The best fantasy books offer a window into imagined worlds from medieval kingdoms to life on other planets.
Fantasy fiction is innovative, thrilling, and original. It can be amazing to see the places authors have imagined. We will read about real people when we get the best romance and thriller books. Fantasy offers something a little different. The world we know is swapped for a new one in which magic is present in some way. This allows us to escape our current society and also gives us the opportunity to explore real-life problems in a mirror universe. Fantasy novels are now some of the most popular books ever written.
This list has options to suit every taste so make sure you add these top fantasy books to your list.
THE BEST FANTASY BOOKS EVER
1. Anna Kavan, Ice
The ice is rapidly spreading across the globe, freezing, and eventually destroying. A man searches for a girl with silver hair, who is transparent like glass, in this post-apocalyptic world. The girl runs away from the men who will pursue her, and from the traumas of her childhood.
Ice was published for the first time in 1968. Over the years, it has been in and out fashion. But now, this haunting, poetic novel is rightly regarded as a modern classic. It’s both beautiful and disturbing, and creates a unique atmosphere. It is still one of the most important books of 2022, even though it was written more than 50 years ago.
2. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula le Guin
This is the first of many titles on this list that was originally written for children but have themes and writing that allow adults to see deeper within them. The story of A Wizard of Earthsea, which is a great coming of age story, also explores deeper concepts about responsibility and balance.
It is the first of six books that follows Ged, a young mage who lives in Earthsea archipelago. He accidentally unleashes a powerful shadow monster while fighting with another student of magic. He embarks on a long journey to banish the entity.
3. David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks
Many of David Mitchell’s books are interconnected, with characters appearing in stories and reappearing across multiple novels. Perhaps The Bone Clocks is his best-known book.
Six stories are told, each from the point of view of a different character. Each story is connected to Holly Sykes, a Kent girl who has psychic abilities. It is set in the present world but also addresses the eternal war between two immortal groups, the Anchorites or the Horologists. The Bone Clocks was nominated for the Booker Prize, and won the 2015 World Fantasy Award. It shows how, beneath a seemingly normal surface of the world, there are secret societies, unheard religions, and powerful beings who can influence our fates.
4. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is a beloved and admired work. All the books are set in a magical flat world that is transported through space by a giant turtle. It started as satire about traditional fantasy, where women were serious and men had serious bosoms. The series grew into its own entity, with many beloved characters, magic law, and some great jokes.
Wyrd Sisters is Book 6 (all titles can be read separately) and it is the first time that we meet a group of witches high in the Ramtops Mountains. Granny Weatherwax is powerful and austere. Nanny Ogg, mother to many, a frequent drinker of Magrat Garlik and brandy, and an avid reader of books and occult jewellery. What happens when fairy tales begin to come true?
5. Naomi Novik – Uprooted
Uprooted, like Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy, is an example of renewed interest in Slavic myths as the basis for fantasy novel writing.
A magical wood surrounds the Dvernik farming valley. A nearby wizard known as The Dragon takes a teenager girl to pay him for his protection of the village. Being chosen by The Dragon is both an honor as well as a fall from grace. What does he expect his girls to do? Agnieszka finds out when she is selected.
6. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Angela Carter has transformed fairy tales into literature over the years. She kept the bizarre and the fantastic, while adding beauty and a strong female perspective.
Nights At The Circus is about Fevvers, a Victorian aerialist, who may or may not have wings. Fevvers was allegedly hatched from an egg, and then bred in a brothel. Is she a charming phony or a hatchling from an egg? Jack Walser, journalist and half skeptic, follows her from London music halls, Paris salons, to the Siberian wilderness. The traveling circus spins more stories around them.
7. Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising
The midwinter book is a clash of 1970s Britain and something older, darker, and stranger. Will Stanton was born around the Winter Solstice. He begins to notice strange and unexpected events. He quickly discovers that he is part of an ancient group called The Old Ones, who must protect the country against the darkening.
Generations of children and adults have loved The Dark Is Rising. It heavily draws on British folklore as well as the Thames Valley landscape. It’s a good read for pre-Christmas, when the darkening nights are approaching and the shadows get longer.
8. AS Byatt: The Djinn in The Nightingale’s Eye
The collection contains five stories by AS Byatt, a renowned author. They all have a common ground in fairy tales and myth. The novella that gave the collection its title is the best. The Djinn in The Nightingale’s Eye is the story of Gillian Perholt, an English academic who has recently been divorced. She travels to Istanbul on a work trip.
