Fantasy novels draw us in with their sweeping action and creative stories. We get to explore new, wondrous worlds that stretch our imagination and let us enjoy a little escape from our own day-to-day lives. But with so many classics and up-and-coming epics to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start reading.
That's why we’ve hand-selected the best fantasy novels for you to enjoy, whether you’re a die-hard fantasy fan or are looking to explore this expansive genre for the first time. We loved The Lord of the Rings since the books are classics, add context to the movies, and are great for teens and adults. You can use our buying guide along with the list of the 10 Best Fantasy Novels to find your ideal book.
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Table of Contents
We've put together multiple points to help you choose the best fantasy novel. Keep these in mind and you'll be sure to find a magical book that'll whisk you away.
Many fantasy books are a part of a series, which can feel like you’re committing to seven books instead of one! Some people prefer stand-alone novels that they can read and enjoy, and then move on to a new story. However, other people love delving into a series, as they’re hooked on getting deeper into the tale with each book.
It's also important to consider whether you want to get into an ongoing series or a series that has already been published in full. An ongoing series can make you feel like you're experiencing the story live, but some installments can take years to be published.
Already-published series can make you feel a bit sad when they're over, but you'll also have the benefit of knowing the entire story.
There are a ton of subgenres, or specific categories of stories within fantasy, that can make it easier to find what interests you. Many books might have overlapping genres, which can make stories even more interesting! Here are a few common subgenres, but there are plenty more to explore, too.
High fantasy involves sweeping epic stories centered on a hero set in a secondary world unlike our own. Think The Lord of the Rings, a series that takes place in an entirely different world that has its own races of beings, languages, magic, and more.
Low fantasy is set in our own reality but adds magical aspects that may surprise the characters, such as in The Borrowers. These may be easier for readers to relate to since they have familiar settings, or they can even inspire some travel ideas, like visiting Platform 9 3/4 in London.
In magical realism, the story is set in our normal world, and the fantastical elements in the story are accepted as normal. A character wouldn’t be surprised to learn they can cast spells! Think of books like Life of Pi.
Many aspects of the unnatural don't need to be explained but are simply part of the world the story is set in. Magical realism got its start with Latin American authors, who often use magical elements to make us question our understanding of the world.
Dark fantasy books mix magic with elements of suspense or horror. Classic examples are the books by the author H.P. Lovecraft. It's almost like reading multiple genres in one. Instead of reading a horror book set in our reality, dark fantasy allows you to read about fears or mysteries in a different world.
These books can range from mildly spooky to terrifying, so make sure you can handle the level of horror. You can check reviews or the summary to find out.
Fairytale fantasy novels use classic stories or folktales to inspire their plots. Since each culture has its own set of fairytales, it's also a great way to learn more about the world.
Fairytales are often associated with kids, like Cinderella, but there’s a whole world of adult fairytale fiction, too. For example, the popular novel Wicked takes the family-friendly story of The Wizard of Oz and reinvents it for an adult audience.
Superheroes are associated with science fiction, but many superhero stories are fantasy. It depends on the origin of the superhero’s powers. Science fiction requires an explanation of how technology could create something, but fantasy doesn't need a reason to give someone superpowers.
For example, Wonder Woman could be considered fantasy since her powers are innate and unexplained, but Batman is considered more sci-fi, since he uses technology to become a superhero.
We’ve only described a few main subgenres, but there are so many more! There really is something for everyone, including subgenres like paranormal, romantic, steampunk, political, or comedy. Book review sites or recommendations from friends and family can help you delve into new territory.
Everyone has unique tastes, so it can be difficult to determine if you’ll like a novel as much as someone else did. Bestseller lists can be useful but consider other factors to help you find a book you’ll enjoy. Keeping these points in mind can help you find original stories that offer you something new.
If you've been on a modern novel kick, why not try a classic novel for something new? Sometimes older fantasy novels can seem intimidating or outdated, especially if they use old-fashioned language.
However, there are a ton of classic fantasy novels people continue to enjoy in our modern age! Many of these stories have themes or characters that people can still relate to, like Bram Stoker's original Dracula or Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Young adult (YA) novels are geared towards teens, but there’s a boom of amazing writing in the YA genre anyone can enjoy. The themes and stories in YA novels are often surprisingly complex. Books like the Harry Potter series or A Wrinkle in Time are enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
YA novels do a great job of introducing coming-of-age stories. This can encourage people to look at themselves, love themselves, and seek self-improvement. Plus, YA novels can be an easier read compared to adult fiction. So if you're looking for a quick read, a YA novel might fit the bill.
Once you’ve read the bestsellers, what are you going to read next? Any book you enjoy is a good book, so don’t worry too much about selecting a title by an author you aren’t familiar with. You may discover a new favorite if you take a chance and try something new.
There are websites and blogs like Goodreads or Amazon designed to help you find new authors based on popular authors you already like. Try searching terms like "If you like JK Rowling, try..." or "best books for Harry Potter fans," if you want some recommendations.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? As hard as it can be to ignore a cheesy illustration or odd photo, it’s good to have an open mind regarding cover art when choosing a book.
Some authors do directly influence or make the design, while other authors don’t get a strong say in their own cover art. Besides, you'll be spending your time looking at the inside of the book.
Comics and graphic novels can bring fantasy worlds to life! The interplay between text and images creates a unique experience that only this medium can offer. Some people assume comics are for kids, but there’s a robust genre of adult graphic novels, too.
Graphic novels are also great for those who are turned off by reading text-only novels because they're a bit slow at reading or they get distracted easily. Graphic novels are often shorter in text length than full-length novels, so they're perfect for quick or low-intensity reads!
