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The Ultimate Quest: A Journey through the 30 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time and 30 Contemporary Gems That Are Conjuring Their Own Magic

best fantasy books

Welcome, bookworms, fantasy aficionados, and every casual reader who’s ever yearned for a bit of magic in their life (the literary kind, though we’re not against a sprinkle of real-life pixie dust, either). Whether you’re a lifelong fan of Gandalf’s firework shows, you’ve been drawn to the political machinations of Westeros, or you’ve lost yourself in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, there’s a kind of irreplaceable magic in a good fantasy tale that other genres simply can’t muster. It’s that tantalizing hint of the impossible, the adventurous spirit of the unknown, and the secret yearning for dragons, elves, and unicorns that keep us turning the pages.

This list, dearest reader, is for all of you who’ve ever sought refuge in imaginary realms, in enchanted forests, in parallel universes, and in dark, dystopian futures that teeter between magic and mayhem. Here we’ve curated an enchanted list of fantasy novels, split into two categories: our All-Time Best Fantasy Novels that helped shape the genre and continue to cast a long, wizardly shadow over every story that followed; and Bestselling Contemporary/Modern Fantasy Novels, the freshest blooms in the garden of fantasy literature, that have delighted, shocked, and wowed us in the recent years.

Each pick comes complete with a nifty summary and its publication date, handy for the curious, the academics, and the trivia enthusiasts among you. These pages have seen wars waged, monsters fought, quests completed, and yes, many a dragon slain (or befriended!). Let this be your call to adventure, your portal into other worlds, your map through the misty mountains of high fantasy. Come, let’s embark on an unforgettable journey, one book at a time…

