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50 essential fantasy books

Best fantasy reading

If you haven't read any fantasy since The Hobbit in school, you might still think it's a genre for kids. Think again. While you'll still find plenty of elves, knights, and magi, fantasy is now also home to gunslingers, poets and literary detectives. This selection of recommended fantasy books runs the gamut - maybe it's time to discover fantasy all over again?

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The best fantasy books

By Anne McCaffrey
On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack. Lessa is an outcast survivor - her parents murdered, her birthright stolen - a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others.
By Susan Cooper
On the Midwinter Day that is his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift--he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from dominations by the forces of evil, the Dark.
By Mervyn Peake
Titus Groan is born the heir to Gormenghast castle, and finds himself in a world predetermined by complex rituals that have been made obscure by the passage of time.
By Sabaa Tahir
Helene's mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape and kill them both..
By Robert Jordan
Life in Emond's Field has been pretty boring for Rand Al'Thor and his friends until a strange young woman arrives in their village. Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magician with the ability to wield the One Power, and she brings warnings of a terrible evil awakening in the world.
By Ursula K. Le Guin
This is a tale of wizards, dragons and terrifying shadows. The young wizard Sparrowhawk, tempted by pride to try spells beyond his powers, lets loose an evil shadow-beast in the land.
By CS Lewis
Through the wardrobe, the children enter the mystical land of Narnia, where only the Great Lion, Aslan, can conquer the dark magic of the White witch and restore beauty and peace to the land.
By Andre Norton
In peaceful Norsdale, we meet Gillan, who longs to leave her dull life in a secluded country abbey. But when her wish comes true, she finds more than a little adventure.
By Raymond E. Feist
At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician -- and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever.
By David Eddings
It all begins with the theft of the Orb that for so long protected the West from an evil god. As long as the Orb was at Riva, the prophecy went, its people would be safe from this corrupting power.
By Colin Greenland
Lupio, a cynical and decadent young aristocrat, unwillingly tangled up with the prophecy, joins up with Dubilier, a failed poet, and together they travel unknown lands in search of the lost god.
By Philip Pullman
Lyra's friend Roger disappears. She and her daemon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. Their quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North where a team of scientists are conducting unspeakably horrible experiments.
By E.R. Eddison
A story of the protracted war between King Gorice of Witchland and the Lords of Demonland in an imaginary world reminiscent of Norse sagas.
By Robin Hobb
Wizardwood - a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain River Traders when only a liveship, fashioned from wizardwood, can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River?
By Emma Bull
Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk.
By Steven Brust
When a Dragaeran employee absconds with more than two thousand imperials, Lord Vlad Taltos, must follow him to Dzur Mountain and face Sethra Lavode, a dangerous vampire.
By Guy Gavriel Kay
Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey.
By Mercedes Lackey
In this new series, set in the bestselling world of Valdemar, Heralds Mags and Amily must continue to protect the realm of Valdemar while raising their children and preparing them to follow in their footsteps.
By Stephen Donaldson
He called himself Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, because he dared not believe in this strange alternative world in which he suddenly found himself. Treated as an outcast, he was now believed to be the reincarnation of Berek Halfhand, armed with the mystic power of white gold.
By Kage Baker
In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus
By Terry Brooks
Long ago, the world of Shea Ohmsford was torn apart by the wars of ancient Evil. But in the Vale, the half-human, half- elfin Shea now lives in peace - until the mysterious, forbidding figure of Alanon appears.
By Marion Zimmer Bradley
Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne.
By James Barclay
The Raven: six men and an elf, sword for hire in the wars that have torn apart Balaia. For years their loyalty has been only to themselves and their code. But, that time is over.
By Robert E. Howard
Conan is one of the greatest fictional heroes ever created - a swordsman who cuts a swath across the lands of the Hyborian Age, facing powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves and reavers.
By Ruth Nichols
A brother and sister walk through a wood into another world whose inhabitants are convinced that the girl is a descendant of a revered but nearly extinct line of kings.
By Greg Bear
Grateful to return from the land of the Sidhe to his Los Angeles home, Michael Perrin is shocked to learn magical beings have followed him there
By George McDonald
The book is about the narrator's (Anodos) dream-like adventures in fairyland, where he confronts tree-spirits and the shadow, sojourns to the palace of the fairy queen, and searches for the spirit of the earth.
By Fritz Leiber
First in the influential fan-favorite series, Swords and Deviltry collects four fantastical adventure stories from Fritz Leiber, the author who coined the phrase ""sword and sorcery"" and helped birth an entire genre.
By Doranna Durgin
When hikers Dayna and Eric find a young woman naked, terrified, and speechless, they're sure she's the victim of foul play. But the truth is much more shocking: she isn't human at all.
By Fletcher Pratt
Robbed of lands and heritage by the rapacious Vulkings, young Airar Alvarson had only his limited gift for sorcery to aid him against a world of savage intrigues. Then he met a mysterious sorcerer.
By William Morris
Using language with elements of the medieval tales which were his models, Morris tells the story of Peter, King of Upmeads, and his four sons, Blaise, Hugh, Gregory, and Ralph.
By Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin
By Patrick Rothfuss
In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.
By Kristin Cashore
In a world where some people are born with a Grace - a unique, sometimes uncanny, skill - Katsa is cursed with a Grace for killing. This makes her a perfect tool for her uncle, King Randa.
By Terry Pratchett
There is a hint of Armageddon in the air. According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (recorded, thankfully, in 1655, before she blew up her entire village and all its inhabitants, who had gathered to watch her burn), the world will end on a Saturday.
By T.H. White
T. H. White's masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as Excalibur and Camelot, and a poignant story of adventure, romance and magic that has enchanted readers for generations.
By Christopher Paolini
Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy - until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power.
By Cornelia Funke
Meggie loves books. So does her father, Mo, a bookbinder, although he has never read aloud to her since her mother mysteriously disappeared. They live quietly until the night a stranger knocks at their door. He has come with a warning that forces Mo to reveal an extraordinary secret - a storytelling secret that will change their lives for ever.
By Madeleine L'Engle
The adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe. They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
By Diana Wynne Jones
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.
By Morgan Rice
Kyra, 15, dreams of becoming a famed warrior, like her father, even though she is the only girl in a fort of boys. As she struggles to understand her special skills, her mysterious inner power, she realizes she is different than the others.
By Lev Grossman
The Magicians is one of the most daring and inventive works of literary fantasy in years. No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination.
By J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That's because he's being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he's really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards.
By N.K. Jemisin
This is the way the world ends...for the last time. A season of endings has begun. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
By Susanna Clarke
Fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France.
By Deborah Harkness
An epic, richly inventive, historically sweeping, magical romance. When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life.
By Michael Wisehart
The first installment in the Aldoran Chronicles, a new epicfantasy saga filled with magic and monsters, sword and sorcery, heroes, villains, and those in between.
By Neil Gaiman
Just released from prison, Shadow encounters Mr. Wednesday, an enigmatic stranger who seems to know a lot about him, and when Mr. Wednesday offers him a job as his bodyguard, Shadow accepts and is plunged into a dark and perilous world.

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