Ranked awesome lists, all in one place
This list is a copy of RichardLitt/awesome-fantasy with ranks
Fantasy literature worth reading
Please read the Contributing Guidelines before contributing.
- Comic books
- TV Series
means that it’s a classic.
means that it has more than 100 000 ratings on Goodreads.
The [number] at the end is the rounded version of the rating on Goodreads. If a series is not available as an individual book, the first book in the series is used for the rating.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin [4.4]
Incredibly detailed books, with a very realistic world. I can’t get enough of it. Awesome in the scale and breadth of intricacy. - @RichardLitt
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords
- A Feast for Crows
- A Dance with Dragons
- Winds of Winter forthcoming
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.
The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe [4.1]
My favourite book series of all time. Severian is an unreliable narrator, as he remembers everything. But he lies to you, and you slowly start to realise it. The fifth book, which was added later to the other four (mostly sold as two books), has the most unexpected revelations that make a rereading entirely necessary. This series is incredible. - @RichardLitt
Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory. Severian, the central character, is a torturer, exiled from his guild after falling in love with one of his victims, and journeying to the distant city of Thrax, armed with his ancient executioner’s sword, Terminus Est. This edition contains the second two volumes of this four volume novel, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch.
Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien [3.9]
The Lord of the Rings is a quest; the Hobbit a children’s tale; the Silmarillion a history. This is one of the few novels, a story that shows the life of a tortured individual. This story borrows heavily from Scandinavian lore, and presents Turin as one of the most tragic of all of Tolkien’s creations. It is my favourite story from all of his books, and I think it has the most advanced and beautiful look into the world of Middle Earth as a whole. - @RichardLitt
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a fully continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of The Children of Hurin will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, dragons and Dwarves, eagles and Orcs, and the rich landscape and characters unique to Tolkien. There are tales of Middle-earth from times long before The Lord of the Rings, and the story told in this book is set in the great country that lay beyond the Grey Havens in the West: lands where Treebeard once walked, but which were drowned in the great cataclysm that ended the First Age of the World. In that remote time Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in the vast fortress of Angband, the Hells of Iron, in the North; and the tragedy of Turin and his sister Nienor unfolded within the shadow of the fear of Angband and the war waged by Morgoth against the lands and secret cities of the Elves. Their brief and passionate lives were dominated by the elemental hatred that Morgoth bore them as the children of Hurin, the man who had dared to defy and to scorn him to his face. Against them he sent his most formidable servant, Glaurung, a powerful spirit in the form of a huge wingless dragon of fire. Into this story of brutal conquest and flight, of forest hiding-places and pursuit, of resistance with lessening hope, the Dark Lord and the Dragon enter in direly articulate form. Sardonic and mocking, Glaurung manipulated the fates of Turin and Nienor by lies of diabolic cunning and guile, and the curse of Morgoth was fulfilled. The earliest versions of this story by J.R.R. Tolkien go back to the end of the First World War and the years that followed; but long afterwards, when The Lord of the Rings was finished, he wrote it anew and greatly enlarged it in complexities of motive and character: it became the dominant story in his later work on Middle-earth. But he could not bring it to a final and finished form. In this book Christopher Tolkien has constructed, after long study of the manuscripts, a coherent narrative without any editorial invention.
The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon [4.3]
This omnibus edition of 3 books describes the origin and deeds of a female Paladin named Paksenarrion. The Deed of Paksenarrion contemplates justice, true courage and the forces of good and evil in a way that is refreshing. I don’t think I ever really understood the fantasy class of Paladin until reading this either, Elizabeth Moon’s depiction will now forever be my etched on my brain as what a Paladin is.
