Tanner Greenring / BuzzFeed
1. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
It’s not an understatement to say that this is the very best fantasy series currently underway. It’s only two books in at the moment (well, two and a half), so it’s a perfect time to jump in and get started. A rich and compelling story of a brilliant young man’s rise to become a legendary magician, framed by a present where he is middle-aged and seemingly powerless.
2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
Another series that only has two books so far, so now’s the time to get involved. The one issue is that they’re BIG books, so the two Stormlight Archives feel more like four books. Luckily, they’re incredible, so you’ll tear through them. RIYL: really big swords, sorcery, and massive battle sequences.
3. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire, the series that A Game of Thrones belongs to, is a modern classic. If you enjoy the HBO show, you owe it to yourself to read the books. (Just be prepared for this thing to start real tight and end up sprawling.)
4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’re reading a list of the best fantasy books, there’s like a 0% chance you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings books already, but just in case you somehow haven’t, you should. Required reading. Prerequisite for all fantasy.
5. The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks
Orbit Books Orbit Books
Solid fantasy books with an intricate and fascinating system of magic. A little bit like how the power rings work in the Green Lantern comic books, except set in a fantasy world.
6. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Classic storybook fantasy full of witches, magic animal companions, and badass polar bears covered in armor. These books skew a little younger, but are still fun to read for adults as well.
7. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Discworld isn’t a traditional fantasy cycle, but more of a fantasy-themed and generally humorous collection of books, short stories, encyclopedias, and maps. There are 40 books in eight different storylines, so it’s quite an undertaking. Sadly, Terry Pratchett died earlier this year, and the final Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, is expected to hit shelves this fall.
8. The First Law by Joe Abercrombie
As violent, gritty, and unpredictable as Game of Thrones, but with more heart, humor, and sense of play. This series will draw you in immediately and make you fall in love with its troubled, complicated lead characters.
9. The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
Elves, Dark Lords, and quests to retrieve mythical swords in order to vanquish said Dark Lords. These are classic, epic fantasy books that feel an awful lot like the Lord of the Rings series at times, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Lord of the Rings books are, after all, very, very good indeed.
10. Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
Harper Colins Publisher en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_V._Brett
A “hero’s journey” told through several protagonists and settings. As its name implies, the Demon Cycle exists in a complex and fascinating world where humans and demons are forced to live at constant odds with one another, and explores what happens when humans finally take a stand.
11. The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
Del Rey Stepheng3
Set in a world akin to northwestern Europe, and with royalty disguised as commoners, talkative ghosts, and star-crossed lovers, The Riddle Master Trilogy feels a bit like a contemporary fantasy equivalent to some of Shakespeare’s stories. (But with shape-shifting monsters, magic, and, yes, lots of riddles.)
12. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
The heart of this series is in the intricate and cleverly deployed system of magic that powers it. Allomancers have different abilities tied to different metals, and there is a real thrill in watching the characters learn and master their craft and combine forces as they attempt to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive regime.
13. Gentlemen Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch
Thieves, pirates, and a beautifully planned series of heists that are a delight to watch unfold. This series is not without its share of heartbreak and loss, but the tribulations of its protagonists are tempered with a joyful sense of mischief, cunning, and a fair amount of swashbuckling. Oceans 11 meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Robin Hood.
14. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
A vividly imagined world where gods are slaves and nothing is as it seems. Author N.K. Jemisin deftly subverts all the old fantasy tropes in the course of creating a beautiful, rich world full of intriguing characters and dazzling moments that will leave you wanting more.
15. Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Epic tales of the sea and pirate stories…except all the ships are magical and sentient and sort of have minds of their own at times. The thinking “liveships” carry with them generations of collected wisdom and often have as much rich characterization as the human characters aboard them.
16. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
You’ve probably never heard of these little-known books from British author J.K. Rowling. But this well-kept secret is actually a wonderful series of books that deserves much more recognition than it gets. OK, let’s be real: If you are the one person who hasn’t read these yet, just do yourself a favor. Read them now. Right now. No more excuses.
17. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind