Have you ever thought about writing your own fantasy novel? One of the best things you can do is take inspiration from others and get to know your genre. So without further ado, here’s our pick of the 25 best fantasy books ever written.

The popularity of this series has exploded over the last several years, so what list wouldn’t include A Game of Thrones? If you like multiple, intricate story lines, a cast of characters where none is safe from death, and a world full of lords, knights, bastards, wizards, ladies, and more, then you’ll like this series. It has magic, intrigue, mystery, and lots of romance; in essence, a world unlike any you’ve ever encountered.

1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

One ring rules them all. The Dark Lord put all of his powers in One Ring that was taken from him. After years in Middle-earth, Bilbo Baggins ends up with the ring. After he reaches his eleventy-first year, he disappears, and the ring becomes the property of Frodo, his cousin. Thus starts the epic quest to destroy the ring and everything it stands for.

2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The land where children tumble out of a wardrobe, a secret country where only Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund are known. Lucy finds it first, followed by Edmund and the others. There they discover magic and Aslan, the Great Lion. And it changes their lives forever.

3. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

What would happen if characters in a fantasy world grew up and discovered they had modern anxieties and problems? What would be the best job for a troll in the city? The Colour of Magic explores the answers to questions everyone has but is afraid to ask about fantasy heroes.https://www.youtube.com/embed/3CMdTlbGhXQ

4. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Fitz is born a bastard of royal blood with a magical link to animals called Wit. When he is eventually adopted into the royal household, he must give up his link to animals and embrace a new way of living and being—he trains to become a royal assassin.

5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In a fantastic world of criminals and nobles, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an adventure, loyalty, and survival guide along the lines of Robin Hood and Ocean’s Eleven. Locke Lamora dodges death, slavery, and more only to fall in the hands of a con artist known as Chains.

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

A coming-of-age story in a fantasy world, The Name of the Wind tells the story of a young man who grows to become a notorious wizard. With beginnings that start in a troupe of traveling players, Kvothe finally enters a school of magic. Plenty of high action and adventure turns Kvothe into a fugitive sought for murder.

7. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

The Goodreads description starts: “HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?” Lessa, who most think of as an inconsequential kitchen girl, determines it’s time to take back her stolen birthright. But then she meets the queen dragon, forming a quick and strong bond. Dragons and their riders must protect the planet Thread, but at what price?https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZfMQDNcu68s

8. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

As the Wheel of Time continues to turn, Ages come and go leaving behind legends that fade to myth, which is long forgotten. It’s not until the Third Age, the Age of Prophecy, that the world and time both hang in balance. Now, what was, what is, and what will be can fall under the Shadow.

9. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie combines an unlikely cast of characters: a philosophical Barbarian who abhors killing, a dashing hero afraid to fight, and a crippled torturer who has a heart of gold. This unlikely cast, coupled with an interesting plot and a wizard, treads a line between hero and villain that may cost them everything.

10. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

An epic fantasy where mystical swords and suits of armor transform ordinary men into invincible warriors, kingdoms are won and traded for Shardblades. An interesting cast of characters from around the fantasy world fight their own battles, sometimes with motives less than pure.

11. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

The fantasy world of Malazan is full of discontent thanks to innumerable wars, bitter infighting, and gory confrontations. Empress Laseen’s imperial legions, thought inured to the bloodshed, are looking for a break. But her rule is absolute, enforced by her dreaded Claw assassins. As the Empress turns her site to new battles, the gods themselves are getting ready for a little interference.

Why are these books so successful?

We’re halfway through our list of the greatest fantasy books of all time – but why are these books so great?

All the books on this list completely immerse their reader in their stories. Their plots aren’t simple by any means, but they are written in a way that allows their readers to ease themselves in to complex new worlds without overwhelming them with information.

