What is the best fantasy book series of all time? In the minds of some readers, fantasy is synonymous with hobbits and magic closets.
For others, it’s a Chicago P.I. with supernatural powers or a gunslinger in a fantastical Old West. That, after all, is the genre’s fundamental charm.
The fantasy genre flourishes when new settings, life forms, and magical systems are introduced. It makes things like elves falling in love with humans and hoodlums able to use magic conceivable.
Fantasy readers are introduced to epic escapades featuring evildoers who rule the globe and courageous protagonists who put others before themselves (sometimes tender-hearted villains and amoral heroes).
Fantasy, in a nutshell, is a genre of epic power and dazzling beauty. In honor of the history of the fantasy genre, we have compiled a list of our favorite shows from throughout history.
So have fun with our collection of the best fantasy book series of all time!
1. The Black Company
Beginning with the book The Black Company (1984), World-building is essential to a good fantasy story, and Glen Cook’s Black Company trilogy delivers its abundance.
For 10 books, 3 storylines span 400 years of fascinating history in spinoff series and several short stories.
The Black Company is a perfect title for this collection of stories, which explores questions of ethics among a band of professional assassins working in a multiverse where wizards and magic are commonplace.
Along with fantasy readers, Cook found a receptive audience among active-duty military personnel who appreciated The Black Company’s realistic depiction of mercenaries coping with their occupation. It is one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
2. The Broken Empire Trilogy
The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence is a complex and magical fantasy trilogy that weaves a war epic, a family drama, and a coming-of-age narrative together.
After witnessing the brutal killings of his mother and brother, Jorg Ancrath, the eponymous “Prince of Thorns,” transforms from a tormented boy to a ruthless leader contending for the kingdom.
In addition to vivid (though occasionally heinous) characters, Lawrence’s trilogy offers a unique spin on the tired “kid battling to unify the land” plot by having the protagonist willingly leave a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia
Given that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends for decades, it is not surprising that Lewis’ cheerful Narnia books might be seen as the yang to Tolkien’s somber and brooding yin.
Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis’ saga is usually summed up by the kid-friendly The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The other books, such as Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with its nautical adventure and picturesque settings, or The Magician’s Nephew, with its depiction of Narnia’s origins, have a greater sense of epic scope and Regal enchantment.
Since time moves far more swiftly in Narnia than in our world, readers are subtly but often reminded of the fleeting nature of all things.
It’s interesting to see how the huge empires our heroes build in one book are destroyed in the next, revealing different facets of Narnia each time.
The Chronicles of Narnia is a must-read book if you are a fan of some of the best fantasy book series of all time.
4. Prydain Novels
Prydain Novels of also one of the best fantasy book series of all time. Lloyd Alexander’s pentalogy has remained somewhat under the radar in an era when every popular teen series is touted as a possible film franchise (except for Disney’s disastrous 1985 feature, The Black Cauldron).
This coming-of-age narrative about Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his companions delivers a high fantasy and touchingly real story, soaked softly in Welsh mythology without being wedded to it.
Also, Taran, Eilonwy, Flewddur Fflam, Gurgi, and Doli are memorable enough to stand with more well-known fantasy heroes like hobbits and talking lions, making this series an excellent entry point for newcomers to the genre.
5. The Saga of Thomas Covenant
Despite obvious Tolkien homage (an all-powerful ring, staff-wielding magic users, an invisible enemy of unparalleled hostility, etc.), Stephen R. Donaldson’s trilogy has one of the most irritating protagonists ever to carry a fantasy series. Of course, leprosy is horrible, so maybe it’s understandable that Thomas Covenant is a jerk.
Nonetheless, Donaldson’s trilogy has much more going for it than just the Bloodguard and some great fight scenes, as seen by its inclusion on our list. To be sure, loving The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is about loving the Land.
It’s a universe where the interdependence of humankind with the natural world is presented with such nuance that you can’t help but feel strongly attached to it.
You’ll be on the side of the hobbits and Aragon and Gandalf and Gimli and Legolas and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings.
6. The Dark Elf Trilogy
Despite the long and close relationship between role-playing games and fantasy literature, the crossover is not without potential peril for newcomers to both genres.
However, one positive aspect of game-based fiction is the level of realism it can achieve in creating a virtual version of a real environment.
Conversely, reading poorly written fantasy novels may be a real hardship. But luckily for D&D players, it hasn’t been a common problem in the Forgotten Realms.
Also, The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, which vividly recreates the history of the elf Drizzt Do’Urden, is among the most popular books in the Forgotten Realms series.
