The Game of Thrones series might be over, but we’re sure going to be talking about it for years to come. The show was a massive success all over the world, breaking tons of records and dominating headlines everywhere. More importantly, the Game of Thrones series has shown us that it is very possible to create meaningful stories about everyday life using fantasy and science fiction. Consequently, the media are only just realizing how awesome these movie genres are – well, we’ve known that for quite some time.
The show might long be over, but the book series: ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, on which it is based is still up and running. Author of the book series, George R.R Martin has been working on the sixth installment, ‘The Winds of Winter’ since 2011.
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In the meantime, there are tons of other fantasy books you can read while waiting for the completion of Winds of Winter.
One of those books that you can read to pass the time is popular series, ‘The Lord of the Rings’. But, there are tons of equally good stories worth reading out there. To make it easier for you, we have compiled a list of ten of the best fantasy books ever written.
While some of these books are complete classics, others are a work in progress, just like A Song of Ice and Fire. We’ve included release schedules for incomplete books in the article, to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.
Note however that the information contained in this article is but a drop in the ocean, and there are millions of great fantasy books out there. Fantasy is an extremely wide genre, and info on excellent fantastical books around the world won’t fit in one article. Without futher ado, let’s have a look at ten of the best fantasy books to read while waiting for Winds of Winter:
1. The Wheel of Time
One series that will certainly keep you up at night, turning through page after page is Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s bestseller, The Wheel of Time. The complete series features fourteen books, and it ranks high among the longest storytelling sagas ever.
The stars of the stories are three best friends, Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara, and Matrim Cauthon. All three men are ta’veren – special people set to achieve great things. However, this is all thrown into jeopardy when monsters invade their village in search of them. The three young men, along with their friends, Egwene and Nynaeve are able to escape, with help from a mysterious sorceress, her bodyguard and a wandering entertainer.
While this all sounds a bit cliché, writing off the entire series would be your own loss. The Wheel of Time is a classic fantasy piece, but there are bits of Science Fiction here and there as well. With the length of the series – fourteen books, characters have ample time to develop, and they grow pretty well. Also, if you’re the type that enjoys searching for hints and hidden details within your books, you have your hands full with the fourteen books.
A TV series based on these books is in the works; hence, there’s no better time to go through the books than now.
2. The Dresden Files
Harry runs a small scale freelance business as the only freelance wizard Private Investigator in town. And If you’re planning to pay a visit to the star of the series in his downtown Chicago office, you will most likely encounter a sign on his front door which reads:
“Harry Dresden. Wizard.”
If anything, the sign above gives a hint of the top-notch humour on display throughout The Dresden Files series. Jim Butcher’s books contain quick, curt dialogue which tends to suck readers right in. Avoid reading any of these books in public as you are going to burst out laughing at regular intervals.
The Dresden files made its first appearance in 2000, and is still going strong today. Currently, 15 of the 23-book series are available with the remaining 8 books due for release in the coming years. Each book is different from the others in terms of the plot and the villains faced, but there are instances where they overlap.
Throughout the series, Dresden faces tons of standard mystical bad guys, from werewolves to underbridge trolls, crude faeries, and ghosts. If you’re a fan of Joss Wheden, you will take an instant liking to this series.
3. The Malazan Book of the Fallen
In the fantasy world, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is up there among the very best epic sagas, and it is all with good reason. Malazan battles his way through ten extraordinary tomes with thousands of gods, sorcerers, magical creatures, monsters – literally anything that breathes.
Author, Steven Erikson employs exceptional worldbuilding, and his anthropological and archaeological background are in full display for the entire duration of the series. Malazan is definitely a book for hardcore fantasy lovers who will find its grand storytelling, and dark tone quite appealing.
However, before going all in into the Malazan series, do not expect to see the same character in two different books. The Malazan world is vast and huge, and there is simply no time to dawdle over one character.
Nevertheless, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is an excellent series and those who’ve read it to the end have only good things to say about it.
Buy: A Song of Ice and Fire Book Set
4. The Witcher Saga
Ah, what would this list of fantasy thrillers be without the popular Witcher Saga? Incomplete. This is one fantasy series that’s generating an awful lot of noise these days and we can definitely see why. Author Audrezej Sapowski’s ‘The Witcher’ is basically the Polish adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, and it has been making waves in Europe since the 1980s. However, The Witcher has only just gained popularity in America, and this is largely due to the success of its video game adaptation by CD Projekt Red. Like popular Game of Thrones, The Witcher has also been adapted into a TV series by streaming giants, Netflix.
The Witcher Saga revolves around Geralt of Rivia, an expert witcher, who makes a living tracking down, and conquering monsters. He is able to do this efficiently having undergone special transformations as a child. This transformation gives him superpowers, which include an ability to see clearly at night, resistance to poisonous substances, super speed and strength among others. However, Geralt’s consists of different kinds of characters, and it is considerably difficult to distinguish between good and evil.
The Witcher series is currently eight books strong, with the first two being a collection of short stories, and the other six containing the main saga. The saga contains some pretty interesting storytelling, and we have entire chapters dedicated solely to dialogue.
Still, The Witcher Saga is a series where characters reign supreme. Geralt, Yennefer his sorceress lover, and Ciri their surrogate family are one awkward, somewhat charming family whose side you find yourself taking, as the whole world goes against them.
5. His Dark Materials
This one is a fantasy thriller series which consists of three novels written by British author, Phillip Pullman and it is certainly one of the classics of the genre. There is no better time to dig into this series as HBO, in collaboration with the BBC are currently producing the movie adaptation based on the books.
