25 Best High Fantasy Books You Don’t Want to Miss


High fantasy books have plenty of fans. Whether its because of their often epic scope, inspiring characters or resonant themes, these stories hold a special place in readers’ hearts.

Are you curious what wonderful high fantasy books are out there? If so, this list should have something for you.

Here are 25 incredible high fantasy books to read:

I’ve included book descriptions, readers’ ratings and summaries of positive and negative comments for each one of these high fantasy books. On the other hand, here’s a comparison chart if you’d prefer a quick summary.


Age of Assassins by R.J. Barker

Description

To catch an assassin, use an assassin…

Book cover of Age of Assassins

Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives.

But his latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life.

Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.98

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

First on our list of high fantasy books is Age of Assassins.

This assassin story is jam-packed with mystery and political intrigue. Readers who enjoyed the book came in expecting it to be similar to Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, a novel they also loved. They weren’t disappointed: it’s a character-driven story with a main character who’s easy to empathize with.

Moreover, readers remarked that the master-apprentice relationship between Girton and Merela was both heartwarming and a highlight.

Other readers mentioned that they greatly enjoyed the plot, a rare combination of a mystery and a traditional fantasy. Not only did these readers find it made the book unique, but it also captivated them.

Negative Comments

So if readers didn’t enjoy Age of Assassins, what did they say? Well, most of these reader expected a thriller bristling with anti-heroes, electrifying fight scenes and a game of cat-and-mouse. Since Age of Assassins is very much a character-driven novel, it didn’t match their expectations.

Other readers said that they thought the mystery plot didn’t have enough suspense. Due to this, these readers found it difficult to get deeply interested in the story until toward the end of the book.


Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

Description

Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.

For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her—a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea’s young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence.

But the fate of the Vestrit family and the ship may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles…and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will…

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.14

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Second on our list of high fantasy books is Ship of Magic. Fans of this book praised its superb world-building and its incredible portrayal of characters and their relationships to one another. This especially impressed them because since so many characters had a point of view.

Overall, fans praised the story for investing them so deeply in the story. Each character struck them as engaging and fully realized, whether they were lovable or infuriating. They changed as a result of events in the story and inspired powerful emotions in fans.

Negative Comments

On the other hand, critics tended to agree that the story’s pace was slow. They agreed that the novel is full of believable characters and rich character development. However, they mentioned that the book was so heavily concentrated on characters that it didn’t have plot-based momentum.

Once they reach the end of the book, critics thought no much had happened. Since they’d mostly expected adventure, they were disappointed.


The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Description

The story begins with a lonely boy named Bastian and the strange book that draws him into the beautiful but doomed world of Fantastica.

Only a human can save this enchanted place by giving its ruler, the Childlike Empress, a new name.

But the journey to her tower leads through lands of dragons, giants, monsters, and magic and once Bastian begins his quest, he may never return.

As he is drawn deeper into Fantastica, he must find the courage to face unspeakable foes and the mysteries of his own heart. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.18

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Third on our list of high fantasy books is The Neverending Story. This famous classic delighted readers – both children and adults – with how imaginative and engrossing it was.

The Neverending Story, fans said, transported them into its world as completely as Bastian was pulled into Fantastica. It was fast-paced, filled with intriguing mythology and led by a protagonist they enjoyed following.

Negative Comments

Almost half of The Neverending Story‘s readers rated it five stars on Goodreads. However, those who didn’t enjoy this fantasy novel cited its second part as why. They said that while most of the story bristled with suspense, the middle lost momentum.


Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

Description

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, bestselling authors individually and together, return to the world of their New York Times and USA Today bestselling Obsidian and Enduring Flame Trilogies with Crown of Vengeance.

Here, readers will learn the truth about the Elven Queen Vielissiar Faricarnon, who was the first to face the Endarkened in battle and the first to bond with a dragon. She worked some of the greatest magics her world has ever known, and paid the greatest Price.

