I’m picky about my fantasy genre, part of the reason why this list is shorter than my other recommendations. I’m looking for a good mix of world building, character development, and all-around great story. I know that sounds like it could apply to just about any genre, but fantasy, to me, is even more subjective than horror. It can’t just be good. It needs to be damn good!

The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

The series is already a classic. Once you get past the flickity wickity of the magic, these stories by J.K. Rowling have an abundance of lessons for the young and old alike. I used to think that only books 3 through 7 were good, but each time I go back to the very beginning I am surprised at how much I am intrigued. I’m glad it’s the book I chose in my children’s lit class in college. Otherwise I would have continued refusing to follow the crowd on this popular pick. I’ve chosen to highlight my favorite book of the series, but do start with The Sorcerer’s Stone as the series builds on itself.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

In some ways this first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle reminds me of the Harry Potter series. Perhaps the mature version of Harry Potter? As I write this, I have not read the sequel to this story. The narrator changed, and that drives me nutty. I will get to it though, because the story is rich with superb storytelling. It’s not quite epic fantasy… Nonetheless, it is a journey, and you will hopefully be as intrigued as I was by the adventures along the way.

Update: I read the second book in the series, and it too is a winner!

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

I liked The Wheell of Time. I loved The Sword of Truth, and will next recommend a book from its collection, but so far, I am a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ll add more books as I get to them, but this is fantasy without the obsession of mythical creatures that I feel sometimes distorts the storytelling. It’s political deception, fantastic battle scenes, and cold calculation. I don’t know what that says of my character, but give it a try. George R.R. Martin does not disappoint. The HBO adaptation was absolutely outstanding.

Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind

The Sword of Truth series as a whole is worth reading from beginning to end, starting with Wizard’s First Rule, but if I had to pick the book that stands out for me, it would be Faith of the Fallen. Terry Goodkind gets a little preachy in the latter half of his writing, but Faith of the Fallen still maintains a good line between moral lessons and provocative fiction.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

I can’t remember how I was introduced to Brett. I’m grateful for the introduction though, because this series is unparalleled. It’s one of those rare stories where people likely take sides over who should be the shield against the opposing force on the surface, but also, who should be the protector against the evil that lives beneath. It’s a unique mix of horror and fantasy, and like any great epic tale, the back story is just as compelling. I’ve finished reading the five-book series, and even though the books are long, the sereies remains consistently great to the last drop.

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