Every few years, I subject myself to the task of choosing my ten favorite fantasy books and sorting them into a list. It’s hard. A few popular titles don’t make the list. You’ll notice, for instance, a conspicuous lack of any Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings mentions. Notice, too, the words so far in the title. This list changes and shifts and gains new additions every time I compile it (I believe the last rendition was way back in 2016).
Here are my rules. 1) Only one book per series allowed. 2) No short stories, collections, or anthologies (those are for another list). 3) Genre overlaps are permitted.
Now then, let’s crack on with it.
#10 The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer
This one gets nostalgia points. The Artemis Fowl series ushered me into my teen years with its clever blend of sci-fi and fairy magic, and the third installment has always been my favorite. Since those years, however, I’ve grown past the simplistic writing style.
#9 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I like it because it makes me cry. Moving on!
#8 The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Ah, the cult classic film. But…the book is better? Yes, I think so. Mostly because there’s more of it. There’s as much merit to the way Goldman works the narrative as there is to the story itself. I found the exploration of Inigo’s past particularly entertaining.
#7 The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 3) by C.S. Lewis
This book doesn’t get enough love, as it’s constantly overshadowed by its more popularized brethren. I’m drawn to its sense of adventure, its cast of prophecy-free characters, and its unadulterated portrayal of romance.
#6 Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath, Book 1) by Chuck Wendig
Is it sci-fi? Is it space opera? Maybe. But you can’t have Star Wars without a touch of fantasy, so I don’t care. This trilogy has some of the best unsung heroes in the galaxy far far away, and they’re all so raw and genuine. I’ll always have a soft spot for a well-written mom character, and Nora Wexley is one of the best.
#5 Circles of Seven (Dragons In Our Midst, Book 3) by Bryan Davis
This series gives me all kinds of mixed feelings. The writing may seem underwhelming for older readers at times, and the blend of fantasy with hardcore sci-fi mumbo-jumbo can get real hard to slog through. But. But! The characters have values, beliefs, morality. And boy, is their journey compelling. YA literature could learn a thing or two from this series.
#4 All My Holy Mountain (The Binding of the Blade, Book 4) by L.B. Graham
Cringe-worthy cover art aside, this book is the culmination of a long, slow-burn fantasy tale that’s as epic as The Lord of the Rings while still being, you know, fun to read. It’s the kind of series that may take a while to work through, but when you get to the end, when it all ties together, you’re left with a hole punched in your feels. A big one.
#3 The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Book 1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Probably the most popular entry on this list, there’s not much to say about this book that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. It’s long, it’s slow, and it’s detailed, but so worth it. I love character-driven stories, and if the third book ever comes out (come on, it’s been twelve years!), I’ll gladly re-read all seven-hundred pages.
#2 Brisingr (Inheritance Cycle, Book 3) by Christopher Paolini
The pinnacle of my fantasy-reading teen years. To be honest, I don’t remember ever reading a book that’s as consistently exciting as this one. It’s like a well-balanced feast: action a-plenty, politics of the non-annoying variety, romance (well…), a comfortable magic system, and a host of fun characters.
#1 Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 4) by Lloyd Alexander
My favorite book from my favorite series. It’s short, but don’t let that fool you—there’s more wisdom, wit, and genuine growth to be found in these pages than in most of today’s YA fantasy faff combined. Read it for entertainment, and you’ll get laughs, surprises, and tears. Read it with a bit of purpose, and it’ll change you.
So there you have it—my top ten favorite fantasy books so far. I will say, however, that I’ve got a growing stack of books to be read in 2019, so we’ll see if any of them make it onto future lists. What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!