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21 Fantastic Book Series Fantasy Writers Must Read

Updated on October 25, 2016

Introduction

There are a lot of people who love to read, but many of those folks become inspired by the words that jump off the page. That inspiration can lead to a desire to take a shot at writing creative fiction that will serve as inspiration for a whole new generation of readers. If you are interested in writing books, then it certainly helps to know how to craft a story that will keep the reader entertained throughout. One of the most effective ways to learn how to do that is to read the classics of the genre that you are interested in, and in the world of fantasy fiction, there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from. We are going to talk about 21 fantasy book series that are timeless, but we also suggest that you look beyond this list, and go in search of other fantasy worlds that have been committed to paper. Without further ado, here are 21 book series that all aspiring fantasy writers should read:

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Learn more about J.R.R. Tolkien's fascinating fantasy world Middle Earth!

The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5
The Histories of Middle Earth, Volumes 1-5

Description on Goodreads:

If reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga wasn't enough to satiate your hunger for Middle-earth, the five-volume Histories of Middle-earth box set is guaranteed to do the trick -- with dozens of lost tales, epic poems, maps, author notes, sketches, and a fully detailed history of Middle-earth!

 

Get inspired by the following 21 fantasy book series!

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – For many people, The Lord of the Rings trilogy served as the first introduction to fantasy writing. That is because it is still considered to be part of the reading curriculum at schools all over the world. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of fantasy writing, you still cannot help but be touched by the friendships that are forged across the trilogy. A must read for any writer looking to learn how to create characters and the worlds that they roam in.
  2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – The name of this fantasy series may not be that familiar to you, but I’m sure that if I told you that the Game of Thrones HBO series is based on these books, you would instantly know what we are talking about. This is a series that grows in scale and scope with each passing book, and it’s a modern classic that many new fantasy writers are using as a blueprint.
  3. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson – The problem, if you can call it that, with the many of the series on this list is that they have already been written to a conclusion. Part of the fun of getting into a series is to watch it as it grows and evolves. The Stormlight Archive is only two books in right now, with more to come. These are huge tomes, though, so there is still a lot of reading to do to get into this one, and to see what great fantasy writing looks like.
  4. The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip – There are plenty of great female writers out there, and many of them have created a place for themselves in the fantasy fiction realm. Aspiring female fantasy writers should take time to read the Riddle-Master Trilogy to see that women are definitely on a level footing with their male counterparts in the genre. Smart, expansive, and beautifully written, this series is a must read for anyone who loves creative fiction.
  5. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin – Let’s stay with the ladies as we head on to the next must read fantasy trilogy. The thing that makes this series so valuable to aspiring writers is that it shows you how to create storylines that seem to step outside the norms of traditional fantasy fiction. After all, how many other series have Gods serving as slaves? That’s just one of the many surprises woven into this wonderful series.
  6. The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence – Fantasy novel are very often filled with a host of memorable characters, especially over the course of several books when the worlds are constantly expanding. The beauty of this trilogy is that it is a coming of age tale of a young man whose life takes a turn after seeing his parents slain. It’s a familiar storyline, but the value for writers in this trilogy is that the lead character does not always behave as expected. Jorg Ancrath is a young man who I not scared to spill some blood during his ascent to greatness.
  7. The Black Company by Glen Cook – When you think of fantasy book series, you often think of the battle between good and evil, as that is very often theme of these series. This particular series by Glen Cook shows that it is fine to focus on the dark, as his books follow a band of mercenaries who can best be described as totally merciless. It’s a dark series that is great for aspiring fantasy writers who don’t necessarily want to focus on all that’s good in the worlds they create.
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – This is another fantasy series that is still routinely considered required reading in many schools. The opening book in the series, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe may come across to many as a little like a young adult novel, but as the series grows, so does the scale and splendor of Narnia. This series shows how a relatively simple tale can grow with each passing book.
  9. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson – There can be no denying the similarities to The Lord of the Rings trilogy in this one, but where it differs is with the titular main character. Thomas Covenant is not the hero that we all want to love, and is in fact a bitter, leprosy ridden chap who is very difficult to like. It proves that you can create an unforgettable series as long as you write a main character who evokes some sort of emotion from the reader.
  10. The Dark Tower by Stephen King – If you believe that Stephen King only delivers horror tales that involve killer cars and rabid dogs, then we suggest you put all that aside and step into the amazing world he creates for the 8 books in the Dark Tower series. There are definite parallels between our own world and the one in which the Gunslinger roams, but they are different enough to be true fantasy. This series proves that you can switch genres and still create something special.
  11. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss – Fantasy fiction is still very much a going concern in the literary world, and this series is one that is currently generating a lot of positive buzz. This is another series that you can catch up to pretty quickly, as it’s only a couple of books deep at the moment. It will also show you that the demand for well-written fantasy is still very high.
  12. Discworld by Terry Pratchett – There is often the belief that fantasy novels have to be super serious tomes that are dark and devoid of humor. Terry Pratchett proved that this does not have to be the case, as there is some definite humor sprinkled throughout this series, which features trolls performing menial labor in the underworld of a massive industrial city. There is a fine cast of characters in this series, and it’s a perfect read for those looking to sprinkle a little bit of fun into their fantasy realms.
  13. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – If you are looking to create something new and interesting, you can do so by finding a way to seamlessly blend genres. Stephen King crossed the fantasy and the Western in the Dark Tower, and Jim Butcher did it with this series by making his private detective a wizard. The lead character is one that has now appeared in 15 different novels, and this series has a crossover appeal that makes it accessible to fans of a number of different genres. It’s always a good idea to broaden your potential reader base in any way you can.
  14. The Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch – When writing fantasy novels, you have to find a way to strike a balance between the characters and the worlds they operate in. So much time can be spend building worlds that characters can become secondary, but that is certainly not the case with this series, which is going to eventually encompass 7 full novels. If you want to learn how to fully flesh out characters and worlds, this is the series for you.
  15. Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – There is oftentimes a belief that you can’t really craft a novel without having some level of life experiences under your belt. That is not the case, and it is indeed possible to write great stories as a teenager. Christopher Paolini started writing Eragon, the first book in this series when he was 15, and was a New York Times bestselling author before he was 20. Any kids out thee doubting whether or not they can write a great fantasy series should take the time to learn more about Mr. Paolini.
  16. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman – The first novel in this series, The Golden Compass, proved that you can tackle potential controversial subject matter with a high level of intelligence. In this case, it is Christianity that gets explored, as Lyra travels through multiple universes with a device that allows here to have every possible question answered. The series covers three books, and the author does an incredible job of making you feel as though you have been sucked into the pages.
  17. The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman – This is a trilogy that will appeal to readers of all ages. It is often described as having the Harry Potter series as it’s obvious inspiration, and while that is true, the author also pulls from other fantasy realms to create a world that is both rich and wonderful. This is a series that certainly gets better with each passing novel, and it clearly shows that you do not need to have one specific age group or demographic I mind when you start weaving your tales.
  18. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – If you have more than one idea for a fantasy series, there is a way to explore that within the world that you create. That is exactly what Brandon Sanderson is doing with the Mistborn series. He plans to have 4 different series taking place in a world known as Scadrial. These series will take place at different times so that when all 4 have been completed, we will have what will essentially amount to a complete history of Scadrial and its people.
  19. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks – The world created by Brent Weeks in this series is one that can perhaps best be described as gritty. Greed and magic are alive and well, and wetboy Kylar Stern has to decide whether to follow peace or violence. This is another set of stories that are a coming of age of the main character, and part of the fun of this one is in seeing how his decisions shape not just his present, but also his future. This is another series that is a great one to read if you are interested in learning how to create living, breathing characters with some real depth.
  20. Shannara by Terry Brooks – Worlds don’t come much bigger than the one created by Terry Brooks in this series. You should really only get into this one if you have a lot of time in your hands, as you are looking at 10 distinct stories, each of which are broken up into a series of books. It’s fantasy fiction on an absolutely massive scale, but the one thing that ties them all together is a family that produces magicians of the highest order every few generations. It really is hard to describe the full scope of this tale, and you really have to start reading to get an idea of just how wide-reaching Shannara really is.
  21. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – You are going to be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Harry Potter and his adventures at Hogwarts. This is a series that started off as an adventure for young adults, but which ended up exploring some much darker themes as the series went on. The fact that adults and kids embraced the world of Harry Potter gives you an idea of just how well-written and intelligent the series is. This is one that is likely to be handed down for many generations to come.

