Sunday, 8 May 2016

10 Good Epic Fantasy Series for Beginners

The cover art of the 1983 paperback edition of Lyonesse - Book 1: Suldrun's Garden.With the surge in popularity over the last decade and a half of movies like The Lord of the Rings and shows like Game of Thrones, many people have become enchanted by the fantasy genre. Furthermore, a lot of people (quite possibly you if you're reading this article) have started looking for good fantasy books to read. And, more specifically, since Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are both epic fantasies, a lot of people are craving stories in that specific sub-genre. Well, if you're that person, I'm going to try and help you by offering up some suggested reading material. If you're an "epic fantasy beginner", then take a look below at my list of ten series that you might want to start off with in the genre.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1954 - 1955)

The first series that I've put on this list is The Lord of the Rings. Most of you have probably heard of it. According to Wikipedia, it's the best selling novel of all-time (when considered as a single volume). And there's a good reason for that. Written from 1937 to 1949, The Lord of the Rings essentially single-handedly breathed new life into the fantasy genre. It was published in the 1950s, inspiring numerous other fantasy works in the 1960s and beyond. Even if you've seen the Peter Jackson films, you'd do well to read the source material, especially as a newcomer to the fantasy genre. This is, without much exaggeration, where modern fantasy started.

2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (1996 - Present)

Jumping ahead a few decades, we come to George R. R. Martin's ongoing series A Song of Ice and Fire. Like The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire has a massively popular adaptation associated with it as well (i.e., Game of Thrones). Martin's work is not yet complete, but many are already calling it a classic and showering it with accolades. And for good reason. The story is a wonderful mix of fantasy and realism, told from the perspectives of several members of a brilliant cast of characters. As with The Lord of the Rings, I highly recommend the books as well as the on-screen adaptation. You'll get much more out of the story by taking a look at both.

3. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss (2007 - Present)

The Kingkiller Chronicle follows the journey of a powerful wizard named Kvothe during his formative teenage years. This is definitely one of the best recent fantasy novels that's out there now. The quality of the series is also remarkable when you consider the fact that the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, is Rothfuss' first novel. Although it's a long book, it is well-written without much fluff as all of the chapters help to add something to the story or to the characters. It's definitely worth checking out.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (1950 - 1956)

The Chronicles of Narnia is another famous series on this list. It was written by Clive Staples Lewis, a contemporary of Tolkien. The series has been adapted numerous times for radio, film, tv and other forms of media. As the title suggests, the series takes place in a fictional land called Narnia and follows the stories of various children who help to shape the history of that land. It's a classic that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't already read it.

5. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (1990 - 2013)

The Wheel of Time is a series composed of 14 volumes (plus a prequel novel and companion book). The author, Robert Jordan, died in 2007 before he could finish the series, so the last 3 books were written by fellow fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson. The universe of The Wheel of Time is very elaborate with a detailed magic system and a large cast of characters. It contains many eastern religious ideas as well as some European (i.e., Christian) concepts. The series is currently being adapted into a TV series, which I will definitely be taking a look at when it's complete.

6. Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968 - 2001)

The Earthsea series began with a short story entitled "The Word of Unbinding". It was set in the world of Earthsea and the novel series returned to that world. Earthsea focuses more on characters and ideas than physical conflict, deviating from many other fantasy stories. So, if you're interested in a more thematic, character-driven fantasy, then try Earthsea.

7. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (1995 - 2000)

Many of you have probably heard of the 2007 film, The Golden Compass. Well, that film was based on the first book in the His Dark Materials series. Whatever you may have thought about the movie, you should definitely give His Dark Materials a read. The story follows two children, Lyra and Will, and their journey through parallel universes. Although it is a fantasy, the story incorporates ideas from science, philosophy and theology as well. Like Le Guin's Earthsea, the story deals with a lot of different ideas that will leave you thinking.

8. The Lyonesse Trilogy by Jack Vance (1983 - 1989)

Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy is probably his best work. Even though he's relatively obscure compared to more notable fantasy authors like Tolkien, Vance is a giant in the genre and Lyonesse is one good reason why. The story is historical fiction combined with various legends (e.g., King Arthur and Atlantis). Don't be put off of this series if you're not a fan of that genre, as there are plenty of fantastical elements in this story. Lyonesse is an amazing fantasy series and it's a shame that more people don't know about it.

9. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (1995 - 1997)

The Farseer trilogy follows FitzChivalry Farseer (an odd name, I know), an assassin in the kingdom of The Six Duchies. The story can be a very emotionally-draining one, so if that's not your cup of tea you might want to skip this one. However, I still highly recommend this series as it has an interesting story, great characters and a very well-written ending.

10. The Avalon Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1983 - 2009)

The Avalon series was originally written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, but was finished by Diana L. Paxson after Bradley's death in 1999. Paxson also helped write some of the earlier books in the series. The story derives from Arthurian legend and it features places and characters that are present in the original tale. The main difference in this story is that it is told from the perspective of some of the female characters (i.e., Morgana Le Fey and Guinevere) of Arthurian lore. The story is filled with politics and intrigue as well as romance and, of course, fantasy. A great read.

And that's all I have for now. If any of you have other recommendations for the people reading this, feel free to post a comment below and let us know.

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