Sometimes you read because it is for class. Sometimes you need to escape into a world and let the stresses of life go. For whatever reason you read, most readers agree that they read for escapism. To step into a realm where dragons soar, magic crackles in the air, romance you can swoon to, and the epic adventures that await within the pages. Our curated list unveils the 20 best fantasy series that promises the ultimate escape from reality.
So, buckle up for a literary odyssey as we unveil the gateway to fantastical worlds that will captivate your senses and leave you yearning for more. Get ready to lose yourself in the magic of storytelling!
The Best Fantasy Series to Add To Your TBR
Malazan Book of the Fallen
Book 1 in the series: Gardens of the Moon
Author: Steven Erikson
Books in the series: 10
The fun of Steven Erikson is the ambiguity of the series. Initially, you will understand very little of the universe (races, magic systems, morality, etc) even after reading the first two books. This is a proper setup for the storyline as it spans over 10 books.
Part of what makes this one of the best fantasy series is that the scope is vast (even larger than Sanderson or Robert Jordan). Spanning millennia, continents, characters and so much more. Despite the range of Malazan, this feels like a real world, with people who you could see yourself being friends with and magic you can harness within yourself. Now with that said, Malazan hits MAJOR epic fantasy territory and is difficult to start. Especially with the aforementioned storyline setup of the series. But once you are in, you are hooked. It is dark and sumptuous, sinister and captivating. Full of legions of gods, mages, dragons, DRAGONS! and all manner of creatures that play to the fate of the Malazan Empire. Malazan deserves a spot on the best fantasy series list.
Synopsis of Malazan
Discontent boils within the Malazan Empire, drained by ceaseless warfare, internal strife, and fierce clashes with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient sorcerers of unwavering resolve. Even the battle-hardened imperial legions, accustomed to carnage, crave respite. Despite the yearning for relief, Empress Laseen’s dominion remains unchallenged, upheld by her fearsome Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners squad, along with Tattersail, the surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the Pale siege should have been a time of mourning for the fallen. Yet, Darujhistan, the last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, defiantly stands. It is towards this ancient citadel that Laseen directs her predatory attention.
However, it becomes evident that the Empire is not the sole player in this intricate game. Sinister, shadow-laden forces converge, and the gods themselves prepare to intervene.
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The Wheel of Time
Book 1 in the series: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Books in the series: 21 books including prologue books
You can’t have the best fantasy series list without The Wheel of Time. With a series that started in the 80s, there has never been a series that depicts Good vs Evil in a way that adds great depth without making the characters a shallow one-dimensional mess.
The experience of The Wheel of Time will have you reassess the books and/or series that are on your favorites list. There is a level of detail with the world-building, character development, and plot of the story. Now there is a caveat that some of the books have “middle books syndrome”. Those middle books are a little slow, and honestly, the series feels a little too big. But with that, the last 5 books make up for the slump in the middle. With Sanderson writing the last 3 of the series ( if you like Sanderson you are sure to like The Wheel of Time).
The Wheel of Time continues its inexorable turn, ushering in Ages that leave behind memories evolving into legends. Over time, these legends fade into myth, and even myths are eventually forgotten until the Age that birthed them returns once more. What once was, what is, and what will be may find themselves ensnared by the encroaching Shadow.
Moiraine Damodred makes her way to Emond’s Field on a mission to locate the prophesied individual destined to confront The Dark One—an ominous force sowing chaos and destruction. As a brutal group of half-men, half-beasts descends upon the village in pursuit of their master’s foe, Moiraine convinces Rand al’Thor and his companions to depart from their familiar home. They embark on a journey into a vast and unimaginable world, where dangers lurk both in the shadows and in the light.
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Book 1 in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Books in the series: 9 including 1 Prequel
I think when it comes to Harry Potter there is no introduction needed. Most know it and it is considered a classic at this point. Easily add it to the best fantasy series list. Harry Potter is not a one-noted storyline. The series becomes darker, grittier, and more mature as the protagonists grow and evolve in the wizarding world.
Many favorite books in the series are The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Half-Blood Prince, and The Deathly Hallows. These books add significant markers to the storyline of Harry Potter, not only propelling the story but growing it in ways that you have no choice but to enjoy and fall in love with them.
While we are on the subject of Harry Potter the movies are EXCELLENT! The books of course are so much better some nuisances are missed in the movie (of course they are limited on time). And if you haven’t grabbed the Minalima editions of the Harry Potter series YOU ARE MISSING OUT! The Minalima editions add an interactive, engaging experience to the series (currently only 3 books are out in Minalima editions).
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his noble destiny.
The Farseer Trilogy
Book 1 in the series: Assassin’s Apprentice
Author: Robin Hobb
Books in the series: 3 but builds upon other books by Robin Hobb
The beauty of Robin Hobb and the series she writes comes in the simplicity. While the story itself is complex in ways you wouldn’t imagine, the writing style is simple and smooth. Making her world easily digestible and therefore easy to fall into.
Nothing is overwhelming about her world-building, the language she uses or the characters to be developed. But, when it comes to her political schemes, relationships, and plots she creates they are such strong works of art that captivate you from the first page. Making them so addictive.
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In a distant realm where members of the royal family embody virtues through their names, a young boy is destined to become a perplexing enigma.