It has all the usual trappings of high fantasy including dwarves and elves, but what really stands out is the balance of gender and the role of women. Throughout the books women are respected as equals and Paksenarrion develops a courageous, head-strong and loyal character that is engrossing and convincing. - @samueljseay
Paksenarrion-—Paks for short-—was somebody special. Never could she have followed her father’s orders and married the pig farmer down the road. Better a soldier’s life than a pigfarmer’s wife, and so though she knew that she could never go home again, Paks ran away to be a soldier. And so began an adventure destined to transform a simple Sheepfarmer’s Daughter into a hero fit to be chosen by the gods
There’s elements of fantasy in here, although it is mostly science fiction. The elements they have - the power of words, the bene gesserit, the worms - are all, indubitably, awesome. - @RichardLitt
This is fantasy and magic done exceedingly well. These read like children stories - not in their style or content, which are very adult - but in the massive expanse of the world that you start to imagine, the way the stories run off the page and away with you. I can’t praise it enough. - @RichardLitt
- A Wizard of Earthsea [4.0]
- The Tombs of Atuan [4.1]
- The Farthest Shore [4.1]
- Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea [3.8]
- Tales from Earthsea [4.0]
- The Other Wind [4.0]
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb [4.1]
I devoured these books; the magic system is great and the world is well worked through. There’s a fantastic amount of detail that never gets onerous, amazingly. The characters grow with the story, unlike most fantasy novels. The writing of characters who are under spells is also fantastic - Hobb never tells you directly that they have been befuddled until after, which makes for some very fun and enjoyable surprises. - @RichardLitt
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.
These are amusing, and relevant for their cultural impact if not for the caliber of the writing. - @RichardLitt
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [4.4]
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [4.3]
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [4.5]
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [4.5]
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [4.4]
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [4.5]
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [4.6]
The novels revolve around Harry Potter, an orphan who discovers at the age of 11 that he is a wizard, who lives within the ordinary world of non-magical people, known as Muggles. The wizarding world is secret from the Muggle world, presumably to avoid persecution of witches and wizards. His ability is inborn, and such children are invited to attend an exclusive magic school that teaches the necessary skills to succeed in the wizarding world. Harry becomes a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it is here where most of the events in the series take place. As Harry develops through his adolescence, he learns to overcome the problems that face him: magical, social and emotional, including ordinary teenage challenges such as friendships, infatuation and exams, and the greater test of preparing himself for the confrontation in the real world that lies ahead.
Each book chronicles one year in Harry’s life with the main narrative being set in the years 1991–98. The books also contain many flashbacks, which are frequently experienced by Harry viewing the memories of other characters in a device called a Pensieve.
The environment Rowling created is completely separate from reality yet also intimately connected to it. While the fantasy land of Narnia is an alternative universe and the Lord of the Rings ’ Middle-earth a mythic past, the wizarding world of Harry Potter exists in parallel within the real world and contains magical versions of the ordinary elements of everyday life. Many of its institutions and locations are recognizable, such as London. It comprises a fragmented collection of overlooked hidden streets, ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles that remain invisible to the Muggle population.
Dealing with racial and sexual discrimination in a high fantasy setting, the novel is excellent. - @SeanSWatkins
The first novel centers around Yeine a Darr woman who has been called back to the city Sky for reasons unbeknown to her. The current leader of Sky, who also rules the world at large, is nearing the end of his life and, in true Arameri fashion, makes a game of his succession. Yeine is soon caught up in schemes that she does not fully understand, involving gods she cannot fully comprehend. She must sift through lies and half-truths she is told to try and uncover what is really going on in the capital of the world, all the while trying to navigate a fragile and deceptive political atmosphere. The story is told from the first-person viewpoint of the main protagonist, Yeine. It’s written as a retelling of a story, where she is walking you through her time in Sky and all the events that lead up to the climax of the story. The story does seems to jump around quite a bit without becoming confusing.
These are exceptionally well written, humorous, and display a surprising lack of non-ironic tropes. There’s a good sense of humor, the magic is well fleshed out, and the main character, Kvothe, is just great to read about and very easy to be sympathetic towards. Loved ‘em, can’t wait for the final third. - @RichardLitt
The Kingkiller Chronicle is a fantasy trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss, telling the autobiography of Kvothe, an adventurer and famous musician.
