Why is that?
Let’s be frank: when doing a little escapist reading who doesn’t enjoy the story of a poor, misunderstood or bullied youth who grows up to become something FAR greater than anyone could have possibly imagined? I know I do.
The list below details 10 Fantasy series that are not only top-quality literature (by any standard), but also particularly exciting works in the Coming of Age Fantasy sub-genre.
#10: The Night Angel Trilogy
Author: Brent Weeks
First Book: The Way of Shadows
Series: 3 Books, all published.
In classical coming-of-age terms, The Night Angel is a far cry from Dickens’ Great Expectations, but you are seeking a classic tale of “helpless child becomes an unstoppable killing machine,” then read no further, because this is it.
From the Publisher: For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art – and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.
For Azoth, survival is just the beginning. He was raised on the streets and knows an opportunity when he sees one – even when the risks are as high as working for someone like Durzo Blint.
Azoth must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and become the perfect killer.
Author: Peter V. Brett
First Book: The Warded Man
Series: 4 of 5 planned books published
The Demon Cycle’s structure is a Coming-of-Age fan’s dream come true because every book in the series features the coming of age story of a different primary character (via flashback chapters) while also advancing the main storyline.
The resulting character depth is unparalleled.
From the Publisher: As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.
#8 The Faithful and the Fallen
Author: John Gwynne
Book #1: Malice
Series: 3 of 4 planned books published.
The story of our hero, Corban, begins as charming, Coming-of-Age Fantasy, with something of a Riftwar Saga feel. Don’t be fooled.
The Faithful’s tone grows much darker with each book (in a very good way) as the story unfolds and our heroes are exposed to the increasingly harsh realities of their world.
From the Publisher: The world is broken…
Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin’s rule – to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood.
Evnis has sacrificed – too much it seems. But what he wants – the power to rule — will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path.
Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother.
Nathair has ideas – and a lot of plans. Many of them don’t involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father’s idea to summon his fellow kings to council.
The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, but now giants are seen, the stones weep blood and giant wyrms are stirring. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. For if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust…
…and it can never be made whole again.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
First Book: Mistborn: The Final Empire
Series: Original completed trilogy, transitional book, second completed trilogy, and a planned third trilogy (whew!)
The original Mistborn trilogy’s brilliantly imaginative story and magic system led to Brandon Sanderson receiving the high honor of finishing The Wheel of Time series following the untimely demise of author Robert Jordan.
After reading Mistborn, you’ll immediately know why Brandon was selected.
From the Publisher: For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible.
Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.
But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.
#6 The Wakening
Author: Jonathan Renshaw
First Book: Dawn of Wonder
Series: 1 of 3 planned books published
Dawn of Wonder centers around one of our favorite new heroes: Aedan. Picture the cunning of Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora with the tactical genius of Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggins.
Back Blurb: When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems.
The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation’s royal academy – a whole world of secrets in itself.
But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror – and wonder.
Author: Anthony Ryan
First Book: Blood Song
Series: Completed Trilogy
Blood Song begins as a gripping tale of ten youths volunteered (voluntold) by their families for lifelong service into the realm’s elite fighting force.
Those who survive to adulthood (spoiler alert: not many of them do) quickly find themselves in the schemes of a much larger (and even more dangerous) world.
From the Publisher: “The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”
Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order—a caste devoted to battle. Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate and dangerous life of a warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.
Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the Unified Realm—and Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright knows no bounds. Even his cherished memories of his mother are soon challenged by what he learns within the Order.
But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the Realm, but the world.
#4 The Broken Empire Trilogy
Author: Mark Lawrence
First Book: Prince of Thorns
Series: 3 books, all published
What’s the opposite of a charming young orphan who wants to do the right thing on his path to becoming a hero? How about a psychopathic prince who will stop at nothing to get the revenge he seeks.
Prince Jorg Ancrath’s actions will literally make you cringe, and yet somehow you will love him for it.
From the Publisher: When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?
Author: Robin Hobb
First Book: Assasin’s Apprentice
Series: Completed trilogy, with multiple follow-on series.
Easily the most emotionally charged series listed here, the tale of FitzChivalry Farseer isn’t your traditional helpless-to-hero story. What we like the most is how deeply connected you quickly become with Fitz on his journey to find a place with is “new” family.
From the Publisher: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.
As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
#2 The Gentleman Bastards
Author: Scott Lynch
First Book: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Series: 3 books published of a planned 7 total
The Gentleman Bastards are a group of charming, fun-loving, professional thieves and con-artists, whose mentor poses as a priest for both a cover identity and the “free money” placed in the temple’s collection baskets.
Primary POV Locke Lamora’s charm gives The Bastards the most light-hearted feel of the ten series in this list, but make no mistake: this series is quite dark, with a combination of morally flexible “good guys” and incredibly vicious enemies.
From the Publisher: An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
First Book: The Name of the Wind
Series: 2 books published of a planned 3 total (plus novelettes)
What path in life brought a man now living (hiding?) as a small-town innkeeper to earn the name of “Kingkiller?” The world of Fantasy Fans is dying to know.
This series has earned its rightful place as the most popular ongoing fantasy series right now…….that doesn’t also have its own HBO TV series. If it DID have a TV show? Look out….
From the Publisher: The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.
Any others you think should have been in the Top 10? Let us know using our Contact page, or in the Comments below!