Best Epic Fantasy Series For Beginners
By: Preston Simmons | Written: 12 May 2021
For some, finishing a book over 1000 pages might seem an insurmountable task. Who has time for that? They might want a book that is shorter and won’t take much time to finish. Extremely long books may seem intimidating or just not worth their time. It’s an understandable way of thinking. When you have so much going on in your life, you may want to read a nice and simple book that you can finish in one day—more power to them. Like I always say, read what makes you happy.
Others crave epic adventures on a massive scale. They seek out the largest books they can find and then want even more. For them, 1000 pages aren’t nearly enough to satisfy them. These are epic fantasy readers—lovers of huge, otherworldly, and magical stories that fulfill all of their escapist desires. These are people who think bigger is better, with hardly any exceptions.
Epic fantasy is an incredible genre and one of the oldest in existence. It’s one of the most popular forms of literature out there but can also be one of the most daunting to get into. Beginner readers or those trying to get back into reading after a long hiatus may be hesitant to start their foray into epic fantasy or don’t know how even to begin.
Here are the best epic fantasy series for beginners that are perfect to get you started on your own reading adventure!
#10 – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is arguably one of the greatest epic fantasy series of all time. This is the father of all modern fantasy. The one that inspired so many authors of the last 60 years. This series is a masterpiece in all the sense of the word. From beginning to end, the story will transport you to a world unlike any you have ever experienced before. Accompanying the series is an appendix that is equally as incredible as the novels themselves. If you want to read the best of the best, a literary work of art, a true classic, the Lord of the Rings is the right series for you.
#9 – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is probably the most controversial series on the list. ASOIAF, or better known to the rest of the world as A Game of Thrones, is by far the most well-known fantasy television series ever made, with arguably the worst ending to a show of all time. Because of the popularity of the show, this series is probably the most read on the list.
One thing that fans of the television series will immediately pick up on is that the books are drastically different from the show. George R.R. Martin is a master at world-building and character development. What the directors could not convey on the screen, George R.R. Martin showed in his words. If you think you know the complete story of A Game of Thrones by only watching the show, think again. Please pick up the series and be prepared to experience Westeros in the way it was meant to be.
Here’s the catch…
Unfortunately, ASOIAF is not complete. In fact, the last book to be written, A Dance With Dragons, was released before the first episode of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO nearly 10 years ago. Some blame the downgrade in quality of the show because once the directors passed the actual published books, they did not know how to conclude the story. Some say George R.R. Martin is experiencing the same problem. Many people believe that Martin may never conclude this series due to his advanced age and seemingly lack of progress on his series, which according to him, is about two books away from completion.
All that said, what is written is nothing short of a spectacular achievement in epic fantasy and literature as a whole. If you want to read a masterpiece that even your old English teacher would appreciate, you can’t go wrong with this series (just don’t expect it to be concluded).
#8 – The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is a dark, gritty, and slower-paced character-driven epic fantasy filled with complex and interesting protagonists that aren’t necessarily what you would consider heroes. This series is one that spawned many grimdark fantasy novels after it, and there’s a reason for it. If you’re looking for a bleak world with even bleaker characters, you found the right series.
#7 – Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erickson
By far, Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steve Erickson is one of the most epic, breathtaking, and massive undertakings that will appear on the list. The picture above is what you can expect from this book. Just looking at it alone, you can see thousands of soldiers and three mages standing on a rock facing down an enormous, flying castle. This image is just the tip of the iceberg with this series.
However, it is also one of the most complicated series on the list. By far one of the most challenging series to read for the simple fact that author Steve Erickson does not hold your hand at any point in time during this series. He is a master of “show don’t tell” to the point where many readers will be confused and might drop the series altogether. It’s definitely a challenge, but it is one of the most rewarding epic fantasy series you will encounter.