The plot is divided into two different action threads: the present, where Kvothe tells the story of his life to Devan Lochees (known as Chronicler) in the main room of his inn, and Kvothe’s past, the story in question, which makes up the majority of the books. The present-day interludes are in the third person from the perspective of multiple characters, while the story of Kvothe’s life is told entirely in the first person from his own perspective.
The series also contains many meta-fictional stories-within-stories from varying perspectives, most of which are recounted by Kvothe, having been heard from other characters in his past.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien [4.4]
No comment. - @RichardLitt
A fantastic starter set for new Tolkien fans or readers interested in rediscovering the magic of Middle-earth, this three-volume box set features paperback editions of the complete trilogy – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King – each with art from the New Line Productions feature film on the cover.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a genuine masterpiece. The most widely read and influential fantasy epic of all time, it is also quite simply one of the most memorable and beloved tales ever told. Originally published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings set the framework upon which all epic/quest fantasy since has been built. Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. This ring – created and then lost by the Dark Lord, Sauron, centuries earlier – is a weapon of evil, one that Sauron desperately wants returned to him. With the power of the ring once again his own, the Dark Lord will unleash his wrath upon all of Middle-earth. The only way to prevent this horrible fate from becoming reality is to return the Ring to Mordor, the only place it can be destroyed. Unfortunately for our heroes, Mordor is also Sauron’s lair. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is essential reading not only for fans of fantasy but for lovers of classic literature as well…
The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron [4.0]
These books are amazing just for the imaginative power of the author, who grabs random snippets from old folklore and tries to make a story out of them. They’re nothing like the actual Merlin, but they’re pretty fun to read. The writing style is more aimed at young adults, however, and they don’t age well. - @RichardLitt
- The Lost Years of Merlin
- The Seven Songs of Merlin
- The Fires of Merlin
- The Mirror of Merlin
- The Wings of Merlin
When Merlin, suffering from a case of severe amnesia, discovers his strange powers, he becomes determined to discover his identity and flees to Fincayra where he fulfills his destiny, saving Fincayra from certain destruction and claiming his birthright and true name.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson [4.4]
The Mistborn trilogy (well, he plans on doing a trilogy of trilogies, and the last 2 of the 2nd trilogy are due out in the next year or so) is probably his best known and a great read, too. I would recommend all of his stuff, but I think the original Mistborn is probably the best place to start (for one, they’re much shorter!). - @CWSpear
I’ve only read the first trilogy at this point, but I loved it; the magic system is pretty well done, the characters are convincing, we’ve got some strong female leads, and there’s a good amount of intrigue and plot setting. Brandon Sanderson is fairly good at turning tropes on their head, as well, which was fun to read - a lot of my original complaints have now turned into praises for the books. I’m looking forward to reading more. - @RichardLitt
I have read the first six books and will continue reading every book in this series…and probably everything Sanderson writes. The Mistborn stories are well crafted and interesting. There is so much going on as they also fit into Sanderson’s Cosmere which means characters from other worlds occasionally interact with those from Scadrial - the world where these novels are based. I find every story to be expertly paced, never leaving a lull in the momentum, I have had friends say they found the sixth book, Bands of Mourning, to be a little slow but I didn’t have the same view. Every novel is well rounded, leaving plenty unsaid and undiscovered but never robbing the reader of a complete or resolved story.
The first trilogy introduces us to a strange and spectacular world: one where there is magic, intrigue, social/economic inequality and, possibly my favorite thing, different races of people that inhabit this world.
The second trilogy takes place some 300 years after the events of the first, and many of these events have filtered through into the ‘modern’ day Scadrial (it has a very old western feel to the whole setting); such as cities named after hero’s, religions based on characters and many little secrets that are still unanswered from the first trilogy. We are introduced to a whole batch of new characters and some not so new characters - I won’t say more otherwise I may give too much away.