There are often communities built around specific book genres. This includes fantasy! Connecting to other readers, whether it’s joining a book club or using book review platforms like Goodreads, can help you figure out what to read next.
Bibliophiles are often eager to share their favorite books, so talking to others can save you the work of having to research new novels by yourself. There are even professionals to help you choose. Consider talking to your local librarian or seeking out fantasy genre blogs to help you with recommendations.
If you already have favorite modern fantasy authors, consider turning to them for recommendations! Authors often share what they’ve been enjoying on their social media.
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4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Best Timeless Classics That Portray Epic Adventures
Best for People Interested in Classic Monsters
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet)
Best for Tweens, Teens, and Those Who Liked the Movie
Best as an Introduction to Dark Fantasy
Best for Readers Interested in Greek Mythology
Best for People Interested in a Superhero-Esque Story
The Color of Magic (A Novel of Discworld)
Best Magical Comedy That's the First in a Lengthy Series
The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy)
Best for Bloody Action and Memorable Characters
N. K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth)
Best for Those Who Want to Think and Ponder
Best Graphic Novel for Those Interested in Darker Stories
This is a beloved classic in which the first book is its own story and the following three are a trilogy. The first stars Bilbo's adventures with dwarves, while the trilogy follows his cousin, Frodo, who must destroy a powerful ring.
Some reviewers didn't like how this collection was physically smaller and had smaller text, so the books were harder to read. However, plenty of reviewers loved the memorable characters in this series. They also recognized the stories as classics among literature.
This series stars Tessa, Jem, and Will, who are trying to protect the Shadowhunters from the clockwork army. It's a series that deals with werewolves, vampires, and similar creatures the Shadowhunters must deal with.
A few reviewers felt this series wasn't as good as the original, called The Mortal Instruments. Nevertheless, a fair amount of reviewers loved the world these books take place in. They also found the action and romance appealing, since it encouraged them to keep reading.
This book is a classic, first published in 1962. It's about a girl named Meg who travels through time to find her father. It's a book geared towards young women, but its themes of science, philosophy and coming-of-age are highly relatable for anyone.
A few reviewers felt the ending was too abrupt, boring, and anticlimactic. On the other hand, a large portion of reviewers liked that the author depicted Meg's struggles as a young woman. They also felt the various characters in the book were relatable, especially the protagonist.
This one follows the life of Harry Potter as he discovers his magical powers. Once he does, he attends a school called Hogwarts, where he learns how to use his magic among other wizards and witches.
A few reviewers said the story wasn't subtle enough for adults when it came to its plot twists. On the bright side, many reviewers said the book was as magical as the magic in the story. They also appreciated how the book had a solid balance of suspenseful and funny moments.
This book stars Circe, who is the daughter of the god Helios, and soon discovers she has magical powers. It focuses on Circe's struggle as she tries to decide if she wants to support the gods or the mortals.
Some reviewers didn't like how this book had crude language and swearing throughout it. On the bright side, loads of reviewers appreciated that the story connected to Greek mythology. They also appreciated how Circe was a strong main character.
This book stars a 12-year-old who lives in Nigeria and discovers her magical powers. She soon joins a group of other magic users, so they can track down a villain who uses magic.
A few reviewers didn't like the plot since they felt it was too similar to Harry Potter. However, plenty of reviewers enjoyed how the book was a coming-of-age story about the characters trying to improve themselves. They also felt the story had memorable characters, such as Sunny.
This book takes place in a realm known as the Discworld, which is similar to our world but with different rules. It stars a tourist named Twoflower, who relies on the wizard Rincewind to help him in this world. The series spans 1983, when this was first published, to 2015, and has over 40 books.
A couple of reviewers said this is one of the weaker books in the series, so they prefer others such as Thief of Time. Nevertheless, multiple reviewers said the story was funny with tons of great moments. They also appreciated how it had elements of fantasy and sci-fi in it.
This book stars a barbarian named Logen, who finds himself with many enemies seeking his demise. It's a story with plenty of comedic moments along with action sequences throughout it.
Some reviewers found the writing difficult to follow and disliked that it had excessive swearing. Despite that point, many reviewers said the story had humor, action and funny moments throughout. A lot say the trilogy is worth reading, even if this first book is a bit slower than the next two.
This story stars a woman named Essun, who pretends to be a schoolteacher. It takes place in a land called Stillness and involves Essun trying to get her son back after he was kidnapped and her husband was murdered.
A few reviewers found the first chapter hard to read and difficult to understand. On the other hand, more than a few reviewers enjoyed the dystopian world in this book. They also appreciated how the book was thought-provoking and left them pondering the themes.
This comic follows teenagers who get put into a role-playing world after they roll their dice. They eventually escape and must return to the world now that they're in their forties, to find one of their friends. The creator describes the series as a dark Jumanji.
Some reviewers noticed plot holes and found it confusing to follow at times. Despite that point, plenty of reviewers enjoyed the concept of kids who must return to a horror world as adults. They also noted the story was great for people who enjoy role-playing and similar games, and many loved the artwork.
There's always room for more books in your collection. Grab a hot beverage and a blanket, and settle in with these other great reads.
If you want different books or need more to read, you can always go through Amazon's Best Selling Fantasy Books to find an interesting story and enjoy it.
No. 1: J.R.R. Tolkien ｜4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
No. 2: Cassandra Clare｜
No. 3: Madeleine L'Engle｜A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet)
No. 4: J.K. Rowling｜
No. 5: Madeline Miller ｜Circe
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