these books are for Young Adults, but don't let the age restriction deter you. This is one of the more thrilling dark fantasy tales out there. As a bonus, the books are not monstrously big like many of the fantasy reads these days. This is a good thing. Many fantasy books meander into nowhereland; Nix, however, is a phenomenal writer, able to fully harness the power of the English language. The Abhorson trilogy is a rousing mix of fantasy and horror, and one of the best young adult series in the genre.

If you want some fantasy that gives you the chills while delivering a rousing, action packed tale, you won't go wrong with Abhorson. Buy the book, curl up on your favorite sofa, dim the lights, and be prepared for a chilling fantasy tale. 

If you want a really chilling feeling, get the Audiobook version of the series. The narrator does a superb job and the tale seems even scarier.

Nix recently (as of end of 2014) released a fourth book in the series, Clariel. The book is a good read though not as good as the books in the original trilogy.

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In the vein of Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Prydain Chronicles, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence is one of those must-read childhood fantasy classics that takes a set of young heroes and throws them against insurmountable evil in a struggle they, as the vast underdogs, have little chance of actually winning.

What's interesting is Susan Cooper was once J.R.R. Tolkien's student  it's no surprise that her writing shows heavy influence from the master, both in her writing style and her worldbuilding.

Now there's a number of fantasy books that copy what Tolkien's epic. But few books blend in real British and Celtic myth into the fabric of the story  I can only name less than a handful of authors who do so and do so well. Susan Cooper is one such author.

For a classic that's often ignored in the genre but one that's deserving in status as one of the great classic epic fantasy reads, The Dark is Rising stands as shining example of one of the best classic epic fantasy tales in crowded genre of copycats. It's also a tale, like all good classics, that can be appreciated by both children and adults.

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An outstanding new epic fantasy by Abraham, one of the most talented fantasy authors in the genre. This tale takes a lot of the epic fantasy conventions in a new direction. It's a somewhat gritty and depressing world (but not on the level of Martin or Cook) that's portrayed with some of the richest characterization I've seen in the epic fantasy subgenre. 

Abraham has always been about the characters and The Dagger and the Coin books hold true to this. to be found in it. Every character is flawed. Every character is misunderstood and mistreated. Every character is trying in his or her own way, to make the best of shitty situations, to survive and to prosper. There are no villains here (well there is but not the human kind), just flawed people doing their best. And sometimes that best may include inflecting pain and suffering on others.

The tale is one filled with action, intrigue, and betrayals and told from the perspective of a number of different characters, who over the course of the books, weave in and out of each other's narrative.

Mind you, the plot, world, and characters take a while to build up momentum  if you expect to be dropped into the action from the get go, you will be disappointed. It can take the investment of a few books (there are four books out as of 2014) to really start getting into the meat of the story, but once you do there's something unique indeed to be found. This is one of the series that gets better as you continue on.

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Faeries are a popular theme in urban fantasy, but no one has done the faerie tale quite like Emma Bull has. She takes a broken down rock band guitar player, Eddie McCandry, and throws her into the middle of a Faerie war. Eddie's at a low point in her life, just having been dumped by her boyfriend.

Bull weaves the music theme as a central part of the theme, lovingly detailing the process of Eddie's musical renaissance. You follow Eddie's rehearsal practices and her performances; the music itself forms the base of Eddie's own magical powers. It's a unique idea that's completely blended into the story and you learn a lot about how a band works, from recruitment to practice to finally, to the performance. Then there is the whole faerie court theme  these are not your gentle little Tinkerbell faeries, but rather strange and exotic creatures, whimsical, vicious and often deadly.

Almost twenty years after War of the Oaks was first published, it's a novel that still can rock on with the best books in the genre. For a wonderful standalone fantasy tale about life, love, magic and rock, The War of the Oaks delivers a nearly pitch perfect performance.

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You can love this book or hate it (you'll fall into either one of these camps, but rarely in the middle) but you can not doubt the profound impact it's had on the genre. From the silver screen to the written page, TH White's masterpiece has created the modern idea of the Arthurian myth. Generations of writers have written their own versions of the same original tale inspired by this work. Movies have been produced, songs have been sung, and videos games made. This is a novel that's become more than a novel. It has transcended.

And it's pretty damn realistic historical fiction to boot. You feel like you are actually living inside of a real medieval world; TH White is almost scientific in his breakdown of medieval castle life. If you don't know how to mount a horse, fletch an arrow, put on your armor, and swing a sword by the end, you lied about reading the book.

There's a sense of humor that pervades this tragic tale, giving life to where they might only be darkness without. It's a lovely read and a romp through a Camelot that never was but you wish in fact was.

Complicated, wordy, thick this novel might be. But read it you should. It's a classic of literature and one of the more profound worlds every put to pen. There is brilliance here in the novel. Don't be the person who misses it.

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The tale of King Arthur from the perspective of his ladies.

The Mists of Avalon have captivated readers for more almost thirty years now. It's a powerful tale that completely re-imagines the tale of King Arthur. 

If you read ONE version of the Arthurian story, this is the best and most human version of all the retelling of it. It's interesting to see how the perspective of the (standard) events of the Arthur tale are changed when viewed through the eyes of female characters it really does add another (and fresh) dimension to the story of Arthur.

