Wizards, dragons, and elves aren't just for kids. If you're a fan of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings, you already know how easy it is to get immersed in fantastical realms for the mature.
The truth is, fantasy is a genre that's even better for adults than kids. As we get older, we tend to neglect our inner child, we forget how to imagine, and we lose our sense of wonder.
Adult fantasy books help us to re-establish those important aspects that lay dormant within us. More than that, adult fantasy books reinvigorate us while providing an escape from mundane life.
Not to mention all the different kinds of fantasy subgenres! It's not all magic and rainbows; in fact, there's plenty of dark fantasy with heavy subjects that can make even the most adult readers grimace.
Ready to dive into new fantastical worlds that'll whisk you away and fill you with magical excitement? Here are our picks for the best fantasy books for adults that'll suck you right in!
13. Wizard's First Rule
Authored by Terry Goodkind
First published in 1994
836 pages — 4.12 on Goodreads
Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule introduces a world that's separated by magical borders. Richard Cypher, a woods guide in Westland, loses his father to a mysterious murder.
He takes to the forest in search of clues, only to stumble upon Kahlan Amnell, a woman who's being hunted by assassins. Richard soon learns that Kahlan needs more than protection: she needs help to prevent a great evil from taking over the world.
Wizard's First Rule is the first in the Sword of Truth saga. While the series has its issues—it's derivative, it's politically preachy, it's dated in its tropes—this first book is still a fun and solid read for adults.
12. Ninth House
Authored by Leigh Bardugo
First published in 2019
461 pages — 4.04 on Goodreads
Galaxy "Alex" Stern is a freshman at Yale University, but she doesn't really fit in because she's a high school dropout who prefers to spend her time on other activities than pursuing academic excellence.
At least, that what it seems like on the surface. The truth is actually much darker than that: Galaxy is the only survivor of a mysterious series of homicides and she can see ghosts.
While in the hospital, she's mysteriously offered a cost-free enrollment at Yale. Why her? Why now? She'll soon discover that there are dark, secret societies that put her whole life into perspective.
11. The Fifth Season
Authored by N. K. Jemisin
First published in 2015
468 pages — 4.31 on Goodreads
Essun lives in a small town and her life is more or less mundane. One day she comes home to discover the violent death of her son and the kidnapping of her daughter—at the hands of their own father.
While this personal tragedy unravels, the empire collapses and the sky is soon covered in ashes.
Essun must now find her daughter, who might be lost forever. With her world physically collapsing, without drinkable water, with so many dangers ahead, she faces the impossible to save her child.
The Fifth Season is a science fantasy book that takes place on a completely different planet and introduces us to the world of the Broken Earth series, one of the best fantasy trilogies of the last decade.
10. The Lies of Locke Lamora
Authored by Scott Lynch
First published in 2006
752 pages — 4.30 on Goodreads
The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place on the island city of Camorr. The protagonist is the young orphan Locke Lamora, who manages to survive the harsh streets by thieving.
But Locke Lamora is more than just a thief. He grows to become the leader of the Gentleman Bastards—an entire band of thieves and con artists—who are prominent in the criminal undercity.
Locke thrives by building a reputation for himself, but soon a new player emerges—one who's even more dangerous than he is. To save everything he holds dear, Locke will need to face this mysterious enemy and try to not die in the process.
9. American Gods
Authored by Neil Gaiman
First published in 2001
635 pages — 4.11 on Goodreads
Shadow Moon is about to be released from prison when he learns that his wife Laura has died in a car crash. On his way home, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who's escaping from a faraway war.
Mr. Wednesday claims to be a former god of America—and not just a former god, but the leader of the Old Gods. His war is one against the New Gods, who have overtaken America as the people of the land have shifted in what they worship.
American Gods is a fascinating blend of different mythologies with modern fantasy, and it remains one of Neil Gaiman's best books.
8. The Starless Sea
Authored by Erin Morgenstern
First published in 2019
498 pages — 3.86 on Goodreads
One day, Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a mysterious book that he decides to read. While reading, he realizes that this book tells the story of Zachary's own childhood. But how could that be?
Following some clues, he soon discovers what's at the root of this strange phenomenon—yet the answer doesn't put his mind at ease. Instead, it launches him into a series of adventures taken with several companions and allies he encounters along the way.
