The great thing about the fantasy and science fiction genres is that the authors make the rules. That means reality doesn’t have to get in the way of a idea. Authors use this power to create huge worlds and write powerful plots. They also use it to make up totally sweet fortresses – which brings us to the point of this very important list.
In this list, we’re sharing the 10 most totally awesome fortresses ever to grace the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. If we left out your favorite, lay siege to the comments section.
Barad-dûr, Sauron’s fortress in Mordor, is a pretty impressive structure. But really all of Mordor should get credit for being a fortress – the whole evil land is ringed by big mountains, and getting in requires attacking the Black Gate or dealing with the giant spider Shelob. Mordor’s mountain “walls” were created by volcanoes, which gives this fortress extra coolness points.
Caemlyn / The Inner City
From the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
What’s better than one wall? Two, of course! Caemlyn is a large walled city in Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series, and it features both a full outer wall and another inner wall. The latter protects the Inner City and the Royal Palace of Andor. It’s far from the only walled city in the series, but its two-tiered style makes it perhaps the most memorable.
From The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
There are a few great castles in Narnia, including the White Witch’s evil tower, which made our list of great castles in fiction. But as far as fortresses go, Cair Paravel – the seat of the kings and queens of Narnia – is probably the most impressive of the lot. That’s not enough to keep it from going through tough times in the series, but that’s all we can say without getting into any spoilers.
Don’tgonearthe Castle (Magpyr Castle)
From the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series lampoons just about every fantasy trope, including the idea of the impenetrable fortress. Among others, there’s Lancre Castle, which is just the opposite of impregnable (its in such disrepair that visitors risk demolishing it when they knock on the doors) and our personal favorite, Don’tgonearthe Castle, named that because you should not go near it. Don’tgonearthe Castle is full of vampires and protected by lots of curses. Of course, its name only draws more tourists in.
Let’s spice things up with a bit of fantasy-horror! Dracula’s castle is one of the most iconic settings in horror, but it’s also a pretty classic fantasy fortress. If you’re feeling brave, by the way, you can visit the real-life castle that supposedly inspired Dracula’s fictional digs.
Eros / Command School
From Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
By the time we see the asteroid Eros in Ender’s Game, it has become a school where Ender trains in isolation. But before that, the Formic race (often called “buggers” in the book) turned the asteroid into one big colony. Marines had to fight for “every inch” of the maze of tunnels the buggers carved throughout the space rock.
From the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
We know that Westeros has a ton of cool castles, but it’s hard to top The Eyrie as fortresses go. Its position at the top of a mountain makes it pretty much unassailable. So far, that’s been enough to keep it from being conquered in George R.R. Martin’s epic series – which is saying a lot, considering how things have gone for some of the series’ other big castles and kingdoms.
The Fortress of Solitude
From the Superman universe, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
With apologies to Batman and his Batcave, we’d argue that no superhero has a cooler base of operations than Superman. The Fortress of Solitude is a little different depending on which Superman comics you’re reading (or which movies you’re watching), but it’s generally huge, made of cool crystals, and hidden somewhere in the Arctic. Superman takes the “solitude” part seriously – in most tellings not even Lois Lane knows the location of the secret base.
The Keep / Arrakeen
From the Dune Series by Frank Herbert
In the world of Dune, “The Keep” is a massive fortress built specifically to intimidate people. Since it’s described in Dune Messiah as being big enough to enclose two cities, we’d guess that it does that job well. The Keep is the Atreides’ home on Arrakis, is in the city of Arrakeen – and Arrakeen itself is protected by Dune’s natural Shield Wall, a natural rock wall near the pole. Put it all together and you have a pretty secure base!
From the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
Star Wars has featured some of the coolest fortresses ever to grace the sci-fi world (Death Star, anyone?), so choosing just one is hard. We’re going with Mount Tantiss, because it figures prominently in some of the best Star Wars books ever written – and this is The Reading Room, after all. A former Rebel base, Mount Tantiss was converted into a secret Imperial storehouse and, later, into the fortress of Dark Jedi Joruus C’Baoth. It’s a maze full of terrible weapons and dangerous relics.