Though the tale is told from the eyes of the women involved (Morgan and Guinevere), it's not feminist tale either. The women of the tale are strong, independent and fully realized as characters  but there is no feminist propaganda written into the story. It's rather the story of women trying to survive in the best way they know how; and if that means manipulating all the men around them, so be it.

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Award Nominations:2012 BFS

Most hail Abercrombie for his break out First Law trilogy which took the fantasy genre in a new direction, fleshing out the current fantasy ideal of grimdark fantasy. Abercrombie has continued to push books in that direction the past decade; however, his finest work so far is The Heroes, which is pretty much the pinnacle of the grimdark movement.  This book has not yet been bested before or since, by Abercrombie nor by any other author.

While The Heroes is a standalone, it helps immensely if you've read the original First Law trilogy. If the First Law was a subversion of pretty much every fantasy trope made by Lord of the Rings, The Heroes is the subversion of the heroic tale itself.

The Heroes takes place only over a three day period of a single battle. While the focus is narrow, the story is not, with broad cutting insights given at every page. It's a brilliant book, sarcastic and full of cutting wit the whole way through. Characters who are expected to fill roles who don't while the unexpected ones to the unexpected things, where heroes are shown as cowards and cowards made to heroes. What makes a real hero? This is a question pondered by the entire book, and one that you might just figure out an answer to by the end.

All the sharp insights aside, there's a brutal amount of action, blood, and violence enough to satisfy the most bloodthirsty of fans. Reading each page, each story arc is pure and utter pleasure. I was so enthralled I wanted to lick the pages after I was done. 

War is hell. But in the hands of a master like Abercrombie, reading about it can be heaven.

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One of the best undiscovered epic fantasy series out there a sort of A Song of Ice and Fire lite if you will.

Yes, if you want to look at the best of the best in the genre, there are better fantasy epics with stronger characters, more complex themes, and better writing.

But.

None of them are as quick and condensed a read as this series that delivers the same bang for the buck for the size of it. Paul Kearney somehow manages to pack and epic amount of struggle, adventure, military warfare, and politics into just five volumes that average about 340 pages each. In this day and age of fantasy epics being 1000+ page tomes of 10+ volumes, well you can see how this is a rare thing indeed.

Monarchies of God is a highly underrated series and can stand beside the latest Brandon Sanderson epics like Mistborn and Way of Kings on nearly equal terms. There's everything you love about a proper epic fantasy stuck in between these pages.

If you are looking for your next epic fantasy with a big cast of characters (several of them morally ambiguous), politics and war, and exotic landscapes (and nautical adventures) this should be your next read.

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41
Feb 2015

One of those weird trips into a nightmare land that you want to wake up from but can't. NOS4R2 reads with the same style and power of Stephen King horror novel. And in fact, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King both the physical son, and after you read NOS4R2, the literary successor to Stephen King's brand of horror.

NOS4R2 is also one of the best horror books to come out the past decade  a truly scary ride that you can't get out of, no matter how much you want to. It's a masterwork of horror and creep and in a way a metaphor of that past catching up to you, no matter how hard you try to suppress it. Characters are well drawn and find a place in your heart  they are all tortured individuals with a troubled past.  

At 720 pages one of the longest in the horror genre. But it's one of those books that sucks you in so hard you don't notice the length. An impressive read and if you want your fantasy tinged with horror, NOS4R2 gets our pick as one of the best (modern) horror meets fantasy reads the past decade.#

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A recent epic fantasy trilogy, but one of the most exciting epic fantasy series the past decade. The Lightbringer has probably the most unique magic system I've seen yet in fantasy, right up there with Brandon Sanderson's Allomancy. 

This is one series that actually improves more over book two than in book one. There's a hell of a lot of action, magic, romance, coming of age thrown into this series. It's literally a series you can't stop reading once you start.

Keep in mind the first book, The Black Prism, was mediocre. Personally, I wrote the series off after reading the first book. For Weeks to redeem himself, book two would have to blow your mind. 

And somehow Weeks pulls a rabbit out of the hat in book two and just blows your socks off, putting the series on track for one of the best new epic fantasy series to come out in a decade.

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To say this series is criminally underrated is an understatement. Next to some of the old classic in the genre that modern readers simply don't know about, Tyrants and Kings is the most underrated fantasy series in the genre. John Marco should be a popular fantasy author, but rather he's virtually unknown these days. Before the likes of Abercrombie, Lynch, and Rothfuss were stealing the show for their character-driven fantasy, Marco was going strong already.

I'm not sure why few people do not know about this startlingly complex, well-developed series. It's really some of the best character-driven military fantasy out there  a gripping tale that hooks you and won't let you off. 

Really, this is military fantasy at its best! Marco's characters are never black and white -- each character, even the supposed "bad guys", are portrayed as "human" as opposed to just "the requisite bad guy". And you can viscerally emphasize with them all, even if you don't agree with their actions. Add to this a healthy mix of action, a fantastic unpredictable plot, a well-developed world and these books are a must read by every Fantasy fan. If you like the works of Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, George Martin, Abercrombie, and Lawrence, make Tyrants and Kings your next fantasy read.

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This is a fantastic series with a cast of compelling and interesting characters  absolutely due to the very talented Janny Wurts who co-wrote it; it's pretty clear the books are mostly HER work. I can honestly say that Raymond Feist alone in all his other books has never been able to achieve the greatness that is The Empire series.

