Top STANDALONE Fantasy Novels

Book Word Count Lesson

We love epic fantasy series, but sometimes 8 books and 5000 pages feel like more than we are ready to tackle.  When you’re needing a great fantasy story you can enjoy over a long weekend, check out one of these amazing works!


Best Modern Standalone Fantasy

American Gods

Neil Gaiman

Cover - American Gods - LargeGaiman may be the only fantasy author who can seamlessly blend Norse mythology with the cheese-loving US state of Wisconsin.

American Gods for me was a moderate departure for Gaiman, lacking the more whimsical nature of Stardust or Anansi Boys, but rest assured: this is Gaiman at his best.  My Kindle version has so many brilliantly written sentences highlighted the pages look like electronic rainbows.

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Best Standalone Science-Fantasy

The First 15 Lives of Harry August

Claire North

Cover - First 15 Lives - MediumHarry August’s tale begins in the early 20th century….again, and again, and again.  In Harry’s world, about one in every 100,000 people is continually reborn into the same life, gaining complete recollection of their previous lives at around age 6 following each rebirth.

I know this sounds a lot like the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” and in some ways it is. Harry goes through each life learning new things and experiencing the world in different ways, but more significantly Harry August’s story is a deep look at the nature of true friendships and relationships that last lifetimes.

Best Line: “Bill grabbed me in a bear hug from behind and, not for the first time, I wondered why in over two hundred years I’d never got round to learning some form of martial art.”

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Best Standalone Heroic Quest

The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien

Cover - The Hobbit - LargeWe would be remiss to create a Top Standalone Fantasy list without including The Hobbit.

Not only did it lay the foundation for decades of Quest Fantasy to come, The Hobbit is so full of action it has the feel of a full epic series in just one book.  If you are a fan of Fantasy and have not read The Hobbit, stop what you are doing and get a copy right now.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Best Standalone Grimdark Fantasy

The Heroes

Joe Abercrombie

Cover - The Heroes - LargeSpeaking as a rabid fan of the First Law trilogy, I was initially hesitant to return to a Joe Abercrombie world without Logen Ninefingers or Inquisitor Glokta, but my concerns were completely unfounded.

While The Heroes does contain several secondary characters from the original series, the true stars are the new POV’s, including a certain redemption-obsessed swordsman who may be Abercrombie’s best character of all time.

Best Line, after our POV loses his sword and resorts to punches: “…his fist was a hammer and gradually it marked, then dented, then twisted the helmet out of shape until one side of it dug into the man’s face. Even better than the sword. Crunch, crunch, and it bent further, cutting into his cheek. More personal.

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Best Humorous Standalone Fantasy

Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Cover - Good Omens - MediumGaiman and Pratchett are a fantasy match made in heaven (and hell in this case), partnering to create Good Omens: the mostly modern-day tale of a demon and an angel who must work together to stop the end of the world.

Good Omens finds the perfect balance between humor and storytelling to craft a tale that is simultaneously witty and intriguing. As the cherry on top, it has one of the most clever openings of all time, set at the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden:

The angel of the Eastern Gate put his wings over his head to shield himself from the first drops.

“I’m sorry,” he said politely. “What was it you were saying?”

“I said, that one went down like a lead balloon,” said the serpent.

“Oh. Yes,” said the angel, whose name was Aziraphale.

“I think it was a bit of an over-reaction, to be honest,” said the serpent. “I mean, first offence and everything. I can’t see what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway.”

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WAIT!!! (you may say)  Where’s Tigana!?!

Don’t get me wrong, I thought Tigana was very good and would recommend it to anyone, but not everything can make the Top List!  Sorry Guy Gavriel Kay fans!

Any others you think we missed?  Let us know!

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