Top 10 Fantasy Books
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Clayton Martino.
These are the stories where the things from our imaginations come to life! Join http://www.WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 fantasy books. For this list, we are looking specifically at novels in the fantasy genre and not the sci-fi genre, as those novels are for another list. We are also looking at entire series, not specific novels, unless the series consists of just one book.
Special thanks to our users cantstopmydreams, Nicholas Aysen, Leo Lazar Jakšić and yiannstah for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Clayton Martino.
Top 10 Fantasy Books
These are the stories where the things from our imaginations come to life! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 fantasy books.
For this list, we are looking specifically at novels in the fantasy genre and not the sci-fi genre, as those novels are for another list. We are also looking at entire series, not specific novels, unless the series consists of just one book. However, we’re excluding Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” series, as it’s really more sci-fi than fantasy.
#10: “American Gods” (2001)
The winner of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, this 2001 novel by Neil Gaiman brought mythological gods to the modern world. The novel incorporates gods from many of the ancient pantheons, and features many subplots about how these gods came to America. The main story follows the protagonist Shadow and his role in the developing war between the new gods, who represent modern greed, and the old gods, who are struggling to exist in a world that no longer believes in them, an allegory for today’s society.
#9: “Discworld” series (1983-)
Who said fantasy had to be serious? The “Discworld” series, written by Terry Pratchett, parodies many common fantasy tropes and features one of the most creative world designs in the fantasy genre. The world is – go figure – a flat disc, which is poised atop the backs of a group of elephants, all of whom stand on the Great A’Tuin, a giant turtle. The incredibly complex realm is filled with witches, wizards, zombies, trolls, and a police force called the City Watch that consists of odd beings like trolls, zombies and vegetarian werewolves. Most of the 40 “Discworld” novels tend to be thrillers or murder mysteries, with plenty of satire thrown in for good measure.
#8: “The Wheel of Time” (1990-2013)
Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
One of the most famous fantasy series ever, “The Wheel of Time” is renowned for its sophisticated scheme of magic, which works in perfect cohesion with its incredibly comprehensive unreal world. The universe is controlled by the Wheel of Time, which has seven sections, each of which denotes a specific era in world history. Written by Jordan until his 2007 death, then taken over by longtime fan Sanderson, the series follows the main characters in their attempt to unify the various territories of the world against the Dark One. While the traditional good-versus-evil theme is present in the 14 novels, this series also explores themes like gender roles and destiny-versus-free will.
#7: “The Once and Future King” (1958)
T. H. White
T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” first published in 1958, further enhanced the famous Arthurian legend. The series chronicles the life of King Arthur, including his initial training from Merlin, his rule as king, and his relationship with Queen Guinevere. The final novel ends with Arthur en route to face his son Mordred in battle. White differs from other authors in that he gives the already known Arthurian characters multifaceted personalities and goals, even changing Lancelot from a handsome knight to an ugly sadist, a character flaw he tries to overcome throughout the series.
#6: “The Chronicles of Narnia” (1950-56)
C. S. Lewis
Narnia is one of the most famous fictional worlds in literature, full of talking animals, terrifying beasts, and magic. While “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the most famous book, the series actually consists of seven novels. The main human protagonists of the series are the four Pevensie siblings, who are magically transported to the world when Aslan, the god-like lion, needs to protect Narnia from evil. Famous for exploring themes like gender and race, this series stands as an allegory for Christianity, which has sold over 100 million copies.
#5: “His Dark Materials” (1995-2000)
Like our previous entry, “His Dark Materials” has actually received criticism for its portrayal of Christianity, though in the case of Philip Pullman’s novel, that portrayal has been seen as less-than-positive. Nevertheless, it’s a famously popular series consisting of three different novels set across parallel worlds. The trilogy centers on Lyra Belacqua, considered the second Eve, and follows her as she grows from childhood to womanhood. While the story consists of many fantasy elements, including armored polar bears and witches, it also acts as a reinvention of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” and alludes to ideas from theology and philosophy.
#4: “The Dark Tower” series (1982-2012)
“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Anyone who’s read this vast legend by one of our generation’s most popular and prolific authors knows those as its opening words. Beginning with 1982’s “The Gunslinger,” King began dabbling in fantasy; tying together many of his previously created worlds into one. The series follows Roland Deschain, the last living member of the knight order called the “gunslingers.” Roland travels across Mid-World’s post-apocalyptic landscape to find the heart of all universes, The Dark Tower, which he must protect to essentially save the world. Consisting of genre-bending eight books, King describes the series as his magnum opus.
#3: “A Song of Ice and Fire” (1996-)
George R. R. Martin
An epic fantasy series in the truest sense of the definition, “A Song of Ice and Fire” follows the events that occur on the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos. Martin’s epic incorporates numerous fantasy elements, including spells, people coming back from the dead and dragons; but in general it favors realism over magic, and has received critical acclaim for its story and characters. Inspired by real historical events, like the War of the Roses, Martin abandoned the good versus evil trope in favor of realistic characters whose motivations change frequently and who can die at any moment.
#2: “Harry Potter” series (1997-2007)
J. K. Rowling
[Philosopher’s Stone “You’re a wizard, Harry”] With those four words, the lives of one young boy and an entire generation changed forever. J.K. Rowling’s magical world captured imaginations when the first novel was released in 1997. Growing up with the children who read it, the series follows Harry Potter, his adventures through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and his quest to defeat the Dark wizard Voldemort. While it touched on subjects like the value of friendship and loyalty, it also explored the serious themes of corruption, death, and prejudice. Despite being rejected by eight publishers, the fantasy epic became one of the best-selling book series in history.
Before we open the pages on our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” (2005-09)
- “The Princess Bride” (1973)
- “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900)
L. Frank Baum
- “Outlander” series (1991-)
- “The Witcher” series (1986-)
#1: “The Lord of the Rings” (1954-55)
J. R. R. Tolkien
The one book to rule them all. This epic fantasy novel started its life as a sequel to “The Hobbit,” but with over 150-million copies sold through the years, it ended up becoming one of the best-selling series of its kind ever. “The Lord of the Rings” follows Frodo Baggins’ attempt to destroy the One Ring and defeat the Dark Lord Sauron, while the free folk of Middle-Earth try to withstand an all-out assault from Mordor. Taking place in a sweeping fictional landscape that hosted a wealth of colorful races and characters, the series had a huge impact on the fantasy genre, with Tolkien’s characters, themes, and world influencing countless authors in the years to come.
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite fantasy book? For more epic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.