BlogThe Writing ProcessThe Best Fantasy Books of All Time

The Best Fantasy Books of All Time

Kathy Edens
Copywriter, ghostwriter, and content strategy specialist
Published Sep 11, 2018

ProWritingAid

We've been reviewing some of the best genre books ever written. If you haven’t been keeping up with us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

This month, we look at fantasy. We reviewed some fun sites: BestFantasyBooks.com, Paste Magazine, Unbound Worlds, Goodreads, and NerdMuch?. In no particular order, here are the top 25 fantasy books of all time.

1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The popularity of this series has exploded over the last several years, so what list wouldn’t include A Game of Thrones? If you like multiple, intricate story lines, a cast of characters where none is safe from death, and a world full of lords, knights, bastards, wizards, ladies, and more, then you’ll like this series. It has magic, intrigue, mystery, and lots of romance; in essence, a world unlike any you’ve ever encountered.

2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

One ring rules them all. The Dark Lord put all of his powers in One Ring that was taken from him. After years in Middle-earth, Bilbo Baggins ends up with the ring. After he reaches his eleventy-first year, he disappears, and the ring becomes the property of Frodo, his cousin. Thus starts the epic quest to destroy the ring and everything it stands for.

3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The land where children tumble out of a wardrobe, a secret country where only Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund are known. Lucy finds it first, followed by Edmund and the others. There they discover magic and Aslan, the Great Lion. And it changes their lives forever.

4. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

What would happen if characters in a fantasy world grew up and discovered they had modern anxieties and problems? What would be the best job for a troll in the city? The Colour of Magic explores the answers to questions everyone has but is afraid to ask about fantasy heroes.

5. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Fitz is born a bastard of royal blood with a magical link to animals called Wit. When he is eventually adopted into the royal household, he must give up his link to animals and embrace a new way of living and being—he trains to become a royal assassin.

6. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In a fantastic world of criminals and nobles, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an adventure, loyalty, and survival guide along the lines of Robin Hood and Ocean’s Eleven. Locke Lamora dodges death, slavery, and more only to fall in the hands of a con artist known as Chains.

7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

A coming-of-age story in a fantasy world, The Name of the Wind tells the story of a young man who grows to become a notorious wizard. With beginnings that start in a troupe of traveling players, Kvothe finally enters a school of magic. Plenty of high action and adventure turns Kvothe into a fugitive sought for murder.

8. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

The Goodreads description starts: "HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?" Lessa, who most think of as an inconsequential kitchen girl, determines it’s time to take back her stolen birthright. But then she meets the queen dragon, forming a quick and strong bond. Dragons and their riders must protect the planet Thread, but at what price?

9. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

As the Wheel of Time continues to turn, Ages come and go leaving behind legends that fade to myth, which is long forgotten. It’s not until the Third Age, the Age of Prophecy, that the world and time both hang in balance. Now, what was, what is, and what will be can fall under the Shadow.

10. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie combines an unlikely cast of characters: a philosophical Barbarian who abhors killing, a dashing hero afraid to fight, and a crippled torturer who has a heart of gold. This unlikely cast, coupled with an interesting plot and a wizard, treads a line between hero and villain that may cost them everything.

11. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

An epic fantasy where mystical swords and suits of armor transform ordinary men into invincible warriors, kingdoms are won and traded for Shardblades. An interesting cast of characters from around the fantasy world fight their own battles, sometimes with motives less than pure.

12. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

The fantasy world of Malazan is full of discontent thanks to innumerable wars, bitter infighting, and gory confrontations. Empress Laseen’s imperial legions, thought inured to the bloodshed, are looking for a break. But her rule is absolute, enforced by her dreaded Claw assassins. As the Empress turns her site to new battles, the gods themselves are getting ready for a little interference.

13. The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Roland Deschain of Gilead is the Last Gunslinger. He is a mysterious figure on a quest through a desolate fantasy world in pursuit of the man in black. Roland is a good man, yet he leaves death in his wake. The man in black, on the other hand, can bring the dead back to life.

14. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ged is the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but he was called Sparrowhawk in his youth. It was as Sparrowhawk that the terrible shadow was loosed upon the world. Ged must master the mighty word of power, tame an ancient dragon, and cross death’s threshold to restore balance to his world.

15. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Over 800 pages of world-building, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell tells the tale of English magicians who have lost their ability to perform magic. That is, until a reclusive magician regains some powers. He is soon in demand for his powers and all is fine until a rival magician shows up—Jonathan Strange.

16. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra rushes to the cold North where witch clans and armored bears rule—and where Gobblers take children, including her friend Roger. Lyra’s fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world, but Lyra is one small girl. Can she make a difference in this great and terrible endeavor?

17. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

In a world where the king’s evil is unending, can Eragon and the fledgling dragon navigate the treacherous terrain and the vast, dark enemies? Can Eragon take up the fight of the legendary Dragon Riders? Thrust into a world of destiny, magic, and power, Eragon realizes the fate of the empire may rest in his hands.

18. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

The first in the Sword of Truth series, Wizard’s First Rule starts with the murder of Richard Cypher’s father. Suddenly a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard’s forest. She needs help—and more. Will Richard find the courage to challenge those who hold dominion?

19. The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Who doesn’t love the mystical, magical legend of King Arthur? In The Once and Future King, a young lad called "Wart" comes under the tutelage of Merlyn the wizard to create an amazing future. Wart will ally himself with the greatest knights of the realm, love a legendary queen, and unite a country under chivalrous values. He will be Arthur, King of the Britons.

20. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

In the Kingdom of Isles, to the forest on the shore comes an orphan, Pug, to study with the magician, Kulgan. He may have won the heart of the lovely Princess, but normal wizardry leaves him cold. However, his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who open space-time to begin again an old battle between Order and Chaos.

21. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Jorg Ancrath, who was once a privileged royal child raised by a loving mother, has become the Prince of Thorns, an immoral boy who leads a band of outlaws. The entire fantasy world is in chaos, and Jorg can rule the living and the dead, but something even more horrifying confronts him. He must face the horrors of his childhood and carve a better future for himself.

22. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Featuring a cast of gods who are almost washed up, American Gods tells the tale of power waxing and waning in the modern age. When war with modern gods crops up its evil head, Shadow Moon encounters Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee, a former god, and the king of America.

23. The Black Company by Glen Cook

The Black Company was an influence in Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice and just for that reference deserves to be read. Is the newly risen Lady the force standing between humankind and evil—or is she evil itself? The stoic, hard men of the Black Company do their job until the prophecy is proven: The White Rose has been reborn, embodying good once more.

24. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

The one real world, Amber, casts infinite shadow worlds of itself those with royal blood can manipulate. But when the royal family is torn apart by the disappearance of patriarch Oberon, the crown is up for grabs and amnesia strikes Corwin, the Crown Prince of Amber—even the fact he is the rightful heir to the throne.

25. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

What fantasy list would be complete without the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling? Harry discovers he has magical powers and is sent to the wizarding school Hogwarts to develop them. Once there, he uncovers a secret object hidden in the castle walls, which Harry must prevent from falling into evil hands.

Final thoughts

So many other titles should be on the list but weren’t. What’s your favorite fantasy novel we left off? Let us know in the comments below so we can get the definitive list going.

Have you ever dreamed of writing your own fantasy novel? We have a free book that can help:

The Novel Writing Training Plan: 19 steps to get your ideas in shape for the marathon of writing

The Novel Writing Training Plan

Note: the links on this page are affiliate links, so if you buy any of the books, you are supporting the evolution of ProWritingAid at no extra cost to you - whoop!

Want to see which novels made our other lists?

Subscribe for writing hacks, special offers and free stuff
We will not share your details
Your Personal Writing Coach

Join over a million writers who already use our editing tool

Try it for free!
ProWritingAid
Have you tried  ProWritingAid  yet? What are you waiting for? It's the best tool for making sure your copy is strong, clear, and error-free!
Kathy Edens
Copywriter, ghostwriter, and content strategy specialist

Kathy Edens is a blogger, a ghost writer, and content master who loves writing about anything and everything. Check out her books: The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing and Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore... or Despise.

