Progression Fantasy: Top 5 Series To Get You Started

By Preston Simmons | Written: 24 Apr 2021

The Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey is one of the most popular tropes in Fantasy. Typically in the hero’s journey, our protagonist starts as a nobody. They are usually from a small town, a farm, or somewhere similar. Then for some reason or another, the hero gets called for an adventure. Things happen, and the hero meets a mentor. Think of that old wizened wizard. The hero trains with the mentor, learn some cool new moves, and becomes powerful. Eventually, they defeat the big bad of the story.

Now, what if you took the hero’s journey and really focused on the training aspect of it? Let’s say you dedicate entire books towards it. Essentially, that is what Progression Fantasy is; a training arc to the extreme.

Intro to Progression Fantasy

Progression fantasy at its core is when the weakest character, usually the protagonist, becomes one of the most powerful characters in the story. This happens through extreme training and dedication. The process usually takes multiple novels to achieve. At the end of each book, they have made some new strides to a greater power.

Unfortunately, Progression Fantasy is a fledgling genre. The main publication companies like TOR haven’t exactly bought into the genre as a whole yet. Because of that, most of these novels are self-published by the author. With that comes some good news and bad news. Oftentimes you can find a lot of these stories online for free or at a relatively low price. Think $0.99 for multiple books. Also, as these books are self-published, most of them are available for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription! It really is hard to beat free books.

Not All That glitters is gold

The bad news is there are a ton of progression fantasy books that are just not that good. It’s not the fault of the authors themselves, but many of these books are their first entry into writing. You’re not going to read the next Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time with Progression Fantasy. But what you will find are stories that you can’t turn away from. Don’t be surprised if you pick up one of these series and realize you finished five 600 page books in one week.

With that said, where should you start if you want to get into this new genre? Here are the top 5 progression fantasy book recommendations to get you started with this genre in 2021!

Related: Best Epic Fantasy Series For Beginners!

Progression fantasy book recommendations for 2021

#1 Cradle series by will wight

Cradle Series Covers by Will Wight, Progression Fantasy

The Cradle Series by Will Wight is by far the most accessible Progression Fantasy series for those new to the genre. A lot of people like to refer to this series as “book crack” for a very good reason. Once you start reading, it is extremely hard to put down. With a total of nine books written so far and three more on the way, there is a lot of content to love about this series. If you enjoy great characters, rapid progression, increased stakes, tournament arcs, an interesting magic system, and lots of training, this series is for you.

Related: Cradle Books Ranked (From Worst to Best)

#2 arcane ascension series by andrew rowe

Arcane Ascension Series by Andrew Rowe, Progression Fantasy

The Arcane Ascension Series by Andrew Rowe is another great series to start your journey through Progression Fantasy. This series has a good mix of magic school, dungeon crawling, puzzle-solving, and a hint of RPG elements integrated into the world, for example, a class-like system called “attunements” that each character is bound to. The series also has an incredible audiobook version narrated by Nick Podehl.  It is also part of a greater universe, including the War of Broken Mirrors and the Weapon and Wielders books, also by Andrew Rowe. 

You can read my review for book 2, On the Shoulders of Titans here!

#3 Mage Errant Series by John Bierce

Mage Errant Series by John Bierce, Progression Fantasy

The next progression fantasy book recommendation on the list is the Mage Errant Series by John Bierce. This series is filled with a great cast of characters, a unique magic system, dungeon crawling, and of course, lots and lots of training. If you enjoy great character building, fun action sequences, huge monsters, with a splash of romance, you’re sure to enjoy this series. 

You can read my review of Book 1, Into the Labyrinth here!

#4 Mother of learning by Domagaj kurmaic (nobody103)

Mother of Learning, by Domagaj Kurmaic, Progression Fantasy

Mother of Learning by Domagaj Kurmaic (Nobody103) is an incredibly long and complete web-novel that consists of 108 chapters that just gets consistently better as it goes on. This story is full of twists and turns, lots of training by the main character, time loops, and so much more. This story is best to go in completely blind, so as not to spoil yourself for the many surprises to come. Best of all, it’s completely free on Royal Road!

You can read my review for Mother of Learning here!

#5 Iron Prince by Bryce o’connor and Luke chmilenko

Iron Prince by Bryce O'Connor and Luke Chmilenko, Progression Fantasy

Iron Prince by Bryce O’Connor and Luke Chmilenko is book 1 in the new Warformed: Stormweaver series. This is another long one, sitting at 1112 pages and 33 hours and 55 minutes in audiobook format. Unlike the other books on the list, this one is Science Fiction Progression Fantasy, and it uses its setting to the fullest. This book is filled with futuristic arena combat, a military academy setting where power is everything, and a protagonist that doesn’t know the word “quit”. This is the first and only book so far in the series, but it definitely deserves a place on this list just for how well-written and enjoyable it was.

Related: Top 10 Best LitRPG Books in 2021 Ranked!

Progression Fantasy is here to stay and the series that come out of it will only get better. With these five progression fantasy book recommendations you now have, you can be sure to have an enjoyable fantasy reading experience in 2021.

Have you read any progression fantasy series that you would recommend? Leave a comment below and tell me your favorites!

Related: Top 10 YA Fantasy Series Ranked

13 thoughts on “Progression Fantasy: Top 5 series to get you started”

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  10. These are awful except Cradle.

    My amended list:
    1) Cradle
    2)He Who Fights With Monsters
    3) Divine Dungeon Series
    4)Life in the North
    5)A Thousand Li

    1. In case this is actually anyone’s actual introduction to Progression Fantasy, Y’s opinion is EXTREMELY unpopular. Every single one of these series is beloved by the community, a fact you can verify with a cursory look at the Progression Fantasy Reddit. At least in my opinion, this is a great starting list, with each series/book being really solid. That being said, Y’s list is also pretty solid, though I haven’t read some of the books included.

  11. While I am sure Y’s list is great. LitRpg are different all together from progression fantasy novels. I love progression fantasy novels, however usually don’t read LitRpg novels, as I don’t like the world building. Stick with this articles books, though I can only speak for 1,2,5 books.

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