Would recommend this entire series and the whole Cosmere to any fantasy fan. - @SeanSWatkins
The first three books are a trilogy to be read together. Mistborn is an epic fantasy trilogy and a heist story of political intrigue, surprises and magical martial-arts action. The saga dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge?
Books 4-6 are sequels that take place 300 years later.
- The Final Empire [4.4]
- The Well of Ascension [4.3]
- The Hero of Ages [4.4]
- The Alloy of Law [4.2]
- Shadows of Self [4.2]
- The Bands of Mourning [4.2]
- More coming
The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist [4.3]
This reads like someone decided to put some characters in their Dungeons and Dragons world, which is exactly how they were formed. For all that, they are amusing. - @RichardLitt
To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. His courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, but he was ill at ease with normal wizardry. Yet his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who opened space-time to renew the age-old battle between Order and Chaos.
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien [3.8]
This is one of the most ridiculous forays into world building, ever. At times, it reads like a textbook, but there are sections that are extremely powerful and characters that are gripping. The Silmarillion takes a bit more imagination and fortitude than the Lord of the Rings, but is worth the effort, especially if you’ve already read his other books a few times and want more. - @RichardLitt
Designed to take fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deeper into the myths and legends of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion is an account of the Elder Days, of the First Age of Tolkien’s world. It is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back, and in whose events some of them such as Elrond and Galadriel took part. The tales of The Silmarillion are set in an age when Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in Middle-Earth, and the High Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, the jewels containing the pure light of Valinor. Included in the book are several shorter works. The Ainulindale is a myth of the Creation and in the Valaquenta the nature and powers of each of the gods is described. The Akallabeth recounts the downfall of the great island kingdom of Numenor at the end of the Second Age and Of the Rings of Power tells of the great events at the end of the Third Age, as narrated in The Lord of the Rings. This pivotal work features the revised, corrected text and includes, by way of an introduction, a fascinating letter written by Tolkien in 1951 in which he gives a full explanation of how he conceived the early Ages of Middle-Earth.
The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson [4.6]
The Stormlight Archive books (only 2 out of a planned 10 last I heard) are 2 of the longest books out there, and I read on my Kindle and did not realize they were so long until I realized I was some 15 hours in and ~50% done IIRC. I was so engrossed, I hadn’t cared. I got the 2nd one the day it came out and read it in about 10 days despite my busy schedule (sleep was sacrificed). - @CWSpear
I completely agree that however long these books are, it doesn’t really matter. They’re fantastic. The magic system is complex, and the characters Brandon focuses on have their own little foibles and bits of awesome. This is classic 90’s fantasy, but still incredibly good. The world is also pretty novel for fantasy - no more England-like environments, but actually a different kind of landscape. - @RichardLitt
Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy cycle tells the story of Roshar, a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain. It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. As brutal wars rage over the control of these magical weapons, an ancient text called The Way of Kings tells of ancient times, the Knights Radiant, and perhaps the true cause of the war. The Knights Radiant must stand again.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) [4.15]
These books are probably the longest single series in the fantasy genre. I’ve read the series eight times. I don’t know what to make of that, except that it’s worth reading. It’s like a long soap opera - the characters are one sided and flat, but there are so many of them that you end up not minding. The magic system is very intricate, and the general plot line is good. The three last books were co-written, as Robert Jordan died before they were done. - @RichardLitt
- The Eye of the World
- The Great Hunt
- The Dragon Reborn
- The Shadow Rising
- The Fires of Heaven
- Lord of Chaos
- A Crown of Swords
- The Path of Daggers
- Winter’s Heart
- Crossroads of Twilight
- Knife of Dreams
- The Gathering Storm
- Towers of Midnight
- A Memory of Light
- New Spring (prequel)
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Black Company (1984) by Glen Cook 
This is my favorite dark fantasy series and the first book is awesome. These are written so differently than any fantasy-esque book I’ve ever read. It is difficult to describe, but as a veteran, it just feels like you’re reading a fantasy book written by a former soldier that’s been there, crude jokes, blood and all. I highly recommend this. - @PeerRails
The series follows an elite mercenary unit, The Black Company, last of the Free Companies of Khatovar, through roughly forty years of its approximately four hundred-year history. Cook mixes fantasy with military fiction in gritty, down-to-earth portrayals of the Company‘s chief personalities and its struggles.
