25 Great Fantasy Series
One of our librarians, Randy Decker, selects the fantasy, science fiction and horror books for the library. As part of that, he not only checks out the reviews, but in addition actually reads quite a few of the books that he buys for the library. Listed below are his suggested fantasy series. His favorites are marked with a star ( )
|The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
First in The Dagger and the Coin series
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Abraham starts this rich, exciting, and fresh epic fantasy series opener in a fairly standard fashion: an orphaned girl and a once great general escape from a city under siege with the help of a traveling theater troupe. But that’s where the cliches end, for Marcus Wester would far rather guard humble caravans than cruel kings, and Cithrin bel Sarcour’s loyalty is not to her long-dead noble parents but to the Medean Bank that took her in. Cithrin and Marcus must smuggle the treasury of the lost city of Vanai through a war zone in which every army seeks new sources of funds and every king wants them dead. With a deft and light hand, Abraham questions and explores the fantasy-world assumptions that most authors take for granted, telling an enjoyable and genuinely innovative adventure story along the way.”
|Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
First in the Founders Trilogy.
From School Library Journal; “Bennett’s stunning fantasy, the first in a series, is set in Tevanne, a city-state run by four merchant houses, funded by pillaging nearby lands and powered by scrivers who use sigils to make devices that defy reality. When talented thief Sancia Grado steals a sentient golden key named Clef, she’s pursued by paladin-like police captain Gregor Dandolo, scion of the Dandolo merchant house. Clef and Sancia are both shocked when they find they can communicate telepathically. This and Sancia’s other abilities-linked to a painful scar on her skull-hint at strange, terrible things in her past. When someone tries to kill Gregor to get Sancia, they discover that a very ambitious and powerful figure is building something that could “annihilate scriving on a mass scale,” a disastrous disruption of Tevanne’s society. With a little help from Gregor and Clef; Orso Ignacio, the eccentric Dandolo head of research; scriver Berenice Grimaldi; and other singularly skilled allies, Sancia sets out to pull off the most dangerous theft of her life. The endlessly inventive Bennett (the Divine Cities trilogy) brings humor and empathy to his portrayal of Sancia, a dark-skinned woman who bears substantial physical and psychological scars from being enslaved and experimented on, and who deeply resents her unwanted talents. Sancia and Clef’s friendship is poignant, and her journey of self-realization serves as a backbone for nearly nonstop, cleverly choreographed action sequences. This is a crackling, wonderfully weird blend of science fiction, fantasy, heist adventure, and a pointed commentary on what it means to be human in a culture obsessed with technology, money, and power.”
|The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
First in the Vlad Taltos series.
Quick with both sword and wit, Vlad Taltos makes his way through the world of Dragaera as an assassin, aided by a small talent for magic and a lizard-like jhereg companion. Collecting the first three novels in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series (Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla), this volume serves as a good introduction to the adventures of the author’s archly sophisticated, wryly humorous hero.
|Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hard bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead. Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. There must be a way for the Black Company to find her… This omnibus edition of one of the great fantasy epics collects The Black Company, Shadows Linger and The White Rose into one volume.
|Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell
(First in the Greatcoats series)
From Library Journal: “The Greatcoats were once the king’s elite magistrates, traveling the realm administering justice. But the dukes overthrew the king and the Greatcoats were scattered and disgraced. Falcio, Kesti, and Brasti have gotten work with a caravan and are reviled both by the caravaners and by the local populace who see them as remnants of the losing side (and cowards who stood aside when the king was toppled). The trio are drawn into the vicious politics of a local duke when they rescue Aline, a young woman whose family was put to death. They will try to protect her while searching for a way to bring law back to the land and complete the final mission of their doomed leader. VERDICT: This debut is a triumph of character, with every protagonist a fascination, especially Falcio, a tormented and ridiculously honorable man. Humor abounds, mostly in the sparkling dialog among our Three Musketeers-esque band of brothers, in this swashbuckling series launch that shows huge potential.”
|Acacia by David Anthony Durham
First in the Acacia trilogy.
