Fantasy Book Favourites & Reading List

A collection of my favourite books from the fantasy genre and a list of books I want to read next

My first contact with fantasy books was actually through audiobooks. When I was younger I listened to Harry Potter and Eragon for countless hours. It took me a few years and multiple relistenings of the above-mentioned books to find out that there are many, many more books which are at least as good, exciting, humorous, dramatic and epic. For those who think of Tolkien's work first when hearing 'Fantasy', it certainly is a very good example and probably the classic. But today this genre comes in every flavour you can think of: fairytale-like, grimdark, heroic, epic, classic, modern, urban, historical, with no clear borders between good and bad, with fantastical creatures, without, with magic, without, steampunky, romantic, crime-focused, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic,...and many more. For me the fantasy genre makes it really easy to dive into another world and forget everyday life for a short period of time. And also from an author's perspective it gives you much more freedom and doesn't constrain you as much with the reality of things.

In this article I want to list my personal favourites and what I plan to read next. I won't spoil anything with my descriptions of the stories or at least not more than their blurbs do. If it's a series of books I tend to prefer audiobooks but when the story consists of only one book I like to read too. What I like so much about audiobooks is that it's very relaxing to follow the story, you can lie in bed or hang out at the beach in a comfortable position. You can also spice up boring activities like washing dishes or clothes, cleaning, (cooking), driving, commuting, flying or even fun activities like strolling, hiking, riding your bike, slacklining... One year ago I started reading on a Kindle because it's sooo comfortable looking up a word when you don't understand it by just touching it. I'm not native to English, so this makes it a really nice experience to read in a foreign language. When I choose the audiobook my decision whether I pick up the English or German one simply comes down to which narrator I like more. That's it, enjoy!

Favourites

#1 The Gentleman Bastard Sequence

This is a story about a group of thieves called the 'Gentleman Bastards' in a fictional interpretation of late medieval Venice. They have planned their biggest, boldest and most imaginative heist yet. It has a lot of clever ideas and it doesn't spare you of swearing, brutality and sexual descriptions which makes it very believable. the characters are plain awesome and the humour makes you laugh on a regular basis. But there's also a great deal of tension and excitement. The genuine friendships and rivalries between the characters magnify the suspense even more. Magic is a really small part of the story, you could almost ignore it. This story resonated very much with me personally. Try it, you'll love it! It's a series of seven books of which the first three have been released. The fourth comes mid-2016. The narrator of the German audiobooks is amazing.

Author: Scott Lynch
Book #1: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#2 The Kingkiller Chronicle

Kvothe has many names: The Flame, E'lir, Six-String, The Arcane and Kingkiller. Just to name a few. He's stolen princesses back, burned down a town, spent the night with Felurian, was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in and written songs that make the minstrels weep. This book is the tale of Kvothe, it tells the truth behind his legend — from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. This book is something really special. In my opinion the events happening in this book are less spectacular or worldshaking than those of other stories in this list. But it's just a much more personal experience and following the story of the main character is just so exciting and magical no matter if he's drinking a beer or being in the middle of a fight. The magic system makes a lot of fun and feels totally logical. But what makes this story so beautiful is the way it's told. It's really a storyteller's story, it has something of poetry or a great song that touches you in a special way. Highly recommended. It's a series of three books of which the first two have been released. The third maybe comes out this year. The narrator of the German audiobooks is perfect for this writing style.

Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Book #1: The Name of the Wind
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#3 Harry Potter

This one doesn't need an introduction. It's a fascinating and mysterious story with diverse and entertaining characters in a very imaginative world. Literally a magical story about the famous boy who lived. It's a series of seven books. The English audiobooks are narrated by Stephen Fry, it couldn't be done any better. And by the way if you're not yet comfortable listening to English audiobooks these are the perfect books to start. You'll soon forget that it's not your native language you're listening to.

Author: J. K. Rowling
Book #1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#4 The Stormlight Archive

With this story Brandon Sanderson created a totally new world and society with its own unique environment, history, appearances, languages, customs, clothing styles, conflicts and more. It all feels real and believable. There are different point-of-view main characters from different regions, from different positions in the social hierarchy, with different backgrounds and different motivations. It's interesting how the events in this world affect these people differently and how it all hangs together. The magic system is 100% Sanderson. It's logical and the fact that you know or discover how it works exactly makes you wonder in which ways the characters might use it to get out of uncomfortable situations. This story combines everything which made Sanderson's previous books so good. But as it's a bigger and longer story it also takes more time until things get going. But I promise it pays off. What I really like too is that not everything in this world is explained upfront. You pick up many small snippets of information along the way which then start building the full picture. Sanderson himself described the book like this: "The book started its life many years ago being about a young man who made a good decision. I wrote the entire book that way before realizing I’d done it wrong. So I started over from scratch and had him take the other fork, the more difficult fork. The fork that cast him into some of the worst imaginable circumstances, ground him against the stones of a world where there is no soil or sand on the ground." The story follows four characters. The first is the surgeon, forced to put aside healing to become a soldier in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar’s mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the highprince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the past as his thirst for battle wanes. It's a series of ten books of which the first two have been released. The third comes out in 2017. The narrator of the German audiobooks does a really good job.