The Malazan Book Of The Fallen (1999) by Steven Erikson [3.8]
Mixing the grittiness of Glen Cook’s books with the modern fantasy elements, this series is more brutal than any before it. Lots of philosophical questions stems from reading even the less important chapters and a huge amount of characters makes it for a very long and deep read. As Erikson himself points out, people either “love it or hate it”. The author is writing a prequel series right now and will add a sequel trilogy after it, making for a total of 16 books. - @Donearm
- Gardens of the Moon [3.8]
- Deadhous Gates [4.2]
- Memories of Ice [4.4]
- House of Chains [4.3]
- Midnight Tides [4.3]
- The Bonehunters [4.4]
- Reaper’s Gale [4.3]
- Toll the Hounds [4.3]
- Dust of Dreams [4.3]
- The Crippled God [4.4]
Steven Erikson draws on twenty years of experience as an anthropologist and archaeologist. Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire, with brutal action and battle scenes
The world building is done on an unprecedented scale and Erikson has left a lifetime’s worth of novels on the table in the world of the Malazan Empire. So what is left to talk about? It’s simple, the writing. I can tell that Steven Erikson’s writing is filled with wit, charm, philosophical brilliance and a sense of imagination that would humble the most creative of authors. You will be hard-pressed to find his equal in any genre.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman [4.1]
This book stands up to a reread, and is a nice example of Neil Gaiman’s ability to draw together a thousand different threads into one cohesive story. The scenes in the Wisconsin small towns stay with me much longer than the rest of the book - they’re reminiscent of the much better book Peace by Gene Wolfe, not to say they’re not well done. This is a quick and great read, and it continually surprises. - @RichardLitt
Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.
Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.
Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what and who it finds there…
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges [4.5]
Some of the best short stories I have ever read; The Library is my favourite of all time, so much that I’m debating getting a tattoo from it. - @RichardLitt
The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the whirlwind of Borges’ genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his skepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.
Princess and the Curdie by George MacDonald [4.0]
This book inspired me at the age of 14 to get a tattoo I ended up getting 7 years later. This is the kind of fantasy I wish we were still making; half theological, fantastic and weird, somewhere between Grimm’s Fairytales and George R.R. Martin. - @RichardLitt
Princess Irene’s great-grandmother has a testing task for Curdie. He will not go alone though, as she provides him with a companion – the oddest and ugliest creature Curdie has ever seen, but one who turns out to be the most loyal friend he could have hoped for.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien [4.2]
A pretty good children’s story. Defined modern fantasy as we know it. - @RichardLitt
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
Jirel of Joiry (1934) by C. L. Moore [3.78]
I found Jirel fascinating as a heroine of 1930s pulp fantasy. Throughout her adventures, Jirel’s opponents constantly seek to victimize her, use her as bait, lure her in, or overpower her. Often she can’t escape witnessing or even being part of horrific things, but she takes these impossible situations and confronts them on her own terms. I thought this was a nice alternative to always evading danger or using feminine wiles to get out of tight corners. Jirel is physically and emotionally capable without being a know-it-all or preternaturally lucky. Moore paints incredibly vivid pictures of fantastical realms and creatures. I think these stories would translate well into a graphic novel. This collection is a fascinating bent on traditional sword and sorcery tales and well worth the read. - @thejessleigh
C. L. Moore created Jirel, ruler of Joiry, in reaction to the beefy total-testosterone blood-and-thunder tales of ’30s pulp magazines, but Jirel is no anti-Conan. She’s a good Catholic girl, stubbornly purposeful, relentless in pursuit of enemies or vengeance, hard-boiled and a little stupid, and cannot be distracted by mere physical attractiveness. Indeed, in Jirel’s world, beauty = decadence = corruption. Were these stories written today, inevitably Jirel would have a lot of hot sex, but as they were first published in Weird Tales between 1934-1939, sexual attraction is mostly only vividly implied. No loss. Jirel’s journeys through unnatural landscapes and her battles with supernatural opponents are still wonderful to read, and though newcomers Red Sonja and Xena are more famous now, Jirel rules as the archetypal, indomitable redheaded swordswoman in chain mail and greaves, swinging her “great two-edged sword.”