Crown of Vengeance is an exciting fantasy adventure that will appeal to fans of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. No previous knowledge of Lackey and Mallory’s collaborations is necessary to enjoy this fast-paced, action-packed novel, but returning readers will be excited to discover this amazing story.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.06

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Crown of Vengeance by authors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Readers delighted by this book called it a vast epic, covering a large cast of characters over a great length of time.

These readers praised the story’s complexity, realism and its well fleshed-out characters. When the circumstances of the story turned against their favorite characters, these fans found themselves feeling for their loses as well as rooting for their comebacks.

Negative Comments

If Crown of Vengeance wasn’t a reader’s cup of tea, what did they say?

First off, for those you searching for a book that puts dragons front and center, it doesn’t seem like that’s the main focus of the novel. While readers didn’t mention this as a detractor, they also didn’t mention the dragons at all.

In addition, readers who didn’t enjoy this novel were frustrated by its several over-familiar story elements. For instance, the book features a ‘chosen one’ that’s the subject of a prophecy, a special school for the gifted, and a ‘bonded mate’ romance sub-plot.

Other readers said that the book had plenty of battle scenes – too much, in fact. Crown of Vengeance is action-packed, but the action won’t necessarily have the amount of tension, suspense or stakes to keep readers on the edge of their seats. After a while, these readers found themselves lulled into indifference.


Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

Description

To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry.

Yet Pug’s strange sort of magic would one day change forever the fates of two worlds. For dark beings from another world had opened a rift in the fabric of spacetime to being again the age-old battle between the forces of Order and Chaos. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.17

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Magician: Apprentice. Like several of the prior stories, this novel includes classic fantasy creatures, settings and quests.

Fans mentioned that this book had everything they loved about traditional fantasy while exploring those elements more deeply. However, it also had enough twists to the overall tale that the book didn’t feel over-familiar.

In addition, fans praised the book for its excellent characters and the different fantasy cultures. They immediately connected to all the characters in the cast, whether they be elves, dwarves, or dragons. Experiencing the characters’ coming-of-age stories was a treat, as was walking with them as they explored their world and weathered its turbulent politics.

Overall, fans said that Magician: Apprentice was an highly enjoyable classic fantasy, with many feel- good moments. A few commented that, given how many grimdark fantasy books there are, it was refreshing to immerse themselves in this uplifting story and spend time with its upstanding characters.

Negative Comments

What did critics dislike about Magician: Apprentice? Mostly, these readers’ remarks focused on the book’s The Lord of the Rings influence or overall use of standard fantasy tropes. Whether it was the characterization of the main characters, the personalities of the fantasy creatures, or the locations in the story, the similarities came across too strongly to them.

Other critics focused on the characters themselves. Several of them mentioned that they either didn’t seem developed or that they were developed by narration rather than through character-defining actions or dialogue.


Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Description

Book cover of Assassin's Apprentice

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely.

Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship.

But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.16

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.

Readers who loved this book enjoyed the slow burn nature of the story, which focused heavily on character growth and world-building. Although a fantasy book about assassins, Assassin’s Apprentice is primarily the story of a boy growing into adulthood without the love of a family.

As such, Fitz’s journey provoked deep feelings from these readers, who found themselves strongly invested in the characters and sharing their hopes and fears.

In addition, they also remarked that there wasn’t a single character they felt apathetic about. Even though Fitz is the main character, fans said that – whether it was love or hate – they felt something for all the characters in the cast.

Negative Comments

If you’re a reader looking for an action-packed, adrenaline-charged adventure, readers confirmed that Assassin’s Apprentice won’t be your cup of tea.

Expecting action and suspense, readers who didn’t enjoy the novel found its pacing slow. Plenty of tragic events happen in Fitz’ life, but they seemed more like meanderings than building blocks serving a larger narrative purpose.

Others mentioned that Fitz, despite aging around ten years, doesn’t seem to change much character-wise. Readers get to know him, but not see him change or to grow based on what happens. This made it difficult for some of these readers to connect to him.


The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Description

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life.

I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature — the story of a hero told in his own voice.

It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.54

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is The Name of the Wind. This novel is predominately a coming of age story, but a search for answers and a mystery is involved.