best fantasy books

30 Greatest Fantasy Novels of All Time

  1. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954) – An epic fantasy tale of a quest to destroy a powerful ring that could end the world, featuring complex characters, detailed lore, and a richly crafted world.
  2. “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin (1996 – ongoing) – A multi-POV epic fantasy featuring political intrigue, brutal battles, and a large cast of deeply flawed characters in the land of Westeros.
  3. “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling (1997 – 2007) – Follows the journey of young wizard Harry Potter and his friends as they attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, while facing the dark sorcerer who threatens their world.
  4. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis (1950 – 1956) – A series of seven fantasy novels set in the magical world of Narnia, where animals talk, and good battles evil.
  5. “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan (1990 – 2013) – A fourteen-book series that follows various protagonists in a world of magic, prophecy, and war.
  6. “Discworld” series by Terry Pratchett (1983 – 2015) – A satirical and humorous take on fantasy tropes set in the Discworld, a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle.
  7. “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (1990) – An apocalyptic comedy where an angel and a demon team up to prevent the end of the world.
  8. “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White (1958) – A collection of tales that modernize the legend of King Arthur, exploring themes of war and human nature.
  9. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (1865) – A young girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures.
  10. “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman (2001) – In this modern fantasy, gods and mythical creatures exist because people believe in them, and a war is brewing between the old gods and the new.
  11. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937) – A precursor to the Lord of the Rings, it follows the adventure of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, to win a share of a treasure guarded by a dragon.
  12. “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman (1995 – 2000) – A trilogy that follows young Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon, in a multiverse setting featuring magic, theology, and science.
  13. “The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle (1968) – A unicorn leaves her home in the forest to find out if she is the last of her kind, getting caught up in a series of adventures along the way.
  14. “Watership Down” by Richard Adams (1972) – A group of anthropomorphic rabbits struggle to find and defend a new home, facing numerous dangers along their journey.
  15. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman (1973) – A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love who must battle the evils of the mythical kingdom of Florin to be reunited.
  16. “Earthsea” series by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968 – 2001) – A six-book series set in the archipelago of Earthsea, focusing on magic, balance of power, and gender dynamics.
  17. “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King (1982 – 2004) – A blend of multiple genres, including dark fantasy, it follows a “gunslinger” and his quest towards a tower, the nature of which is both physical and metaphorical.
  18. “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1983) – A retelling of the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the female characters, with a heavy emphasis on pagan religions.
  19. “The Malazan Book of the Fallen” series by Steven Erikson (1999 – 2011) – A high fantasy series known for its complex plotlines, large cast of characters, and detailed world-building.
  20. “The Belgariad” series by David Eddings (1982 – 1984) – A five-book high fantasy saga that follows an orphaned farm boy, Garion, on his quest to fulfill a prophecy of restoring the world’s balance.
  21. “The Gormenghast Trilogy” by Mervyn Peake (1946 – 1959) – Chronicles the life of Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of a city-sized castle of ritualistic, isolated, aristocrats.
  22. “Conan the Barbarian” by Robert E. Howard (1932 – 1936) – An adventurous series following the journeys of the rugged and cunning Conan the Barbarian across the ancient mythical Hyborian Age.
  23. “The Elric Saga” by Michael Moorcock (1972 – 1991) – The series follows Elric, the brooding albino emperor of Melniboné, as he wields the cursed, soul-drinking sword Stormbringer.
  24. “The Black Company” by Glen Cook (1984 – 2000) – A dark military fantasy series, it follows an elite mercenary unit, The Black Company, through numerous epic battles, dangerous quests, and political machinations.
  25. “The Farseer Trilogy” by Robin Hobb (1995 – 1997) – Follows the life of FitzChivalry Farseer (Fitz), a trained assassin, in a kingdom plagued by political turmoil and magical intrigue.
  26. “The Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe (1980 – 1983) – A highly allegorical series set in a far future “Dying Earth”, and follows the journey of Severian, a disgraced journeyman torturer who is exiled and forced to travel to the distant city of Thrax.
  27. “The Riftwar Saga” by Raymond E. Feist (1982 – 1986) – Involves a rift opening between dimensions, pitting two vastly different races against each other: the humans of Midkemia and the Tsurani.
  28. “The Sword of Shannara Trilogy” by Terry Brooks (1977 – 1985) – In a post-apocalyptic Earth, a young man learns that he is the last living member of the House of Shannara, who can wield the Sword of Shannara and confront the Warlock Lord, a former druid turned demon.
  29. “The Inheritance Trilogy” by N.K. Jemisin (2010 – 2011) – A story of gods, mortals, and the power struggles among them, set in a richly-imagined world.
  30. “The First Law Trilogy” by Joe Abercrombie (2006 – 2008) – Set in a world reminiscent of the European Middle Ages, filled with political intrigue, warfare, and gritty characters, where there’s rarely a clear-cut “good” or “evil”.
best fantasy books

