The Name of the Wind by 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 centres 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.
Game of Thrones A song of ice and fire has to be among the best fantasy books
Game of Thrones quickly 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 did some things better (like actually finishing the story) you simply can’t capture the depth and complexity of Martin’s story on screen. So we highly recommend you pick up the Game of Thrones books.
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 favourite 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.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
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. We also highly recommend the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell Board game.
The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
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 deprived and hauntingly beautiful. Bakker makes you think about more than just the fantasy world he created.
I would stop after the first three books. 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. You can pick up the first three series on Amazon.
The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
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 of 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 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. Get this amazing trilogy here.