This might seem effortless, but a lot of work goes into producing fantasy writing that works. If you’ve got a whole world in your head just waiting to spill onto the page, you might have thought about writing a book. If you construct a world that readers can’t help but want to step into, maybe one day that book will even be one of the greatest of all time.

Before we get there though, your writing has to be fantastic. Using an editing tool like ProWritingAid will help you learn as you write, teaching you how to make your writing readable, well-paced and, of course, grammatically correct!

Did you know that your pacing can have a big impact on readability? You may have every detail of your world planned out, right down to the types of fork each character uses at dinner, but does your reader need to know every detail all at once?

ProWritingAid’s pacing report will highlight areas where your writing is a little too introspective or description heavy, so that you can balance it our with some action. Being able to see an overview of your writing allows you to keep track of your novel as a whole to make sure that every part is doing the work it needs to to put your world into the heads of your readers.

Even if you’re not writing a novel, you can use ProWritingAid to check all of the writing you produce to make sure your written communication is as effective as possible.

Now, back to the list!

12. The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Roland Deschain of Gilead is the Last Gunslinger. He is a mysterious figure on a quest through a desolate fantasy world in pursuit of the man in black. Roland is a good man, yet he leaves death in his wake. The man in black, on the other hand, can bring the dead back to life.

13. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ged is the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but he was called Sparrowhawk in his youth. It was as Sparrowhawk that the terrible shadow was loosed upon the world. Ged must master the mighty word of power, tame an ancient dragon, and cross death’s threshold to restore balance to his world.

14. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Over 800 pages of world-building, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell tells the tale of English magicians who have lost their ability to perform magic. That is, until a reclusive magician regains some powers. He is soon in demand for his powers and all is fine until a rival magician shows up—Jonathan Strange.

15. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Lyra rushes to the cold North where witch clans and armored bears rule—and where Gobblers take children, including her friend Roger. Lyra’s fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world, but Lyra is one small girl. Can she make a difference in this great and terrible endeavor?

16. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

In a world where the king’s evil is unending, can Eragon and the fledgling dragon navigate the treacherous terrain and the vast, dark enemies? Can Eragon take up the fight of the legendary Dragon Riders? Thrust into a world of destiny, magic, and power, Eragon realizes the fate of the empire may rest in his hands.

17. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

The first in the Sword of Truth series, Wizard’s First Rule starts with the murder of Richard Cypher’s father. Suddenly a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard’s forest. She needs help—and more. Will Richard find the courage to challenge those who hold dominion?

18. The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Who doesn’t love the mystical, magical legend of King Arthur? In The Once and Future King, a young lad called “Wart” comes under the tutelage of Merlyn the wizard to create an amazing future. Wart will ally himself with the greatest knights of the realm, love a legendary queen, and unite a country under chivalrous values. He will be Arthur, King of the Britons.

19. Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

In the Kingdom of Isles, to the forest on the shore comes an orphan, Pug, to study with the magician, Kulgan. He may have won the heart of the lovely Princess, but normal wizardry leaves him cold. However, his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who open space-time to begin again an old battle between Order and Chaos.

20. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Jorg Ancrath, who was once a privileged royal child raised by a loving mother, has become the Prince of Thorns, an immoral boy who leads a band of outlaws. The entire fantasy world is in chaos, and Jorg can rule the living and the dead, but something even more horrifying confronts him. He must face the horrors of his childhood and carve a better future for himself.

21. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Featuring a cast of gods who are almost washed up, American Gods tells the tale of power waxing and waning in the modern age. When war with modern gods crops up its evil head, Shadow Moon encounters Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee, a former god, and the king of America.https://www.youtube.com/embed/iHPKTby9z6o

22. The Black Company by Glen Cook

The Black Company was an influence in Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice and just for that reference deserves to be read. Is the newly risen Lady the force standing between humankind and evil—or is she evil itself? The stoic, hard men of the Black Company do their job until the prophecy is proven: The White Rose has been reborn, embodying good once more.

23. Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

The one real world, Amber, casts infinite shadow worlds of itself those with royal blood can manipulate. But when the royal family is torn apart by the disappearance of patriarch Oberon, the crown is up for grabs and amnesia strikes Corwin, the Crown Prince of Amber—even the fact he is the rightful heir to the throne.

24. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

What fantasy list would be complete without the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling? Harry discovers he has magical powers and is sent to the wizarding school Hogwarts to develop them. Once there, he uncovers a secret object hidden in the castle walls, which Harry must prevent from falling into evil hands.

The fantasy genre has exploded in recent years with the popularity of hit series like Harry Potterand A Song Of Ice And Fire. Fantasy first hit its stride in popular culture with old, pulp sword-and-sorcery stories like Conan the Barbarianand sword-and-planet fare like The Princess Of Mars.

Later, J.R.R. Tolkien sparked the modern era of fantasy fiction with The Hobbitand The Lord Of The Rings, which in turn inspired countless other authors to pen myriad tales of magic and adventure, and even led to the advent of Dungeons & Dragons and hundreds of other tabletop games.

The following novels and series are not an exhaustive look at the best fantasy novels of all time, but rather a sampling taken from various eras from the past to the present. There are many more terrific fantasy books out there for you to read, but these are some of the essentials.

25. The Lord Of The Ringsby J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s an obvious choice, but I can’t see how any list like this would be complete without J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy. Tolkien is to blame for modern fantasy’s obsession with orcs, elves and dwarves, not to mention Halflings (or Hobbits) and Dark Lords whose names should never be spoken aloud.

Still, I find myself returning to Tolkien’s work every so often, and every time I glean something new from the story of Frodo Baggins and the One Ring. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is so well-drawn and rich with song and lore, it’s hard not to get lost in it all. It’s a powerful story of friendship and the corrupting influence of power on the world. If you’ve only seen the movies, you’ll find so much more in the novels.

26. The Lies Of Lock Lamoraby Scott Lynch

If you enjoy heists, you’ll probably love The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch. It’s the first book in “The Gentlemen Bastards” series, and it’s a wild ride. It’s a story of thieves taking on daring crims that occasionally upset the wrong people. At times exhilarating, the first book in particular is also surprisingly harrowing.

With dark magic, a fantastic cast of characters and plenty of adventure to keep those pages turning, Lynch’s story is one of the more original modern fantasies I’ve read. The first book is the best in the series, unfortunately, but well worth the read even on its own.

27. The Last Unicornby Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicornis quite possibly the most beautiful novel I’ve ever read. I don’t say that lightly. There’s something about Beagle’s prose that draws you into this whimsical, sad world. Magic is disappearing, and with it the ability for normal people to see magical creatures.

The animated movie adaptation of the book was one of my favorites growing up, but the novel itself is so much better—it’s required reading for any fantasy enthusiast, and even newcomers to the genre. It’s also quite short, which is a refreshing change from fantasy standards.

28. Mistbornby Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is as much about class warfare as it is about allomancy (the ability to alter metal) and the other fascinating magic systems that make these books unique.

The evil Lord Ruler rules over the land with an iron fist, and society is strictly divided between the haves and have-nots. But the brilliant thief Kelsier has discovered the power of allomancy, and along with his crew and the street-rat Vin, herself a budding allomancer, they take on enormous odds in a book that’s part magic, part caper and excellent from start to finish. The end, in particular, will leave you stunned.

The entire Mistborn series is well worth your time, but start with Mistborn.

29. Tiganaby Guy Gavriel Kay

Tiganais a slow burn, and not everyone will appreciate Kay’s prose or the way he lets the plot simmer and build, taking his sweet time to get to the novel’s shocking conclusion.

In fact, it took me several tries to get through this book, but I’m so glad I finally did. Kay is a tremendously talented writer whose prose is as gorgeous as his world-building is rich.