Sojourn, the series’ conclusion, made waves by landing on the New York Times bestseller list, making this one of the few occasions when a wide audience read a series of this kind.
The Dark Elf Trilogy, just like the movie, has risen to become one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
7. The Dark Tower
It’s understandable if Stephen King’s name conjures up images of a different kind of literature to you, but don’t dismiss his work because of this.
In The Dark Tower, eight stories published between 1982 and 2012, King deftly combines dark fantasy, western, and horror elements.
The setting of the narrative, which is reminiscent of the Wild West, may not seem like a natural fit for fantasy, but the adventures of the Gunslinger are more reminiscent of Lord of the Rings than Clint Eastwood.
The Dark Tower series deserves the decades-long debate it has inspired, even if fans disagree on the finest books, the story’s chronology, and whether or not it will get the cinematic adaptation it deserves.
Terry Pratchett provided a much-needed counterpoint to the numerous writers who have tried to emulate J.R.R. Tolkien’s status as the King of fantasy.
Not Pratchett, whose Discworld series pondered what would happen if the characters in a high fantasy-type environment matured a bit, only to have fully contemporary flaws and fears.
Pratchett answered fantastical concerns that no one had ever considered, such as what type of menial city job is acceptable for trolls, by moving much of the action to the smelly, dirty underbelly of an industrial-era metropolis.
The City Watch, the Witches, the incompetent wizard Rincewind, the treacherous Patrician of the city, etc., are all staples of the show’s sprawling comic mythology, which frequently shifts focus to new locations on the Disc continent while returning to familiar groups of fan-favorite characters from a variety of social classes.
Pratchett’s humor is firmly planted in the ludicrous. Each book has a unique blend of serious character development and an external danger that escalates to an outrageous climax with far-reaching implications. Discworld is also listed as one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
9. Dragonriders of Pern
The joy of reading about dragons that linked with their riders via telepathic connection was almost too much to stomach when I was a kid and reading the first Pern novels.
No job was more appealing than riding about on my fire-breathing horse and closest companion, protecting the planet from the Thread epidemic.
But I would have been content to follow in Menolly’s footsteps and become a harper, penning tunes while accompanied by telepathic fire lizards.
Anne McAffrey’s world of dragons inspired 22 books and two collections of short tales, but the first two trilogies remain bestsellers.
10. The Dresden Files
A Chicago-based, hard-boiled mystery series in which a wizard plays the role of a private investigator. The idea of Jim Butcher’s wildly successful series has to rank among the greatest “Why didn’t I think of that?!” combinations since Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup was invented.
Jim Butcher’s stories have a prefab structure that fans of fantasy and detective noir will recognize, thanks to the mash-up of these two well-established pulp genres. The Dresden Files is also one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
This allows Butcher to skip the more laborious aspects of world-building and jump straight to the action while also refining the clichés he used to get a head start.
11. The Earthsea Cycle
In the Realm of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings receives widespread acclaim. Still, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle still deserves equal recognition for its ambitious worldbuilding (and its effect on authors like Neil Gaiman).
Six books in the series were released between 1968 and 2001, and they all explored an island group that was delightfully far from our own.
Even though J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books get all the credit for wizarding schools, many people believe that this kind of schooling first appeared on Earthsea.
The series follows a young wizard as he undertakes the difficult mission of restoring order to the Realm of magic, a topic familiar to American viewers in 2016.
A powerful current still runs through the ever-changing fantasy world that Le Guin helped to create.
12. The First Law Trilogy
Fantasy relies on solid world-building, but readers of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy have praised the books for another reason: Their compelling protagonists and antagonists.
Fans of the First Law like stories in which the characters not only live up to their labels but actively participate in their worst behaviors, even if the promise of barbarians, wizards, and territorial disputes should be enough to keep readers interested.
In the first book, titled “The Blade Itself, “we meet a military commander, a barbarian, a guy with magical abilities, and a torturer with extensive life experience and exposure to the outside world.
Abercrombie reveals a universe in his three books and creates more emotionally fascinating tales through the perspective of his severely flawed characters. The First Law Trilogy is also one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
13. The Night Angel Trilogy
In Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, orphan-turned-wet boy Kylar Stern remarks, “Wetboys are to assassins as a tiger is to a kitten.” Kylar lives in a harsh universe where avarice and elemental power coexist.
He sees himself in the middle of a war that might change the course of history and must decide whether to use violence or peaceful means to preserve the life he has known.
With believable protagonists and a unique magic system, Weeks has written a gripping trilogy that stands with the finest of fantasy literature.
14. The Pendragon Cycle
You may be tempted to skip another retelling of King Arthur’s story, but this one is worth your time. Stephen R. Lawhead, with the help of his extensive research, tackles the famed fable and turns it into a captivating narrative that may have occurred.
