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Whether you’re looking to bond with a vast ensemble of awesome characters, get lost in fleshed-out worlds with intricately woven plots, or just kill a lot of time because you’re bored… few genres give you as much bang for your buck as the fantasy genre.
If you want to sink your teeth into deep stories and complex settings, you have to look at fantasy book series, including both modern and classic ones. And we’re talking about true series—not just trilogies, but book sets that span many entries.
Here are the best fantasy book series that offer up some of the best fantasy worlds, best fantasy characters, and best fantasy plots.
While it’s only four books in so far, Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive is planned to sprawl a total of 10 volumes by the time it’s finished. Each of the already-written books stretch over 1,000 pages, so there’s already plenty to read and consume.
And while this may be a long series, the nice thing is that each individual book’s story is perfectly satisfying with its own beginning, middle, and end.
The oldest fantasy book series in this article—Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle—begins with A Wizard of Earthsea, which was published way back in 1968.
The series may have been a trilogy at first, but Le Guin would go on to write Tehanu in 1990, then Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind in 2001.
As old as it is, there are still some fresh ideas in here, and it’s widely considered one of the pioneers of the fantasy genre.
Another series from Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn looks like a standard trilogy at first glance—until you realize that it’s actually a series of trilogies!
Each Mistborn trilogy takes place in a unique era in time: the first three books take place in a world that looks like Lord of the Rings if Sauron had won before the series started; the next three books jump forward to a time that blends its fantasy foundation with western elements; the remaining two eras (when written) will take place in a modern urban-fantasy setting and a far-future science-fiction setting.
When Terry Pratchett departed this world in 2015, he’d already completed 41 novels in the Discworld series, alongside plenty of others including forays into sci-fi.
These are overtly humorous books, but as the series goes on, they begin to take on surprisingly deep topics with important things to say about the world we live in. Even so, they’re a great way to kick back, relax, and forget your troubles for a while.
The first three books in the world of Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law are somewhat like The Lord of the Rings if it were much more violent and everyone in the fellowship hated each other.
After that first trilogy, Abercrombie went on to write more standalone novels and sub-series in the same world, so there’s plenty more to read after the end of the Last Argument of Kings.
Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is a mammoth series, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it looking at the 10 volumes that make up the main series. These are just the beginning, with other novels written by both Erikson and collaborator Ian Esslemont.
Things get so complex that there is even a complex flowchart created by fans to show you the order in which to read the books! It’s one of the deepest and most intricately plotted fantasy book series you’ll ever read, and quite possibly the most rewarding to finish.
This series kicked off with Magician: Apprentice in 1982 and kept running throughout 2013. Over the course of that 30-year period, author Raymond E Feist published more than 25 novels, alongside novellas and short stories in the same universe. (If you’ve ever played the classic PC RPG Betrayal at Krondor, you’re already familiar with the universe Feist created!) This one’s a classic, for sure.
The Wheel of Time series stretched on so long that author Robert Jordan died before he could reach the end. Fortunately, he kept detailed notes that allowed another fantasy author to finish his work—and who else for the job than fantasy giant Brandon Sanderson?
While Jordan was in the middle of writing what he thought would be the final volume, Sanderson ended up splitting that book into three parts, bringing the total novel count to 14 (or 15 if you count the prequel).
Glen Cook’s The Black Company series kicked off with a novel of the same name in 1984, and it’s still running now. Plenty of other series, including Malazan Book of the Fallen, owe plenty to this dark fantasy series—so if you’re interested in seeing how influential it was, you may want to read a few books in this series before some of the others we’ve looked at.
Don’t Overlook Classic Fantasy Novels
While some of the above fantasy book series do count as bonafide classics, there are many other classic fantasy novels that aren’t in long series but just as good in their own ways.
What do you do if you only want to read the well-established roots of the fantasy genre? Check out our list of the best classic fantasy novels!