Great list; I have read quite a few and look forward to reading the ones that I haven't. I would like to add: The Hobbit deserves to be on there before The Fellowship of the Ring Also, The Magicians' Guild trilogy The Amulet of Samarkand series The Shannara Chronicles is a pretty good series as well
By contact.akshat.sehgal on 31 October 2018, 06:46 PM
wizard's first rule directly stole, so it does not belong
By durwintercontact on 05 March 2019, 06:50 PM
You left out Jim Butcher's "The Furies of Calderon"
By smges53 on 08 March 2019, 04:43 AM
There are quite a few on the list that I'd kick off in favor of Peter Beagle's "The Last Unicorn" and David Gemmell's Drenai novels.
By jeffbot on 12 March 2019, 11:25 PM
So many great reads on this list, however I would add Barry Hughart's Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, for an eastern flavor. In addition, a follow on series to Feist's Magician series is one that Janny Wurts wrote that was the other side of the coin from the Magician series. Eli Monpress by Rachael Aron is a great caper series as well. The Peter Grant series by Ben Aaaronvitch is marketing as Harry Potter grows up to be a cop in London, but that is nowhere near doing it justice. And lastly, I humbly submit to you, David Eddings. The Belgariad and Mallorean (the original and it's follow up series) are old friends that I re-read every other year. My buddy and I actually wrote some fan fiction about a missing 48 hours in the 7th book, King of the Murgos.
By culer5 on 12 March 2019, 11:46 PM
Surprised to see Game of Thrones at the top of this list. I read the first book of the series and had no desire to continue reading the rest. George is an excellent writer so no issues there. The problem is the book feels like a soap opera adopted for literary form, and manages to strike a balance between machismo and drama that reels readers in. But the books feel too much like a well crafted (but cheap) soap opera to be at the top of a best fantasy list. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks the Game of Thrones isn't the pinnacle of fantasy, as evidenced by multiple, popular insightful negative reviews on Goodreads.
By gibby.grant1 on 17 March 2019, 04:43 AM
I can see your perspective on Game of Thrones but the first novel feels like a nice breath of fresh air to many of us readers. I've always loved fantasy novels, but I always hated the grandiose exposition and shoehorned world-building that most fantasy novels tend to do. And for an adult read, this is one of the few that doesn't aggravate me by forcing me to create a dictionary and a small book of all I've been taught about things that are literal parallels to real life with a revamped cool name instead. I would be interested to know your novel reads. Most of the previous suggested are ones I both enjoyed and loved at the time, especially Jim Butcher's and the Amulet of Samarkand series, but was blown away by what fantasy novels could be because of GoT. But out of all Tolkien's work, I've really only enjoyed the Hobbit and most of the Silmarillion, as a preface.
By jimbolame on 24 March 2019, 07:40 AM
The Belgariad might deserve a spot. I wasn't the biggest fan of the plot, but it has good characterisations and is well written.
By greenraiden on 29 March 2019, 11:52 PM
The Belgariad... classic
By ALEXECK on 30 March 2019, 03:40 AM
R.A. Salvators Book Series with Drizzt is a personal favorite of mine. It does seem under appreciated in most lists that I look at.
By bigalaskadave on 30 March 2019, 08:09 PM
Where's the Outlander series???!!! If you haven't read it, I'd say get thee to a bookseller now!
By kirstenmlindquist on 03 April 2019, 03:18 PM
In it's stand alone genre of Romance fantasy it is the best. Not a top 25 fantasy when you narrow the list though.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:24 PM
The only competition i'm aware of is urban fantasy writer Laurell K Hamilton.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:25 PM
Honestly Australian author Kate Forsyth and her witches of eileanan series is one of the best written fantasy novel series I’ve ever read. I regard it in the same leagues as the magician and the name of the wind.
By Sneakers2540 on 21 May 2019, 12:17 AM
You've sold me on trying out K. Forsyth. Name of the wind is at top 5 for me.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:21 PM
I liked Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun more then most on this list.
By nukedukem on 25 May 2019, 05:18 PM
Lots to add: Red Moon and Black Mountain; The Well at the World’s End; The Last Unicorn; Lud in the Mist; War in Heaven; the Deryni series, and cetera!
By Mes314159 on 06 June 2019, 04:14 AM
amazing. great work. https://www.glowaglitter.com
By glowaglitter on 06 June 2019, 04:19 PM
The fact that The Sword of Truth books appear on this list makes me question your sanity. The first one is decent, but still terrible.
By sjohansen0 on 13 June 2019, 09:00 PM
A direct theft of several other stories. His stories get better as the books continue IMO. Much like Ice wind dale, or Dragon lance, the SoT is fun for a 16 year old, but hard to read as an adult. Just my 2 cents.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:23 PM
Well I must be naive because I am shocked that there's no Sara Douglass, no David Gemmell, no Isobelle Carmody... especially the lack of BattleAxe, many components of which George Martin "borrowed" (Sara Douglass is deceased so... no lawsuit). Perhaps my Australian bubble has made me think those authors are just as iconic externally when they aren't. I suggest that anyone who hasn't read them should do so - their literature is timeless.
By nashi86 on 14 June 2019, 06:33 AM
I was looking for “The Well at the Worlds End”, by William Morris. Dig deep for this one, as it was written sometime in the mid to late 1800s. I came upon it accidentally while searching for free books on Kindle.
By Sealawj on 21 July 2019, 04:52 PM
Dragonlance gets no love!!
By erikbiscoerbny on 07 August 2019, 10:11 PM
Simplistic and fun novels with no real sense of scope or danger. They are still worth reading though.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:20 PM
The Dragon Bone Chair and subsequent books by Tad Williams I put these right under Tolkein Also The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephenson R. Donaldson
By penni.mckinley5 on 11 August 2019, 01:30 AM
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann is a great series, I would recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy.
By zsmi8646 on 03 September 2019, 03:26 PM
I've just started to read fantasy so I look forward to reading those on this list. I must recommend 'The Last Wish' by Andrez Sapkosky as it is the book that enticed me in to fantasy novels.
By archie.fenn on 07 September 2019, 10:46 PM
One you missed is Belgariad series by David Eddings
By Barmace on 16 September 2019, 04:09 PM
Where is Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles series and Invention series....have just reread them....still a fantastic read
By dianehenderson2008 on 18 September 2019, 05:31 PM
David Gemmell deserves a spot somewhere on this list. He has so many outstanding books.
By Joseph.larsson on 23 September 2019, 05:18 PM