Twenty Must-read Finished Fantasy Epics (part One)

This list aims to provide an introductory overview of the epic fantasy genre and a resource for those who may be interested in reading an epic series but don’t quite know what is available or what might be worth reading.

For this list, we’re only including finished series. This is partly to narrow down the number of possibilities, and partly because we know that some readers prefer to read a whole series to its conclusion without having to wait for new volumes. A list of unfinished epics will be published in the near future.

For the sake of this list, a finished series constitutes three or more books in a sequence with at least one story arc completed. For instance, a finished trilogy counts even if a sequel or prequel series is yet to be completed.

As there are many worthwhile series and this list only has 20 places, it is by no means all-encompassing; inevitably, some worthwhile series will miss out. This is not meant to be an ordered list of the top 20 best fantasy books of all time, it is just meant to provide a basic starting point that caters to differing tastes.

To ensure variety, a number of different sources were consulted for every book on this list. As a result it is unlikely, though not impossible, that every single book on the list will be equally well suited to any one person. For instance, those looking for a gentle introduction may not want to jump straight into Malazanand may be better off selecting one of the other books to start with. However, we feel confident that if you use this list as a starting point, then look a little further into any entries that sound promising, you will have a decent idea of what might appeal to you.

Books that fit primarily into another genre or category (young adult, historical fantasy, etc.) have been excluded from this list and will most likely be appear in future lists. For the sake of variety we have tried to provide a balance between older classics and new favorites, and have also only included one series per author.

So without further ado, enjoy the list! We hope you find something to satisfy your taste for the epic.

1

The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

To start off we have The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Fantasy doesn’t come much bigger or more epic than this ten-volume series, which starts with Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates. Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont have also written a number of  additional stories set in the Malazan Empire. Although this military fantasy may be a little intimidating to newer readers, its complex world, intricate story lines and impressive scope mark it as a must-read for any fantasy aficionado


2

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The Farseer Trilogy is considered one of the great works of character-driven fantasy, complete with a compelling plot, three dimensional characters, strange magics, and countless shades of grey. It’s hard not to get caught up in the world of the Six Duchies. The first in a number of trilogies set in this world, Farseer primarily tells the tale of royal bastard Fitz Chivalry, a young man endowed with a taboo power known as The Wit, which allows him to communicate with animals. Shunned by society, Fitz is secretly trained as a royal assassin. When the Six Duchies come under attack by sinister raiders, he may just be the kingdom’s last hope.


3

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

Starting with Nine Princes in Amber, The Chronicles of Amber revolve around the concept of parallel worlds in which our version of Earth is just one of infinite possibilities. Fighting for dominion over these alternative realities are the two true worlds, Amber, the world of order, and the appropriately named Courts of Chaos. Those that carry the blood of the royal house of Amber may ‘shadow-walk’ through different realities. However, the current scions of Amber are hardly what you’d call a functional family unit. One of the great fantasy epics, Zelazny’s masterpiece is not to be missed.


4

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in modern fantasy, and the Mistborn trilogy is probably his greatest solo work so far. Notable for its unique premise, it starts focusing primarily on what happens to an Empire when the Dark Lord defeated the hero of prophecy. It also boasts an innovative magic system, weird creatures, impressive depth and some unforgettable characters. With innumerable shades of grey, Sanderson’s trilogy offers a  somewhat different perspective to the black and white morality that characterized Tolkien’s work. If your heart isn’t pounding by the stunning conclusion of The Hero of Ages, you must be a Steel Inquisitor.


5

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

No fantasy list would be complete without The Lord of the Rings. This work of epic fantasy paved the way for many others and really needs no introduction. Although fantasy has evolved in many ways since Tolkien first set pen to paper, his story endures and his work still stands to this day as the most recognizable example of epic fantasy. Every fantasy fan should read this trilogy at least once, if only to witness the birth of the genre as we know it. It is also notable for inspiring one of the best film adaptions of all time, although watching the films is no acceptable substitute for reading the original text.


6

Drenai Tales by David Gemmel

Drenai Tales begins with Legend, the book that first launched the career of renowned fantasy author David Gemmel. This heroic fantasy series undeniably left a huge mark on fantasy literature and, while certain elements of the story may seem a little dated to modern tastes, one must remember that his work predates many of the conventions of the genre. All in all, Gemmel was a gifted writer with a knack for eliciting strong emotional responses from his readers and exploring themes of honor, loyalty, redemption, and self-doubt.


7

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson

This trilogy, sometimes referred to as ‘The First Chronicles’, contains the first three of Donaldson’s many works regarding an alternative realm known as ‘the Land’ and introduces readers to the bitter, cynical, and leprosy affected writer Thomas Covenant.  As the state of the Land seems to mirror Thomas’ own internal struggles he is never really certain whether this world actually exists or whether it is a mere delusion of his own disturbed mind. Either way, Thomas must decide whether to fight to save this world. These books are infused with humanist ideals and psychological undertones as Donaldson explores the darker side of his protagonist while still managing to keep him relatable and human.


8The Belgariad by David Eddings

Most seasoned fantasy readers will be familiar with the concept of an epic quest featuring an innocent farm-boy turned hero. We probably have David Eddings and The Belgariad at least partially to blame for this. While it may be the stuff of cliché nowadays, this was not the case when these books were first written. With snappy dialogue, a detailed fantasy world, surprising warmth, and characters you can’t help but fall in love with, Eddings’ work remains a fantasy staple to this day, delighting newer fantasy readers and stirring nostalgia in older ones.


9

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

The newly completed Inheritance Trilogy would have to be one of the most underrated gems of epic fantasy we’ve seen in years. It differs from most other trilogies in the fact that each book occurs in a different time period and features different characters. Nevertheless, each novel is irrevocably linked to the others in the series. Set in a fascinating world where gods and humans coexist, this series is not to be missed. Check out our reviews of The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods to find out more.


10

The Empire Trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Set in the opulent Eastern-inspired empire of Kelewan, this trilogy tells the story of Mara of the Acoma, a young woman who unexpectedly rises to power when her father and brother are killed in battle. Mara must learn to survive in a court abounding in rivals, assassins and intrigue if she is to avenge their deaths and successfully lead her people. In what is commended as one of the most successful fantasy pairings of all time, this collaboration saw Feist and Wurts take their writing and charactization to a new level, creating an unforgettable epic. While there is some overlap with Feist’s Riftwar saga, the story is self contained and can be read just as easily without prior experience with either authors’ works.

sursa: Ranting Dragon

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