From Library Journal: “Leodan Akaran wants only to be a devoted father and political reformer, but his Acacian empire is based on forced labor, drugged pacification, and a dark deal that trades children into slavery. His chance for reform ends abruptly when the Meins, a fierce people subjugated by the Acacians, revolt through assassination, warfare, and biological terror. The four Akaran children scatter to their respective hiding places–and destinies–around the empire.”
|Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
First in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations with ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridge-burners, and for Tattersail, their lone surviving mage, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze. However, the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand . . . Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order-an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.
|Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist
First in the Riftwar Saga.
To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry. Yet Pug’s strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to being again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos.
|Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
First in the Farseer Saga
Both a coming of age story and a marvelous fantasy novel, this book follows the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, the illegitimate son of a prince. He is secretly trained (by order of the king) as an assassin. Hobb has written 2 related trilogies, the Tawny Man and Fitz and the Fool, which really should be read after the Farseer Saga. (RD)
|The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
(First in the Broken Earth series)
From Publishers Weekly: “Humans struggle to survive on a ruined world in this elegiac, complex, and intriguing story, the first in the Broken Earth series from acclaimed author Jemisin. The Stillness is a quiet and bitter land, sparsely populated by subsistence communities called comms. Essun lived quietly in a comm with her husband and children until her secret got out: she-and her children-are orogenes, those who have the ability to control Earth forces. They can quell or start earthquakes, open veins of magma, and generally cause or rein in geological chaos. Authorities keep a brutal hold on orogenes, controlling everything about their lives, including whom they breed with. Those who escape servitude and seek safety in the comms face expulsion and execution at the hands of the fearful. Soon after Essun’s secret is revealed, her husband kills their son, and her daughter goes missing. Essun sets off to find the girl, undertaking a journey that will force her to face unfinished business from her own secret past. Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.”
|A Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones
First in the Sword of Shadows series.
As a newborn Ash March was abandoned–left for dead at the foot of a frozen mountain. Terrible dreams plague her and sometimes in the darkness she hears dread voices from another world. Raif Sevrance, a young man of Clan Blackhail, also knows he is different, with uncanny abilities that distance him from the clan. But when he and his brother survive an ambush that plunges the entire Northern Territories into war, he yet seeks justice for his own . . . even if means he must forsake clan and kin. Ash and Raif must learn to master their powers and accept their joint fate if they are to defeat an ancient prophecy and prevent the release of the pure evil known as the End Lords.
|The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
First in the Wheel of Time series.
Three young men from a remote and tiny village set out on an adventure which may lead to the world’s salvation—or its destruction at the hands of the Dark One. (RD)
|Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
First in The Nevernight Chronicle series.
From Publishers Weekly: “Launching the Nevernight fantasy series, Kristoff (the Lotus War trilogy) creates a splendid world of corruption and violence. Mia Corvere is the last survivor of her family’s fall from grace in the capital city of Godsgrave. After witnessing her father’s execution as a traitor and her mother and infant brother’s imprisonment by the consul of the Itreyan Empire, she dedicates her life to bloody revenge. She escapes her own murder and has nothing left but shadows and the help of a pitiless tutor. Making the most of these meager treasures, she sets out to become a weapon fit to shatter an empire, though she may destroy her own world with it. Kristoff portrays a world as rife with villains and treachery as the ancient Italian civilizations it echoes. Absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness, this beginning promises (and delivers) equal shares of beauty and decay. With a delicate balance of the ancient and the magical, this tense and brutal tale is unflinching, thrilling, and satisfying.”
|Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
(First in the Red Queen’s War series)
From Booklist Review: “Set in the world of Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy but rather lighter in tone, this is the story of Prince Jalan Kendeth, grandson of the Red Queen, self-confessed coward, dedicated ladies’ man, and devout shirker of anything remotely resembling responsibility. After a plot to kill him goes awry, Jalan winds up on the run, paired up with a Norseman whose warrior skills are matched by his keen intelligence, to discover the truth about an army of the undead that threatens to destroy the realm. This is the first installment of a projected trilogy, set more or less concurrently with the Broken Empire trilogy; it’s not quite an outright comedy, but it comes very close. Jalan is a great character he’s a Falstaffian ne’er-do-well, and he’s content to remain that way and the story is as richly told as the earlier trilogy: the author makes this place, a post-cataclysm earth of the far future, feel as real as any place you’ve ever visited. For fans of the Broken Empire series and readers who enjoy a good, epic-sized fantasy story (readers of, say, George R. R. Martin), this is a must-read.”
|The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
First in the Gentleman Bastard series.