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Book #1: The Way of Kings
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#5 The Inheritance Cycle

The fantasy community seems to be split over this series, some people love it, some people don't like it at all. It's a rather classical take on the fantasy genre and it borrows a lot of established elements. I think someone who's already discovered more modern and adult oriented fantasy stories might be better of with one of the other books in my list. But the reason I put it here is because I liked it very, very much. In my opinion it has a strong back story, the relations between the main characters are very interesting and there's a lot at stake. And the dragon...just perfect! The story is about a farm boy named Eragon who gets haunted by the cruel servants of the evil King Galbatorix after he's found a mysterious stone in the mountains. This forces him to flee from his hometown. I won't tell when and how the dragon comes into play :-). I really liked the primary rule of this worlds magic. Which is that whatever you do through magic takes as much energy from you as though you'd do it without it. Makes sense right? It's a series of four books. The narrator of the German audiobooks does a fantastic job.

Author: Christopher Paolini
Book #1: Eragon
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#6 The Lightbringer Series

What makes this story very unique is it's magic system and how interwoven with the world and culture it is. You probably guessed right, the magic has to do with light. It's a little complicated in the beginning but it's also very cool. Drafters are people which are able to create a substance from the colours found in the light. Basically the rainbow colours. Each of these substances has its own advantages and disadvantages and is useful for different things. The story is about Gavin Guile who is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He's attractive and highly intelligent but unfortunately he has just five years left to live. Only five years to achieve five impossible goals. There are other interesting main characters too. Their lifes interweave more and more as the story progresses. The conflicts and intrigues between the characters make for great tension. The world Brent Weeks created is different than anything I've dived into before. It takes place in an alternate version of the 16th century Mediterranean area surrounding a large sea. It features a very interesting use of both technology and magic. It's a series of four books of which the first three have been released. The fourth comes out this year. The narrators of the English audiobooks do a superb job. The narrator of the first book is one of the best I've ever listened to and the one reading the sequels is almost as good. So enjoy.

Author: Brent Weeks
Book #1: The Black Prism
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#7 Mistborn

This book series was the first story I read from Brandon Sanderson and I enjoyed it a lot. So much that I started reading about it online which introduced me to the fantasy community which in turn introduced me to all the other great authors out there. So if you're just starting to read this genre, this is the perfect place to begin. If not it's also perfect. The story is set in a medieval dystopian future in the city of Luthadel, where ash constantly falls from the sky, plants can't grow properly and supernatural mists cloud the air every night. It's about how a girl living on the streets of this city and a underground crew try to destabilize the aristocracy to overthrow the Final Empire and try to free the city of the unfair reign of the cruel Lord Ruler. Although the story features great characters and an exciting plot, for me the real star is the magic. The magic system is very scientific. You immediately feel like: "Yeah, that makes sense". Basically some people can eat metals which then grant them different powers based on the kind of metal. It's a series of three books. But Sanderson works on two sequel trilogies which both take place in the same world multiple centuries after this story but obviously with different characters. Actually the first two books of the second trilogy have already been released and are ready to be read. The narrator of the German audiobooks is the same one narrating The Stormlight Archive, so it's very well done.

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Book #1: The Final Empire
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#8 The Broken Empire

If you can't handle a 'bad' protagonist you shouldn't read this story. It definitely goes into the dark fantasy category. The teenage prince Jorg even enjoys killing. But Mark Lawrence shows a great amount of sensitivity in handling these kind of situations and adds the right amount of humour. Jorg had to watch his mother and brother getting killed at a young age and when his father, the King, decides that their lives are not worth going to war for, he leaves the comforts of the noble life to join a band of veteran bandits to take matters into his own hands. I've only read book one which was a fast paced and thrilling experience that I enjoyed a lot and which was refreshingly different compared to what I'm used to. And I've heard that the series only gets better. So I'll surely continue with this series very soon. If you had enough of innocent and boring main characters, go ahead and pick up 'Prince of Thorns'. It's a series of three books. The narrator of the English audiobooks does a tremendous job giving the dark humour of this story the right tone.