It also has legions of raving fans. In fact, as of this writing, 69% of Goodreads reviewers rated this story a 5.

Why did this story captivate so many people? Readers suggested that its power came from a convergence of several great strengths. First off, fans praised the nuance and believably of the main character’s, Kvothe’s, point of view.

Kvothe felt real and so very human to these readers, who immediately bonded with him. They described The Name of the Wind‘s character portrayal and development as incredible.

Other readers pointed to the story’s simultaneously intricate and expansive world-building, as well as the poetic prose used to describe it. The Name of the Wind details legends, religions, magic systems and more in a vivid and engaging manner. All of this happened without ‘info-dumping’ on or confusing readers.

Negative Comments

If so many readers adored The Name of the Wind, what made readers who didn’t feel this way?

Those who didn’t enjoy the book had two main reasons. The first was that they came into the story expecting a fast-paced, thrilling ride with clear direction and purpose. Instead, The Name of the Wind is a character-driven story that focuses on immersing the reader in its characters and world. Because of this, critics described the story as slow and found themselves asking, ‘Where is this story going?’

The second main reason had to do with the main character, Kvothe. Unlike fans, critics simply didn’t like him.

Some attributed this to his extraordinary skills across multiple disciplines. At some point, they thought that this wasn’t just unrealistic, but irritating. Kvothe stopped seeming like character to them and started seeming like a wish-fulfillment tool.

Along the same lines, another reason these critics cited was Kvothe’s character flaws. It wasn’t that he had flaws that bothered them; instead, these readers were frustrated because they didn’t feel that Kvothe’s arrogance was portrayed negatively. Instead, they saw it as another instance of the story unduly favoring him.


The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Description

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night.

But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others.

She meets Schmendrick the Magician – whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended – when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions.

They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men.

Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.18

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is The Last Unicorn. Readers who raved about this cherished classic said that it was imaginative, magical and unexpectedly profound. Beagle’s poetic prose wove a spell over these readers, who said the novel immersed them in its world and characters.

Others mentioned how much they appreciated the story’s message. Brimming with themes of hope even in despairing circumstances, the story touched and inspired them.

Negative Comments

Readers who didn’t think The Last Unicorn was their cup of tea said the book was slow-paced and didn’t grip them. Moreover, several readers mentioned that the plot itself seemed episodic and disjointed.

The story didn’t seem to build up toward anything, while the individual events came across more as a happening rather than a step along a larger narrative journey.


The Elven by Bernhard Hennen

Description

A fierce and merciless demon has been unleashed on the world, spreading destruction and bloodshed in both the human and the elven realms.

Northlander Jarl Mandred witnesses the ruthless attack on his men, and he seeks vengeance with the help of the elf queen, Emerelle.

Despite Mandred’s barbaric human nature, the queen orchestrates an elfhunt joined by the two strongest warriors in Albenmark to pursue the beast.

Farodin, the fiercest fighter in the land, and Nuramon, the healer, seize the opportunity to make history alongside Mandred in a life-defining series of battles waged in parallel universes.

The Elven is an epic tale, bringing heroes together across the boundaries of their worlds to avenge past losses and influence fates yet to be decided.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is The Elven. This story includes a elf romance more of a subplot than a focus.

Fans praised this novel for its characters, which they described as easy to love and enjoy. Many of them mentioned that they were a pleasure to get to know, and that it was wonderful to follow them through their adventures. 

Other readers praised The Elven for being a thoughtful and nuanced fantasy epic in general. These fans described it as moving them with themes of love, tragedy, friendship and more.

Overall, they lauded The Elven for its convincing and intricate portrayal of heroism and self-sacrifice. 

Negative Comments

So what did The Elven‘s critics say? In general, they had two criticisms.

The first was that the story’s pace seemed slow. The second was the book’s use of simple rather than poetic language. Because of this writing style, critics said the fight scenes in particular came across as dry. 


Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland

Description

Darkness covers the north, since the black mage has begun his assault on the kingdom of Neroche. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Neroche’s king can defeat the mage. Now the fate of the Nine Kingdoms rests in the hands of a woman destined to wield one of those blades…

In this land of dragons and mages, warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. And Morgan will find that the magic in her blood brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword-and a love more powerful than she has ever imagined.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.87

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Readers who enjoyed Star of the Morning frequently commented on how much they liked Morgan, the main character and a highly accomplished swordswoman.

They also mentioned that the romance between her and Miach was well-developed, transitioning from distrust to trust and affection believably and charmingly.

Negative Comments

Readers who didn’t rate the book highly had a couple of comments. First, the romance is light and more on the chaste side, which disappointed readers who wanted it to be a larger and ‘spicier’ presence in the story. Second, others remarked that Morgan struck them as judgmental, especially in regards to gender roles.


Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Description

Book Cover of The Gardens of the Moon

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers.

Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead.

But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Gardens of the Moon. Fans frequently praised the author, Steve Erickson, for taking this fantasy story in a different direction than a more Tolkien-like fantasy: while the book has a similar epic feel and scope, it also has a mystery, violence and tragedy to it that appeal to them.

They also mentioned how imaginative they found the story, particularly the world-building, and appreciated how instantly the story threw them into the story of a gigantic war.

Negative Comments

What did readers who didn’t enjoy the novel say?

It turns out that while they agreed that the story was epic in scope, they often felt like that the sheer amount of information they were told meant that they had little idea of what was happening or why it mattered.

In addition, these readers said it was difficult to get emotionally invested in the characters – there were just too many to cover for them to have much development.

Along a similar vein, others mentioned that the dialogue between the characters felt like standard fantasy book talk rather than individualized speaking styles.


The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

Description

Paksenarrion wasn’t planning to submit to an unwelcome marriage and a lifetime of poverty, so she left her village with a plan and her grandfather’s sword. And a few weeks later, she was installed as Duke Phelan’s newest recruit in a company of soldiers for hire, her arms training about to begin.

But when Paks sees combat, she’s stabbed with an ensorcelled knife and barely survives. Then the near-misses start mounting up, raising questions about this young fighter. Is she attracting evil because she is a danger to them all? Or is there another reason malignant forces seek her life?

Paks will face the spider-minions of the Webmistress Achrya, orcs and the corrupted men who serve blood mage Liart, Master of Torments.

She will also earn the gratitude of elves and of her Duke. And through conflict she will learn she has powers of her own and a destiny.

To become a gods-chosen Paladin of Gird, and a target for the ultimate torture.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.30

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is The Deed of Paksenarrion. This is a compilation of three different books centering around Paksenarrion (Paks), a future paladin.

Readers reported that author Elizabeth Moon’s background as a Marine shone through. The details she included brought Paksenarrion’s training, camaraderie between the soldiers and trials to life in a fascinating and believable way.

Moreover, readers said that this made Paksenarrion and her upright character even more admirable. Her sincere righteousness, several readers said, was what one of the strongest reasons why they appreciated and bonded with her.

In addition, fans praised the book for its deep and hope-filled take on pain and suffering. Rather than only break and embitter a person, The Deed of Paksenarrion shows how pain and suffering can instead shape one into a better and stronger individual.

Readers applauded the book for its portrayal, especially since the fantasy genre has a reputation for making its ‘knight in shining armor’ characters bland.

Because they were weathering difficult situations in their own lives, some fans even mentioned that Paksenarrion’s struggles and eventual triumph here was particularly meaningful for them.

Negative Comments

What did readers who didn’t enjoy The Deed of Paksensarrion say?

Critics generally said one of two things. Firstly, they said they didn’t feel enough of a connection to Paksenarrion.

Originally published in the 1980s, the novel uses a narration style that puts more emotional distance between the reader and the book’s characters. As such, these readers said that it was difficult to get a sense of Paksenarrion’s personality and emotions. Rather than experiencing her story with her, it seemed they were watching her move through it.

Secondly, critics said that the book’s descriptions lasted too long. On one hand, they agreed that the author’s background as a Marine gave each scene she wrote a great sense of realism. But on the other, they said it eventually bogged down the story.