Here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part “Robin Hood,” one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling.… An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains–a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans–a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke pulls off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful–and more ambitious–than Locke has yet imagined. Known as the Gray King, he is using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game–or die trying.
|A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
First in the Song of Ice and Fire series.
A Game of Thrones is a contemporary masterpiece of fantasy. The cold is returning to Winterfell, where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime. A time of conflict has arisen in the Stark family, as they are pulled from the safety of their home into a whirlpool of tragedy, betrayal, assassination, plots and counterplots. Each decision and action carries with it the potential for conflict as several prominent families, comprised of lords, ladies, soldiers, sorcerers, assassins and bastards, are pulled together in the most deadly game of all–the game of thrones. Explicit sex and violence.
|The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
First in the Kingkiller Chronicle series.
From Publishers Weekly: “Kvothe, the hero and villain of a thousand tales and who’s presumed dead, lives as the simple proprietor of the Waystone Inn under an assumed name. Prompted by a biographer called Chronicler who realizes his true identity, Kvothe starts to tell his life story. From his upbringing as an actor in his family’s traveling troupe of magicians, jugglers and jesters, the Edema Ruh, to feral child on the streets of the vast port city of Tarbean, then his education at “the University,” Kvothe is driven by twin imperatives-his desire to learn the higher magic of naming and his need to discover as much as possible about the Chandrian, the demons of legend who murdered his family. As absorbing on a second reading as it is on the first, this is the type of assured, rich first novel most writers can only dream of producing. The fantasy world has a new star.”
|The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
First in the Draconis Memoria series.
From Booklist: “*Starred Review* Ryan, author of the best-selling Raven’s Shadow trilogy, is back with the first novel in a new trilogy that delivers on action, adventure, espionage and dragons. Nothing is of more importance to the Ironship Syndicate than the blood of drakes. When distilled into elixirs, the blood of the various drakes (Reds, Greens, Blues, and Blacks) can give formidable powers to the few, known as the blood-blessed, who have the ability to harness them. But the line of drakes is dwindling, and if they become extinct, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire is certain. Myths abound of a breed of drake more powerful than all others, and it is on these myths that the Syndicate has placed its last hope. The story follows the missions of a Syndicate spy, a petty thief and unregistered blood-blessed, and an Ironship lieutenant as they work to bring the myth to life; without it, the Syndicate will fall. Fans of Indiana Jones and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series will not be able to get enough and this book will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.”
|The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
(First in The Stormlight Archive series)
From Library Journal Review: “Epic fantasy heavyweight Sanderson (the Mistborn series) pens a powerful stand-alone tale of unpredictable loyalties, dark intrigue and dangerous magic. To keep a treaty made long ago, the king of Idris must send his daughter to marry Susebron, Centuries have passed since the Radiant Knights protected the world of Roshar from the evil of the Desolation. Their heroic deeds have long been overshadowed by stories of their betrayal, which in turn have faded into myth. The nation of Alethkar has been mired in a war to avenge the assassination of its king. The system of power used by the Radiant Knights is largely misunderstood and untapped, and yet an ancient evil stirs. Sanderson…once again creates an interesting world with a novel system of magic, but the best part of this series launch is the compelling, complex story of Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan as they struggle through emotional, physical, and moral challenges. Verdict: Sanderson is a master of hooking the reader in the first few pages, and once again he doesn’t disappoint. Fans and lovers of epoch fantasy will find the ending satisfying, yet will eagerly await the next volume.”
