My Top 10 Fantasy Books Part 1

My Top 10 Fantasy Books Part 1

Top 10 Fantasy Book Series and Authors


I was a firm believer of “pfft Nerds, i’ll just wait for the graphic novel, movie or tv show”. Then one day on the way to the bus, i picked up Hannibal by Thomas Harris and read it on the way to and from a concert and  i’ve been hooked on books since, so i started out with crime series, Thomas Harris, James Patterson, John Connelly etc. Then i got into scifi, Alistair Reynolds, Dan Simmons and anything starwars, my mates had been bugging me about fantasy and i thought again “pfft nerds”. One night after finishing a book and having nothing else to read i saw Legend by David Gemmell on a shelf that a mate had tried to force on my about a year before. So i started it, 2 days later i was on amazon, ordering as much Gemmell books as i could find. I started to pay attention to Amazon’s “you’ve read why not try”, crack cocaine does not get a look in with this feature. I’ve been hooked since, i’ve read a lot of series over the past years, some great, some bad and some downright epic. Hopefully this will bring some of you  a trip down memory lane, introduce new series or bring fresh meat to the genre.

10 Raymond E Fiest’s Rift War Cycle. 

“A hero is someone who simply got too frightened to use his good sense and run away, then somehow lived through it all.”

The story of 2 young friends, Pug and Tomas and their attempts to thwart evil and save the world of Midkemia throughout the ages. One becomes a powerful Wizard, the other a legendary Dragon Lord, they battle alien invaders, foreign kingdoms, demons, gods and beings from other dimensions.

There’s 20 books in the main series, with a few spin offs that can be ignored, although The Empire trilogy was a decent spin off. It started off with Magician:Apprentice and Magican:Master, both were pretty innocent and followed the usual formula, with a peck on the cheek and sword fights with no blood. Still fun and if any of you have kids\young relatives and want to read to them or have them starting to read i couldn’t recommend these enough. Anything afterwards might be a bit iffy for the little ones,  definitely iffy after “A Darkness at Sethanon”. He kicked it up a few notches after the first riftwar saga, making a bit more Risque and dark. For me the series peeked at the Serpent Wars, the rest of series had their moments but never reached the heights of the serpent war.

  • The good : Overall i enjoyed the series and was a bit sad when it ended. What was unique about it  for me was because the 2 main characters live centuries, other characters must die and new ones introduced. This led to some epic character death scenes that really tugged at you and made sure some characters never got tired.

  • The bad; The constant changing of the basis of magic\life and where it came annoyed me, and frankly the magic had it moments but wasn’t great. He also liked to bring back characters that were supposedly dead, he relied on a few of them waaay too much.

Overall : A good series to break into the fantasy genre.

9. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the rings.

“There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power.”

Do i need to do an introduction to this, if so what planet are you from? The Ape walking erect for the first time of the fantasy genre. Not one fiction writer be it scifi or fantasy has not been influenced by these books. He created an amazing world and in such detail. He didn’t just create a world but he built an extensive history around it too. I know i’m going to get killed for putting it in at 9. They were the first books i  read for the sake of reading them, initially i started for a book report in school but i found myself making excuses when my mates called to me to come out and play some footy. I just could  not put them down  and was reading 200 pages a day, which is saying something because i had the attention span of a kitten on red bull. Shakespeare, Dickens, Steinbeck, pah!!!, lord of the rings should be obligatory for any child.

  • The good: Such an epic  world with an amazing history and some amazing scenes and a great end. One of the few books where the films did it justice.

  • The bad: It’s really hard to pick something but the characters were a bit bland\wooden for my liking,

Overall: A must read for every child.

8. David Gemmell’s Drenai Series.

“No golden age to discover now,” he whispered. “No end to disease and starvation. No, bright sparkling cities reaching the clouds … All that I have lived for is gone now. I am so tired.” “Then think on this, priest: You stopped the Eternal from finding greater weapons. Your actions here have led to her death. The world is free again.” “Free? Of one tyrant perhaps. You think there will be no others?” “No, I do not. But I know there will always be men to stand against them. You grieve because of a pure magic lost. That magic was corrupted by evil. This is how evil thrives. We find an herb that cures disease, and someone will make a poison from it. We forge iron to make a better plow, and someone will make a sharper sword. There can be no power that evil will not corrupt.”