Recommended if you like fantasy with intricate politics with a strong love story bound in. The setting is quite interesting  a sort of honor-bound feudal society that's a fantasy version of Japan set on another world with exotic races and creatures. It's a complete standalone set in the wider Riftwar Saga universe.

Some of the standard fantasy conventions such as magic, action, and world-ending events are not part of this story; it's more about one woman's struggle to manipulate her way into power against all odd while navigating through the various pitfalls and traps set before her by her enemies and maybe at the same time, find love.

If you want the epic fantasy tale set in the Midkemia world, along the lines of Jordan's WOT, then read Feist's Magician. The Empire trilogy, however, does not concern itself with the destruction of the world by dark forces, but is rather a personal character-driven narrative.

While this is some strong female fantasy there are also some compelling male characters as well  so don't let the female bent sway you from reading this if you are a man.  On the whole, this is the best of all the Midkemia books, vastly superior to every single one with only the original duology Magician coming anywhere close.  

The books take place around the same time frame as the Magician books but the whole war on Midkemia is rarely mentioned and most of the events take place on Kelewan, centering on Tsuranuanni politics and clan political feuding. You don't have to have read the Riftwar Saga, though if you have, you'll understand a bit more of the backstory and tie in events (it's not at all necessary to do so though). Feist has got a ton of books out, however, several stand out above the rest.

Worth reading? Oh hell yea.

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Gritty, cold fantasy, with a flair for the gruesome. This fabulous series is jam packed full of goodness. Characterization is great, and J.V. Jones, like Robin Hobb and George R. Martin, gives no quarter to her heroes. They suffer and suffer greatly throughout the series. Plot, too, is superlative. This is modern Sword and Sorcery the way it's meant to be  thrilling, exciting, and gritty, a world you want to read about from the comfort of your chair.

Jones has really come into her own the past few years and Sword of Shadows is her masterpiece. Sword of Shadows is one of my favorite epic fantasy series and arguably one of the better epic fantasies out there even in 2014. The series kind of bridges the gap between grimdark and classic fantasy, with elements of both, though it definitely leans far more into the grimdark than the classic territory.

If you like the gritty flavor of A Song of Ice and Fire (part of the books are even set in an ice-filled milieu and seem to borrow from Inuit culture), strongly written characters whose actions are believable, action and magic galore, troubled heroes you love and villains you really love to loathe, this series is a real treat.

Now the bad news. As of 2014, it's been over 5 years since book four was written and we are still waiting for book five. It's been so long of a wait most people have completely forgotten about the series. And sadly, the author looks to have done a Martin on us all and gone AWOL as a writer  the series may not be completed for a long while, if ever. Every year some rumor crops up that Jones is actually going to write the final book in the series, but it's been about 5 years and we're all still waiting. So I don't have my hopes up.

Is the series still worth reading? Yes, but it will really suck when you finish the last book and hit the wall of waiting. Recently (2015), the author finally updated her blog saying she's been hard at work on BOOK 5. Fuck ya! 

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This trilogy has been around for a while, but by no means is it any less worth reading. It is one of the "classics" like Lord of the Rings that every fantasy enthusiast should read and represents some of the best of the classic fantasy stories from the 70's. Fear not, the books are not archaic by any means (published 30 or so years ago). The story is gripping, the characters indelible, and the prose lyrical--in the style of say Sean Russell and J.R.R Tolkien. These fantasy books are everything fantasy should be and more -- a true gem of fantasy literature.

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These books are not "fantasy" in the traditional sense: there's no magic, no demons invading the world from the beyond, no dragons flying around breathing fire (see our Low Fantasy guide). Instead, it's all about the characters. And wow, what strong characters these are indeed!

Fallon brings plotting and characterization to a whole new level. Love, treachery, friendship, redemption, and plot twists so twisted they redefine the word, this series keep you on your feet the whole way through. While the series may lack the traditional elements that define fantasy (magic, non-human creatures, etc.) it's still everything a fantasy book should be and more. This is a story that does not need magic to thrive  the characters, the plot twists, the political maneuvering has more than enough power to grab your interest from the get go. Absolutely worth reading every sentence.

Just reading how the devious Dirk, the protagonist, squeezes out of another impossible situation through his brilliant scheming mind is worth picking these books up.

A Fantasy series without a lot of the "fantasy stuff," these fantasy books are unique and one of the best low fantasy series in the genre. Trust me, you won't be disappointed if you pick this series up. These books are a cut way above anything else Jennifer Fallon has done before and even as of 2014, since.

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Like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan, Alice  Adventures in Wonderland is a foundation novel of children's literature. As a whole, Alice in Wonderland is a whimsical journey through a strange and wonderful world. It's a world meant to stretch your imagination -- and stretch it does.

This is a classic old fashioned fantasy tale and without a double one of those books that's inspired and enthralled generations and millions of readers around the world. You should at the very least knock this book of your list of things to read.

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A subversion of a number of fairy tales woven together to from something new and utterly captivating. The book is clever, oh so clever, and her characters unusual, everyone subverting your initial impressions.