Combined with the distance they felt toward Paksenarrion, this resulted in readers saying the book seemed episodic rather than a seamlessly progressing story.


Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Description

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil god Torak sought dominion and drove men and gods to war. But Belgrath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

That was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the man without a shadow had haunted him for years.

Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved, but did not truly know.

For yet a little while, his dreams of innocence remained safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while…

Thus begins The Belgariad, an epic fantasy of immense scope set against a history of 7,000 years. It tells of the struggles between ancient gods and mighty Kings, and of men in strange lands facing fated events, all bound by a prophecy that must be fulfilled.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating4.15

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

The next high fantasy book on our list is Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings.

You’ve heard the story: an orphan farm-boy or farm-girl survives when a power-hungry villain burns down their hometown. Journeying with their wise mentor, they launch on a quest to defeat the villain while bonding with and learning from powerful warrior companions. Eventually, they discover their secret lineage and part to play in the villain’s downfall.

Well, this is the fantasy book that made that story popular in the first place!

Fans went into the story knowing that by now, these ‘Chosen One’ tropes and twists would be familiar. As such, they described Pawn of Prophecy as classic, comfortable fantasy done at its best. Readers described the story itself as a heartwarming adventure and its detail and epic scope as impressive.

Others said that they enjoyed the characters, whether it be Garion, the protagonist, or the rest of the cast. As they accompanied the characters along the tale, they felt that they grew to know them.

In short, if you want to read the ‘Chosen One’ story at its arguable best, this may be the book for you.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy Pawn of Prophecy, it was mostly for the very reasons that others loved it. What fans described as a classic, comfortable story is what critics described as cliché.

All the expected ‘Chosen One’ story elements originate in this book. However, many readers came into it without knowing this. As such, they were understandably disappointed when none of the traditional tropes had a twist to it. The story came across as overly predictable while the characters seemed stock rather than fresh.

Other readers, however, were frustrated by the characters. They described Garion, the protagonist, as purely tugged along by the plot or others instead of initiating actions himself.

His guardians and traveling companions also frustrated them. Rather than likable wise mentors, these characters struck readers as condescending to Garion and sabotaging his growth.

Other Notes

As of this post’s publication, Pawn of Prophecy doesn’t have an ebook version. The price reflected in the comparison chart is for the least expensive format.


The Naming by Alison Croggon

Description

Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child after her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor.

It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfold.

Now she and her new teacher must survive a journey through a time and place where the forces they battle stem from the deepest recesses of otherworldly terror.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is The Naming. This fantasy novel captivated readers with its immersive and elaborately detailed world, as well as its classic fantasy tale.

Fans remarked on how similar it was to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in terms of its plot, characters and in its descriptive writing style. While it was similar, the similarities were done very well. In addition, many said that it reminded them of the warm and familiar experience of reading Tolkien’s work, and that it had a similar magic.

Others mentioned that Maerad, The Naming‘s protagonist, was a enjoyable character to read about. Accompanying her on her journey to discover her potential and growing abilities was a delight.

Negative Comments

If critics didn’t enjoy The Naming, they tended to focus on its slow pace. These readers felt that the frequent descriptions of landscapes, cultures and characters felt excessive.

Others mentioned that at one point, the book details Maerad having her first period. Critics said that the story dwells on this for long enough that it was off-putting.


Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Description

One boy…
One dragon…
A world of adventure.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter.

But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power.

With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders?

The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.89

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next up is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This high fantasy book is known for taking beloved fantasy elements and mixing them into a swashbuckling, dragon-filled adventure.

Readers appreciated that much of what they loved seeing in fantasy books featured in this epic: supernatural abilities, sword-fighting, dragon riders, prophecies, elves, hidden realms and of course, the hero pitted against a seemingly invincible empire.

Readers said that Eragon swept them away into the world of Alagaësia and its many interesting characters. They often commented that fans of Lord of the Rings would find elements to this story that they’d enjoy.

Negative Comments

Unfortunately, the same reason that fans loved this fantasy book was the same reason that critics didn’t: the familiar tropes.