She visits the bazaar with her friends and purchases a beautiful glass bottle. Surprise! A djinn escaped from the bottle as she was washing off the dust from her souvenir in her hotel room. Gillian is initially disbelieving, but then becomes intensely curious and asks the djinn about his long life. He spent most of it in the Ottoman Empire harems. As is his custom, he grants Gillian three wishes. How can a middle-aged intelligent woman make a wise magical decision?
9. Redwall by Brian Jacques
Redwall Stories are a great way to get back into the Redwall stories if you were a kid. But make sure to have some cake on hand. This book is the first in the series. It centers on Redwall Abbey, which is home to a variety of woodland animals, including mice and otters. The Abbey animals must defend themselves against Cluny, the sea rat. Matthias, the young mouse, knows that he can repel the intruders if he finds the magic sword of Martin the Warrior the Abbey founder.
Redwall books are full of adventure, with pacy stories that tell a story about sly foxes and guerilla-fighting sparrows. Their true joy is in their peaceful life and their wonderful feasts.
10. Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James was awarded the Booker Prize in 2015 for A Brief History Of Seven Killings. This book focused on the assassination attempt of Bob Marley, and the political turmoil that characterized 1970s Jamaica. He didn’t want to be the same again and plunged into fantasy novels that were based on African folklore.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf also addresses political turmoil, this one between warring countries. The world around this book is filled with sorceresses and vampires. The magic is real, and the writing is magical.
11. Storyland by Amy Jeffs
Storyland, a story retelling of several ancient British myths, is the title of Amy Jeffs’ book A New Mythology of Britain. These tales are from an era when Britain was wild. When giants shaken down mountains, kings clashed with each other in battle, and dragons hovered low above the woods.
Jeffs is a skilled guide to this imagined past. He provides context for royal feuds and revels in the landscape, creating beautiful and complex illustrations.
12. Magnus Flyte: City of Dark Magic
Sarah Weston, an American music student, is heading to Prague for a job as a summer worker. Sarah Weston will be working in Prague’s castle cataloguing Beethoven’s manuscripts.
Although it may seem alarming at first, the eccentricities of her new colleagues are more concerning than their behavior. Prague is an old city with a rich history filled with magic, alchemy and blood. Add to that a time-shortening drug that allows Sarah the opportunity to meet the composer she is studying, a 400 year-old lothario, and a dangerous US senator, and it’s clear that this summer will be full of historical research.
13. The Devourers by Indra das
The Devourers is not for the weak-hearted. It’s visceral in every way. Indra Das, an Indian writer and artist, wrote his book about shapeshifters and werewolves in Kolkata. He moved from the 17th Century Mughal Empire up to the present.
Alok Mukherjee works as a college professor. A stranger claims to be a half-wolf and tells Alok Mukherjee a tale about shape-shifters who eat human souls. When he is asked to transcribe a series of texts written on human skin, he becomes more skeptical. This book is a spellbinding, intense and spellbinding story about love, colonial histories, and how we treat each other.
14. Swamplandia! By Karen Russell
Swamplandia has been nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011. It’s not a fantasy novel of the traditional kind, but it’s also not about a family.
The Florida swamps are home to a theme park run by the Bigtrees. Hilola, a well-known beauty and alligator wrestler, was their star. She died and her 13-year-old grieving daughter Ava must keep the family together. Ava’s father has disappeared. Her brother is now at a rival attraction, and her sister is having an affair with a ghost. Even with Ava, the practical heroine at the heart of the story, the Everglades’ wildness and strangeness permeate the novel.
15. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Stories about magic that are close enough to the truth to make them plausible are the best. This is Ben Aaronovitch’s highly inventive and darkly comic series of crime capers, which is why it is one of our favorite fantasy books. The Rivers Of London’s first novel features Peter Grant, a probationary constable, at the scene of a bizarre murder in Covent Garden. He is then approached by a witness who has seen everything. The problem is? The ghost-like man is Peter. Peter soon finds himself under the perverse wing Inspector Nightingale. He cheerfully informs Peter that ghosts are real and that he is a wizard. It’s a delightfully entertaining read in any format. The audio, voiced by Kobna Holdbrook Smith of The Split, is especially good, making it one of the most enjoyable audiobooks.