A modern fairy tale that delivers in every regard. And at around 300 pages, Howl's Moving Casting is no serious time commitment. Indeed the amount of entertainment, wit, and cleverness trapped in those few hundred pages is vast indeed.

Howl's Moving Castle is an undisputed fantasy classic for all ages and one of the best reads in the genre. Not only is it a great fantasy book, but it's a book that transcends the genre itself into that of literature. Should you read it? Absolutely.

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One of the great American novels that's captured the imaginations of generations of readers. 

An endearing and enduring read, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ranks right up there with Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia as literature classics that have been embraced by the fantasy genre. Indeed, not only is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz one of the best fantasy book reads, it's arguably solidly on a top 100 books to read before you die list. It's also one of those 'fantasy' books that's permeated pop culture. As such, you really should read it.

And don't think just because you saw the 'movie' that you don't need to read the book! The movie is nothing on the book which reads as a sort of travelogue through a strange and wonderful world.

What many people don't know is that this is only the first book in a many book series by the same author, though arguably the first book is the only book you really need to read.

Really, what more is there to say about a novel that needs no explaining? Don't let it pass you buy if you have not yet read this classic among classics.

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A superbly drawn romantic fantasy. Love, treachery, heartbreak and triumph, this novel has all the elements that make a book great. Jacqueline Carey creates a complex, and extremely well-developed female protagonist in her Kushiel books. 

The book won the Locus Best Fantasy award. All the characters have realistic motivations and the villains aren't exactly villains. All in all, this is a complex and compelling fantasy tale that tells a unique story, one of the better fantasy books in the genre with a strong romantic bent.

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Award Nominations:2004 WFA

Those weary of the traditional fantasy can find respite in KJ Bishop's The Etched City. Bishop writes with a style that's all her own. There are no spoon-feeding of answers here, no easy-to-follow character quest. Rather, it is a novel that just IS. Certain words come to mind when reading this novel: lush, decadent, grotesque, dark, and baroque. It's a novel that's not easy to define or even understand, but it's a book that's even more rewarding simply because of that.  And the characters, oh my. The characters themselves refuse to fit into the standard cutout that most fantasy characters abide by. Killers may be honest, and gentle, and caring; yet they will still kill with ruthlessness. Characters that are caring and compassionate on the surface are empty.  If I had to cast the characters into a category to describe them, I would say they are anti-heroes. This is a novel of both substance and style, a dark journey through a strange, strange world. Many people have described this work as a combination between Stephen King's Dark Tower and China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. Like the Dark Tower, there's a gunslinger character who moves through a desolate, magical, and dark wasteland. But it's also more than that too, the environment is just a means to an end and not the end itself. It's a decadent place that's an interesting place to find yourself in.

So if the thought of village boys and dark lords makes you ill and you want a change of pace from the normal fantasy fodder, you can't find anything more different (and wildly imaginative) than KJ Bishop's The Etched City. I'm only sad that this is the ONLY proper novel the author has come out with.

If you are a fan of China Mieville's books, M. John Harrison's Viriconium, and Steven King's The Dark Tower, well you need to read this genre defying novel that mixes the weird with the strange. It's one of the most unique books in the fantasy genre, and stunning for people who can appreciate it.

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Heroic epic fantasy done damn right. One of the more compelling military fantasy tales actually starring a female protagonist. Moon takes quite a few of the standard fantasy conventions and weaves them into something new. And it works. Boy does it work.

It's pretty clear from the get-go that Moon, rather than portray a complex world with a million details, focuses entirely on the characters. And to good effect. The characters are some of the best written in the genre and come across as real, breathing entities full of their own ambitions, strengths, and flaws.

But there's also a good amount of military stuff packed into the novel  you will learn more than a little about medieval battles, fighting, strategy, and the horrors of living in an army encampment. 

This is a classic in the fantasy genre and somewhat of a subversion of the normal fantasy tropes. Instead of a male hero rising above his station to achieve military greatness, it's a peasant woman who does it, an independent farmer's daughter who bucks the established gender roles and successfully rises in power and fame. This is not some feminist lit mascaraing as a fantasy book with an agenda either it's actually gripping, emotional tale that you just can't put down once you start. 

Interested yet? You should be  The Deed of Pakensarrion books are some of the best fantasy from the early 90's and still almost 25 years later, is a compelling read that can rub shoulders with the best of the modern fantasy works.

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Harry Potter. What fantasy fiction fan has not read these books? Harry Potter has introduced millions of people to the fantasy genre. With a protagonist and plot that appeals to the masses (Harry, an awkward kid with special powers who goes to a new school and tries to fit in something every person who's been to school can empathize with), Harry Potter is a fun read. The books start of lighthearted, but I found Potter starts to get really interesting from the fifth book onward; the series gets darker and there is a stronger "grown up" element to the books at this point.

If you haven't read them (not too many of these left), you should if only to join the popular club. The Harry Potter books are a worthy addition to the fantasy genre, and should be read. Yes there's better, more complex stuff in the genre, both before and after Harry Potter, but along with Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter books helped put fantasy on the mainstream map. The influence the Harry Potter have had on a generations of children and writers cannot be understated. For this impact on the genre as a whole, is why Potter makes our 100 list.

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Celtic fantasy that rocks. There's a lot of such books around (Celtic fantasy is arguably an entire fantasy subgenre on it's own), but The Seven Waters is really a cut above the rest. If you have to read ONE Celtic fantasy tale The Seven Water books are near the top.