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2006) by Susanna Clarke [3.8]
This book takes a while to ramp up, but if you can get through the (intentionally) tedious first 100 pages or so, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a true delight. The characters are engaging and well drawn, and the history-style writing offers surprising opportunities for humor and dry wit. I absolutely loved this. - @thejessleigh
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.
Read this if you want to go on an acid trip and if you want to see the roots of modern fantasy. - @RichardLitt
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland’s Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the “happily ever after.”
This was a delightful book. Short and sweet, it exhibits both Gaiman’s ability to run with magic, and his deep love for the English countryside and mythology. - @RichardLitt
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin [3.7]
These were beautiful, finely crafted short stories. Rarely for me, I read a few of them immediately after I finished them, to make sure that I got the more subtle details. The writing was absolutely exquisite. - @RichardLitt
Orsinia … a land of medieval forests, stonewalled cities, and railways reaching into the mountains where the old gods dwell. A country where life is harsh, dreams are gentle, and people feel torn by powerful forces and fight to remain whole. In this enchanting collection, Ursula K. Le Guin brings to mainstream fiction the same compelling mastery of word and deed, of story and character, of violence and love, that has won her the Pushcart Prize, and the Kafka and National Book Awards.
The Smith of Wooten Major by J.R.R. Tolkien [4.0]
Smith of Wooton Major is my favourite story by Tolkien, hand’s down. Lord of the Rings and all of Middle Earth can rot in comparison to this small, finely crafted story about a smith who goes to Faery, and a cook who bakes a cake. - @RichardLitt
In Smith of Wooton Major, Tolkien explores the gift of fantasy, and what it means to the life and character of the man who receives it.
The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe [3.8]
I read this book at least once a year. The story is well told, easily approachable, has a lot of gems, and is a good trip. - @RichardLitt
A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Able and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero. Inside, however, Able remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons. His adventure will conclude in the second volume of The Wizard Knight, The Wizard. With this new series, Wolfe not only surpasses all the most popular genre writers of the last three decades, he takes on the legends of the past century, in a work that will be favorably compared with the best of J. R. R. Tolkien, E. R. Eddison, Mervyn Peake, and T. H. White. This is a book—and a series—for the ages, from perhaps the greatest living writer in (or outside) the fantasy genre.
These books are great, quick reading, although the Christian overtones can grow old with time. I’m not quite sure how to suggest them, as I grew up with them - but I can’t imagine not having done so. Reading about Mr. Tumnus carrying parcels through a snowy forest in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of my earliest memories. - @RichardLitt
- The Magician’s Nephew
- The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle
Lilith by George MacDonald [3.9]
This was a weird, weird book, just like Phantastes. George MacDonald had a gift for writing essentially plotless books that journey through fantastic realms; but at no point do they ever become uninteresting. They were also the inspiration for a lot of later writers, most notably CS Lewis, and it is easy to see why. Worth the read. - @RichardLitt
This book is hard to describe. It is a long wandering fantasy, about a man on a quest. It is very similar to Phantastes in that regard.
