Is there anything better than getting completely immersed in a good book? Fantasy books have the incredible ability to whisk you away to magical places and allow you to escape from reality for hours at a time.
The fantastic aspect about fantasy books is they’re so varied. From magical lands with dragons and elves to mystical mountains and far-off adventures. There’s something to whet the appetite of every reader.
In this article, we will be discussing the 30 best fantasy books of all time. All of these books are superb, and they’re the best for a reason. The stories are captivating, the authors are talented, and these novels are certainly worth getting lost in!
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
Originally published: 1954
We couldn’t put together a list of the best fantasy books without including The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is truly one of the greatest writers of all time and the father of epic fantasy books. If you’re unfamiliar with The Lord of the Rings, it follows Frodo Baggins, a hobbit from The Shire, on a quest to Mordor, to destroy Sauron’s ring.
He’s accompanied by a fellowship made up of an elf, men, hobbits, a wizard, and a dwarf. The world-building is spectacular, and while it’s nearly 70 years old, being originally published in 1954, it stands the test of time. Every fantasy reader needs to read this trilogy. While Frodo may not be the most impressive main character of all time, the fellowship as a whole is compelling.
2. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Originally published: 1937
If you’re planning to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you need to go back to the beginning and read The Hobbit, which is a prequel to the famous trilogy. The Hobbit was the first book Tolkien released, and it was originally published in 1937, making it one of the founding fantasy books.
It follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins as he goes on a quest across Middle-earth with a group of dwarves, to retrieve the dwarves' treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug. It’s an epic adventure, and impressive given it was Tolkien’s first novel. It typically features high up on the reader's list of fantasy recommendations. For many people, it’s the best novel Tolkien wrote.
3. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George RR Martin
Originally published: 1996
A Song of Ice and Fire has always been a popular book series with fantasy lovers. With the release of the TV series Game of Thrones in recent years, the novels have received somewhat of a revival. Game of Thrones is a fantastic TV series, and the books are no exception to this.
If you love detailed, epic fantasy novels following a series of different characters, there is nothing better than this series. It’s jam-packed with action, and while the series has still not been finished, it’s a must-read option for fantasy lovers.
If you enjoy speculative fiction, A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant example. It features lots of content, from major events to intricate character details. What’s remarkable about Martin’s writing is he focuses on the finer details and doesn’t leave the plot full of holes.
4. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
Originally published: 1982
The Dark Tower series is an interesting concept and is perfect for readers who enjoy a blend of different genres, such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Interestingly, there are even strong Western themes dotted throughout the series too.
While The Gunslinger, the first book in the series, can be a bit of a slog to get through, stick with it because the rest of the series is incredible. Through these novels, King showcases how varied and skilled his writing can be. While you wouldn’t necessarily link King with the fantasy genre, he proves through this series that readers should.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Originally published: 1950
The Chronicles of Narnia is a classic children’s fantasy series. It captivates both children and adults alike, and still stands the test of time. It feels truly magical to read, and it’s a fantastic option if you’re looking for a book series to read to your children.
Aslan is the best friend any child would love to have, and the plot of these novels immerses the readers fully. The executive producer of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe did a superb job at world-building and bringing this specific character to life and does the book justice.
6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Originally published: 2007
The Name of the Wind is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle series. While it’s a fairly new fantasy series, it quickly grew in popularity. It features everything an impressive series should, it’s an epic and heroic fantasy novel.
7. His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman
Originally published: 1995
Another epic fantasy series is His Dark Materials. It’s such a brilliant story and captivates readers. While this is a children’s fantasy series, Pullman can draw in adult readers too. This is the best book series to recommend for young readers.
8. The Book of Dust Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Originally published: 2017
The Book of Dust trilogy links to the His Dark Materials trilogy and expands on world-building from the first three books. It’s a good fantasy series, especially if you have read and enjoyed His Dark Materials. This trilogy is good at drawing attention to specific events occurring within the story.
9. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Originally published: 2002
One of the best children’s fantasy series is The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Eragon is the first book in this modern fantasy series, and it’s a book many readers love.
The characters are interesting and the plot is compelling. The story itself is captivating and the main character, Eragon, becomes a dragon rider, making this the perfect fantasy book.
10. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
Originally published: 1997
The vast majority of people have some knowledge of the Harry Potter book series. However, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s about a boy called Harry Potter who has to defeat Lord Voldemort. It follows his journey through school, and it’s truly magical.
From a child starting school to the final book when Harry is a young man, a generation of readers grew up with these novels, which made them so special to many people. Harry is a fantastic and complex main character.
The book series was truly groundbreaking, and it has not turned into an entire franchise. If you’ve not read the novels before and immerse yourself in the wizarding world, it’s something you need to do.
11. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Originally published: 1995
For adult readers who enjoy fantasy books, The Farseer Trilogy is a fantastic option to read. It focuses on royalty, nobility, and it’s a modern fantasy classic. The story is an intriguing one, and it contains good writing. While The Farseer Trilogy is not as suited to younger readers, it’s worth reading as an adult.
12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
Originally published: 1990
When it comes to the best fantasy books, The Wheel of Time book series is a popular one and is always recommended by fans. It has recently become adapted into a TV show too, which emphasizes its popularity.
Interestingly, the last three books in the series Robert Jordan co-wrote with Brandon Sanderson, another famous fantasy and Sci-Fi author. There are 14 books in the series in total, so these books are a commitment, but worth reading if you’re looking for longer fantasy fiction. There are some elements of science fiction within this book series, too.
