Best Epic Fantasy Novels
Some Of The Best Epic Fantasies Ever Written
I love reading fantasy novels, and I especially love epic fantasies such as the Harry Potter series, A Game of Thrones, The Chronicles of Narnia and similar other books that involve an epic, large scale storyline with major characters who break the mold in one way or another.
It might sound strange, but I was reading epic fantasies for many years now, but only recently learned that they are called as such. Whether book series or stand alone fantasy novels, I read them all.
Some might disagree with me on the stand alone fiction as being called epic fantasy (also called high fantasy), but I do
The list below is, of course, based on my own personal - maybe biased - opinion, so if you do have another favorite that I haven't mentioned here, please let me know in the Guestbook section. Also I will expand this page with more book reviews and recommendations as I read more and find some real gems worth mentioning.
A Quick Overview Of Some Of The Most Popular Epic Fantasy Books
Here are just some of the best of the best epic fantasy novels voted by many people who love to read fantasy books. I will discuss each of them below along with others that I consider top notch. I have read them all - many have read them more than once - and my opinion on about them has never changed one bit. These books are true classic novels that deserve to be on every fantasy lover's permanent bookshelf.
What Makes A Fantasy Epic
So What Is An Epic Fantasy Anyway?
As I mentioned above, I was reading epic fantasies ever since I was a child, however only recently - a couple of years ago at best - I came across the notion. The more I researched and read about it, the more confusion I've seen among the various folks who have actually written about what they thought an epic fantasy - or a high fantasy - might mean.
So here is my own view of what such a book - or book series - should contain in order to qualify as epic in the first place.
- First of all, the novel or series of books should be a fantasy, where the story takes place in an alternate world that is not real.
- There should be a major quest in the main storyline that the main character should work towards.
- There should be some grand epic scale struggle against the supernatural forces which are usually evil to extreme.
- The creatures and folks in the storyline are usually found only in fantasy, such as elves, werewolves, vampires, dwarves, magicians
- There is usually a coming of age of a character involved (e.g. Harry Potter's coming of age from s small kid to a full fledged teenager and his struggles along the way)
- The storyline will involve some major challenge for the main character to face, a challenge that can potentially change the world as it is. The challenge usually is almost impossible to complete, it is definitely not for the 'regular folks'.
- Usually it covers a long time, several years, in some cases centuries even.
- In a nutshell, the storyline has to somehow deal with something happening on a large scale. it is not about a family problem, or something happening in the school. Basically it has to be...epic.
What Is Your Opinion On What An Epic Fantasy Novel Is?
Do you agree with my criteria above, or you have some other ideas as to what it all entails? Or maybe you pretty much agree, but have a few contradictory or enhancing points to mention? Let me know below - you can comment here even if you are not a member of this site.
Best Epic Fantasy Novels Or Series
In no particular order
The Lord Of The Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien
I personally consider this the best epic fantasy series ever. In fact it had such an impact around that it strongly influenced many other novels that have been written since, and not only that - it greatly influenced the Dungeons & Dragons RPG computer games. Many such games include characters taken almost directly from LOTR. There is music created influenced by this epic work, and the pop culture has been majorly influenced as well.
So why is The Lord Of The Rings considered an epic fantasy? Well, it definitely fulfills all of the criteria of what makes such a fantasy subgrene in the first place. There is one hero who is present in all of the novels and he is on a major quest. He has several loyal friends who help him every step of the way.
Fantasy creatures - the books are full of them. Evil supernatural? Check. There are many side quests along the major one, making the story line extremely complex. The Lord of the Rings is a world in itself, a world where changes brought about by the main character affect it greatly.
In addition there are many major turning points in the book, and Fredo has his own coming of age story to go through.
I won't write a review for the book here as it would take me an entire page, but if you haven't read the series yes, I cannot recommend it enough. It is truly a life changer.
If You Liked The Lord Of The Rings, I Also Recommend The Hobbit
I also consider The Hobbit an epic fantasy, albeit it's only a single book. Written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the story follows Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who has to undertake a major journey and fulfill a quest that will change him forever. A great book which should be also read if you are reading LOTR.
Harry Potter Series By J.K. Rowling
I know this choice might give some folks a pause, but I do consider the Harry Potter series an epic fantasy. Why? Because while it doesn't fulfill 100% the criteria, it does fulfill the most.
First of all Harry Potter is a fantasy series set in a fantasy world with fantasy creatures. There is a main character who has a coming of age experience over the course of the novels, who has to fight a major supernatural evil "the one who should not be named" and has his friends who help him in his quests. Each book in the series has a major quest with several sub-plots.
The effects of Harry Potter's actions throughout the books are major and include the entire magic world.