Phantastes by George MacDonald [4.0]
See the review for Lilith, above. - @RichardLitt
“I was dead, and right content,” the narrator says in the penultimate chapter of Phantastes. C.S. Lewis said that upon reading this astonishing 19th-century fairy tale he “had crossed a great frontier,” and numerous others both before and since have felt similarly. In MacDonald’s fairy tales, both those for children and (like this one) those for adults, the “fairy land” clearly represents the spiritual world, or our own world revealed in all of its depth and meaning. At times almost forthrightly allegorical, at other times richly dreamlike (and indeed having a close connection to the symbolic world of dreams), this story of a young man who finds himself on a long journey through a land of fantasy is more truly the story of the spiritual quest that is at the core of his life’s work, a quest that must end with the ultimate surrender of the self. The glory of MacDonald’s work is that this surrender is both hard won (or lost ) and yet rippling with joy when at last experienced. As the narrator says of a heavenly woman in this tale, “She knew something too good to be told.” One senses the same of the author himself.
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan [4.0]
You know, this is still a pretty good read even if you’re not a Christian. Christian, the protagonist, is pretty beleaguered by every possible obstacle on his way to Heaven, and it’s fun just hearing how he gets out of scrapes. - @RichardLitt
This work is written in the King James/ Shakespearean/ Old English language. It is the story of a man becoming saved and his dangerous and challenging journey to the Celestial City.
Discworld is a massive, sprawling world outlined in dozens of books by the late Terry Pratchett. Rather than list them all here, here are a few that have been read by contributors of this list, with comments on each.
Discworld is a flat planet, standing on the shoulders of four giant elephants, who live on the shell of a gigantic turtle, the great A’Tuin, whose sex is unknown and currently under heavy investigation. In the city of Ankh-Morpok, where the thieves and assassins guilds offer their services at reasonable price, there is the Unseen university, where wizards learn how to use the magic and do wizard stuff, like getting drunk, murdering each other and growing beards. Rincewind is a wizard who can’t cast a single spell; he will be forced into being the tourist guide for Twoflowers, an innocent and naive tourist from a far realm followed by a murderous legged luggage…
The Colour of Magic [3.9] This is the first book of the series Discworld. The books can be read in order or independently. There are several narrative threads that cross quite often creating a funny and enjoyable reading experience.
I love this book. The style is original and hilarious and the characters’ personality is deeply developed. Death alone is a good reason to read this book. - @fourlastor
- Mort [4.2] This was my intro to Discworld, and I loved it. Death is hilarious. - @RichardLitt
- Making Money [4.2] How Terry Pratchett consistently came up with good stories is beyond me. This one is also good, particularly for how TP envisions banks and automatons. - @RichardLitt
Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien [3.9]
Farmer Giles is one of my favourite encapsulated stories set in something akin to Old England. It’s basically Tolkien’s nod to classic fairy tale writers like Lord Dunsanay or MacDonald, but with some humor. “Give us your crown!” is one of my favourite quotes, and I am totally going to name my dog Garm. - @RichardLitt
The editors of the best-selling rediscovered Tolkien novel Roverandom present an expanded fiftieth anniversary edition of Tolkien’s beloved classic Farmer Giles of Ham, complete with a map, the original story outline, the original first-edition illustrations by Pauline Baynes, and the author’s notes for an unpublished sequel. Farmer Giles of Ham is a light-hearted satire for readers of all ages that tells the tale of a reluctant hero who must save his village from a dragon. It is a small gem of a tale that grows more delightful with each rereading.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman [4.3]
This was a fun book, and a great collaboration. At times it is a bit clear where Neil Gaiman was writing, and I’m not sure that the book is better for his inclusions at points; he hadn’t yet perfected his craft, I think. But the story as a whole is good. - @RichardLitt
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon — both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle — are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
The Princess Bride by William Goldman [4.2]
This is a book that doesn’t take away from the classic movie rendition of it, but adds to it. It stands alone as a fun little read. - @RichardLitt
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex. In short, it’s about everything.
