30 Best Fantasy Books Readers Can’t Put Down
Looking for the best fantasy books ever written? You’re in the right place. These novels will immerse you in magical, mythical worlds chock-full of sorcery and wonder.
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The best fantasy novels of all time
Escape your real life—you know you want to. The best fantasy books will let you do just that as you enter their epic dream worlds brimming with magic, myth, and all things supernatural. You might travel back to the Middle Ages with a new twist on historical fiction, planet-hop to another dimension, or uncover some everyday magic that’s apparently been under our noses this whole time. Nothing is off limits in these books that make the impossible possible in their pages and will completely transfix you.
The fantasy books on our list are a mix of stunning debuts from new authors and stalwarts of the genre whose writers have penned entire series you’ll devour. While some are classic books that easily qualify as some of the best books of all time, others are more recent best sellers and young adult novels with thousands of five-star reviews and enthusiastic fans breathlessly waiting for the next installment. We also included a number that have been made into feature films or hit TV series or have adaptations in the works, since they have made (or will soon make) a serious impact on pop culture. Scroll through to find your next obsession, whether you’re curling up on the couch or you need a beach read and are looking for something other than a romance novel. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
1. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (2021)
Jessamyn’s grandmother, a ghost, starts off trying to shock her, letting her know she’s in on her personal affairs. The zippy, relatable novel follows the young woman to Malaysia, where she relocates with her parents and finds herself doing the bidding of her grandmother’s spirit, known as Black Water Sister. Cho’s novel is both moving and compelling as it delves into the heroine’s heart, a gangster world, and family deities and mysteries. Be the first to know about stellar new releases like this by joining one of the best online book clubs.
2. For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (2021)
Delve into the mysterious Wilderwood in this beguiling, amped-up fairy tale about Red, a daughter fated for sacrifice to a powerful wolf that lurks deep in the forest. As she makes her way toward the great monster, she realizes that it’s actually a man—and that her own powers are much greater than she ever knew. Critics adore this fantastical New York Times best seller for its captivating plot and brilliantly original redux of Little Red Riding Hood that takes the story beyond imagination.
3. Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (2021)
Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s genre-breaking fantasy takes readers on a thrill ride to a fantastical, immersive world that reconstructs an old-world African empire infused with magic and intrigue. The story follows Danso, a scholar who discovers the existence of ancient magic, though he was taught it was only myth. This discovery leads him on an epic journey filled with themes of oppression, discrimination, and the power of questioning the truths you’re told. Here are more books by Black authors you’ll want to know about.
4. Supernatural Investigations series by B. B. Alston (2021)
The debut book in the Supernatural Investigations series, Amari and the Night Brothers, begins with the relatable voice of 12-year-old Amari, who refuses to give up on finding her missing older brother while also standing up to bullies at school. After discovering a mysterious briefcase, she learns that the supernatural is very much real—and that she has a particular talent for magic. This addictive New York Times best seller, described as “Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black,” will be the new book that teens and preteens obsess over.
5. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)
Set in medieval China, this powerful historical fantasy follows a young girl, Zhu, whose fate has been cast for her at birth. Yet after she’s orphaned and loses her brother, she takes on his identity and also his destiny. He was ordained for greatness, but Zhu decides that greatness is now hers. This well-reviewed LGBTQ book explores queer identity as it captivates readers looking for an emotional, intense adventure with a bold heroine at its center.
6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)
Fans can’t put down Erin Morgenstern’s lush and enchanting mystery about two ancient magicians told across multiple timelines and perspectives. Each mage has a young proxy, and the two become pawns in this bewitching novel filled with vivid descriptions and sensory world-building. As Celia and Marco fall in love in this surreal world, they are caught in a game that they don’t fully understand but must play out.
7. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (2021)
Teenaged Deka isn’t like the other girls in her village. She grows up on a farm and intends to make her family proud and save their reputation, but during the Ritual for Purity ceremony, it is discovered that she has gold blood. This special trait drastically changes her life, leading her to an enormous city, where she is thrust into her fate to protect the empire. This stunning debut, described as a dark feminist tale, pulls readers into its young heroine’s world as she discovers her power.
8. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (2021)
This beguiling debut reinvents the classic novel The Great Gatsby. This time, Jordan Baker (Daisy Buchanan’s socialite friend in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original) is a Vietnamese queer woman who becomes the center of this tale that’s filled with magic, ghosts, and demons. This stunning retelling adds dreamy enchantment to the original and still-relevant themes of wealth and loneliness. This isn’t just one of the best fantasy books—it’s one of the best fiction books you’ll read this year.
9. Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (2021)
Teen fantasy readers will fall in love with this bewitching young adult novel with an epic plot about two rival witches who work together to foil a common enemy…while determined to take each other down as well. Told from alternating perspectives, this female-authored book will transport you to a Jamaican-inspired world filled with magic and intrigue, and it will keep you hooked till the last page.
10. Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)
The first book in the Legacy of Orïsha series, Children of Blood and Bone, topped best seller and best-of-YA lists in 2018, making it a hit with critics and readers alike. In an ancient African–inspired world, a tyrannical king removes the magical powers of people known as diviners. His daughter, a princess, teams up with a young diviner to restore her power. The prince hunts them down, determined to keep magic at bay—that is, until he discovers his own abilities in this haunting story about power and wielding it.
11. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (1995)
The Golden Compass, the first in this trilogy, pulls readers into an intricate world where human souls live alongside all people; these “daemons” appear in the form of animals. The story follows 12-year-old Lyra on an elaborate trek to the Arctic to discover what’s happening to so many missing children, including her best friend, Roger.
12. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
The Lord of the Rings isn’t just the best-selling fantasy book of all time—it’s one the best-selling books of any genre, with more than 150 million copies sold in translations of 50-plus languages. J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary saga, set in Middle-earth, offers readers well over a thousand pages of epic world-building filled with mesmerizing characters, including hobbits, wizards, talking trees, terrifying villains, warrior elves, and so much more. And, of course, just like with the excellent movie adaptations, there are a few entries in this series to keep you happily occupied.
13. The Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved classic series begins with the Newbery Medal–winning A Wrinkle in Time, which remains one of the most thrilling fantasy novels for young readers. It’s a can’t-put-it-down page-turner that follows a young girl as she planet-hops across the universe to find her missing father. She visits worlds beyond imagination with her friend and kid brother along for the ride and three mystical witches offering guidance.
14. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (2021)
Sorrowland merges genres and upends them in this horror-filled, fantastical tale. While seven months pregnant, Vern escapes a cult where she was a child bride, then gives birth and goes on the run with her twin children. Critics and fans praise this 2021 book for its brilliant Gothic plotting and riveting originality in its presentation of America’s brutal history of racial oppression. For a real-world approach to this topic, check out these essential books about racism.
15. This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (2021)
Enter a botanical wonderland in this contemporary young adult novel about a girl and a magical grand estate. Briseis finds that she’s inherited a grand mansion with a thriving garden, but all of the plants are alive in unexpected ways and she has the power to move them. It’s an exciting second novel from the author of the best-selling fairy tale redux Cinderella Is Dead.
16. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
No list of the best fantasy books of all time would be complete without Lewis Carroll’s beloved fantasy, published in 1865 but still widely read (and watched) today. Alice falls down the rabbit hole, of course, and emerges in a true wonderland. Return to this early classic of the genre, filled with madcap adventures and oddball characters that build a world beyond imagination, as young Alice makes her way through the strangest of places.
17. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (2003)
Author Christopher Paolini started writing Eragon, the first book in this addicting four-part young adult fantasy series, as a teenager. The hugely popular novel, which spent more than a year on best seller lists, follows a teen boy, Eragon, who discovers a mysterious dragon egg. Once it hatches, he finds himself bonded with Saphira, the dragon who emerges, and thrown into an odyssey in a world of elves, magic, dragon riders, and adventure. If you love fantasy, it just may be the perfect beach read for your next vacation.
18. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)
Fall into Book 1 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle, The Name of the Wind, if you’re looking for a world-building fantasy series told in poetic language. You’ll follow the mythic wizard Kvothe as he chronicles an intricate history both tragic and heroic. Prepare for 700-plus mesmerizing pages of riveting action with twists and turns set in an elaborate world and across two timelines. You’ll be glad there’s another book in the series (and a third supposedly coming…sometime!) when you reach the end.
19. Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch (2006)
The first in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is both brutal and witty. Brace yourself for a genre-defying adventure that sets a crime caper in a fantasy world. Scott Lynch’s debut follows the Gentlemen Bastards, a gang of elite crooks in Camorr, a Venice-inspired world created with elaborate detail and a dash of Dickens. The novel alternates between the hero’s orphan childhood and his adult exploits as a brilliant con man taking down noblemen, an underworld ruler, and the shadowy Gray King. If this premise piques your interest, you might also get caught up in these true crime books.
20. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)
The best fantasy books captivate readers with magical journeys into spectacular worlds. Susanna Clarke’s award-winning debut fantasy novel takes place in England during the Napoleonic Wars. Only this isn’t familiar British history but an alternate version where magic exists and gets put to use by a practicing magician and a student who’s prone to go off script when it comes to powerful spell work.
21. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin (1996)
You probably know it as Game of Thrones because of the hit HBO series, but that titular work is just the first in an entire series that’s considered the best fantasy series of all time—or at least of the last few decades. George R. R. Martin’s tales center around Winterfell, King’s Landing, all the seven kingdoms, and the epic plots over who should rule them. Prepare for dragons, bloodshed, betrayal, sorcery, and so much more in these addictive, highly readable books.
22. The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson (2010)
The Way of Kings is the first entry in the Stormlight Archive fantasy series, known for intricate plots and epic world-building on the nature- and war-ravaged planet Roshar. Follow the various storylines of Kaladin, Dalinar Kholin, and Shallan as secrets are uncovered about an ancient text known as The Way of Kings, the orders of the Knights Radiant, and the real reason for the ongoing war. What else might you love? Try this list of the best books for you, based on your zodiac sign.
23. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (1995)
In Robin Hobb’s epic fantasy Assassin’s Apprentice, you’ll be introduced to Fitz, a boy fathered by a prince but trained as an assassin. Rejected by his family and with magical blood running through his veins, he may be a threat to the throne—or the one who ends up saving it. It’s the first entry in The Farseer Trilogy, which is beloved for its immersive world-building, well-drawn characters, and transfixing details filled with magic, emotion, and surprise.
24. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (1990)
These complex fantasy books are known for pulling readers into their enthralling universe and holding them rapt until the last page. The first book (of 15!) in this series, The Eye of the World, is 800-plus pages of immersive fantasy that centers on Moiraine Damodred, who’s on a quest to find a prophesied hero who will fight the Dark One and save the world. Read this book and then curl up with the 2021 Amazon Prime series based on it. For something that’s less of a time commitment, check out these beloved short books.
25. American Gods series by Neil Gaiman (2001)
Neil Gaiman’s inventive world mixes urban fantasy, set in contemporary America, with epic battles between the old gods and the new ones—and an ex-convict named Shadow caught in the middle. If it sounds familiar, that’s because the novel was adapted into a hit TV series. Read the two-book series, American Gods and Anansi Boys, if you’re looking for witty writing and fantasy that draws you in with its wondrous vision and strange violence.
26. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)
Ursula K. Le Guin’s award-winning fantasy books build an immersive world with elaborate magical systems. The first story, A Wizard of Earthsea, follows young Ged, who starts his training as a wizard but experiments with forbidden magic and unleashes darkness and chaos. This leads him on an epic journey to conquer evil. If you also have a soft spot for vampires, you’ll want to take a bite out of our favorite vampire books.
27. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin (2015)
This trilogy has garnered tremendous acclaim, including Hugo and Nebula awards, and the first in the series, The Fifth Season, melds and reinvents the science fiction and fantasy genres for a new generation. The novels build a world on Earth, far in the future after devastating storms known as Seasons destroy civilizations over and over again. This Earth features floating obelisks and humans with magical powers drawn from Earth’s geology, and the books’ epic, complex plot lines mesmerize fantasy fans.
28. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1998)
The enormously popular children’s fantasy series needs no introduction, but we’ll give it one anyway. The first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s) Stone, will make you fall in love with the orphaned boy wizard and root for him as he battles various villains that, ultimately, lead to an epic showdown with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Magic mixed with school-aged drama makes for a series you won’t be able to put down. Even if you’ve read them a million times, you’ll be surprised by these hidden messages in the Harry Potter books.
29. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1950)
While these books were written for children, adults also love the stories about four young World War II–era siblings who find themselves transported to a world filled with mythical creatures and talking animals. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the best-known (technically the second, chronologically) book in the series, you’ll travel to wintry, fantastical Narnia, where the wicked White Queen baits one of the brothers to betray his family. These books are heavy on symbolism and themes of kindness and redemption.
30. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (1990)
Guy Gavriel Kay’s epic novel, with its rich, evocative language, constructs an awe-inspiring and elaborate land of kingdoms, the Peninsula of the Palm, entangled in civil war. The complex plotting follows two rival sorcerers along intricate plot lines that build to a truly surprising climax. Sorry, no spoilers here—you’re going to have to read it to find out what happens! Next, check out the best horror books that will keep you on the edge of your seat.