The 25 Best Fantasy Book Series Ever Written
Magical worlds, mythical beasts and fan-favorite characters—you'll find them all in the best fantasy book series of all time
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The best fantasy book series ever written
Fantasy is one of the most well-known—and well-loved—book genres, so it’s no great surprise that many of the best fantasy book series have become part of pop culture. (Admit it: Even if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings, you’ve heard that “one does not simply walk into Mordor.”) It’s easy to understand the appeal of fantasy book series: Much of the genre provides an outlet in which readers can escape their reality and explore a new one. The best books may see you journeying across Middle-earth with hobbits, finding a gem in the center of a clan war or even destroying some ghosts—there’s no shortage of magical moments to be found in these pages.
Whether bestsellers, award winners, record breakers, classics or underrated gems, these book series are all incredible picks for spending a day (or days) in a make-believe world. We rounded up dozens of book recommendations for incredible fantasy series with the hope that magic will find its way into your heart and onto your bookshelves.
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1. The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee
Series starter: Jade City
What you’re in for: A war between rival gangster families
Jade City hit shelves in 2017, kicking off a must-read fantasy book series and nabbing a World Fantasy Award in the process. Green Bone Warriors have long protected the island of Kekon from invaders, using the island’s jade to enhance their magic. Now, with no war to fight, warrior families such as the Kauls have turned their attention to new battles—namely fighting for control of both the capital city and the jade market. With a new drug giving everyone the power to wield jade, a clan war quickly brews between the Kauls and a rival family. Looking for more enthralling books by Asian authors? Our list has you covered.
2. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Series starter: The Poppy War
What you’re in for: Crushing choices in battle, forbidden magic and a descent into villainy
This remarkable trilogy, which began in 2018, finds inspiration in the Second-Sino Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War and the rise of Mao Zedong. It opens with Rin, who’s on her way to the elite military school Sinegard, despite the odds stacked against her. (She’s a dark-skinned war orphan who managed to escape her guardians by passing an empire-wide test called the Keju.) A rare gift for the art of shamanism further separates Rin from her classmates and sets her up as a key player in the Third Poppy War that lurks in the near future. But saving her people will come at a steep cost. If you’re into audiobooks, Emily Woo Zeller’s narration of this one further cements its status as one of the best fantasy book series around.
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3. Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Series starter: A Wizard of Earthsea
What you’re in for: Character-driven fantasy
Ursula K. Le Guin is widely regarded as a pillar in science fiction and fantasy, and if you’ve never read one of her books, 1968’s A Wizard of Earthsea is a good place to start. The series starter tells the story of Sparrowhawk, a young and cocky boy who grows into the great sorcerer Ged. But between the first and last pages of this coming-of-age story, there are adventures with a dragon and that whole business of unleashing a shadow creature into the world. If you’re really committed to the world, invest instead in The Books of Earthsea, a gorgeously illustrated tome containing all the Earthsea Cycle books.
4. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Series starter: The Fellowship of the Ring
What you’re in for: Road trip shenanigans and expansive world
It’s hard to imagine a time without Lord of the Rings, but before 1954, the world had never heard of hobbits, Mordor or the One Ring to rule them all. This isn’t simply one of the best fantasy book series; it’s the defining fantasy series of the past century. The story follows Frodo Baggins, a young hobbit entrusted with the One Ring, which was forged and fueled by the Dark Lord Sauron, granting him dominion over Middle-earth. On his perilous journey to destroy the ring, Frodo joins forces with a trio of hobbits, a wizard, an elf, a dwarf and a human ranger who’s more than he seems. All the while, the merry band of travelers must avoid orcs, giant spiders and a creature who desires the ring for itself. Go ahead and watch the prequel Amazon Prime TV show, but read the book series first.
5. Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Series starter: A Darker Shade of Magic
What you’re in for: Parallel worlds and dynamic characters
One of the best fiction books of 2015, V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic spawned a string of bestselling fantasy novels and now includes a comic book prequel series and a soon-to-be-released sequel series. Kell has been raised alongside the royal family of Red London, and he serves as an ambassador. As an Antari, he possesses the magical ability to travel through parallel Londons, which he uses to his benefit as a smuggler. In magic-less Grey London, he collides with thief Delilah Bard, whose request for help in saving all the worlds kicks off an adventure full of richly crafted characters and fascinating settings.