Tigana is the story of a peninsula comprised of a number of disparate kingdoms that has come under the sway of two powerful adversaries, both magicians from across the sea, and their armies. It’s a story of rebellion and injustice, and it delves into the power of names and memory, and what it means when a conquering force so completely annihilates a populace that the very memory of a place can be destroyed

30. The Name Of The Windby Patrick Rothfuss

There’s no doubt Patrick Rothfuss has a way with words. The Name Of The Wind took the fantasy world by storm in 2007, and while the second book was somewhat less well received, I found both novels incredibly powerful. (Alas, we are still awaiting the third and final entry in this trilogy.)

The story centers around Kvothe, who recalls his younger years as a student of magic and a musician. There’s some deep epic fantasy mystery in the background, and lots of questions remain as we wait patiently for the final book, but the story so far is riveting, with fascinating magic systems and compelling characters.

31. A Song Of Ice And Fireby George R.R. Martin

Game Of Thronesquickly became one of the most popular TV shows of all time when HBO’s adaptation of Martin’s books captured the imagination of viewers around the world. Now that the series is over, it’s time for you to read the books. Because while the TV show definitely did some things better—like actually finishing the story—you simply can’t capture the depth and complexity of Martin’s story on screen.

The story of Lords and Ladies, knights and assassins, all competing for the Iron Throne and rule over the Seven Kingdoms remains one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, except for one unfortunate detail: Martin still hasn’t finished the sixth or seventh novels. Still, what he has finished is worth reading, especially the first three books.

32. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrellby Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrellremains one of my favorite fantasy novels of all time. The world Susanna Clarke creates is one shrouded in mystery. Set in England in the early 19th century, magic has all but disappeared from the land. The legendary Raven King has not been seen in ages, and magicians are little more than scholars of magical history. Then two practical magicians appear, and everything changes.

This is a slow burn, but for those with the patience for it—and who enjoy footnotes—learning more about this strange version of England and the dark and dangerous world of faerie that exists alongside it, is a truly rewarding experience.

33. The Darkness That Comes Beforeby R. Scott Bakker

The Darkness That Comes Beforeis the first of Bakker’s The Prince Of Nothing trilogy. It’s been described as a cross between Tolkien and Nietzsche.

It’s dark—very dark, very violent and at times gratuitously so—with sexual violence that will make your skin crawl. But beyond that, this book and the two that follow it are some of the most compelling, best-written fantasies I’ve ever read.

The story of Kellhus, the Dunyain, Achamian the mage, Esmenet the whore and Cnaiür the barbarian has all the trappings of your typical epic fantasy, but Bakker turns them all upside down, twisting them beyond recognition into a story that’s at once depraved and hauntingly beautiful. Bakker makes you think about more than just the fantasy world he created.

I would stop after the first three books, however. The second four-book series, The Aspect Emperor was a pretty massive letdown. The first two books were good, but the second two fell apart rather badly. Still, the first three in this series tell a complete and satisfying story.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

I’ve recently begun rereading The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, and somehow I’d forgotten just how good it is. I just finished The Blade Itself, the first book in Abercrombie’s series of dark, deeply human fantasy novels.

The story is as epic as it is cynical. Abercrombie’s characters are deeply flawed and incredibly relatable. The story follows a handful of complex characters—an infamous barbarian from the North; a haughty young nobleman and expert swordfighter from Adua, the capital of the Union; an ex-slave from the south, hellbent on revenge against her former captors; an ancient Magus, with his own plots and machinations bringing them all together.

Adventure, magic and gruesome war all weave together in one of the most fascinating, gripping fantasies I’ve ever read. It’s a tremendous trilogy, and thankfully there are both standalone novels that take place after those events, there’s also a brand new trilogy on its way, with the first book—A Little Hatred—coming out this September

Final thoughts

So many other titles should be on the list but weren’t. What’s your favorite fantasy novel we left off? Let us know in the comments below so we can get the definitive list going.