His Dark Materials is a typical fantasy series following the path of aa traditional hero. Lyra Belacqua is set to achieve big things, but she loses her parents at a relatively young age. To further compound issues, she is taken away from her home, and forced to embark on a deadly journey into the North. Her rollercoaster journey is rife with betrayals, prophecies, armoured bears, and typical bad guys, witches. Adding a completely different dimension to the series is the fact that there’s a cool sci-fi world waiting to jump to the fore.
This series focuses on the negative controlling effect religion exerts on people, and it is aptly nicknamed ‘the atheist’s Lord of the Rings’. Summarily, give this series a try for the armoured bears, and we’re sure the gut-wrenching plot twists will leave you wanting more.
6. The Hyperion Cantos
Written by Dan Simmons, The Hyperion Cantos is a spectacular science fiction series set in a world where people visit a mysterious valley where time moves backward. This, they do to seek knowledge from an ancient creature known as the Shrike. The world soon descends into chaos as civil wars, coupled with clashes with machines threaten to bring the universe to its knees. Consequently, a group of pilgrims set out on one last dangerous mission to the time valley in a bid to save humanity.
The Cantos series is divided into two different volumes with two books each: Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, and Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. However, before delving into this series, you should know that, to get the full grasp of each volume, you need to read the two books that make it up.
The first book of The Hyperion Cantos series is nothing short of a masterstroke. It follows the journey of seven pilgrims as they make their way to the time tomb in a mission to save Earth, and the universe in extension. The story shifts every now and then to accommodate each character, with Simons switching styles severally to narrate the experience from their individual perspectives. Quite genius, we must say.
7. The Dandelion Dynasty
One thing that makes Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty standout is its uncommon setting. The Dandelion Dynasty series comprises three books: The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms, and one yet to be released book. Collectively, these books are known as ‘silkpunk’, mainly because they are set in an imaginary Chinese-like world dominated by steampunk tech. Consequently, we have cool locations, scenarios and occurrences that set the series apart from others in the genre. You will come across bits of fantasy sprinkled here and there in the books, but the underlying tone is that of a realistic worldview.
Star of the series, Kuni Garu spends most of his time idling about, but all that changes when he meets and falls in love with a nobleman’s daughter. In a bid to prove himself worthy to her family, Kuni Garu starts searching for a job. However, things take an unlikely turn and he finds himself spearheading a group of bandits, and at the same time, a general in a revolution.
In the course of his numerous outings, Kuni Garu has a chance meeting with legendary Mata Syndu, and the pair take an instant liking to each other. However, war and the taste of power has a way of changing people, and it is not often a positive turnaround.
The Dandelion Dynasty employs a more all-knowing storytelling style, compared to what is obtainable in other fantasy series, but that is more of a strength than it is a weakness. Chip in the long-game themes, and The Dandelion Dynasty has all the makings of a modern classic.
Buy: Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History)
8. The Dreamblood Duology
Author N.K Jemisin is highly regarded within the Science fiction world due to her interesting takes on modern-day issues, and this trait is on full display in her Egyptian-inspired fantasy series, The Dreamblood Duology. This series comprises two entirely different books: The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. To further add to the intrigue, The Dreamblood Duology might just be the only fantasy series based on Egypt out there; hence, why you should grab a copy and start reading immediately. Chip in the magic system based on deriving power from people’s dreams, on display throughout the series, and you have an astounding piece on your hands.
The first book in the series is all about Ehiru, a priest who serves the dream goddess. Each night, Ehiru goes out to harvest people’s dreams, and uses the power gotten to either heal or kill the citizens of Gujaareh, according to their perceived intentions. However, when Ehiru comes across a dangerous conspiracy, he ends up going against his work ethos to protect a woman marked for death. This he does, in order to find out the person trying to bring Gujaareh down to her knees.
Despite both books of The Dreamblood Duology being completely unrelated, you are sure to gain maximum satisfaction from the full story plot on display.
9. The Saxon Tales
While this entry is not entirely a fantastical piece, Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales display the sort of medieval accuracy that George R.R. Martin is fond of using in his works.
The first book in the series, The Last Kingdom, follow the adventures of Uhtred, son of Uhtred who is separated from his family at a tender age, and raised by Vikings. Both books cover similar timelines as the hit Vikings series, with several of the movie characters making appearances in the books. Streaming giants, Netflix in collaboration with the BBC adapted The Last Kingdom into a TV show.
The tone on display in The Saxon Tales is similar to that employed in Game of Thrones – Quick and straight to the point. And just like George R.R. Martin opined on his blog, Cornwell writes some of the best action scenes out there. You will also most likely be left enthralled by the extremely detailed war scenes spread across the books, in sharp contrast to what is obtainable in Game of Thrones.
In addition, The Saxon Tales is remarkably audience friendly. Cornwell adopts a conversational style of storytelling which makes the books easy to read. And if you are a history freak, the 12 books in the tale will keep you quite busy.
The last entry on this list of excellent fantasy thrillers you definitely have to read is Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Dune made its first appearance in 1955, and today, 55 years after, it is still as relevant as ever. There is a Dune movie adaptation currently in the works; hence, now would be the best time to catch up on the series.
The first set of Dune books follow the rise to power of young Paul Atreides (also known as Muad’Dib). Paul and his family relocate to desert land, Arrakis, in order for his father to take charge of the planet and consequently observe the distribution of Spice, a scarce resource. But, things do no go entirely according to plan. A series of unfortunate events force Paul and his mother to escape into the desert where they are adopted by the mysterious Fremen clan. Subsequently, Paul rises through the ranks to be regarded as the saviour by the Fremen, who he then leads on a war to reclaim control of the planet.
Original Dune Author, Frank Herbert might be long dead, but the Dune series are still very much in play, thanks to the efforts of his son, Brian and co-writer, Kevin J. Anderson. Both men have combined to increase the number of books in the Dune series from an initial six to over twenty excellently written stories.
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