I do find one reason that gave me a bit of a pause initially, in that the alternate world also mixes in with the regular world of the muggles, which is our own, real world. Also the whole storyline really happens at Hogwarts and its nearby areas, and in our world.
However the 'for' elements greatly overshadow the few ones that I mentioned above, so I just can't think of Harry Potter as anything else but an epic fantasy series.
Do You Think Harry Potter Is An Epic Fantasy?
Having given my opinion of why Harry Potter should be considered an epic novel, I'm curious what you all think. Is it one, or it's a simple fantasy novel for kids?
You're welcome to comment and let me know what you think (even if you are not a member of this site).
Do You Think Harry Potter Is An Epic Fantasy?
A Game Of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin
Not all the books have been written yet, but I've read all that have been published so far and I love everything about this novel series. I think it fulfills all the criteria for it to be classified as an epic fantasy series and I don't think anyone could convince me of this otherwise :)
It is a major series that takes place in an alternate world. While the supernatural is not so prevalent, it is there though (dragons, the white walkers, Kal Drago's return from the dead, etc), so it cannot be discounted.
One thing that might give some people a pause is the lack of a central character in the novels. In fact there are several main characters and the story is alternating between them. It is a very unique story in that some of the main characters that we grow fond of and consider 'main', will actually die (won't give more of the details, don't worry). I did have to get used to this style, and see the series in a different light.
There are several kingdoms involved and lots of traveling between them. Pretty much everything that happens in the books has an effect in the world overall.
However beware that if you get hooked on the series, it is by no means finished, so you might have to sit and wait with the rest of us for the next book to be written and published!
The Blog Of George R.R. Martin - Worth Checking Out
- George R.R. Martin's Blog
I love reading this personal blog by the author of the Game of Thrones Series.
- G.R.R. Martin's Book Recommendation
If you can't find it right away on his blog, this is the post where he recommends other fantasy novels while writing for him to finish yet another book in his popular series.
The Chronicles of Narnia By C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia is another major epic fantasy novel series that should be part of any top list. It is epic in scope, story line, characters, quests and major journeys. The main characters do have a coming of age experience throughout the books, and there is plenty of supernatural to go around.
The actions of the kids in the magical world does have effects on the entire world and there is always a major evil to be fought. And of course there are the loyal friends who help them every step of the way. How can it not be considered a major epic fantasy?
I've read the books many years ago and I got a renewed enjoyment when the movies started to come out. I just had to re-read them and I'm glad I did, as I found nuances in the books that I haven't caught as a kid.
This is why I also don't believe that this series is only for kids. It should be read by adults of all ages as well. It is really a story with lots of lessons to learn for all of us.
Did You Know That There Is Such A Sub-Genre Called Epic Fantasy?
The Wheel Of Time By Robert Jordan
Wow what a huge epic series this one is! I've read The Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan years ago as a teen, and I was practically devouring the books one of another. I've read it before The Lord of the Rings, and until then I considered my most monumental read at all (well LOTR did take first place once I've read it, it's just so much more engaging, in my opinion).
Currently there are 14 books (tomes really) in this series, including 3 written by another writer Brandon Sanderson, after the decease of Robert Jordan.
Now this monumental work is indeed epic in all aspects of it. First of all it's huge, the entire world is great, there are lots of fantasy elements, and the struggle with evil is epic as well. In fact the story is about the saga of an entire alternate world fighting evil, and adapting to change, dealing with war and destruction.
There is a major character throughout who is fighting against the Dark One, who has several quests ahead of him, lots of struggles and major personal development to go through. It would be too much to try to review the book and the plot, as it's truly huge, but let me say that it is well worth reading.
More Popular Epic Fantasy Novels That Didn't Make The Top 5
The top 5 list above is my own list, however I know that many people will have their own favorites of what makes the cut. Here are some other epic fantasies that I read and loved, even though I do have my top 5 absolute favorites. I could, in fact, list another 100 or so, but alas, adding them all here would defeat the scope of 'the best'.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is again one of my favorite fantasy series ever. It is simply awesome, and if you haven't got a chance to read the trilogy yet, I highly recommend you do.
It is truly an epic with a coming of age story of 2 kids that fight evil in an alternate world full of magic.
The Mistborn series is not as popular as the previous books, however it's a great read. It includes 4 books, a trilogy and an additional stand alone novel which has the story line taking place a few hundred years after the initial series.
Just a side note - the author of Mistborn is the writer who finished the Wheel of Time series after the decease of Robert Jordan.
Eragon is the first book in the epic fantasy series Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.
Eragon is a young farm boy who finds a mysterious stone in the mountains, which turns out to be a dragon egg.
It is a wonderful story about the journey of Eragon to keep the dragon from getting captured by the evil forces, and his coming of age throughout the novel. A real classic fantasy that is worth reading if you haven't already done so.