Its similarities to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars frustrated critics. Whereas ‘Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars with dragons’ delighted fans, these readers thought that Eragon was too predictable.

Because of this, several commented that the book might be better suited for first-time fantasy readers.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis

Description

Four adventurous siblings — Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie — step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch.

But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change. . .and a great sacrifice.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.26

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next up is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.

Readers who adored the story enthused that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a swashbuckling tale brimming with adventure, a truly wondrous world and a fantastic conclusion.

Several of these readers had read the story as children and found that, when rereading the book as an adult, it still enchanted them.

Negative Comments

Several readers didn’t find The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for them, however. Lewis originally published the book more than 50 years ago, and unfortunately, several of the terms of phrase rubbed readers the wrong way.

Other readers were sensitive to the allegorical connections to the Christian faith. While several readers cited this as giving the story more dimension and depth, some felt that it came across too strongly.


The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Description

I long for the days before the Last Desolation. Before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. When there was still magic in Roshar and honor in the hearts of men.

In the end, not war but victory proved the greater test. Did our foes see that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance? Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away. So we won the world, yet lost it.

Now there are four whom we watch: the surgeon, forced to forsake healing and fight in the most brutal war of our time; the assassin, who weeps as he kills; the liar, who wears her scholar’s mantle over a thief’s heart; and the prince, whose eyes open to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes.

One of them may redeem us. One of them will destroy us. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.65

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is The Way of Kings. If readers enjoyed this novel, they often enthused over the story’s grand scope – both in terms of the world-building and the stakes – and its intriguing cast of characters.

Fans remarked that The Way of Kings world-building was phenomenal, sweeping them into the story’s world with intricate and fascinating details. Whether it was the politics, history, cultures or more, the book brought its setting to life.

Along a similar vein to that, fans enjoyed the book’s vibrant and varied character cast. Since these characters came from all walks and stages of life, their different perspectives brought a sense of grandeur to the tale that these readers had rarely seen in other fantasy books.

Negative Comments

in terms of criticisms, readers who didn’t enjoy The Way of Kings generally cited its strengths as also its weaknesses.

For instance, these readers agreed that its world-building and rules for how supernatural powers worked were excellent. However, they said the explanations and overall focus on these were too much. Because of this, they said that the book became sluggish.

Others, though, said that the story in general had a slow pace. The book is long and much of the beginning and middle sets up a faster second half. As such, critics thought that not much happened for long periods of time.


The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Description

Book cover of The Silmarillion

The story of the creation of the world and of the First Age, this is the ancient drama to which the characters in The Lord of the Rings look back and in whose events some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part.

The three Silmarils were jewels created by Fëanor, most gifted of the Elves.

Within them was imprisoned the Light of the Two Trees of Valinor before the Trees themselves were destroyed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord.

Thereafter, the unsullied Light of Valinor lived on only in the Silmarils, but they were seized by Morgoth and set in his crown, which was guarded in the impenetrable fortress of Angband in the north of Middle-earth.

The Silmarillion is the history of the rebellion of Fëanor and his kindred against the gods, their exile from Valinor and return to Middle-earth, and their war, hopeless despite all their heroism, against the great Enemy.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.92

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is The Silmarillion. It’s hard to find a fantasy book reader who hasn’t heard of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, but less have heard about Tolkien’s mythological epic, The Silmarillion.

So what did readers say about this novel?

Positive reviewers rave about its world-building, which they characterized as grand, rich and on a level rarely seen in other novels. Readers frequently said that this gives a deep sense of history not just to The Silmarillion story, but to Tolkien’s other works as well.

Negative Comments

So what did readers who didn’t enjoy The Silmarillion say? Well, it turns out that many of the reasons readers liked it were often the reason others didn’t.

These readers found that the novel’s historical writing style made the experience more like reading a history book. They also mentioned that new names, places and events might have made The Silmarillion epic in scope, but they also seemed to pop up non-stop.

This, plus the historical writing style, meant there wasn’t much time to learn about the characters or care about them.


The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Description

Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world.

Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revealed that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world.

The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara – Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested.

Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him…

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.76

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is The Sword of Shannara, featuring Shea, a part-elven protagonist. Fans of this The Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy novel enjoyed that it was a classic fantasy tale and said it was done beautifully.

Readers remarked that while the world-building is vivid, the characters captured their imaginations. This lovable team inspired them their devotion to each other as well as warmed them with overall themes of friendship, goodness, hope and more. 

Other readers enthused that The Sword of Shannara‘s exciting, action-packed plot was immensely compelling. Especially given how attached they became to the story’s characters, readers said this made it hard to put the book down. The battles in particular gripped them and had them on the edge of their seats.

Negative Comments

What did critics say? For the most part, readers who didn’t enjoy The Sword of Shannara objected to how similar it was to The Lord of the Rings. Several expected some similarities, but found far more than they’d anticipated.

Because of this, these critics perceived the book as persistently filled with over-familiar story elements. Instead of being moved by the story, they found themselves desensitized to it.


Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Description

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart.

They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then.

Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.99

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Dragons of Autumn Twilight. This book is considered a fantasy classic and many readers warmly recalled how much it drew them into the fantasy genre in their childhood.

Readers who reviewed it positively often said that Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the best of traditional fantasy done right. Every traditional trope readers loved – whether in plot, character type or setting – was here in great form. A common thread in their comments was how attached they grew to the characters, who all had different aspects for these readers to connect to them.

Fans also praised Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for creating an uplifting, hope-filled and clean fantasy. Many current fantasy books lean toward a cast of anti-hero protagonists, grim tone and detailed violence. As such, these readers appreciated the different angle the story took.

Negative Comments

Readers overwhelmingly gave Dragons of Autumn Twilight a 5 star rating. Given that, what dragged readers’ overall rating down to a 3.99?

As you might expect, the ‘traditional fantasy’ aspect was exactly what grated on critics. Dragons of Autumn Twilight was written 1984, where the traditional fantasy tropes the book uses were fresh. By now though, the same character types, plot lines and world are prolific in the fantasy genre. All of these elements were painfully familiar to these readers.

Even details that would normally flesh out the characters and give them surprising depth are by now common. As such, these readers perceived the characters as bland stereotypes and just couldn’t grow attached to them.

In the end, these readers recommended the book for younger readers who would be unfamiliar with the fantasy genre.


The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Description

Taran wanted to be a hero, and looking after a pig wasn’t exactly heroic, even though Hen Wen was an oracular pig. But the day that Hen Wen vanished, Taran was led into an enchanting and perilous world.

With his band of followers, he confronted the Horned King and his terrible Cauldron-Born. These were the forces of evil, and only Hen Wen knew the secret of keeping the kingdom of Prydain safe from them. But who would find her first?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.99

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is The Book of Three. While this book is targeted to younger readers, many adults reviewed this book and said it was a great classic fantasy novel regardless of age.

Several of them mentioned that they enjoyed watching the main character, Taran, grow from a childish boy to a mature man. Others mentioned that while the story itself may be familiar, its Welsh-inspired world-building, epic storyline and humor made it a treat to read.

Negative Comments

As for critics, they generally said that they disliked Taran as a character. These readers found him frustrating because of his childishness, but also because the story seemed to reward him too often. For example, a few of them mentioned how convenient coincidences contributed to his success or his easy mastery of skills.


Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Description

Where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. Criminal mastermind Kelsier teaches Allomancy, the magic of metals, to another Mistborn, urchin Vin 16.

The unlikely heroine is distracted by rich Venture heir Elend. Can Kelsier’s thieving crew take on the tyrant Lord Ruler and bring back color to their world?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.45

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of high fantasy books is Mistborn: The Final Empire. Readers described this novel as having elements of and an air of mystery to it that they found delightful.

Moreover, Brandon Sanderson has a reputation for unique magic systems, and this story features just that. The refreshing system of Allomancy delighted fans, many of whom praised how thoroughly it was developed.

Other readers raved about Vin’s exciting journey from distrusting and quiet street urchin to confident and ferocious assassin. They described her growth as authentic and compelling, while also praising her well fleshed-out character along the way.

