Reading fantasy is an intense yet jovial experience. Some of the most memorable works of literature are fantasy, from Harry Potter to The Golden Compass. For those looking to delve into the genre, here are some essentials to help you get started. This collection ranges from the origins of the genre to books published within the past decade.
1. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The fantasy series that started it all! Tolkien’s work still remains at the top of the game over seventy years after it’s publication. The characters you love to root for, an overly evil villain who keeps us entertained, and Tolkien’s beautiful worldmaking and imagery make this series timeless. Every fantasy author writes in Tolkien’s shadow yet the fun medievel-esque world mixed with omnipresent problems has never been matched.
2. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
This coming-of-age story mixes first and third person point-of-view which you must put together to form the real story of Kvothe. In a world full of magicians, Kvothe’s power reigns supreme. But the mystery is… who is he?
3. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin
Lord of the Rings had never been matched for its scope and interesting characters until Game of Thrones was released. This series brought fantasy back to the mainstream. Martin’s world was deeply inspired by Tolkien’s, with a focus on the moral greyness of heroes and villains. Similar to real life, no one is just pure good or pure evil in these novels.
4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
I’m sure you’ve heard of the series, but not everyone has read it! For those who have never thought to dive into the books, do not pass them up. Rowling famously started writing the series on a napkin whenever she was on a train. Her love of the story shows as the 7-book series is an expertly crafted bildungsroman of a class of young witches and wizards dealing with their own problems while trying to rid the world of pure evil (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named).
5. Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
In Sanderson’s novel, the world is ruled by an immortal dictator and shrouded in ash where flowers and hope cannot grow. Our protagonist, Kelsier, is a theif who recently discovers his powers as a Mistbron. Using these newfound powers, he escapes from prison with a plan on gathering his old criminal friends together to bring down the brutal empire.
6. Dune by Frank Herbert
Despite taking place on distant planets in the future, this science-fiction/fantasy concoction explores universal problems we are currently dealing with: religion, politics, relationships, and technology – but on a grander scale. Books like Dune prove that although fantasy can take place in a different timeline or galaxy, they are so great due for their dealing with our problems in a more interesting light.
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This Hugo-award winning novel by contemporary giant, Neil Gaiman, blends mythology, Americana, and fantasy to create this epic masterpiece. The American Gods series follows the story of bounty-hunter Shadow. Intertwining narratives, mythology, and critiques of American history prove that this is not just a story about one man and his journeys, but a multi-level epic.
8. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
Another book that deals with mythology, The Wheel of Time series spans 14 novels with characters who must make their way after all they have ever known is attacked and destroyed by beasts. This is a long read but the beauty is in the details, so you’ll be immersed the whole time.
9. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Fantasy has a sense of childhood wonder and joy which is at its best in CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Whether it’s finding a whole new world in a wardrobe, talking lions, or magical rings, the children in these novels always create a magically fun time between the covers of these books.
10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This fantasy love story is an eclectic tour-de-force. You will laugh, you will root for Buttercup and Westley to reconnect, and you will be greatly entertained by grand sword fights. There’s also quite an honorable revenge story. Everyone in this story has massive character and purpose.
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