6. Earthsinger Chronicles by L. Penelope
Series starter: Song of Blood & Stone
What you’re in for: Romantic fantasy
L. Penelope’s 2015 fantasy book series follows Jasminda, who lives on a farm in Elsira, shunned for both the Earthsong abilities that live within her and the color of her skin. When soldiers from neighboring Lagrimar pass through her valley—a seemingly impossible feat considering the magical veil separating the two countries—Jasminda learns that the veil is cracking. Should it fall, newly mobilized Lagrimari forces will head her way. Tossed headfirst into a brewing conflict, Jasminda joins forces with an Elsirian spy to unravel the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and save her people. Not sure what to read next? If you love high-fantasy worlds like this, pick up the Witcher series and dive into another imaginative world.
7. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Series starter: The Color of Magic
What you’re in for: Lots of laughs and a vast imagination
Terry Pratchett’s sweeping world began in 1983 and spanned 41 volumes over his lifetime. Dive in to The Color of Magic to meet Rincewind, a wizard—though not necessarily a talented one. He lives within the Discworld, an alternate dimension on the back of a giant turtle that is not the No. 1 tourist destination in the universe. And yet here is Twoflower, Discworld’s first visitor, who’s determined to see everything and who has arrived with his own multi-legged luggage. A lot of fantasy series books are as imaginative as Pratchett’s, but few are as genuinely funny as these books.
8. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Series starter: The Fifth Season
What you’re in for: Inventive world-building and unbeatable writing
The only series ever to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel for every single installment (making N.K. Jemisin the only author to win the Hugo three years running), The Broken Earth Trilogy is widely regarded among fantasy fans as one of the best fantasy book series of all time. This skillfully constructed 2015 science fantasy takes place in a land called the Stillness, the only continent on a planet that goes through cataclysmic climate change (referred to as a “fifth season”) every few centuries. Following a young girl learning to harness her earth-based powers, a woman attempting to save her daughter from her murderous husband and a gifted woman with immense power, Jemisin’s tale is one you desperately need to read. When you’re done, make sure to check out even more books from incredible Black authors.
9. The Singing Hills Cycle by Nghi Vo
Series starter: The Empress of Salt and Fortune
What you’re in for: A cinematic world and low page counts
How’s this for a fun and original way to read a fantasy book series: The cleric Chih links all the books in this collection of novellas, but you can read them in any order. From the rise of an empress traveling toward a political marriage to near-immortal martial artists to the love story between a tiger and a scholar, the tales in The Singing Hills Cycle, which began in 2020, make this one of the best fantasy series for readers who love stories about stories. As an added bonus, all are short-and-sweet reads.
10. The Drowning Empire by Andrea Stewart
Series starter: The Bone Shard Daughter
What you’re in for: Deeply developed characters and an intriguing magic system
The Drowning Empire is a fresh entry into the best fantasy book series, featuring a world filled with bone-shard magic. Kicking off with 2020’s The Bone Shard Daughter, the series tracks the emperor’s daughter, Lin, in her attempt to make a name for herself. Snubbed as heir to the throne and trapped in the palace, she turns to the costly art of bone shard magic. Equally as compelling are Jovis, who’s on a quest to find his missing wife, and Phalue, who’s contemplating the vast circumstantial differences between her upbringing and beliefs and her partner’s. Stay tuned for the epic finale, one of the most anticipated books of April 2023.
11. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Series starter: The Lightning Thief
What you’re in for: Greek mythology
Rick Riordan introduced the world to Percy Jackson in 2005, and the lovable character has since appeared in the original five fantasy series books, in addition to a sequel series and a set of graphic novel adaptations. The books have spawned a world of spin-offs (as well as two film adaptations and an upcoming author-involved TV show on Disney+). It all starts with The Lightning Thief: Percy is the prime suspect in a theft, but to his shock, he’s accused of nabbing Zeus’s legendary lightning bolt. Reeling from the discovery that his father is the Greek god Poseidon, he has 10 days to return the bolt to its owner—and no idea where it might be.
