With the popularity of big-budget, high profile fantasy shows popping up everywhere recently, streaming services seem to be looking for the next Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones to fill in that empty void. Shows like The Witcher and the upcoming Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, and the Game of Thrones prequel will hopefully continue to provide great, epic fantasy entertainment. There are many other fantasy book series that often get overlooked by bigger series however, they deserve the same, if not more, recognition as the bigger show stoppers. These series could also make for great book-to-screen adaptations, like some of the others. Considering the state of the world right now, we all could use a break and jump into a fantastical world where our problems don’t seem quite as bad.
The Cosmere Universe by Brandon Sanderson
It’s safe to say that Tolkin is the best fantasy author of all time. Considering his novels are constantly being discovered by new readers, and the films based on his novels are incredibly successful, his work will continue to be an influence indefinitely. He was able to create a wonderfully, fleshed-out world with enduring characters. With that being said, Brandon Sanderson may be this generation’s Tolkin, beating out the likes of George R.R. Martin.
His version of Middle Earth, the Cosmeriae, consists of multiple series, including Mistborn and The Stormlight Archie with many more books to come in this planned 35 novel epic. His writing style is similar to Robert Jordan’s, with the series having similarities to The Wheel of Time books. Looking past the incredible universe Sanderson has built, he crafts enduring characters that invest you with their stories, making for notable, compelling novels. Like Tolkin, his work feels as if it will stand the test of time and influence the genre in many ways as well.
The Burning series by Evan Winter
Originally a self-published book that exploded into a mega-hit, the first novel in the series, The Rage of Dragons, has recently joined Time magazine’s top 100 best fantasy novels of all time. The novel takes the tropes of fantasy and mixes it with African mythology, making for a new and unique twist on the genre. The story is fast-paced and packed with incredible action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat. Feeling like a combination of Gladiator and Game of Thrones, genre fans will surely enjoy the breath of fresh air the novel provides, along with getting all the things you expect from a fantasy novel.
The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie
Originally a trilogy, the series has grown to include standalone novels, short stories, and a new trilogy set in the same universe. Fans of George R.R. Martin will enjoy Abercrombie’s take on the grimdark subgenre, building a dark, sinister world that’s similar to, A Song of Ice and Fire. Abercrombie’s writing style gives a different voice within the crowded genre that feels fresh and original. With gruesome violence, fantastic world-building, and a well-written story, The First Law series will hopefully grip readers with its intense world.
Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
Taking two of my favorite genres, hard-boiled crime and fantasy, the Dresden Files follow Harry Dresden as he investigates mysterious crimes in modern-day Chicago. Considering the series currently has 17 novels, many traditional monsters have been explored, including vampires, werewolves, and spirits, while also creating its own creatures. Having the series take place in modern-day Chicago, and having the series be detective fiction, makes the books stand-out from others in the genre. Despite having 17 books so far, the novels are quick reads compared to other fantasy novels and make for easy reads in-between larger fantasy epics.
Red Rising series by Pierce Brown
A question that gets asked by Red Rising fans is whether or not the series is considered fantasy or not. The series is technically dystopian sci-fi and gets compared to other exceptional works like Ender’s Game or Dune. However, Red Rising has many fantasy elements that make it feel qualified enough to be considered fantasy as well.
The series takes place on Mars and follows humanity as they expand their colonization. Incorporating a class system similar to the one seen in The Hunger Games, humanity has split society into a color system with reds being the lowest, and golds being the highest. The original trilogy follows the character Darrow as he tries to infiltrate the elite gold class so he can bring it down. The sequel trilogy expands past Darrow’s perspective to explore other character’s perspectives within the world. With commentary on politics and class warfare, the series takes large concepts, ideas, and questions, bringing them to a fun, entertaining narrative. All of the sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian elements blend well together to create a unique reading experience where fans of all three genres can enjoy it.
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