Marillier's books have some of the best female characterization in fantasy. These books have a decidedly romantic bent to them. Then again, what books don't?

Read if you want to enjoy a richly portrayed historical tale based on Celtic mythology.

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This fantasy fiction novel will suck you in. Elantris is one of the best standalone fantasy books in the genre. It's about addictive as chocolate and a whole lot healthier! .Normally, I prefer to avoid novelizations of myths such as Arthur or Atlantis. This book is no rewrite however. I didn't stop reading this one till my eye skimmed the last page.

Sanderson's newer works are better in some ways, but Elantris, his debut novel, has quite a few wow movements. If you are tired of picking up yet another fat fantasy saga and want a well-drawn tale that's completed in one book, you won't go wrong reading Elantris.

Apparently, Sanderson will be writing a sequel to Etlantris -- according to one of his 2014 blog posts.

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This book (you can also get it as two separate books, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master) are the books that launched the career of super popular fantasy author Raymond E. Feist.

And this book is classic uncomplicated fantasy at its best! You're not getting anything new here (like the efforts of Steven Erickson, Susanna Clark, or Scott Bakker), but what Magician does, it does superbly well: the classic transformation tale of village boy to powerful magician. Yes, it's cliche. Yes, every author since the dawn of sword carrying barbarians and pointy-haired elves has used the village boy conceit. But despite this, Magician stands out above all the rest of the wannabes.

What hurls Magician above the rest of the pack is the really compelling plot and world, tons of action, and a cool butt kicking hero. The book is just so damn fun to read. So if classic fantasy is the apple of your eye, and you are weary of the gritty realism creeping into fantasy and long for some of the "good old stuff", then this book is your fix.

I have what I consider two "classic" fantasy tales on this list: Wheel of Time and Magician. If I had to pick between the two, Wheel of Time gets my vote for its sheer scope. But for those who still love those old fantasy conventions without the requisite reading of 10+ volumes, Magician is heartily recommended.

If you want the more modern, gritty, nihilistic darker edged fantasy of the 21st century, then you won't find it in the Magician series.

Note: If you don't want to muck around with this "classic fantasy stuff", then go straight for Feist's BEST work (co authored with Janny Wurts) which is the "Empire Trilogy." The writing, plot, and characterization really does make the Magician series seem amateurish by comparison -- I kid you not. It's my "favorite" work by Feist. It lacks the boy-becomes-man-and-kick's-serious-ass superheroes of the Magician series (which is what some readers love to see), but it's a damn good story and just flat out better written. And that's my plug for the Empire series.

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Classic fantasy done right. Good story, good plot, terrific action, and fantasy set in a Roman milieu (something unusual in fantasy). This book features one of the more interesting magic systems in the genre. The author Jim Butcher is well established in the genre, having written the Dresden Files (which is a good recommendation on its own merit indeed).There's a story behind WHY Butcher wrote these books. Apparently, Butcher took up a challenge (made as a bet) that he could write a story combining Pokemon Monsters with a Roman setting. The end result of this was Codex Alera, one of the more original fantasy series in the genre.Codex Alera doesn't get as much recognition as his Dresden Files, but it's a very good classic fantasy series in its own right. If you want lots of action, big military battles, and plenty of heroic kick ass action, this is a series you'll want to read.

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Sean Russell writes books for people who like to read. Ponderous, slow, and often steeped in mystery, his worlds are rich with characterization and plot. His "Moontide and Magic" is set in a world not unlike the Victorian era. The Farrlands, once home to the mysterious mages, is now steeped in the ways of empiricism. Magic is gone from the world, with the passing of the last mage. Or is it? 

Rich, complex, and beautifully written, these are fantasy books you don't want to miss. If you want to read well-written novels, Russell can deliver them magnificently. One can never accuse Russell of holding to the standard Tolkien cliches. 

Fans of David Gemmell's fast paced "beat-em-up-and-leave-em" or Jordan's "so-much-magic-you-breath-it" type of fantasy will probably bemoan the pacing of Russell's series. But for those of us who like to read well-written fantasy literature that emphasizes character and plotting over action, make sure you check this one out. 

Certainly if you appreciate the style of writing of say Guy Gaverial Kay, Tad Williams, or Susanna Clarke, you'll absolutely love this series.

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This is a series that many consider child's fantasy but will appeal to all ages. It's an older classic which means it doesn't ignore the whole existentialist movement and features heroes who are actually have a set of morals and don't go around acting like vicious, selfish bastards. 

There is a strong, original mythology bound into The Chronicles of Prydain, based on Welsh legends and myths. It's a world steeped in ancient myth, myths and tales that echo in the back of your mind, strangely familiar  like a forgotten memory that suddenly comes back after a long absence.

And it all starts with the tale of a young pig keeper who, unsatisfied with his lot in life, seeks the grander destiny of a hero. But along the way to become what he seeks, he finds being a hero is what it's made out to be. Alexander, in the tradition of the top wordsmiths of the genre like Tolkien and Jack Vance, writes with such sublime skill you can't but helped but be awed. He cleverly combines just the perfect mix of humor, sorrow, and pure excitement as his heroes fight to save the day.

