The Top Ten Fantasy Novels of All Time
Fantasy is one of the most popular genres in literature. Alternative worlds where the impossible is possible and where daily lives are governed by magic, mysticism, and other supernatural phenomena have fascinated readers for generations. This article presents the works of these authors, the ten greatest novels of the genre. These novels not only inspired countless readers, but also launched entire franchises, expanding into games, films, and other media.
10. The Belgariad (series)
Author: David Eddings
"The Belgariad" is a formulaic series, but what sets it apart from other titles is the realism and sly humor that David Eddings brings to his characters. The farmers, knights, sorcerers, kings and rogues that populate the world of Aloria and its neighboring kingdoms are fleshed out convincingly. The novels tell of Garion, a farm boy who is destined to defeat the Mad God, Torak, and reclaim the throne as king of the island of Riva. One of the more popular fantasy writers of the 1980s, David Eddings continues to captivate younger audiences with his fictional worlds. “The Belgariad” is a perfect introduction for new fans of adult fantasy.
Author: Raymond E. Feist
"Magician" is the first installment of the Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist. “Magician” is also published in two parts in the US: "Magician: Apprentice" and "Magician: Master." This epic fantasy is the quintessential sword & sorcery novel. Sword & sorcery is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses more on magic and combat, usually in a medieval setting. This story is about an apprentice magician who catches the eye of a princess, but gets caught in the eternal conflict between Order and Chaos. This classic, uncomplicated story is given a freshness only an author like Feist can pull off.
8. Wizard’s First Rule
Author: Terry Goodkind
The first book of the lengthy "Sword of Truth" series, Terry Goodkind wrote the novel in a way so that it can be read either as a stand-alone novel or as part of a series. Subsequent books of the series are also made the same way. The novels in the "Sword of Truth" series each focus on one "Wizard’s Rule." The first novel, as its title implies, focuses on the first rule that wizards learn. The hero of this novel is a woodsman, pitting his sword against his enemy, a menacing dark ruler. "Wizard’s First Rule" is written for an adult audience, as depicted by the novel’s many erotic scenes.
7. The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
"The Golden Compass," titled “Northern Lights” in the UK, is the first in the superb "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman. The story was written as a children’s novel, but adults find it highly entertaining and engaging as well. It has an intricate plot, focused on a girl, Lyra Belacqua, and her “daemon” Pantalaimon, an entity manifested by her soul. They set out to the far North to rescue her friend Roger, who is kidnapped by a shadowy group called the Gobblers. Set in an alternative world teeming with magic and shadow, the novel features highly-developed characters and outstanding plot developments. “The Golden Compass” won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 1995 and was selected as one of the most important children’s novels in the past 70 years. It has also been recently made into a film by New Line Cinema.
6. A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
Author: George R. R. Martin
This yet-to-be-concluded series consists of seven volumes, with four currently in publication. "A Song of Ice and Fire" is intended for serious fantasy readers, as Martin uses complicated plots and lengthy chapters. In the first novel, "The Game of Thrones," a winter that lasts for decades serves as a background for two families struggling for control of the Iron Throne, the stewardship of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Based on the War of the Roses, a historical conflict in medieval England, "A Song of Ice and Fire" emphasizes the value of sword over sorcery and features complicated characters. Martin is hailed by “Time” magazine as “the American Tolkien” for his novels.
5. The Hobbit
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
This precursor of the legendary "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is a great novel in its own right. The epic tale of the "War of the Ring" was preceded by a delightful story of Bilbo Baggins, an unassuming hobbit that was sent into an adventure of a lifetime. With the help of Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, and a band of dwarves, the simple hobbit discovers his true strengths.
4. The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
Author: C. S. Lewis
"The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" was written by C. S. Lewis as the first volume of the "Chronicles of Narnia" series of fantasy books (although chronologically, this book is second in the series, after "The Magician’s Nephew"). It tells about the Pevensie children, four English siblings who stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia through a portal located in an enchanted wardrobe. In Narnia, they meet the golden lion Aslan and help him fight the Witch and restore the land cursed by an eternal winter. "The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" is one of the most popular novels for young readers. The book was recently made into a film by Walt Disney.
3. The Wheel of Time (series)
Author: Robert Jordan
"The Wheel of Time" is an exhaustive fantasy epic written by Robert Jordan. The first book, "The Eye of the World," was published in 1990. The story revolves around the Third Age, where myths and legends place existence and time under threat. Three men start a quest to right the wrong after their peaceful village was attacked. "The Wheel of Time" itself is a spinning “Pattern of the Ages” where all fate - and the lives of all men and women - are intertwined. The series is notable for its length.
"The Wheel of Time" series was planned to have twelve books, plus prequels and short stories. Unfortunately, Jordan died before completing the twelfth and final novel, "A Memory of Light." Brandon Sanderson, another prolific fantasy writer, is under commission by Jordan’s estate to finish the novel. "A Memory of Light" is yet to be published.
2. Harry Potter (series)
Author: J. K. Rowling
The "Harry Potter" series is one of the most successful children’s fantasy series of recent times and a worldwide franchise phenomenon. When the first "Harry Potter" book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone," was published in 1997, it delighted millions of children and grownups alike all over the world. The series focuses on Harry Potter, whose mundane London life was forever changed when he found out that his parents – long dead – were in fact powerful wizards. Even more surprising, it’s his turn to become a wizard himself, as he is summoned into a school of wizardry known as Hogwarts. The "Harry Potter" franchise has proven to be a successful hit, catapulted by the "Harry Potter" films made by Warner Bros.
The 7 books of the Harry Potter series
1. The Lord of the Rings (series)
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Regarded as the epitome of modern fantasy, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy launched a renewed interest in the genre and a new generation of fantasy authors and readers. Years after Bilbo’s adventures in "The Hobbit," another hobbit finds himself in the middle of an age-old battle between good, evil, and a Ring that rules them all. Before a council of elves, dwarves, and men, Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s heir, is given the task of bringing the Ring to the Cracks of Doom and destroy it there. Accompanied by a fellowship made up of the different Free Races, Frodo journeys into the heart of evil for the sake of good. A highly-successful film series was made by New Line Cinema and directed by Peter Jackson. The last installment, "The Return of the King," garnered 11 Oscars at the 2004 Academy Awards, winning all categories in which it was nominated.
The 3 books of The Lord of the Rings series
Aside from the great works listed above, other highly-regarded fantasy novels are the following: "The Sword of Shannara" (Terry Brooks, 1977); "A Wizard at Earthsea" (Ursula LeGuin, 1968); "The Dark Tower" series (Stephen King, 1982); "Dark Elf" trilogy (R. A. Salvatore, 1990); and "The Farseer" trilogy (Robin Hobb, 1995).
If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll surely enjoy learning how to write a novel.
* Fantasy novels can be exciting, but some people have difficulty reaching the end, or even the climax of the book. If you’re finding a book too cumbersome and too lengthy, you should try these tips on how to finish a lengthy novel.