Not all fantasy fans dream of distant realms and far off lands, with alternative worlds brimming with magic and monsters, but a lot of yiz do! Today we’ll explore 9 great fantasy books, including some classics, some brand new books, and a few books that have helped to define the fantasy genre. Some of these will be familiar to the public at large, having launched their authors and characters to international fame. And some have even found their way onto the silver screen, gaming consoles and onto popular streaming services; making their authors very wealthy people indeed – now that’s a fantasy worth having!
Conan the Barbarian
Robert E. Howard's “Conan the Barbarian” is essential reading for fantasy enthusiasts seeking a glimpse into a primal and captivating world. Conan's significance in the genre lies not solely in his physical prowess but also in his keen intellect, strong morals, and search for truth. Howard's prose paints a vivid and immersive landscape replete with ancient civilizations, dark sorcery, and ferocious battles. Readers are transported to a realm where they can observe the transformation of a warrior, from a common street thief to a regal ruler. The character of Conan has left a significant imprint on popular culture, serving as the muse for countless adaptations, comics, and even a feature film. Many will be familiar with a muscle bound Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the eponymous barbarian, now this is your chance to see where the story began.
His Dark Materials: Northern Lights
The "His Dark Materials" series, from Philip Pullman, commences with "Northern Lights”, and stands as a literary masterpiece that transcends age and genre boundaries. It unfolds a tale of bravery, companionship, and a profound exploration of themes, including the nature of consciousness and the value of free will. Lyra Belacqua, the spirited protagonist, embarks on a journey that leads readers through parallel universes, where armoured bears, demons, and enigmatic Dust await. It has been said that this series has had an incredible effect on its readers' morals and philosophical viewpoints. It has certainly led to countless debates on the ethical dilemmas it brings to light.
The Princess Bride
"The Princess Bride" serves up a truly unique blend of romance, adventure, and humour. William Goldman's timeless narrative has rightfully earned its place in the literary canon, courtesy of adept storytelling and witty commentary. The tale of Westley and Princess Buttercup is not confined to matters of the heart; it is also about surmounting obstacles with ingenuity and tenacity. The unforgettable characters and iconic lines render it a delightful and enduring read, ideally suited for those in search of a classic narrative with a twist. For those who only know this story from the (fantastic) movie and the memes, this book is a great read and will definitely keep you occupied happily through the coming dark Autumnal nights!
A Song of Ice and Fire
George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series has redefined the fantasy genre by introducing indepth political machinations, morally intricate characters, and an enthralling plot filled with unforeseen twists. Set within the richly detailed realm of Westeros, the series delves into themes of power, honour, and the repercussions of ambition. The series' influence on popular culture is immeasurable, thanks to the remarkably successful "Game of Thrones" television adaptation. Readers will become deeply immersed in a world where alliances are fragile, and anyone may meet a startling fate. Whether you’ve watched Game of Thrones or not, if you are a fantasy fan – it doesn’t get much better than A Song of Ice and Fire. And in terms of the TV series, if you’re worried that you may have missed the hype and the intrigue of following the plots along with everyone else, the good news is that there’s still at least one book of the series to go!
The Colour of Magic (Discworld)
Terry Pratchett's "The Colour of Magic" marks the commencement of an extraordinary voyage into Discworld, a realm resting upon the back of a colossal turtle. Pratchett's wit and satire infuse this series with hilarity and astute social commentary. The cast of characters, including the bumbling wizard Rincewind and the ever-helpful Luggage, guide readers through a side-splitting yet thought-provoking adventure. Pratchett's Discworld novels offer a fresh perspective on the fantasy genre, rendering them obligatory reading for those who appreciate clever humour and inventive storytelling. You’ll realise why Pratchett is regarded as a world class story-teller in this context. Enjoy…
Dance of Thieves
Step into Mary E. Pearson's captivating world with "Dance of Thieves." This entrancing novel combines elements of fantasy and adventure to weave a story that will leave you breathless. Kazi and Jase, our charismatic leads, navigate a treacherous world filled with secrets and danger. Pearson's intricate storytelling and character development make this book a must-read for those seeking a thrilling escape into a land of intrigue and romance. A relatively new book on this list, this 2018 hit is followed up by the equally engaging and exciting sequel; “Vow of Thieves”. Don’t forget to breathe!
The Poppy War
R.F. Kuang's "The Poppy War" is a dark and gripping fantasy epic that pushes the boundaries of the genre. Enter a world inspired by Chinese history and mythology, where Rin, a determined and complex protagonist, discovers her formidable powers and confronts the horrors of war. Kuang's storytelling is unflinching and thought-provoking, addressing themes of power, identity, and sacrifice. This book has garnered widespread acclaim for its vivid world-building and morally complex characters, including the 2018 Reddit Fantasy Debut Award. If you are interested in Chinese culture and mythology, this is a must-read that wont let you down.
“The Passage" is an epic post-apocalyptic tale that redefines the genre. Set in a world overrun by vampire-like creatures, the story follows a diverse cast of characters, including Amy, as they struggle to survive and confront the darkness that has enveloped the world. Justin Cronin's narrative mastery weaves a complex and immersive tale that explores themes of humanity, survival, and the consequences of scientific experimentation. This novel has resonated with readers for its gripping storytelling and unforgettable characters, making it a must-read for those seeking a fresh take on the post-apocalyptic genre. This is just the first part of an excellent trilogy, which also includes “The Twelve” and “City of Mirrors”. With a long winter ahead, you could do worse than to set yourself the task to read all three. How long will it take you?
The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien needs no introduction and "The Fellowship of the Ring" serves as the cornerstone of modern fantasy literature. Following on from “The Hobbit”, it dives more deeply into its intricately designed world replete with rich mythology, languages, and unforgettable characters. Frodo, Samwise, and the Fellowship embark on a quest of monumental consequence, inviting readers to explore themes of camaraderie, bravery, and the corrupting influence of power. Tolkien's epic has left an indelible mark on both literature and popular culture, spawning adaptations, artwork, and a devoted fanbase. It offers a journey into a realm where legends are forged and destinies are etched, making it an imperative read for lovers of epic narratives. To complete the trilogy, you can also grab “The Two Towers”, and “The Return of the King”.
Hopefully we’ve given you some great reads to get stuck into but if you’ve already read most of these or if you’re still not sure which books are right for you, you can check out the massive selection available at Chapters online or call into the store and talk to our team – who are avid readers themselves and are sure to help you make some great picks. Alternatively simply leave the choice to us - select the mystery box and we’ll send you 6 Mystery Science Fiction and Fantasy books!