Author: Mark Lawrence
Book #1: Prince of Thorns
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook

#9 A Song of Ice and Fire

Ever heard of 'Game of Thrones'? Of course you have, well this it in written word and what the tv series is based upon. The story contains a lot of plotlines, plottwists, humour, drama, brutality and sexual content but the specialities of this story are the huge cast of interesting characters and the unforeseeable fates of them. In a lot of stories you have some amount of security that you're favourite character won't die, well with this one you never know. Which in my opinion makes it realistic and exciting. It's the story about the ruling families fight over who sits on the iron throne and is king over the land of Westeros. But there are also some long forgotten magical things reappearing. The characters aren't black or white, they have good and bad sides, as we all do, some more of the one some more of the other. The books success speaks for itself, this is truly an epic story. It's a series of seven books of which the first five have been released. The sixth should come out this or next year. The narrator of the German audiobooks leaves nothing to be desired.

Author: George R. R. Martin
Book #1: A Game of Thrones
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

#10 City of Stairs (The Divine Cities)

This is a story about the city of Bulikov which once hold the world power through the powers of its gods. But they have been killed and the Continent is now ruled by Saypur. But the miracles once created by the its divinities haven't fully vanished from the city. Shara Thivani, a diplomat from Saypur, is sent there to investigate the murder of a befriended researcher who discovered things someone obviously didn't want him to. What I liked most about this book is how epic the story is in comparison to its small page count (compared to other stories in this list). The society we encounter has so much history. It's been a thrilling and fun read. If the length of some popular fantasy stories daunts you, try this one. The story quickly picks up speed. There's a sequel called 'City of Blades' coming this year.

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Get it: English book / English audiobook

#11 Blood Song

This is the story about Vaelin Al Sorna, a living legend of a swordsman. It's the story of how he learned is craft, how he became who he is and why he is sentenced to die in a duel. It's an epic fantasy of war, intrigue and tested faith. This is actually the first book in a series of three books called "Raven's Shadow" but as I've only read the first one I'll just list and describe that. The narrator of the German audiobooks is the same one narrating the books of Brandon Sanderson. So you already know that he does it very well.

Author: Anthony Ryan
Get it: English book / German book / English audiobook / German audiobook

I hope I could make you want to try out one of these stories for yourself. If not maybe you find something in my reading list below.

Reading List

Standalone books and series of the fantasy genre, some science fiction stories and occasionally even books from other genres which I've planned to read or listen to next.

  • The Swarm by Frank Schätzing (dystopian science fiction)
  • Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbø (crime)
  • The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan
  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series by Brian Staveley
  • Books by Mark Lawrence
    • Books #2 and #3 of the The Broken Empire series
    • Red Queen’s War series
  • Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle (crime)
  • The Gameshouse series by Claire North (english audiobooks sound promising)
  • Red Rising series by Pierce Brown (science fiction)
  • Time Salvager book and Tao trilogy by Wesley Chu (science fiction)
  • The Copper Promise series by Jennifer Williams
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan
  • The Hollow Gods series by Rebecca Levene
  • Uprooted book and the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (english and german audiobooks sound promising)
  • Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows series (similar to The Gentleman Bastard Sequence) by Leigh Bardugo
  • Books by Jim Butcher
    • The Cinder Spires series
    • The Dresden Files series
    • Codex Alera series (recommended by Brandon Sanderson)
  • Twelve Kings in Sharakai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  • Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
  • City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Books by Den Patrick (similar to The Gentleman Bastard Sequence)
    • The Girl on the Liar's Throne
    • The Erebus Sequence
  • Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
  • 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
  • Down Station by Simon Morden
  • The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin (there is a readalong by Fantasy-Faction)
  • Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch
  • The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