#6 – The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch
Intelligent, foul-mouthed, and devilishly charming, The Gentlemen Bastard Series is full of characters that you will immediately come to love. This is a book about characters without magic living in a world where magic equals power and how they go to prove that you don’t need “power” to be powerful. Every book in the series is slightly different from the last, but each has a certain charm rare in epic fantasy series. Many call this series the “Ocean’s 11 of Fantasy“. If that sounds fun to you, you’ll have a blast with this one.
#5 – The Powder Mage Series by Brian McClellan
The Powder Mage Series and the subsequent Gods of Blood and Powder Series by Brian McClellan are probably the shortest series on this list. None of the six books are over 650 pages, which is short for epic fantasy. That said, these are all fun, popcorn fantasy novels that are easy reads and don’t require much thinking. Where some of the books on this list are very character-focused, this series is more fast-paced action-oriented. The characters are great, but you won’t necessarily be doing any character analysis on them. If you want an epic fantasy series that you can breeze through and have a great time doing it, pick this one up.
#4 – The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss is perhaps one of the most controversial series that will appear on the list. For one, the first two books are highly praised across the board for being considered a modern-day masterpiece. These books are so good that quickly after the first two books were released, the series was picked by Lionsgate to be adapted for theatrical release.
To put it in perspective, The Wheel of Time series was written in the early 90s and has only recently been adapted for tv. The Name of the Wind, the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, was written in 2007, and publishers sold the rights to the series in 2015. It’s almost unheard of that a studio would pick up an adult fantasy series that quickly. These really are outstanding novels.
Unfortunately, as of 2021, the series has not been completed. The last book, The Wise Man’s Fear, was released in 2011, nearly 10 years ago. Readers are dying to get their hands on the next and final book, but at this point, they don’t know if it ever will be released. Rothfuss continues to say that the book will be released soon, but fans are skeptical.
If none of that deters you, read this series. It is an entertaining read that you won’t regret picking up. Just be prepared to join a million other fans waiting for the conclusion for potentially another couple of years. But hey, that’s what re-reads are for.
#3 – The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
The Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb is an incredible series known for its amazing characters. If you are looking for a series that focuses on characterization, relationships, and growth throughout 16 books and 7 accompanying novellas, you’ve found one of the best. These are slow books, akin to a relaxing Sunday road trip. If you want to experience one of the classics in epic fantasy, this series is the one for you.
#2 – The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
The Stormlight Archive is what many call Brandon Sanderson’s magnum opus. I would agree with that statement. In my “Ranking the Cosmere Books” post, I placed each of the four Stormlight Archive books in the top 4 spots in a list that consists of 22 books! The Stormlight Archive is an epic fantasy at its best. This series has a compelling cast of characters, different point-of-view chapters, a unique magic system, intense combat, political intrigue, and so much more.
If you are also specifically looking for long books, you’ll find these to be just what you asked for. Each book is well over 1000 pages long, so you’re bound to spend a lot of time with these characters. If audiobooks are more your thing, this series is narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, who do an incredible job bringing this story to life.
RELATED: Best Cosmere Reading Order
#1 – The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is a great entry point for beginners to the epic fantasy genre. If you want a series with strong protagonists, powerful women, amazing world-building, a clever magic system, epic battles on a massive scale, and a good vs. evil plot that takes place over a 15 book series (including the prequel New Spring), look no further.
Sadly, before he was able to finish the series, Robert Jordan passed away. Fortunately, before he died, he wrote extensive notes describing key events that would lead to the amazing conclusion that would unfold in the final three books, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light. Brandon Sanderson would complete The Wheel of Time in Jordan’s stead and eventually begin the next series on the list.
RELATED: Best Wheel of Time Reading Order
You are sure to be transported to an exciting world very different from our own no matter which of these 10 series you choose to begin. As always, read on, my fellow fantasy fans! And for beginners, enjoy the journey you are about to embark on.
Enjoy the list? Have recommendations of your own?
Comment below and let me know!