Like the previous posts in this series, I’ll be using a system to let you know if I’ve read the books, if I plan to read them, or if I’m going to be staying away from them!
Bold titles are books I have read
Italic and underlined titles are books that I would like to read eventually but don’t own
A single asterisk (*) denotes books/series I’m currently reading/in the middle of
Double asterisks (**) denotes books I own and plan to read
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss* Wow, right off the bat I don’t agree! Don’t get me wrong, Rothfuss is an amazing writer. But I think #1 should belong to another series on this list.
The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson*
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin The first series on the list that I’m currently caught up on! ASOIAF is a favorite of mine, and I’m comfortable with it being 3rd.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien** This is the series I think should take the #1 spot, primarily because of the INFLUENCE this series has had on the genre as a whole. You can’t scroll through a list of fantasy series without coming across this series, or an author who took inspiration from it.
The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks*
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman**
Discworld by Terry Pratchett
The First Law by Joe Abercrombie**
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
The Warded Man by Peter V Brett**
The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip I’ve never heard of this author or this series, which is surprising with how far up this list they ranked it.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson*
Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch*
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin**
Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb**
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling I know that Harry Potter has been really influential and people really love the series, but can we stop putting her on a pedestal? Thank you.
The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind I heard that Terry Goodkind passed away recently, which is sad. That said, I don’t think that he was a very nice person to his fans, or to the fantasy community in general. He shouldn’t even be on a list of fantasy series because as he said in a past interview that he doesn’t write fantasy he writes real stories.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin*
The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay** I’ve heard recently that a lot of Kay’s works have quite a bit of…how do I say this? Teenage boy talk about women? I’m not sure how heavy handed that is in this series, and I still want to try it for myself but I’m a little wary about it.
Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan**
The Broken Empire Series by Mark Lawrence*
A Land Fit for Heroes by Richard K Morgan**
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon In what world is this considered fantasy? I would solidly put this in historical romance. If they’re classifying it this way because of the time travel, that’s definitely a science fiction trope.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan* I’m surprised this isn’t farther up the list, knowing how many people love this series and how detailed it is!
Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson** At first I was surprised by this ranking too, but I know it’s a tough series to read and get in to, so probably not as many people have given it a shot after book one?
The Black Company by Glen Cook
Elemental Logic by Laurie J Marks Another one that I’ve never heard of!
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny**
The Avalon Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley I have no intentions of reading this one, I’d much rather read another King Arthur story on this list. I also know that Bradley has been accused of sexual abuse, so not only am I not interested in this book to begin with, but I don’t feel comfortable with supporting an author like that.
The Merlin Quintet by Mary Stewart
The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore**
The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock Who are you and what is this series about? Should I be reading these ‘best series’ I’ve never heard about?
Redwall by Brian Jacques I think this is the first middle grade on this list! I thought for a second there that this was an adult fantasy only list.
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini I’m kind of surprised that this made it onto the list of best fantasy series, seeing as Paolini started it when he was 16 and it pulls heavily from other fantasy series. I loved it as a kid, but is it really one of the best of all time?
The Riyria Revelations by Michael J Sullivan* I wish more people would read this series, Royce and Hadrian are great! Halfway through bindup #2.
Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker I’ve heard of this author, but not this series before.
Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman* So many people have told me to read this series, so I have book one and started it a while ago, but I haven’t had the time to finish it yet!
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson
The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan**
The Once and Future King by T.H. White** This is the King Arthur story that I would read that I mentioned earlier.
The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
The Gormenghast Series by Mervyn Peake Never heard of this one either, although from the description given in the ranking it sounds more like a horror fantasy?
The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix*
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper Yet another one I’ve never heard of!
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb* The second time Hobb has been on the list! I’m surprised this one ranks so far down, but I guess that means that when I get to the Liveship Traders I have something to look forward to since it’s higher on this list!
The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron**
Dreamblood by N.K. Jemisin Both authors who showed up twice are women, and I really appreciate that! I’m surprised that her Fifth Season series didn’t make the list as I’ve heard that’s her most popular though.
The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
My first observation reading this list is that it’s dominated by white men. There are only 13 women authors, and (as far as I know) only one is BIPOC. I know that there is a big push now more than ever for diverse fantasy, especially since this genre has been dominated by white men for so long. A lot of the authors on this list have had a ton of influence in the genre and are pretty prolific writers, so I’m expecting future lists to have authors like R.F. Kuang, S.A. Chakraborty, Fonda Lee, and Ken Liu on this list.
There are a few series here that I don’t think I would’ve ranked nearly as high and some I would’ve ranked higher, but the biggest thing is that there are quite a few authors that I think should’ve made it to this list, including Tamora Pierce, Tad Williams, Rick Riordan, Trudi Canavan, David Eddings, Cinda Williams Chima, Victoria Schwab, and even currently popular YA authors like Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J Maas for the way they are currently influencing YA fantasy.
My second observation is that I don’t recognize a lot of these authors and series. That’s not to say that people don’t enjoy them and clearly I don’t know every single fantasy series ever published, but here’s a little fact about me – I love lists. When I started blogging, I spent HOURS looking at lists of the best fantasy series, best fantasy books you need to read, and so on. So for me to have spent so much time browsing for amazing fantasy series and to not have heard of some of these at least once, maybe they aren’t actually the best fantasy series?
What are your thoughts on this list? I’d love to chat!