If you’re looking for Fantasy works operating on the largest scale with the deepest and richest adventures, you’ve come to the right place!
We view “Epic Fantasy” as a hybrid term describing literature combining high-fantasy tales of imaginary worlds with The Epics: long-form storytelling poems of great deeds and heroism, such as Homer’s Illiad and Odessy, or Old English Beowulf.
Compared to today’s works, however, Beowulf’s 3,000 lines of script (while excellent) can hardly be compared to the +5,000 page literary monsters below.
Under that basis, here are our Top 5 Epic Fantasy Books and Series of all time:
Malazan Book of the Fallen
Author: Steven Erikson
First Book: Gardens of the Moon
Series: 10 Books, all Published.
Malazan follows a unique path, with each of the first five books working largely as standalone works to progress three main story arcs that merge at book #6.
If you think this is too much build, don’t worry, because each of the five initial books are excellent on their own, and when the arcs begin to come together……BANG.
From the Publisher: The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand . . .
Author: Robert Jordan / Brandon Sanderson
First Book: The Eye of the World
Series: 14 Books, all published
What begins as the story of 3 seemingly ordinary young men in a rural village blooms into a 14-book, +12,000 page monster with a millennia-spanning history, dozens of different cultures, and hundreds (thousands?) of named characters in a battle against the force evil itself and his 13 chosen champions.
From the Publisher: The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
First Book: The Way of Kings
Series: 10 planned books, 2 published
We were hesitant to include a series still in its early stages of development, but even with only two published books, the groundwork of history, cultures, and characters is so vast that we would be remiss in excluding it.
With each book is functionally serving as its own trilogy, and two planned 5-book arcs, the Stormlight Archive is structured to read like a 30-book saga!
From the Publisher: It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Author: George R.R. Martin
First Book: A Game of Thrones
Series: 7 planned books, 5 published
We love the HBO translation of ASoIaF, but even with all of the on-screen complexity, the books contain countless additional characters, plotlines, and histories that simply won’t fit into a TV format.
Additionally, many of the most revealing character points are communicated via internal dialogues, which are tough to cover fully in a screen format. If you like the show, READ THE BOOKS.
From the Publisher: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. To the south, the king’s powers are failing—his most trusted adviser dead under mysterious circumstances and his enemies emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the king’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but the kingdom itself.
Author: Jim Butcher
First Book: Storm Front
Series: 24 planned books, 15 published
How can a series set in modern-day Chicago be epic? In protagonist Harry Dresden’s world, humanity refuses to accept the existence of the supernatural (sound familiar?), even though it is all very, very real.
As a result, Butcher’s world seamlessly integrates almost every form of fantasy/fictional characters you can name. Who do you think would win in a fight: Santa Clause, or a vampire? (spoiler alert — it’s Santa, and it’s not even close).
From the Publisher: For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name.
Because these five series alone will take most readers until the year 2022 to complete, we hope you come back soon anyway! Also , if you think we missed one that should be in the top five, let us know in the comments below!