After hundred’s of years of being the world’s leading and most advanced civilisation, the Drenai are in decline and facing the horde of the Nadir who have finally become 1 nation. Only the fortress Dros Delnoch stands between them and defeat. At it’s darkest hour, the legend that is “Druss” appears to aid the defense of Dros Delnoch and the Drenai civilisation. Basically it’s Leonidas and the 300 against the Mongols.

It’s a 1 parter but Gemmell as a whole is amazing. He never stuck to one series, he always branched off and did something else\different. The list of heroes is extensive, Druss, skillgannon, waylander, Connavar and more. He based many of his book on the drenai time but always at different times and with different heroes with the odd crossover. He did a few takes on historical figures, Parmenion(Alexander’s General), King Arthur, there was a fantasy touch to these but  done very well. His last series was on Troy and was a more straight forward approach, his take on Helen of Troy and The Trojan Horse was fascinating. His other series are worth checking as are his one off books. The heroes in general might bee a bit cliched but they were done well, none were the same.

  • The Good: Fantasy as i like it, loads of swords, axes, battles with a little bit of magic. Like i mentioned above, his take on troy and how the history would’ve distorted the tale\legend amazed me.

  • The Bad: I always felt his books ended abruptly, i’m reading it and i know i’ve 10 pages to go and i’m wondering, how can he end it so quickly.

Overall: I liked, old school heroes, leave your brain at the door, JohnWayne with a kickass axe or sword.

7. R Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing.

“If it is only after that we understand what has come before, then we understand nothing. Thus we shall define the soul as follows: that which precedes everything.”

The world was brought to the brink by the consult and the No God and the 1st apocalypse, but was finally defeated by Mandate Magi and the last of the Anasûrimbor royal line. Thousands of years have passed with the world forgetting the apocalypse. Having convinced the world they do not exist, the consult work in the background trying to bring back the no god and bring on a 2nd apocalypse. The mandate alone tries it best to counter the consult, facing enmity from world leaders and rival magic schools. A mysterious new religious leader has called for a holy war to take back the city of the prophet from the heathens.

That’s just a brief synopsis of what’s going on.  First off this is not for the faint hearted, this series is pretty dark and has some pretty disturbing and harrowing scenes. The characters in this are pretty unique for Fantasy, from the tragic whore Esemenet to the mysterious Anasûrimbor Kellhus, to the troubled mandate magi Drusas Achamian and so much more. Esmenet and Drusas are possible the only redeemable\likeable characters but get screwed over so much. What i like about the series is the grimness feels natural, its’ not grim for the sake of being grim or for shock value. I haven’t read the follow up series, i’m waiting for it to finish.

  • The Good: It pulls no punches, he goes really deep into the characters and the character’s actions match their psych. He’s built a pretty good and interesting world with a lot of similarities to our world and histories.

  • The Bad : Good god it can be depressing at times.
  • The Ugly : Esmenet’s story, one scene had me shuddering.

Overall : If you want a book where the  hero storms the castle and saves the damsel, then don’t pick this up. Otherwise do pick it up.

6. Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law.

“I’ve fought in three campaigns, In seven pitched battles. In countless raids and skirmishes and desperate defences, and bloody actions of every kind. I’ve fought in the driving snow, the blasting wind, the middle of the night. I’ve been fighting all my life, one enemy or another, one friend or another. I’ve known little else. I’ve seen men killed for a word, for a look, for nothing at all. A woman tried to stab me once for killing her husband, and I threw her down a well. And that’s far from the worst of it. Life used to be cheap as dirt to me. Cheaper.”

The Northmen are stirring, the clans have finally united under 1 chief; Bethod and are about to unleash themselves on the unsuspecting Union. Meanwhile while on the run from the north, Logen Nine Fingers former champion of Bethod happens upon Bayaz, a centuries old magi. On the other side of the world, the Ghurkul empires stir with it’s cannibalistic knights and it’s leader who happens to be  Bayaz’s nemesis,

I’ll be honest, the plot is pretty good but it’s all about the characters. Abercrombie does great characters from Logen nine fingers, to dogman to executioneer Glokta to the very mysterious Bayaz. The dialogue and character interaction is second to none. He also do some fantastic fight scenes and battles, wonderfully brutal in a good way. It starts off with a trilogy and 3 more one offs that touch base with some old characters and introduces some new ones. There’s potential there for another trilogy but i’m not sure is he building it up or has lost his way. I’d like to add Abercrombie does not do your typical happy endings.