12. Bone Street Rumba by Daniel José Older
Series starter: Half-Resurrection Blues
What you’re in for: New York City magic and ghostbusting
Carlos Delacruz may have died, but that doesn’t stop him from leading this highly underrated urban fantasy series, which began in 2015. Resurrected and now living as a “halfie” who belongs to both the living and the dead, he works as an agent for the New York City Council of the Dead. In the process of eliminating the city’s ghostly inhabitants, he discovers that he’s not the only halfie walking around. And one of them is seeking to open up the underworld.
13. Patternist by Octavia E. Butler
Series starter: Wild Seed
What you’re in for: Ancient spirits and tumultuous relationships
Octavia E. Butler is a name all speculative fiction fans should know—as is this series. It began with 1977’s Patternmaster, but don’t start there. As noted on the late author’s website, to read in chronological order, start with Wild Seed. Doro is an ancient spirit who can’t survive without a human host, so he jumps from body to body, killing each to stay alive. Everything changes when he meets an entity named Anyanwu, who has the ability to heal with a bite. Their relationship, and the resulting power struggle, spans centuries and continents. Next, pick up Butler’s Fledgling, a thoughtful and engrossing vampire novel.
14. The Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu
Series starter: The Grace of Kings
What you’re in for: Shapeshifting gods, tough battles and reimagined history
The first entry in this quartet arrived in 2015, launching readers into a historical fantasy based on China’s Han Dynasty. In the uprising against the emperor, bandit Kuni Garu and onetime noble Mata Zyndu toss aside their differences to take part in the fight. But that kinship dissolves once the emperor is overthrown, and they end up leading opposing factions with two very different ideas of rule. If you love historical fiction or political fantasy, don’t miss this series.
15. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Series starter: The Eye of the World
What you’re in for: Epic fantasy and a long series that’ll keep you reading
You may be familiar with this title from the Amazon TV adaptation, but before it busted Prime Video records, it hit bestseller lists as one of the best fantasy book series for high-fantasy lovers. Told over 14 volumes, starting with 1990’s The Eye of the World, the story begins as powerful channeler Moiraine Damodred journeys to find a prophesized hero who may be able to battle the Dark One. The series is the brainchild of Robert Jordan, who wrote all but the final books. Before his death, he passed plans for the series end to fantasy titan Brandon Sanderson, who co-wrote the last three books.
16. Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi
Series starter: Inuyasha, Vol. 1
What you’re in for: Iconic illustrations and a historical, demon-filled Japan
This one’s for manga lovers, graphic novel fans and, well, anyone who appreciates expansive fantasy novels. The first volume launched in 1997, and both the manga and its anime adaptation have been highly influential in the fantasy world. The story kicks off with a time travel adventure: The well that resides on the site of Kagome’s family shrine is something she barely thought about—until she learns it’s actually a gate to feudal Japan. Pulled into a world in which demons battle for a magical gem of great power, Kagome finds an ally in Inuyasha, a half-demon who she accidentally freed from his imprisonment.
17. Heaven Official’s Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
Series starter: Heaven Official’s Blessing, Vol. 1
What you’re in for: Chronicles of a (most of the time) god
First published in the United States in 2021, the English translation of Chinese author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s Heaven Official’s Blessing made a big splash, immediately hitting the New York Times bestseller list. (By then, it was already a smash hit in China.) With the next seven volumes following quickly on its heels (all will be released by mid-September 2023), now is the time to pick up the story of Xie Lian, whose mortal life ended several centuries ago. On the ground after ascending to godhood (again), he must work to pay back his debts and stay godly.
18. Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Series starter: His Majesty’s Dragon
What you’re in for: Battle dragons and historical war
Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, beginning with 2006’s His Majesty’s Dragon, is a fresh fantasy reimagining of the Napoleonic Wars. Rather than aircraft, Britain’s defense relies on dragon warriors. Once a captain of the high seas, Will Laurence takes to the skies after seizing an unhatched dragon egg from a French ship. He joins the Aerial Corps and enters a world he’s wildly unfamiliar with, forging an unforgettable bond as master of the dragon Temeraire.
19. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Series starter: An Ember in the Ashes
What you’re in for: Roman Empire–inspired world and an epic romance
In Sabaa Tahir’s bestselling 2015 teen novel, An Ember in the Ashes, two teens living in the brutal Martial Empire have little in common. Laia is undercover at the empire’s military academy, spying for the rebels in exchange for her imprisoned brother’s rescue. Elias is the son of a commander, dreaming of escaping the empire. When their paths collide, their world will never be the same. Next, check out our recommendations for fantasy romance books.