On a similar note, readers also thoroughly enjoyed Vin and Kelsier’s mentor/mentee relationship. He and Vin’s interactions, fans said, were one of the highlights of the story.

Negative Comments

Not everyone enjoyed Mistborn: The Final Empire. These readers said that while the world-building impressed them, they thought the story was slow. The crew’s plans proceed in a rather straightforward manner, while critics hoped for more conflict or complications.

Others expressed disappointment that more female characters didn’t feature in the crew or take part in the revolution overall. While these readers appreciated Vin as the main character, it struck them as unrealistic.


Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon

Description

Rhapsody is a woman, a Singer of some talent, who is swept up into events of world-shattering import.

On the run from an old romantic interest who won’t take no for an answer, Rhapsody literally bumps into a couple of shady characters: half-breeds who come to her rescue in the nick of time.

Only the rescue turns into an abduction, and Rhapsody soon finds herself dragged along on an epic voyage, one that spans centuries and ranges across a wonder-filled fantasy world.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is Rhapsody. Readers who rated this story highly often remarked on the vivid world-building as well as the varied and developed cast of characters.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t rate the novel highly, they typically mentioned that the main character seemed too idealized and that the middle of the story was slow-paced.


The Legend of Huma by Richard A. Knaak

Description

“To the West Huma rode, to the High Clerist’s Tower, on the back of the Silver Dragon and the path of their flight crossed over a desolate country where the dead walked only, mouthing the names of dragons.”

For the first time in the best-selling Dragonlance® Saga, here is The Legend of Huma, fabled Hero of the Lance: his mysterious origins and his Oath to the Measure; treachery among the Knights of Solamnia; his love for the Silver Dragon; the fated showdown between the Queen of Darkness and the forces of Paladine.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of high fantasy books is The Legend of Huma. This action-packed tale tantalized readers with its admirable heroes and mysterious but cruel villains. The Legend of Huma uses classic characterization and plots but adds just enough of a twist to make them refreshing.

In addition, readers said that while this made the story straightforward, it was done in such a way that Huma’s convictions and sense of honor were inspiring and uplifting. Huma is a fleshed-out and convincing version of a ‘knight in shining armor’, an archetype that is notoriously difficult to get right.

Several readers commented on how much the story’s themes of heroism and standing up for one’s principles touched and spoke to them on a deep level, even as they were excited and fascinated by the story’s world.

Negative Comments

Readers predominately awarded The Legend of Huma 5 stars, but not all of them had such warm praise for the book. Critics had two objections, which mainly stemmed from the general premise of the novel: a ‘knight in shining armor’ main character and a classic fantasy story line.

Several readers who preferred principled protagonists nevertheless said that Huma came across as too stereotypical. While these readers knew Huma would be archetypal, they still wanted more differentiation from the standard ‘knight in shining armor’.

Other said that they wished the story was less predictable, even if it emulated a traditional fantasy tale. To them, the story didn’t have enough original aspects to it in addition to the ‘old favorite’ tropes.


The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Descriptions

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard — for Prester John, the High King, lies dying.

And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king.

Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard. 

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power.

Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

The final entry on our list of high fantasy books is The Dragonbone Chair. This novel captivated readers with its rich world-building and great characters.

Consistently, fans described the story’s world as grand and intricate, with each page bringing new lore and depth. The setting seemed to come alive, making them eager to know more.

Other fans praised The Dragonbone Chair for its character development. Simon, the protagonist, grows from what readers occasionally described as a petulant child to a mature warrior. Compelling and believable, this gradual change in Simon kept readers turning the pages.

Many mentioned how attached they became to him and how this made each trial and victory in the novel far more gripping and meaningful.

Negative Comments

What did readers who didn’t enjoy The Dragonbone Chair say? Overall, critics focused on the book’s pacing.

They characterized the book as slow, with a barrage of descriptions centered on small details and long explanations.

Along a similar note, these readers also tended to say that the plot suffered because of this: it came across as meandering and plodding.


25 Best High Fantasy Books You Don’t Want to Miss

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25 Best High Fantasy Books You Don’t Want to Miss


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