Horror wouldn’t be what it is today without HP Lovecraft. He spawned an entire sub-genre of weird aliens and psychological threats; some of the stories in this book are so good that I still shudder when I think of them. A master at work. - @RichardLitt
An unparalleled selection of fiction from H. P. Lovecraft, master of the American horror tale
Long after his death, H. P. Lovecraft continues to enthrall readers with his gripping tales of madness and cosmic terror, and his effect on modern horror fiction continues to be felt - Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker have acknowledged his influence. His unique contribution to American literature was a melding of Poe’s traditional supernaturalism with the emerging genre of science fiction. Originally appearing in pulp magazines like Weird Tales in the 1920s and 1930s, Lovecraft’s work is now being regarded as the most important supernatural fiction of the twentieth century.
Lovecraft’s biographer and preeminent interpreter, S. T. Joshi, has prepared this volume of eighteen stories–from the early classics like “The Outsider” and “Rats in the Wall” to his mature masterworks, “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” The first paperback to include the definitive corrected texts, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerizing narrative style, and establishes him as a canonical–and visionary–American writer.
“I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” –Stephen King
One of the earliest books I can recall reading. This book is the best. - @RichardLitt
‘This is one tale of a Viking warrior who lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. His name is Erik.’ And Erik is no ordinary Viking. With his trusty band of men he sets sail in search of the land where the sun goes at night. In fact, he finds much more! The Sea Dragon, the Old Man of the Sea, Dogfighters and giants combine to make his voyage a great saga of thrilling adventures.
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Nathan Fairbairn [4.07]
A colorful, funny, and heart-warming take on the consequences of being able to change the past. The best word to describe this comic is delightful. - @sunrein
Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:
- Write your mistake
- Ingest one mushroom
- Go to sleep
- Wake anew
And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.
From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise.
Sean Connery is the best dragon ever. This is a classic film. - @RichardLitt
The last dragon and a disillusioned dragon-slaying knight must cooperate to stop an evil king who was given partial immortality.
This is an awesomely atrocious film. The only thing that is awesome about it is how amazingly poorly done everything is, and yet how it still is extremely entertaining. A must. - @RichardLitt
An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize”.
Truly a horrendous film. But would make a great drinking game, so I am including it. Also, early Liam Neeson is great. - @RichardLitt
A prince and a fellowship of companions set out to rescue his bride from a fortress of alien invaders who have arrived on their home planet.
This is one of the weirder cult classics to come out of the 80’s. I wouldn’t include this here if David Bowie’s performance wasn’t so incredible. But it is. - @RichardLitt
A selfish 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King.
Reign of Fire [6.2]
An incredible film for the vision of the world, and the way they combine medieval technology with modern warfare. The dragons are bad-ass. - @RichardLitt
A brood of fire-breathing dragons emerges from the earth and begins setting fire to everything, establishing dominance over the planet.
The Lord of the Rings
Fantastic films. If you’re reading this list, you’ve probably already seen them. - @RichardLitt
A meek hobbit of the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the dark lord Sauron.
- The Two Towers [8.7]
While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron’s new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.
- Return of the King [8.9]
Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.
The Princess Bride [8.2]
One of the best love stories ever told. This movie has everything any kid could want, and the book is just as good - it’s satirical but not overly self-indulgent. - @RichardLitt
While home sick in bed, a young boy’s grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride.
Uhm, the best. It’s awesome. Stop what you’re doing and go watch it. Now. - @RichardLitt
In a war-torn world of elemental magic, a young boy reawakens to undertake a dangerous mystic quest to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar.
Game of Thrones [9.5]
Pretty good, if overly televised at times and with too much emphasis on sexual violence. Beautifully shot otherwise. - @RichardLitt
Several noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros.
You got through the list and didn’t find anything?
To the extent possible under law, Richard Littauer has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.
This list is a copy of RichardLitt/awesome-fantasy with ranks