|A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
(First in the Shades of Magic series)
From Publishers Weekly: “Schwab creates an ingenious set of nesting alternate Londons in this imaginative, well-crafted fantasy. There’s Grey London, set in our mundane world’s Regency era; Red London, where magic flourishes along with the populace; and White London, where a desperate struggle to control magic has bled the city and its people. No one speaks of Black London, consumed by magic and presumed destroyed. Kell, adopted brother of Red London’s prince and one of the few Antari, who can travel between worlds, is a royal emissary and collector of forbidden artifacts from other Londons. When Kell is tricked into taking a dangerous artifact of Black London into Red, he falls in with the cross-dressing Grey thief Lila Bard, a cutpurse with a quick tongue and her own sense of honor. Confident prose and marvelous touches-a chameleon coat, a scarlet river of magic, a piratical antiheroine-bring exuberant life to an exhilarating adventure among the worlds.”
|The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
(First in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series)
From Library Journal Review: “When the emperor of Annur is assassinated, his three children do what they must to survive as well as to track down their father’s killer. The eldest son and heir to the Unhewn Throne, Kaden, has lived for eight years in a monastery undergoing rigorous training and discipline to hone all his skills. His younger brother, Valyn, trains with the warriors and assassins who ride the gigantic hawks of the Kettral. Their sister Adair, elevated to the position of Minister of Finance in one of her father’s final acts, remains at court, surrounded by intrigue. As the three siblings face their individual challenges, they also gain abilities that may help them find justice and avenge their father’s death. VERDICT In this epic fantasy debut, Staveley has created a complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets. Readers of Sara Douglass’s Wayfarer novels and George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series should enjoy this opener.”
|Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
First in the Riyria Revelations.
From Publishers Weekly: “Sullivan succeeds with simplicity in his originally self-published epic fantasy debut. Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn are a pair of thieves and mercenaries. They aren’t mentioned in any prophecies or the lost heirs to anything; they’re just criminals who happen to have hearts of gold. Going by the inexplicably pretentious shared name of “Riyria,” they steal incriminating letters from a blackmailer, kidnap a young king to save his life, and protect a village menaced by a terrible monster. Along the way, they meet a clever princess, an unlucky monk, a 1,000-year-old wizard with no hands, and a naïve but heroic farm girl. There’s even the beginning of a series story arc as the powerful Church of Nyphron secretly schemes to control the world. Hair-raising escapes, flashy sword fights, and faithful friendship complete the formula for good old-fashioned escapist fun.”
|The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
(First in the Lightbringer series)
From Publishers Weekly: “With this complicated fantasy about family politics, bestseller Weeks moves into familiar territory. An unloved, orphaned boy is the offspring of someone important; twins assume each other’s identities; an aged ruler clings to power. Weeks manages to ring new tunes on these old bells, letting a deep background slowly reveal its secrets and presenting his characters in a realistically flawed and human way. Gavin Guile is facing his final five years as leader of a magical college whose members turn colors of light into various materials. Seeking to rectify the lingering wrongs from the war against his twin, Dazen, he is instead forced to acknowledge a bastard son, face down a corrupt governor, and stop a challenge to the state religion. Frequent perspective shifts keep the reader guessing as to who is heretic and who is hero”
|The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
First in the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.
The Dragonbone Chair is the story of Simon, a young kitchen boy and magician’s apprentice, whose dreams of great deeds and heroic wars come all too shockingly true when his world is torn apart by a terrifying civil war – a war fueled by ancient hatreds, immortal enemies, and the dark powers of sorcery.
|The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 by Roger Zelazny
All ten of Roger Zelzany’s classic Amber fantasy novels in one book! Join Corwin, Merlin and the others in wild adventures in the lands of Amber, Earth, and the Courts of Chaos, where the powers of Amber and Chaos constantly battle for supremacy through intrigue and adventure. Revisit Amber, the land of mystery, adventure and romance. Amber, the one true world. All other worlds, including our Earth, are merely Shadows.
Except as noted, annotations are supplied from the SELCO catalog