If you love swords, magic, dragons, and incredible world-building, you’ve come to the right place.
Fantasy fiction is a tricky genre.
I say it’s tricky not because it’s tough to read, but because so many people who claim to be hardcore fantasy fans have only read Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Lord of the Rings.
I’ve nothing against these books. Indeed, all of them are excellent works of fantasy fiction (except A Song of Ice and Fire), but they are also the most well-known, and hence, most widely read.
But if you’re a true lover of the genre, you should not limit yourself to reading only the bestsellers. There’s a whole library of amazing underrated fantasy fiction books that will take you by storm and make you marvel at the sheer brilliance of world-building and characterization.
If you consider yourself a fan of fantasy fiction, read on. I’m sure you’ll find a few favorites on the list. If you love some other book that’s not on here, please leave a comment to let me know. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I’m always on the lookout for more awe-inspiring books of the genre.
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6. The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
4 books. Series complete.
After finishing Harry Potter, I felt like there is literally no other book that comes close. That’s when I stumbled upon the Bartimaeus sequence. This book actually filled that void left behind by Harry Potter.
The story is set in the United Kingdom of the present day. The world has a secret society of magicians. These are not people who can do magic on their own, but they have the power to summon magical creatures, like djinns, ifrit, marid from the other world, and then bind these powerful creatures to their bidding so they can get what they want.
One of the djinns is Bartimaeus, who is also the protagonist of our story. He is summoned by a 12-year-old boy, Nathaniel, who is tired of being bullied by his magician mentor.
Initially, Nathaniel asks Bartimaeus to get back at his cruel master, but the things that they do together, end up uncovering an ages-old secret plot and upending the whole order of the magical world as they know it.
I love this book because it’s incredibly funny and superbly well written. Bartimaeus also happens to be my favorite fictional character of all time because he is so sassy, funny, and incredibly powerful. The series made me want to watch this book as a movie.
5. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
6 books. Series complete.
Vin, a young girl who knows she has some special powers of convincing people to get them to do what she wants. She lives in the city’s slums with one of the city’s most dangerous conmen.
The city has also a torture spot by the Emperor, and so far, only one person has escaped from that torture spot. His name is Kelsier. One day, while attending court, Kelsier witnesses Vin using her powers of persuasion and takes her on his team.
And then Vin realizes why she’s powerful and learns the full extent of her power. She also learns that there is so much more she can do. Later, she comes to realize that whatever she and Kelsier are planning is not something that will just impact their life. It is something that’s capable of rewriting the history of the known world and changing the planet’s geography, climate, and ecosystems as a whole.
Mistborn is one of the most well-connected fantasy books I have read. The series is complete and the final book ties all the threads so well together that you’ll be left spellbound. In fact, it will answer questions that you didn’t even know you had.
But definitely, the ending of Mistborn Era One is one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in fantasy in a long time.
4. The Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch
3/7 books. Series ongoing.
Locke Lamora, one of the four members of the Gentleman Bastards, and one of the most-feared thieves in the city of Camorr finds himself in a tight spot. The underworld of the city is alive with action, and the biggest dethroning in the history of the country is currently underway.
Locke tries to help his friends but ends up making some very powerful enemies, who threaten to take away everything that Locke had ever held dear. At its heart, the first book is a heist story set in a fantastical world, with some truly hilarious moments that will leave you laughing out loud.
I love this series because of the adorable characters and their heartwarming bond. Locke’s friendship with Jean is one of the most endearing bromances I’ve read in fantasy fiction. As the series progresses, the books grow darker, but the underlying sardonic humor is always present, making you chuckle at the most unexpected of times.
If you adore well-written plots with a dash of humor, some badass fights, and impeccable world-building, definitely pick this series up. Be warned though: only three out of the proposed seven books are out so far. Yes, the final book ends on a fairly satisfactory note, but you know the character arcs have so much more potential, and you’ll be left yearning to see more of Locke and his friends.
3. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
3/4 books. Series ongoing.
The first book begins in a village inside an inn where the innkeeper is busy catering to his guests. Everything seems to go on as it usually does.
Then, a Chronicler walks in with his entourage that had been attacked on the road by a strange monster that hadn’t been seen in the vicinity for several years.
This draws the attention of the innkeeper who suddenly disappears for a few hours. When he returns, he has killed that monster.
The Chronicler finds this fascinating. Upon further conversation with the innkeeper, he discovers that the innkeeper is actually Kvothe the Bloodless, also known as the King Killer who had disappeared from the world a few months back.
On Chronicler’s insistence, Kvothe starts telling his story of how he started on his journey and why he ended up where he currently is, disguised as the lonely innkeeper in a village where nothing ever happens.
The series is amazingly well-written and the characters are very interesting. As a woman, I felt sad at the lack of representation of proper female characters. But since the world-building and the plot are so good, I’m willing to forgive the author for the same. This also has one of the most well-explained magic systems in all fantasy I have read.
The sad part is that the series is still incomplete and the author has not given a specific date as to when the new book will be out. But if you want to read a good series that will make you keep turning the pages, this should definitely be your pick.
2. The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne
4 books. Series complete.
I started reading Malice because I heard a lot of praise about this book among my fellow fantasy reader friends.
But it took me about four tries to finally finish the first book. This is because initially the story is very slow and the character development also takes its time. So I didn’t have patience the first time around. But once I got to about 40% of the book, the story was incredible.
The stakes are very high. Almost every chapter ends on a cliffhanger that just makes it impossible to stop reading the book.
I read this series in early 2020, and this was the first series in a long time that made me feel like my life is meaningless after I had finished reading the book. It was so damn good that I couldn’t find any other series to replace that feeling of emptiness in my heart.
So, yes, if you love fantasy, you will definitely love this book. Be warned though. Even though the characters are young and in their late teens, the series is definitely not young adult. It is high fantasy. There is a lot of fighting and a lot of killing.
If you tend to fall in love with the characters, you have to be warned that a lot of people die in this book and you might end up heartbroken.
1. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
10 books. Series complete.
Where shall I even begin to describe the sheer brilliance of this series? There’s a reason this stands at the #1 position on my list — yes, it’s that amazing.
I couldn’t tell you the whole premise even if I tried, because the plot is amazingly layered and delightfully convoluted. But I can tell you where the first book in the series begins.
A thirteen-year-old Paran looks on the capital of the Malazan empire from the palace roofs as two veteran soldiers talk to each other about the impending coup and assassination of the Emperor. Paran confesses that he aims to join the Malazan army someday, but the soldiers try to dissuade him.
Some years later, Paran is recruited into the Malazan army. His first assignment takes him to a far-off country where a mysterious sorcerer with an army of ravens in a flying rock has waged war. They decimated the entire city, and Paran comes back to find a half-dead woman and a talking puppet. Together, they embark on a plan that will not only rewire the history of the Malazan Empire, but of the known world as a whole.
I love this series because it came at one of the hardest times of my life and gave me hope to cling on. It taught me empathy and compassion and left me wondering about the extent of kindness and cruelty in humans.
The magic is mind-bending and the magic system is very satisfactorily laid out. There are some badass dragons and scheming, plotting Gods who are taken down by mortals.
If you love high fantasy and have the patience to read ten 1000-page books, definitely pick this one up. If the first book seems too tough to go through, this read-along on Tor might help. I was lost without this, and trust me, it will make the reading experience 100x better.
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