20. The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
Series starter: The Bear and the Nightingale
What you’re in for: Original fairy tale feelings
Launching in 2017 with the bestselling The Bear and the Nightingale, this series follows Vasya and her siblings, who live in a nearly year-round winter. They spend their nights listening to stories by the fire, with Vasya’s favorite being that of Frost, a fearful demon who claims the souls of the unwary. When Vasya’s new stepmother forbids them from honoring the spirits that guard against evil, she’ll need to reach deep inside herself to restore the safety they once felt by the fire.
21. Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Series starter: Assassin’s Apprentice
What you’re in for: Political chess and secret missions
Robin Hobb’s expansive world covers 13 books and multiple series, but the first trilogy set within the Realm of the Elderlings starts with Assassin’s Apprentice, which came out in 1995. Fitz may have been raised apart from royalty, but he still has a powerful destiny. As the bastard of a prince, he’s treated more as a threat than a son. Luckily, there is one who hasn’t cast him away, a devious king who’s spent years secretly training Fitz to become an assassin. With magic in his veins and a life lived in the shadow of a court where he’s never quite belonged, he embarks on his very first mission.
22. Between Earth and Sky by Rebecca Roanhorse
Series starter: Black Sun
What you’re in for: Outcasts, political intrigue and a world inspired by pre-Columbian civilizations
With the third book set to release in August 2023, you have plenty of time to immerse yourself in Rebecca Roanhorse’s outstanding world, starting with 2020’s Black Sun. Tova’s annual celebration of the winter solstice is one filled with joy … normally. But this year, two things threaten the celebration: a solar eclipse, bringing with it a prophesied unbalanced world, and the arrival of a ship from distant lands. It carries only two beings, a captain with magical abilities and a blind young man who has a bone to pick with the Sun Priest. If you’re looking to read more Native American books (and you should!) this is a good place to begin.
23. Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Series starter: Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1
What you’re in for: Alchemy, a large and exciting cast of characters and brotherly devotion
This manga series, originally published in Japan in 2002 and released in the United States in 2005, is a classic for a reason. It’s been adapted into two separate anime series and spans 27 glorious volumes. Eric and Alphonse Elric were experimenting with an alchemical ritual to bring their mother back to life when it failed, tearing them apart, leaving Eric with only one arm and leg, and sending Alphonse’s soul into a suit of armor. Now, the two must journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone to restore their bodies. Even if you’ve never read a manga before, the storytelling in this one makes it well worth your time.
24. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore
Series starter: Graceling
What you’re in for: Young women coming to terms with their power
With her 2008 blockbuster, Graceling, Kristin Cashore introduced readers to an expansive world filled with strong-willed characters and a fascinating magic system. While Graceling Realm is undoubtedly one of the best fantasy book series for teens, it appeals to adult readers as well. In the Seven Realms, there are those who are born graced, possessing two different color eyes and a skill of great power. Graceling introduces us to Katsa, a graced assassin serving as the king’s enforcer. Fire (my all-time-favorite fantasy book) takes us across the mountains and decades into the past to meet Fire, the last remaining human monster. Bitterblue and the titular character struggle with sins of the father, while Winterkeep and Seasparrow, published about a decade after the initial trilogy, continue the breathtaking story.
25. Kingston Cycle by C.L. Polk
Series starter: Witchmark
What you’re in for: Romance and an Edwardian England–inspired world
Whether you gobble up romance novels, prefer historical fiction or gravitate toward fantasy, you’ll find a new favorite in C.L. Polk’s Kingston Cycle. This series of romantic LGBTQ books began with 2018’s Witchmark, winner of a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Miles Singer was low on options from the moment of his birth. To escape two equally unsavory fates—enslavement or a witches’ asylum—he opts to fight in a war. After faking his death and taking a job as a doctor, Miles inadvertently reveals his magical ability while tending to a poisoned patient. Throwing caution to the wind, he risks everything and depends on a handsome stranger to discover the truth.
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- Octavia E. Butler: “Frequently Asked Questions“