The 30 Best Fantasy Book Series of All Time

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NightAngel.jpg The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

First Book in the Series: The Way of Shadows (2008)
Description: “Wetboys are to assassins like a tiger is to a kitten,” says Kylar Stern, the orphan-turned-wetboy protagonist of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy. Kylar exists within a gritty world where greed and elemental magic exist in equal measure. Thrust into a conflict of world-shattering significance, he must choose between tranquility or violence to protect the life he knows. Weeks weaves realistic characters and a creative magic system into a narrative of epic scope, delivering a compelling trilogy that deserves its place among the best stories in fantasy. —Frannie Jackson

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Pendragon.jpg The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen R. Lawhead

First Book in the Series: Taliesin (1987)
Description: While you might be tempted to pass on yet another take on the legend of King Arthur, this one is arguably the best. With extensive research to back him up, Stephen R. Lawhead takes on the infamous legend and transforms it into a fascinating story that could have happened. The first book tackles the story of Merlin’s parents and the Lost City of Atlantis, while the second focuses on Merlin growing up among both druids and monks. Arthur does not show up until book three, but the journey to get there is what makes this six-book series so engaging. In a genre overcrowded with Arthurian books and movies, this one is worth the read. —Rich Jackson

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realmofelderlings.jpg The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

First Book in the Series: Assassin’s Apprentice (1995)
Description: Encompassing multiple series set in the same fictional world, Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings delivers adventure in a variety of arenas. Three series follow the life of royal bastard and assassin FitzChivalry (The Farseer Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy and The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy), while two others explore the sea trade and dragons in the same world (The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles, respectively). The interwoven stories found in the Realm of the Elderlings novels prove that Hobb can successfully build a rich fantasy world while simultaneously exploring the daily lives of beloved characters. —Frannie Jackson

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Redwall.jpg Redwall by Brian Jacques

First Book in the Series: Redwall (1986)
Description: Brian Jacques’ sprawling Redwall series, written and published over 15 years and totaling 22 novels, may have been your favorite as a kid. But stories following the brave residents of Redwall Abbey and Mossflower Woods are the kind of YA fiction that mesmerizes readers of all ages. Published in non-linear order, the series takes place in a familiar medieval world inhabited by various anthropomorphic animals. From Martin the Warrior to Salamandastron, the courageous mice and wicked stouts who clash are endearing, but these aren’t Disney stories. The danger feels threatening enough to lend high stakes to the battle of good and evil. And even if it’s safe to say a happy ending is always around the corner, the books are so entertaining that it’s easy to get swept up in the action. —Bridey Heing

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Shanarra.jpg Shannara by Terry Brooks

First Book in the Series: The Sword of Shannara (1977)
Description: To say Shannara is a series of books is like saying the Olympics are a sporting event. This fantasy tale encompasses 10 stories, with each story averaging a trilogy of books. The books are linked together by a family that manifests a magic user or two every few generations, a mysterious druid order and a tree that holds back hoards of demons. Your only question is whether to read the books in the order they were written or to tackle them in chronological order, since Terry Brooks wrote as many stories preceding The Sword of Shannara as those that follow. Don’t let the new MTV series The Shannara Chronicles lead you astray; this is a world worth exploring. —Rich Jackson

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SongofIceandFire.jpg A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

First Book in the Series: A Game of Thrones (1996)
Description: While only five of the planned seven books have been published—worrying fans, HBO and George R.R. Martin himself—what we’ve already been given is so epic in scope as to (almost) make Middle Earth appear quaint by comparison. There are so many different players on the chessboard, struggling for either power, survival or revenge, that the fifth volume could only deal with half of its key characters. But all of the religions, customs and histories of the seven kingdoms of Westeros and the free cities to the east still fit together as they jostle for position. Martin has been criticized for killing off his characters, but the brutality of this Machiavellian, patriarchal society only serves to make us care more deeply about the innocent and afflicted underdogs of the realm. —Josh Jackson

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Stormlight.jpg The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

First Book in the Series: The Way of Kings (2010)
Description: Brandon Sanderson is a masterfully technical worldbuilder, and the magic in his books follows a precise logic that gives it natural boundaries. But his greater gift is with character. The danger of fantasy literature is that its inhabitants can be so far removed from our world as to be completely unrelatable. But Kaladin and Shallan, two main characters in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, are so full of personality that their struggles in a war with monumental ramifications, though completely unlike anything we’ll ever face, feel real. We’re only two books into what Sanderson plans to be a 10-book series, but it’s already one of the most original and intricate fantasy worlds put to paper. —Josh Jackson

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SwordofTruth.jpg The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

First Book in the Series: Wizard’s First Rule (1994)
Description: A true fantasy epic, Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series follows two story arcs across 16 novels (averaging about 700 pages each) and one novella. The series centers upon Richard Cypher, a woods guide-turned-Seeker of Truth, and Kahlan, a Confessor (i.e. a woman with magical powers who also seeks the truth). Their myriad adventures, interwoven with practical teachings known as the “Wizard’s Rules,” highlight the creative and lasting power of Goodkind’s novels. —Frannie Jackson

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Temeraire.jpg Temeraire by Naomi Novik

First Book in the Series: His Majesty’s Dragon (2007)
Description: In a genre that has become formulaic, Naomi Novik breaks the mold and delivers a series that is unlike anything else. Imagine how the Napoleonic War would have played out if intelligent dragons were part of the conflict, and you have the start of Novik’s continuing saga. What makes this series so engaging is the effort Novik has put into creating the society of dragons. Dragons range in size and skillset, hailing from different cultures and proving that humans are not the only sentient race. Part fantasy and part alternative history, the Temeraire series promises to captivate you. —Rich Jackson

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WheelofTime.jpg The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

First Book in the Series: The Eye of the World (1990)
Description: When it comes to building a world and the magic that comes with it, The Wheel of Time is part of an elite group. The depth of characters and storylines that Robert Jordan created is staggering, but it’s understandable when you realize the series borders on 12,000 pages. Not only did Jordan write about the clash of different cultures, peoples and lands, but he also invented a world where women control magic and men are tainted by it. Like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ll wonder about halfway through how Jordan could successfully weave the threads together in the end. Sadly, Jordan died in 2007 while working on the final book, but Brandon Sanderson did a brilliant job of finishing the series while working from Jordan’s notes. The result is an enthralling conclusion that will stand the test of time. —Rich Jackson


Sara Kipin illustrated the beautiful cover image at the beginning of this list. To see more of her art, including book covers for The Hobbit   and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can visit her Tumblr.

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