The first book is about Merlin’s childhood amid druids and monks, while the second is about his parents and the Lost City of Atlantis. This six-volume series doesn’t start interesting until book three, but the buildup to that point is fantastic.
There are a lot of Arthurian stories out there, but this one is worth your time—a quote from Rich Jackson. The Pendragon Cycle is also one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
15. The Realm of the Elderlings
The Realm of the Elderlings is a fictional universe created by Robin Hobb that spans numerous novels around the same globe.
The Tawny Man Trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, and The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy all focus on the life of royal bastard and assassin Fitz Chivalry.
The other two books focus on sea commerce and dragons in the same universe (The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles, respectively).
Hobb’s ability to construct a deep fantasy world while delving into the lives of well-loved people is shown by the books in the Realm of the Elderlings series.
The Redwall books by Brian Jacques, which he wrote and published over 15 years and a total of 22 novels, could have been your favorite when you were a youngster.
The courageous inhabitants of Redwall Abbey and Mossflower Woods, though, make for the type of young adult literature that captivates readers of all ages.
The series is set in a recognizable medieval setting populated by numerous anthropomorphic animals, and it has been published out of chronological sequence.
The brave mice and malevolent stouts battle in tales like Martin the Warrior and Salamandastron are cute, but these tales aren’t for kids.
The stakes in this war between good and evil seem high because of how dangerous the situation is. However, even if the novels are certain to have a happy conclusion, it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to read.
Like describing the Olympics as a sports event, describing the Shannara volumes as a series would be an understatement; this fantasy saga spans ten tales, each around the length of a trilogy.
A family that produces a magic user or two every few generations, a shadowy druidic organization, and a tree that keeps legions of demons at bay are the connecting threads throughout the novels.
Since Terry Brooks has written just as many tales before The Sword of Shannara as after it, your only choice is to read the novels in the order, they were published or tackle them chronologically.
Don’t be misled by the new MTV show, The Shannara Chronicles; this is a fantastic universe to discover.
18. A Song of Ice and Fire
While fans, HBO, and George R.R. Martin are understandably concerned that only five of a projected seven volumes have been released, what we have seen so far is so massive in scale that it almost makes Middle-earth seems puny.
The number of characters on the chessboard, each vying for dominance, survival, or retribution, was so great that only half of them could be addressed in the fifth book.
However, even though they are vying for the faiths, power, cultures, and histories of Westeros’s seven kingdoms and the free cities to the east remain consistent.
Martin’s character deaths have been called into question, but the severity of this Machiavellian, patriarchal society only makes us feel more for the helpless innocents and victims. This is also one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
19. Stormlight Archives
To put it simply, Brandon Sanderson is a technical strict logic governs worldbuilding experts and the magic in his works that provide it with organic limits.
His talent with people, though, is unparalleled. The risk of reading fantasy fiction is that the characters will become entirely unrelatable due to their extreme distance from reality.
Characters like Kaladin and Shallan from The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance have so much depth that we care about how they fare in a battle with far-reaching consequences, even if it’s nothing like we’ve ever experienced.
Only two novels into what Sanderson hopes will be a ten-book series, and already one of the most creative and complex fantasy universes ever written. Stormlight Archives is one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
Naomi Novik creates a fresh and original take on a tired genre with her groundbreaking series. Novik’s ongoing narrative begins with a thought experiment on how the Napoleonic War may have gone differently had sentient dragons been a part of the fighting.
The time and care Novik devoted to developing the Dragon culture is a major factor in the series’s appeal. Dragons come in various shapes, sizes, and cultural contexts. Their very existence demonstrates that humans are not the only intelligent species in the world.
The Temeraire trilogy is engaging because it combines fantastical elements with alternate versions of real-world events. Temeraire is one of the best fantasy book series of all time.
21. The Wheel of Time
A select handful of works can compete with The Wheel of Time regarding worldbuilding and the accompanying enchantment.
However, when you consider that Robert Jordan wrote a series that approaches 12,000 pages, the sheer breadth and complexity of his characters and plots seem clearer.
Jordan not only created a world where women control magic and men are corrupted by it, but he also wrote about the collision of diverse civilizations, peoples, and places.
Around the book’s midpoint, you’ll wonder how Jordan will tie everything together, just as you did with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
Jordan tragically passed away in 2007 while writing the last book of the series, but Brandon Sanderson did a fantastic job concluding the series based on Jordan’s notes.
An exciting ending has been achieved, which will remain compelling over time, resulting in it being one of the best fantasy book series of all time.