The Starless Sea is like a narrative collage: there are many different stories, accounts, and folk tales woven together into one larger depiction of Zachary's life and purpose. It's one of the best examples of a standalone fantasy book that gets it right.
7. The Poppy War
Authored by R. F. Kuang
First published in 2018
545 pages — 4.17 on Goodreads
When we think of fantasy books, we often think straight to a medieval European setting with knights, knaves, and kings. But there are so many other kinds of fantasy settings!
One of my own favorites is the Asian-inspired setting of The Poppy War, an epic historical military fantasy book that tells a story that was heavily inspired by real-life events in 20th century China.
Follow the adventures of Rin, who discovers her shamanic power and must embrace those powers to face her destiny. She's the only one who can save her people from the schemes of long-forgotten gods.
6. The Blade Itself
Authored by Joe Abercrombie
First published in 2006
515 pages — 4.20 on Goodreads
The Blade Itself features the intertwining stories of several intriguing characters.
Not only will you meet a barbarian named Logen Ninefingers, but you'll also encounter a crippled torturer, a hot-headed wizard, and a narcissistic nobleman.
All of these quirky characters combined with a murderous, action-packed plot make this a must-read for fantasy fans.
5. Assassin's Apprentice
Authored by Robin Hobb
First published in 1995
435 pages — 4.17 on Goodreads
Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice follows FitzChivalry Farseer (known as Fitz), the illegitimate child of Prince Chivalry. Fitz is raised by his father's stableman and remains isolated from royalty.
Although he has a lonely childhood, he possesses the Wit, a shunned ability that allows him to form friendships with animals.
When King Shrewd hires Fitz, Fitz must give up his Wit and learn the ways of the assassin instead.
Assassin's Apprentice is a fantasy classic that was first published in 1995. As an older novel, it helped establish some of the popular tropes that have come to dominate fantasy stories with assassin protagonists.
4. Mistborn: The Final Empire
Authored by Brandon Sanderson
First published in 2006
537 pages — 4.47 on Goodreads
The Final Empire is the first entry in Sanderson's Mistborn series, and it'll have you hooked. It's set in Scadrial, a place where ash always rains from the sky. The oppressed Skaa people lead miserable lives under the tyrannical rule of the Lord Ruler.
When Kelsier, the half-Skaa prisoner, finds out that has the powers of a Mistborn, he manages to escape the Pits of Hathsin. Kelsier is determined to take down the Lord Ruler, and he'll tempt fate with the help of the best allomancers and criminals.
3. The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher
Authored by Andrzej Sapkowski
First published in 1993
400 pages — 4.14 on Goodreads
The Witcher may have its own video game franchise and Netflix original series, but it's important to know that it all started with a book.
The Last Wish is the first in Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher collection, and was originally written only in Polish. The anthology contains six short stories, all of which connect to Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter.
As an injured Geralt rests in the Temple of Melitele, he has a series of flashbacks that comprise each story in the book.
2. The Name of the Wind
Authored by Patrick Rothfuss
First published in 2007
662 pages — 4.52 on Goodreads
The Name of the Wind follows the epic story of Kvothe, a young man who becomes one of the world's most well-known wizards.
He relays his past to a Chronicler, starting from his childhood that he spends as a traveling performer, to his experience as an orphan in the slums of a dangerous city.
With no funds but tons of motivation to expand his knowledge, Kvothe becomes a student at a famous magic university.
The Name of the Wind will have you spellbound—you'll feel one with Kvothe as he retells the entrancing story of his life.
1. Gardens of the Moon
Authored by Steven Erikson
First published in 1999
657 pages — 3.91 on Goodreads
Gardens of the Moon is the first book in Steven Erikson's acclaimed 10-book series Malazan Book of the Fallen.
From the very first page, Gardens of the Moon throws you into the deep end. The Malazan Empire is actively waging war across the continent of Genabackis with various factions struggling against them.
This is an epic-scale fantasy series unlike any other, with hundreds of characters that each feel uniquely their own, fleshed out with backstories and relationships that feel tangibly real.
Gardens of the Moon is the weakest entry, yet it's already a deeper and more complex story than most fantasy books out there. There's so much to wrestle with here—and if you're willing to put in the effort, no other fantasy series will be as rewarding as this one.
Without question, without competition, Malazan Book of the Fallen contains many of the best fantasy books for adults, period.