As an avid consumer of fantasy novels, it only makes sense that I have my favourite books in the genre. However, as I’m sure you know, some of the best fantasy stories are the ones that span multiple books. There is something about the fantasy genre that almost demands stories be part of a series; to build an entire world complete with different races, religions, history, ideals, factions, etc., it is nearly impossible to do so in one novel. Especially for the reader to become completely immersed, we almost need sequels.
So, without further ado, here is my personal top five fantasy series of all time.
5. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien - I didn’t just choose this to start the list off with some controversy. The Lord of the Rings series is like the grandparent of almost all fantasy epics. It really introduced and made famous certain fantasy archetypes - different races, magic, the whole “party” system of questing - while going a whole lot further. The work that Tolkien put into his series is nearly unfathomable, creating an entire religion, creation story, languages, and more. The reason it ranks so low on my list is due to Tolkien’s actual writing style. I often find it difficult to read, which again goes back to my previous blog that touched on prose vs storytelling. Tolkien makes the list because of how incredible his story and all its elements are.
4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - If you ask my partner, Harry Potter is the most amazing series ever written. While I do not necessarily agree with her, there is no doubt that it ranks among the greatest. Even though the first book in the series came out in 1997, it still ranks among the highest read and most influential books in the world, from elementary school children all the way through adults. Rowling’s work does not need a lot of explaining, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not read one of the books or seen one of the movies. They are undoubtedly considered classics, books that many of my generation grew up with. Again, while they do not hold the same meaning to me as the top three on this list, the world that Rowling built and the journey that we all went on with Harry and his friends creates one of the greatest fantasy series of all time.
3. Golgotha by R.S. Belcher - This one was a tough choice because I want to put all of R.S. Belcher’s works on this list. The problem is, Belcher’s other series are only on book one of each! The Golgotha series, however, is having its third book, Queen of Swords, released in June of this year. The series is about the wild west town of Golgotha which seems normal at face value, but has a sheriff who has been hanged, an angel running a criminal enterprise, and much older, more terrible things which lie within the town boundaries and beyond them. It is a fun mix of fantasy, westerns, and even a touch of steampunk. What I also wanted to put on here was Belcher’s Nightwise and Brotherhood of the Road novels. Though not technically a series, the two urban fantasy novels share a very dark, magical world that is enthralling and begging for more. Luckily, it has been confirmed that more will be coming, so I know I can rest easily.
2. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey - What I personally consider to be my favourite urban fantasy series of all time, it is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the subgenre. Written almost like a B movie (with matching movie poster cover art to boot), the Sandman Slim genre is helmed by James Stark, also known as Sandman Slim, who is a naturally talented, if someone lazy, magician. Stark just spent some time in Hell, courtesy of another magician, and his back looking for revenge. The series is still ongoing and Stark has faced everything from neo-nazis to creatures that pre-date God himself (rather, himselves). Sandman Slim is a perfect example of an anti-hero, and Kadrey’s writing is as easy to read as breathing. If you are a fan of urban fantasies or anti-heroes, or just fun, action-packed thrill rides that includes angels, hellions, gods and a failing video rental store, definitely check out Sandman Slim.
1. The Legend of Drizzt by R.A. Salvatore - The crown jewel of my fantasy adventures. I have touted my love of R.A. Salvatore’s work in a few places before. His writing is a large influence in my own, and the Legend of Drizzt can definitely be attributed to my own desire to write fantasy. The Legend of Drizzt is the long-running series that follows the adventures of the drow (a dark elf), Drizzt Do’Urden. There are currently more than thirty novels in the Legend of Drizzt, as well as a handful of short stories. Since the Legend of Drizzt takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, the dark elf has shown up in a variety of other mediums, including video and board games. What makes the Legend of Drizzt so great is a combination of factors; incredible fight scenes, believable, lovable characters, a story that truly has no comparison in its breadth and intricacies. Beyond just being great action and storytelling, Salvatore has instilled morals of diversity and acceptance into his novels about a dark elf, one of the most hated, vile races in the Forgotten Realms universe. It is tough to do so such a large series justice, but the Legend of Drizzt takes the number one spot on my list of fantasy series.
Alright, my time for reveling in marvelous series is done, for now. These were my top five fantasy series of all time. They may not be the most popular series in the world, nor all of them the most successful or the most critically-acclaimed. But they are more than worth the read, the real standard bearers of the genre and the books that will hold a place on my shelves forever.
In the comments below, let me know which fantasy series are on your top three or five lists. Maybe you will introduce me to a new obsession!