  • The Good : Like i said Characters are just wow, the fight scenes are utterly brutal, Logen nine fingers when he gets in a fight and blacks out and comes around to a room strewn with body parts, the description of fearless men facing Logen and when they see that face is spine tingling. The dialogue and few comedic bits are fantastic. It’s my favourite kind of fantasy, lots of swords, battles with a little hint of magic.

  • The Bad : Hard to say, he started out with a trilogy following 1 story arc then split off with the 3 one off books, there is the potential for a great and possibly final storyline but i’m not sure where he’s going, the latest book although good really didn’t add much new to the world or progress the main story.
  • The Ugly : Executioner Glokta.

Overall : Good story, fantastic characters and dialogue, and if you like your fighting a little bit brutal check this guy out.

More to come on Part 2!

Featured image via Elfwood by Chasity e ijames

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12 comments on “My Top 10 Fantasy Books Part 1”

  1. Fexelea says:

    *Gives you shit for putting LoTR on 9th place*
    How dares you!
    Awesome writeup tho, I will be checking out some of your recommendations. More detailed commenting when the forum move is done 😉

  2. Emergence says:

    I’ll resist peaking for spoilers but I’m curious to see what comes next. I have only read LotR off this list. I have a few personal favorite series but I will reserve sharing until your list is complete. Will be interested to compare and discuss further.

  3. Tolvo says:

    I might give some of these a try, though I’m not sure if I’ll have similar tastes with you since I thought the LotR books were quite low quality. But some of the stories do sound fun and I do have a lot of time to kill.

    1. AnAsalBeag says:

      Fex will kill me but the LOTR is in there purely for the influence it had and the memories I had reading it as a wee lad. For the time it was written it was waay ahead of its time but is a tad bit dated now.

      1. Tolvo says:

        Alright then I can see it being on there, because while by our standards it is very bland yeah it did pretty much birth all of modern fantasy. Sword and Sorcery books and things like Conan the Barbarian should maybe be mentioned as well since they influenced the genre greatly, maybe eve the Princess of the Orcs, or whatever that book was called.

        1. AnAsalBeag says:

          Not the level of influence that LOTR had, every fiction writer will mention Tolkien, actually i wanted to put Glen Cook’s Black Company series in the list, it was one of the first fantasy series with a dark element to it.

          1. Tolvo says:

            Conan I’d say influenced things on par with LotR.

  4. Emergence says:

    Tolkien’s content contributed more to the lexicon of archetypes than any other creator. While the Rings stories lack in nuance they are more or less responsible for the collective pop culture consciousness of dwarves, elves and halflings.

  5. Lanzen says:

    Very interesting….I shall reserve further comment till I see what rounds out the top 10.

  6. JasonT816 says:

    The Prince of Nothing Trilogy were great books in my opinion. The idea behind reading and understanding everyone based on facial features and the probability trance….wish I was that proficient ; P. Id like to recommend a couple of books for anyone reading this article looking for a good fantasy read. R.A. Salvatore is one of my favorite authors. He has a few different series, all of which were great reads in my opinion. The Dark Elf Trilogy is the place to start if you are into elves, magic, dwarves and such. Another series that I feel should get mention is Stephen Kings The Dark Tower Series. The fourth book in that series Wizard and Glass was one of my favorite books of all time. Kudos on the article, its good to see there are people that still enjoy a good read!

    1. AnCapaillMor says:

      Read some Salvatore on my starwars reads and he was one of the few decent authors there. Might give him a go once i finish my back log.

  7. JasonT816 says:

    Nice! It’s funny that you say that because I’ve read almost all of his books, (30+) and at the library or book store I’ve seen his starwars books but have yet to try them out. He’s made a huge contribution to the Dungeons and Dragons/Wizards of the Coast world. Not saying he created it all but he certainly added a lot ; ). Two of his most popular characters (Drizzt Do’Urden and Artemis Entreri) were extra characters you could unlock with a cheat code for the 2nd Baldurs Gate game, sadly far from my favorite rpg though. If you can get past the crazy, slightly hard to pronounce words of names and places in the Dark Elf Trilogy, I guarantee that you will seek out the other dozen or so of books in the life of Drizzt. ; )

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