30 Bestselling Contemporary/Modern Fantasy Novels

  1. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (2016) – A stage play set 19 years after the events of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, featuring the next generation of Hogwarts students.
  2. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss (2007) – The first of the ‘Kingkiller Chronicle’ trilogy, following the life of the gifted musician and magician Kvothe.
  3. “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern (2011) – A tale of a mysterious and magical circus that operates at night, and the two young magicians who are destined to compete in a deadly game.
  4. “The Kingkiller Chronicle” series by Patrick Rothfuss (2007 – 2011) – A framed narrative featuring the life of Kvothe, a musician, magician, and adventurer, recounting his life’s story to a chronicler.
  5. “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series by Sarah J. Maas (2015 – ongoing) – A young huntress is taken to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie in this series that beautifully blends romance and fantasy.
  6. “Red Queen” series by Victoria Aveyard (2015 – 2018) – A dystopian fantasy series about a world divided by blood color—red for ordinary people, and silver for elites with supernatural abilities.
  7. “The Broken Empire” series by Mark Lawrence (2011 – 2013) – A grimdark trilogy following the life of a charming, ruthless prince as he cuts a bloody swathe across the lands to seize the throne.
  8. “The Stormlight Archive” series by Brandon Sanderson (2010 – ongoing) – High fantasy series set in the storm-ravaged world of Roshar, it explores a complex system of magic in Sanderson’s cosmere universe.
  9. “Mistborn” series by Brandon Sanderson (2006 – 2016) – A high fantasy trilogy where the hero failed and the dark lord reigns, features a unique metal-based magic system and complex political intrigue.
  10. “The Inheritance Trilogy” by N.K. Jemisin (2010 – 2011) – A high fantasy series set in a world where gods walk alongside mortals, focusing on themes of power, oppression, and revenge.
  11. “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman (2009 – 2014) – A series that follows Quentin Coldwater, who discovers that magic is real and becomes a student at Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy.
  12. “Shadow and Bone” series by Leigh Bardugo (2012 – 2014) – A young orphan Alina discovers she is a Grisha, who has the power to create light, which could change the fate of her war-torn world.
  13. “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins (2008 – 2010) – A dystopian fantasy trilogy set in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where children from various districts are selected to participate in a compulsory televised death match.
  14. “The Witcher” series by Andrzej Sapkowski (1993 – 1999) – Follows the story of Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, in a world filled with wicked creatures and moral ambiguity.
  15. “The Percy Jackson and The Olympians” series by Rick Riordan (2005 – 2009) – A series where young demigod Percy Jackson embarks on a journey across the United States to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods.
  16. “Iron Druid Chronicles” by Kevin Hearne (2011 – 2018) – Urban fantasy series featuring Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the druids, and his adventures battling gods and monsters in modern-day Arizona.
  17. “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman (2013) – A standalone novel about a man who returns to his hometown to attend a funeral and recalls the terrifying events and mysterious creatures he encountered as a child.
  18. “The Dresden Files” series by Jim Butcher (2000 – ongoing) – Chronicles the story of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I., solving supernatural mysteries.
  19. “Rivers of London” series by Ben Aaronovitch (2011 – ongoing) – Follows Peter Grant, a young officer in the Metropolitan Police, who becomes a part of a small branch dealing with magic and the supernatural.
  20. “Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J. Maas (2012 – 2018) – The series follows the journey of Celaena Sardothien, a teenage assassin in a corrupt kingdom, who becomes the king’s champion and uncovers a series of dark secrets.
  21. “The Lightbringer Series” by Brent Weeks (2010 – 2019) – In a world where magic is based on the spectrum of light, the prism is the one who can control all colors. But when he discovers he has a son, his world starts to unravel.
  22. “Nevernight Chronicle” by Jay Kristoff (2016 – 2019) – In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
  23. “An Ember in the Ashes” series by Sabaa Tahir (2015 – 2020) – In a brutal world inspired by ancient Rome, a slave and a soldier discover their destinies are intertwined as they fight a corrupt empire.
  24. “Six of Crows” duology by Leigh Bardugo (2015 – 2016) – Set in a world inspired by Tsarist Russia, where magic and science coexist, the story revolves around a dangerous heist led by a band of misfits.
  25. “The Poppy War” series by R.F. Kuang (2018 – 2020) – A grim, dark series that explores the horrors of war and the cost of power, revolving around a war orphan who studies at an elite military school.
  26. “The City of Brass” trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty (2017 – 2020) – Follows a clever con artist Nahri who accidentally summons a mysterious djinn during one of her schemes and is whisked off to the city of Daevabad, a city to enchant, fascinate, and ignite a deadly political war.
  27. “The Shades of Magic” series by V.E. Schwab (2015 – 2017) – A trilogy about parallel Londons, each with varying amounts of magic, and a magician who can travel between them.
  28. “Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir (2019) – The first in a series blending fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, it follows the journey of the titular Gideon as she gets involved in a deadly, interstellar game of intrigue and secrets.
  29. “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon (2019) – A standalone high fantasy novel about a world divided, and the women who unite it.
  30. “The Wayward Children” series by Seanan McGuire (2016 – ongoing) – A series of novellas that explores what happens to the children who return from portal fantasy worlds like Narnia or Wonderland.

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