The Chronicles of Prydain are masterwork classics in the tradition of Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Lyonesse trilogy -- superbly written and inspired by real myths and legends, brought to reality for children but with a message for adults.

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Everybody's favorite criminal anti-hero. It's not complex fantasy (at first anyways) nor is it anything unique, but what Brust does is create a highly entertaining and compelling world with a viciously funny protagonist that just keeps you coming back for more. 

If you like Brent Weeks Night Angel character (but a more sophisticated, funnier, and much wittier version), you'll probably love the Vlad Taltos books. The books are quick with wit, sword, and action as Vlad Taltos navigates through the unfriendly world of Dragaera as an assassin with only a small magical talent and his Jhereg companion. The first three novels are a great intro into this world, which is expanded with many more books. And the books only get better as you read on. It's a series where you see a noticeable change in writing as you move from his earlier books to her newer books the writing gets more complex, the themes deeper and more complex, the story more gritty and dark.

There are also themes here, rarely explored in fantasy, such as racism the twist here is that elves are the majority race while humans are the minority (and despised) race. It's a unique premise in fantasy for the most part and Brust uses it to great effect in the telling of the Vlad Taltos story.

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An endearing modern classic that won the World Fantasy Award, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a powerful tale about a good young sorceress who is wronged because of man's greed and fear, embarks upon on righteous quest for revenge that proves to be just destructive.

There is only one world that suffices when describing this novel: enchanting. And that is what it is. This is one of those novels that every fantasy fan should read  no matter your tastes, no matter your preferences. This is an important book that speaks and teaches just as much as it entertains. And it entertains plenty.

It's the story of a sorcerers, magical beasts, and powerful magic but on a deeper level, on the level beneath the fairy tale there  is a deep story about right, about wrong, about making the wrong choices for the right reasons, and the brutal cost of doing so. The story explores what it really means to be human and that no matter how far you try and throw it away, we are and will always be human -- with all the foibles and follies and joys it brings.

It's a seminal work in the fantasy genre and one of the best fairy tale fantasy stories I've had the pleasure of reading. Even after nearly 40 years it still stands the test of time. It's a tale that like good wine only improves with age.

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This new series doesn't do anything specifically new in the genre, but what it does it does well: spin (the start of) a fantastic epic fantasy yarn with all the right elements. 

In fact, this looks to be the best new epic fantasy in the past decade provided book two does not drop the ball. The first book, so far, delivers on every regard though.

It's only the beginning to what looks to be a rather large epic fantasy series, but man what a superb start it is. Not since the Warded Man (and the author failed with every book after the first) have I been this excited and impressed with a debut epic fantasy. The Emperor's Blades is a startlingly kick-ass debut good enough even to land this book on my list of Top 100 fantasy books on the strength of just how good it is.

You can expect well drawn interesting characters, strong world-building that has you hungering to learn more about the world, action scenes that deliver the goods, a plot that sucks you into the book and won't release you until the last page is turned. There's plenty of complexity thrown into the tale with morally ambiguous characters, dilemmas aplenty, and most of all a vivid and richly imagined world, one that really grabs your interest. This is a place you WANT to learn as much about as possible. Not since Wheel of Time (and possible A Song of Ice and Fire) have I been entranced with the world built up in the novel. Yes, it's that sort of place.

For one of the most exciting reads of 2013 -- and I would hazard to say the past five years -- definitely pick this book up. The sequel, Providence of Fire, was even better than the first book by every measure and was one of my favorite reads so far of 2015. So by all means, pick this awesome new series up.

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Parker writes a different sort of fantasy, a fantasy that's more concerned with economics, gritty detail, and central themes usually involving technology used as a means of achieving power; the central themes of technology and how it upends the order of the day is absolutely woven into the fabric of her tales. Pick up a Parker book and you'll soon enough become a bona fide expert about a medieval trade be it sword production, medieval siege equipment, or fencing. The devil is in the details and the devil is a powerful one in a KJ Parker book.

Parker (apparently, this is a pseudonym  she has a well-known name used for other published books that she's not telling us) has been publishing some of the best fantasy in the genre for over 15 years; but she's really gotten the short end of the stick in terms of recognition. But her books, like the weapons she oft writes about, are razor sharp. She pens clever, insightful, often funny and always dark, political stories with deep themes. Grand stories of empire and of sieges, of swords and magic, of family scheming and betrays, and always wrapped around a central and human theme:  the desire to return home as the impetus for overturning the social order (The Engineer trilogy), friendship between broken men (The Company), the story of family bonds (The Hammer and The Folding Knife). Her characters are always smart and clever, able to use the power of their mind to overcome great obstacles. 

So for some of the best fantasy the genre has to offer, fantasy with a lot of technical details bound in, fantasy that's always driven by the characters, and fantasy with deep themes, but fantasy that still doesn't forget to toss in some heart-pounding action once in a while, check out a KJ Parker Book. 

I feel the Engineer trilogy is her best work so far, but you can, if you wish, start with The Scavenger or Fencer Trilogies. Or her excellent standalone, Sharps, which is probably the best intro to her writing.

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Award Nominations:1993 LocusF

A book that's powerful in the beauty of its lyrical prose, the powerful descriptions, and the deep characters. This is a book that has more in common with pure historical fiction rather than historical fantasy as there is little magic present in the story threads. But there is another magic present in the novel: the magic of Kay's writing.

Kay always basis his works around a real, historical location, and loving paints the world of his books with broad strokes of real world influence. Italy was the home to his Fionavar Tapestry books. In A Song for Arbonne, medieval France and the court of love is the setting this time around. Kay does what he does best: craft a fully realized world that borrows from the real so that it feels familiar yet strangely different. It's a better, more fantastical version of reality, is Kay's work.

Picking up a Kay book makes me want to book the nearest flight to somewhere exotic and revel in a rich foreign culture, if only to capture a sliver of the emotions his books stir up. Do read this book. You wont be disappointed.

Kay has written a number of wonder books (you'll see four of them listed on the Top 100 list alone!). It's not as impacting and tragic as Tigana, or as mythological and epic as The Fionavar books, nor it is richly sweeping in kingdom and plot as Under Heaven. But it's the most personal of his narratives -- that of a journey into soul and spirit.

A Song for Arbonne is a powerful human drama. It's the story of love and loyalty and honor shown to a country, to a family, and of course the strongest of all, true love. There is a song of nostalgia and sadness that rings beneath the tale, I suspect there may be a few tears to shed by the end of the book. A powerful book and a powerful story.

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Russell turns his considerable narrative powers to Far East with a unique fantasy set in a fantastical Asian milieu. Plot, as per usual in a Russell novel, starts off slow, but more than makes up for this in strength of story, the beautiful descriptions, the well-developed world, and of course, the fabulous characterization. Even better, Russell tackles in the Far East a setting that's been, for the most part, left untouched by western authors. It's a different world and one that's ripe with opportunities. Think something like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made into an epic fantasy tale. If you're like me, the thought of this gives me the shivers!

And create an interesting world Sean Russell does -- one that you just don't want to leave. The closest world building in style would be Guy Gaverial Kay's Under Heaven and River of Stars books, but this series is more epic fantasy than historical fantasy.

So if you are in the mode for something different, check this fantasy duology out. These fantasy books will not disappoint. 

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A poignant tale that came out only a couple years ago but made a big splash, both in the fantasy and the literary circles. Of the books on the top 100 list, The Golem and the Jinni would rank as one of the more literary reads -- you know, those books that the critics love to accolade. Books that you find on the front shelf of any bookstore next to Margaret Atwood's, Khaled Hosseini's, or Yann Martel's.

Literary or not though, this is a fantasy tale with fantasy characters and such a powerful and evocative story that it stands out as one of the best in recent history.

It's a story about friendship and about finding your place in this world. It's a story about characters from myth who in the modern day find themselves fish out of water. It's the story about two very different personalities who don't much like each other but find in fact they cannot live without the other.

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A literary masterpiece that's a look at the early fantasy genre. Along with The Worm Ouroboros, The King of Elfland's Daughter is considered one of those grandfather of fantasy type books  a work that helped defined the early boundaries of fantasy, back when the borders of it were still fluid and undefined.

This is a novel that every real fan of fantasy should have a crack at. Some of the most profound and influential writers in literature reference Dunsany's work as one of the greatest contributors to the fantasy genre as said by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, William Yeats, and L. Sprague de Camp to name just a few. When such august writers finger a work as great, that's tells you a bit about how important that said work is.

The sad thing is that I fully expect most of you modern readers will look at this, shrug your shoulders, completely ignore this The King of Elfland's Daughter, and then read the next Sanderson epic, or whatever XYZ new author is the current it darling in fantasy. And that's a shame because The King of Elfland's Daughter is a masterpiece of fantasy and helped shape the way things are. And the fact that few people will have read him or witnessed his startling vision and imaginative storytelling is a great tragedy indeed.

Yes, The King of Elfland's Daughter is from a very different generation of writing (it was published in the 19th century where authors actually had to be well write in the classics, speak multiple languages, and actually know how to write) and yes the story does not read like your latest Jordan, Sanderson, or Martin. But in the purest sense, this is a work of majestic literature  like that of Paradise Lost. There are few writers who are able to match Dunasay's power of voice, his level of prose, his mastery of language. Do be the majority of readers that look at his work then move along to inferior stuff. Be the one who pays homage to real fantasy literature. Is it a must read? Absolutely.

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Very much a blend of different genres (steampunk, historical fiction, sword & sorcery and mystery) and and one outstanding piece work. A work (as many of the books on the Top 100 Fantasy Book list) that's under read and under-appreciated. 

This books is close to two decades old now but even in 2014 stands out as one of the best reads in the genre. It's definitely one of the more interesting fantasy books with a strong homage to the classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries set in a steampunkish Victoria era world with necromancy thrown in. 

Expect lots of twists and turns, an evocative setting, lots of action, dry sarcastic humor, and interesting characters. It's a considered a modern classic for good reason.

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Blood Song by Anthony Ryan burst on the fantasy scene with the force of a category five hurricane. It was widely hailed as the next best thing since The Name of the Wind and was widely named by many a reader as one of their favorite books. In fact, most people who loved The Name of the Wind are quick to recommend Blood Song as the closest in style and theme. You'll find Blood Song regularly tossed on many fantasy readers' personal Top 25 Fantasy List.

Everyone was ready to hail Anthony Ryan as the next Patrick Rothfuss.