Learn more about the magic world of Harry Potter!

Hogwarts Classics (Harry Potter)
Hogwarts Classics (Harry Potter)

Description on Amazon:

Inside the Hogwarts Classics boxed set, readers will find a pair of books treasured by students at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry: Quidditch Through the Ages, a comprehensive history of the game and its rules (just try to ignore the doodles of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and other Hogwarts students who couldn't resist); and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, translated from the ancient runes by Hermione Granger, with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J.K. Rowling and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore.

 

The Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie strengthened the magic of the books and made J.K. Rowling's world even more famous

Conclusion

While this concludes our list, it is by no means one that should really be considered complete. We are well aware that there are going to be many of you who are screaming out loud that we missed a series that is beloved in the world of fantasy fiction, but we see that as a good thing. It helps create a dialog about the genre, and by telling us which series we missed, you will be helping to expand this list, and perhaps even pulling in new fans in the process.

We chose the series on here because we wanted a diverse list that would help show aspiring writers that there are many different approaches they can take in the fantasy genre. There is no specific order to the list, save for the addition of the Harry Potter series at the end. This is arguably the most successful series of books of all time, yet J.K. Rowling had to face rejection from a massive list of publishers who didn’t really understand her vision. When you choose to write, rejection is something that you are going to have to get used to. The lesson here is that perseverance can pay off, and that you can have people believe in the worlds you create, even when it seems as though they will never see the light of day.

Images: © grandfailure / Adobe Stock; Paul Liu / Adobe Stock; samott / Adobe Stock.

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      John Hansen 9 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a wonderful collection of fantasy series, Nerdine and Co. I have read or seen the movies based on about half you mention. One lesser known series but which is one of my favourites is "The Wells of Ythan" by Marc Alexander. There are four books in the series and I found the first in a second hand book store. I was so enraptured with the story and the characters that I had to search the Internet for the remaining three books in the series.