Fitz, born on the less privileged side of lineage as the illegitimate son of Chivalry Farseer, finds himself an outcast, abandoned to a world devoid of friends and warmth. His only solace lies in the mystical connection with animals—an ancient skill known as the Wit. Yet, the Wit, if overused, harbors dangers and is vehemently condemned by the nobility.
Upon being finally accepted into the royal household, Fitz must relinquish his former ways and embrace a new life of martial training, scholarly pursuits, courtly etiquette, and the clandestine art of assassination.
His Dark Materials
Book 1 in the series: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Books in the series: 8 including a prequel
His Dark Materials is a series that is primarily targeted to a younger audience. Despite that, His Dark Materials is a work of pure genius. The book retains all the classic fantasy elements: magical and mythical creatures, supernatural phenomena, and an engrossing world. Pullman creates a world that seamlessly intertwines with your own. Pullman continues to surprise you by dropping several, crater-sized plot twists.
Part of the fun of His Dark Materials is that the story can be seen as two separate stories happening at the same time. The first story is as mentioned targeted to the younger reader. The second is a deeper line of the story. Pullman explores the conflicts of science and religion, manipulation and morals, magic, and the world within. Culminating a child’s bedtime story with ideals that will leave the adult reading it pondering the story. Easily add it to the best fantasy series list.
Lyra hastens toward the frigid expanses of the far North, where the dominion is held by witch clans and armored bears. It is a realm where the Gobblers abduct stolen children, including her friend Roger. In the North, her formidable uncle Asriel endeavors to construct a bridge to a parallel world.
Amid these vast and perilous undertakings, can a young girl like Lyra truly make a difference? She is Lyra—a savage, a strategist, a deceiver, and a champion as resolute and genuine as Roger or Asriel could desire. However, what Lyra is unaware of is that aiding one of them may require betraying the other.
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The Bloodsworn Trilogy
Book 1 in the series: The Shadow of the Gods
Author: John Gwynne
Books in the series: 3 (book 3 not yet released)
The Shadow of the Gods had to be on the best fantasy series list. The Bloodsworn trilogy is no doubt a heavily Viking-inspired world. It leans into all of the tropes and snares that fans of dark and gritty epic fantasy (and does it unapologetically).
Set in the frosted hills of Vigrið, Gwynne shows a love for the folklore, mythology, and landscapes of the world. It is a DENSE story because of the lore and world-building that goes into a story set three hundred years after a war waged between the gods and wiped them out.
But beyond, the world-building you develop a connection to the characters and become engrossed in their storylines. And, when the story merges you have a moment of such clarity and understanding that it propels you to want to continue to book 2 The Hunger of the Gods.
Following the divine conflict that led to the gods’ extinction, the cataclysmic aftermath shattered the once-stable land of Vigrið.
In this emerging world, ambitious jarls vie for power, engaging in feuds, while monsters prowl the woodlands and mountains. The remnants of the fallen gods’ bones still possess potent abilities, tempting those bold or desperate enough to seek them out.
As murmurs of impending war resonate through the mountains and fjords, the destinies of three individuals unfold: a daring huntress embarks on a perilous quest, a noblewoman rejects privilege in favor of seeking fame through battle, and a thrall seeks vengeance amidst the renowned mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.
Together, their actions will shape the destiny of a world once again cast under the looming shadow of the gods.
Book 1 in the series: The Traitor Baru Cormorant
Author: Seth Dickinson
Books in the series: 4 (book 4 not yet released)
The Masquerade series is a series that you think of long after you’ve finished the book, you’ve gone on to read other stories, and months down the road it is still itching at the back of your mind. The story that the best fantasy books are made of.
Baru and her story is “hard” and realistic fantasy. Hitting points of power, manipulation, politics, colonialism, sexuality, and so much more. It is a brutal story, not in the ideal way that your mind jumps to but more of a subtle way. Nothing is happy in Baru’s story. There is pain and sacrifice, treachery, and submission, and often turns into a bleak story. But Baru and her story, make you think, and feel, getting under your skin. That is what the best fantasy books do. Going beyond the confines of the page, destroying your resolve, and building it back up over again. There will be moments where you struggle to continue the chapter, hell even the page, But The Masquerade series is a series that you can lose yourself in.
On the morrow, along the shore, Baru Cormorant will lift her gaze from the sands of her homeland and behold crimson sails emerging on the horizon.
The Empire of Masks approaches, armed with wealth and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and deceit. They intend to conquer Baru’s island, reshape her culture, criminalize her traditions, and eliminate one of her fathers. Yet, Baru bides her time. She will swallow her resentment, showcase her abilities, and become part of the Masquerade. There, she will unravel the secrets of the empire, become exactly what they require, and ascend the ranks of power to liberate her people.
In a final testament of her allegiance, the Masquerade sends Baru to impose order on distant Aurdwynn—a nest of rebels, informants, and rebellious dukes. Aurdwynn is notorious for dispatching anyone who attempts to rule it. To survive, Baru must navigate the intricate web of treachery in this land and conceal her attraction to the captivating Duchess Tain Hu.
Baru, a virtuoso in the games of power, is as ruthless in her tactics as she is unwavering in her objectives. In the intricate calculations of her strategies, all accounts must be settled, and the price of liberation must be paid in full.