Then the sequel The Tower Lord came out this year and did wrong everything that Blood Song did right. Expectations were crushed and Ryan proved himself to be a one hit wonder.  While the sequel wasn't necessary bad, especially compared to the competition, it definitely wasn't the superb tale everyone was hoping for.

There may still be hope with book three, but hope is not high and frankly, Ryan may need a miracle to get back on the same track his first book set out on. Indeed, Ryan seems to be going the way of Peter V. Brett with this series, though not nearly as far down (yet) the rabbit hole of disappointment.

Still, you can't ignore how powerful the Blood Song is  it's a remarkable debut that few authors have achieved in the genre. And for the power of the first book and the impact it seems to have had on most of the readers, Blood Song an appearance near the end our top 100 fantasy novel list.

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The title promises blood and more than delivers on that promise. If you want some serious action, interesting magic, compelling characters, and gritty world look know further than Promise of Blood.

Promise of Blood is THE book that made flintlock fantasy the new best thing in fantasy. The book delivers an epic fantasy tale with a unique magic system, an interesting cast of troubled characters, meddling gods, dangerous sorcerers, scheming politicians, and civil revolution. This whole 'Gunpowder and Grit' style of fantasy really is interesting -- a sort of fusion between grimdark and steampunk and flintlock.

I think it's safe to say that the whole 'Gunpowder and Grit' setting is here to say in the fantasy sphere -- in no small part to the success of a Promise of Blood.

The action, the magic system, the characters, the writing, and the plot of very much reminiscent of a Brandon Sanderson novel (specifically, it brings to mind something very similar to his MIstborn novel, Alloy of Law). And Hell's Bells, what do you know, Brandon Sanderson IS/WAS his creative writing teacher. 

Initially, I wasn't so sold on the first in the series (Promise of Blood) which to me was a good intro to the world but fell a bit short. However, McClellan's second book The Crimson Campaign was a vast improvement and made this fantasy series as one of the most exciting debut fantasy series to come along in the past couple years.

So for one of the most exciting new fantasy books (and series) to shoot into the fantasy world, pick this series up.

Books in The Powder Mage Series (3)

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Night is here and the demons have come out to play. This is the premise to Peter V. Brett's awesome The Warded Man. The tale told is one so good that it keeps you glued to the pages with nary a break until you flip that last page. The story is not perfect, but world created and the cast of characters are incredibly enticing. Don't expect some pithy, intelligent twist on the genre as in Abercrombie's Blade Itself or Bakker's Prince of Nothing, The Warded Man is all raw action and standard fantasy conventions (village boy), but if you want a really damn good book that won't let you sleep, read it.

The bad news is that the two sequel books in the series have been complete failures in my opinion. So far, the series has only had a one hit wonder with the first book being something really different in the genre and one of those startling reads that takes you by surprise and won't let you go. Book two was a partial disappointment with uneven structure, terrible characterization (the characters did things that just didn't make sense), and the plot jumping all over the place. Book three was worse.

Because the first book was so phenomenal, it's listed as one of the more interesting, top book in the genre. But the sequels do not live up to the high standard  this is one book I would read and forget the sequels ever existed.

Books in Demon Cycle Series (4)

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A highly impressive debut (with book two being nearly as good) and one of the forerunners in the new wave of Flintlock fantasy  one of the hottest fantasy subgenres right now. The book starts with a bang with an interesting and unusual premise: a military campaign in a foreign desert. It brings to mind the Malazan book The Bonehunters. Django Wexler is a new voice in fantasy and delivers an enthralling and entertaining new fantasy read, filled with action, adventure, and dark magic but also populated with well written and emotionally complex characters with real motivations. The sequel, The Shadow Campaign (Book two of The Shadow Campaigns) takes place in an urban setting and centers around a revolution (i.e. something like the French Revolution from history) rather the detailing a military campaign I found the urban setting not as enjoyable a setting, but the book still delivered a well-thought out tale.

Books in Shadow Campaigns Series (3)

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One of the greatest classics in the genre by every measuring stick you might use. It's a story for all ages and speaks to the magic of growing up. The original language is German but the book has been expertly translated into English and stand as one of the few translated works in the genre that still manages to deliver. The books are a different experience than the movie (which only detail half of the story contained in the book).

If the fact that The Neverending Story is children's book dissuades you from wanted to read it, put those fears to rest. This is a book that explores themes that apply throughout life; and unlike some other works, it doesn't try to bedazzle you with flash and fancy metaphor, but instead opts for straightforward simplicity to illuminate the themes.

One of the best books out there to read to your children and a tale for the ages for all ages.

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A powerful tale in the format of a 15 year girl's diary entries. This book struck such a chord with readers and critics alike it won the 2011 Hugo Award for best novel. It's a unique perspective on growing up with a number of themes explore, but explored through an unusual narrative channel (a girl's diary).

Unlike other coming of age tales, Among Others is the story of a gifted young woman who has to balance her magical studies along with balancing friendships and surviving a psychopathic mother who wants to kill her. The narrative is so effusive with teenage angst (but at the same time aimed at a literary reader  this is no Twilight novel that excels at mediocrity) you just can't help but get pulled into the heroin's life story.

If you want a brilliant yet uniquely written novel, Among Others stands as one of the best such in the genre.

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