13. A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Originally published: 2016
If you enjoy books featuring a Fae setting, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series is a fantastic option to consider. While the other books in the series are awesome. A Court of Mist and Fury stands out for most readers.
While this book can be often coined as Young Adult, it fits the specification of New Adult due to its more mature content. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular book series, and it has fairy tale elements.
As far as fantasy fiction goes, some people disagree that the writing of Sarah J. Maas is impressive. However, the books are full of action, and there’s a reason why this is a bestselling fantasy series. Production has now begun and this book series is going to be adapted into a TV series, too.
14. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Originally published: 1865
If you enjoy classic books and fantasy, Alice in Wonderland is certainly worth reading. The book is fairly short and easy to get through, and the fantastical elements are both bizarre and intriguing. It’s an interesting and quirky fantasy novel to read, with a healthy dose of weirdness.
15. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Originally published: 1968
The Earthsea series is older and high fantasy. It’s a classic in its own right, and one many fantasy lovers thoroughly enjoy. While the writing can at times feel slightly dated, the novel is captivating, and it’s an epic fantasy story.
16. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Originally published: 1983
The Color of Magic is a book within a large and epic fantasy novel series set in Discworld. Terry Pratchett has created such a complex and rich world within these novels, and they’re based on a funny and cowardly wizard. There are a total of 41 books in total and The Color of Magic in particular is an epic fantasy novel.
17. Fallen Series by Lauren Kate
Originally published: 2009
The Fallen Series is a fantasy series of young adult books. It’s based on fallen angels and features paranormal elements. When it was first released, it quickly grew in popularity with young adults. It features romance, and drama, and there are 5 novels to read in total.
18. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Originally published: 2001
American Gods is a fairly new novel written by Neil Gaiman. It was an instant hit with fantasy readers as soon as it was released due to its mix of different genres. While it features fantasy elements, it’s more of urban fantasy, with Americana, and old and new gods.
It’s the perfect blend of different genres, and it features particularly good writing. It’s now been adapted into a TV series too.
19. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Originally published: 1997
Another superb fantasy book written by Neil Gaiman is Stardust. It’s entirely the opposite of American Gods and is far better suited to a young adult and child reader. It fits the fantasy genre well and doesn’t feature an unreliable narrator. The writing is interesting and the overall world-building is compelling.
20. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Originally published: 2006
Joe Abercrombie is such a talented author, and his fantasy books are some of the best readers can consume. His First Law trilogy is no exception to this, and it’s what propelled him within the fantasy genre.
This fantasy series follows three different powers, and it’s a noir fantasy. This means it’s typically darker than your average fantasy book, and it features flawed and often morally gray main characters. The plot is exciting, and it’s easy to see why there are some of the best fantasy novels.
21. Jade City by Fonda Lee
Originally published: 2017
Jade City is the first book in the fairly recent Green Bone Saga trilogy. It’s seen as one of the best fantasy novels in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. This is an interesting fantasy novel because it features a mixture of magic and kung fu.
While Fonda Lee has previously become popular for writing science fiction novels, where she focuses on the fantasy genre and emphasizes how impressive she is as an author.
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Originally published: 1962
A Wrinkle in Time is a book released in the twentieth century and was recently adapted into a film by Disney. It’s a young adult novel featuring both fantasy and science fiction elements. It’s a perfect balance and blend of the two genres. The characters are complex.
23. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
Originally published: 2016
The Broken Earth Trilogy begins with the first book The Fifth Season. This is a recent and popular fantasy series. The Fifth Season follows Essum and their journey. It’s an important and powerful book that focuses on oppression and race. The rest of The Broken Earth trilogy follows this journey further, and they’re some of the best fantasy books.
24. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Originally published: 2018
This book is a fairly new young adult fantasy book, and it now has a sequel, called Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which was released in December 2019. The novel features magical elements, and the world-building is fantastic. Tomi Adeyemi is a talented author and has shaped recent young adult fantasy.
25. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Originally published: 2011
The Night Circus is an incredible novel. What’s interesting about this novel is it is a standalone. When it comes to fantasy books, they’re typically a longer series or a trilogy. This is what makes The Night Circus such a compelling fantasy book, and the story is full of detail.
26. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Originally published: 2015
When it comes to the most popular young adult books, Six of Crows is a strong contender. The story is immersive and compelling. Leigh Bardugo is an impressive writer, and this fits the spec of the fantasy genre well.
27. The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Originally published: 2019
This is a fairly new fantasy fiction series popular with seasoned fantasy readers. The world created by Lyons is a fascinating one, and the characters are complex. This novel is the first in the series.
28. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Originally published: 2014
The Invisible Library is the perfect book for book lovers. It fits well into the fantasy fiction genre, and it’s the first in the series. The book series is still ongoing, and the story has developed significantly since the release of the first book in the series.
29. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Originally published: 2021
The Gilded Ones is the newest book featured in this article. It’s a young adult fantasy book, and it’s rated highly within the bookish community. It features fantastic writing, a compelling story, and diverse representation.
30. A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
Originally published: 2019
Last, but not least, we have A Little Hatred. This is another remarkable book by Joe Abercrombie. It’s part of The Age of Madness series. While it’s a fantasy book, there are some sci-fi elements within the story.
All the books featured are truly fantastic and worth reading. While ultimately the books you decide to read will be based on personal preference, if you’re a fantasy lover and fan, these books should appeal to you.
For those who are new to the genre, starting with an easier read, such as The Golden Compass or The Hobbit is a sensible idea. This will give you a better insight into the genre.
Once you’re more acquainted with the world-building and language used, you can then move on to the more epic fantasy books, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Jade City.