  • Books by Hugh Howey (dystopian science fiction) Silo series (✔ Wool, Shift, Dust) Sand
  • The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner (dystopian science fiction)
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (thriller)
  • This Census-Taker by China Miéville (english audiobook sounds promising)
  • Books by Joe Abercrombie
    • The Shattered Sea series
    • The First Law series
    • The Heroes
  • Books by Jay Kristoff
    • Nevernight
    • The Lotus War trilogy
    • Illuminae (science fiction)
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  • Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak (urban fantasy)
  • The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
  • The Guns of Ivrea by Clifford Beal
  • The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung
  • The Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky
  • The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan
  • Split Worlds series by Emma Newman (audiobook is narrated by herself)
  • The Tiger And The Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Grace Of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  • The Three-Body Trilogy by Cixin Liu (science fiction)
  • The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power
  • The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • The Inheritance Trilogy by Nora K. Jemisin (recommended by Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Seraphim trilogy by David Dalglish
  • The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
  • Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett
  • The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
  • Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe
  • The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato
  • The Paper Magician Trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Books #2 and #3 of the Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
  • Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer
  • The Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell
  • A Cold Season and The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood (horror)
  • The Three by Sarah Lotz (thriller)
  • Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall (dystopian thriller)
  • Clown Service series by Guy Adams
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke (Neil Gaiman and Susan Dennard love it)
  • Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
  • The Courtyards of the Others series and The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
  • The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
  • Books by Neil Gaiman
    • Neverwhere
    • American Gods
    • Anansi Boys
    • Stardust (Charles Vess illustrated edition)
    • Coraline
    • The Graveyard Book
    • The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    • Good Omens
    • Smoke and Mirrors
  • Books by Guy Gavriel Kay
    • Tigana (recommended by Brandon Sanderson)
    • River of Stars
    • The Lions of Al-Rassan
    • The Sarantine Mosaic duology
    • The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy
  • Books by Brandon Sanderson
    • Book #3 of The Reckoners trilogy
    • Books #5 and #6 of the Mistborn series
    • Warbreaker
    • The Rithmatist
    • Sixth of the Dusk novella
  • The Scarlet Star Trilogy by Ben Galley
  • Books by George R. R. Martin
    • Windhaven
    • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms or also called Tales of Dunk and Egg series (prequel to the A Song of Ice and Fire series)
    • The Ice Dragon (set in the world of the A Song of Ice and Fire series)
    • Tuf Voyaging (science fiction)
  • Books by Patrick Rothfuss
    • Book #3 of The Kingkiller Chronicle
    • The Lightning Tree (short story featuring Bast from The Kingkiller Chronicle)
    • The Slow Regard of Silent Things (featuring Auri from The Kingkiller Chronicle)
    • How Old Holly Came To Be (set in the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle)
  • The Traitor by Seth Dickinson
  • An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir
  • Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill (science fiction)
  • The Promise of the Child by Tom Toner (science fiction)
  • The Devil in the Marshalsea by Hodgson Antonia (crime)
  • The Worldmaker Trilogy by Lucy Hounsom
  • The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
  • Winterlands series by Barbara Hambly (recommended by Brandon Sanderson)
  • Books by Trudi Canavan
    • The Magician's Apprentice
    • The Black Magician Trilogy
    • The Millennium's Rule Trilogy
  • The Pillars of Reality series by Jack Campbell (english audiobooks sound promising)
  • The Chronicles of the Exile series by Marc Turner
  • The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham
  • The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (horror)
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (science fiction)
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (science fiction)
  • Transport and Paradox by Phillip P. Peterson (science fiction, german audiobooks sound promising)
  • Extinction by Kazuaki Takano (science fiction, german audiobook sounds promising)
  • Nexus series by Ramez Naam (science fiction, german audiobooks sound promising)
  • Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card (science fiction)
  • The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry (dystopian)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons (science fiction)
  • Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
  • The Raven Cycle trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
  • The Acts of Caine series by Matthew Stover
  • Bas-Lag series by China Miéville
  • The Prince of Nothing trilogy by R. Scott Bakker
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  • Dying Earth series by Jack Vance
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson
  • Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy by Tad Williams
  • The Book of the New Sun series by Gene Wolfe
  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  • The Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny
  • The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
  • Books #1.5, #2 and #3 of the Raven's Shadow series by Anthony Ryan
  • Time and Again and From Time to Time by Jack Finney (time travel science fiction)
  • Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Anubis Gates and Medusa's Web by Tim Powers
  • Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
  • Sunrunner series by Melanie Rawn (recommended by Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson
  • Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
  • Askir series by Richard Schwartz
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (science fiction)
  • Books by Peter Tieryas (science fiction)
    • United States of Japan (spiritual sequel to The Man in the High Castle)
    • Bald New World
  • Books by Jules Verne (science fiction)
    • From the Earth to the Moon
  • Books by Isaac Asimov (science fiction)
  • Witch World series by Andre Norton
  • One Piece by Eiichiro Oda (manga)
  • Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama (manga)
  • Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida (manga)
  • Books published by the following publishers
    • Jo Fletcher Books
    • Gollancz
    • Harper Voyager
    • Tor
    • Solaris
    • Orbit
    • Transworld
    • Angry Robot
    • Titan
    • Del Ray
    • Night Shade & Talos Press

More Inspiration

Haven't had enough inspiration? Here you go.

Community

Some links where you can find out even more about this genre.