5 Classic Fantasy Books That Will Enchant You

Classic fantasy books: the stories that launched a thousand novels. Tales that mesmerized generations of readers upon publication and still sway authors and readers today.

Whether you’re searching for a traditional fantasy story or curious about fantasy’s roots, this list of five classic fantasy books has something for you!

Here are 5 classic fantasy books to read:

I’ve purposely chosen not to include The Lord of the Rings here, since there probably isn’t a single person reading this post that hasn’t heard of it. For a quick comparison of these books side-by-side, here’s a chart.

The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien


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.

Book cover of The Silmarillion

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: 3.91

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

First on the list of classic fantasy books is The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien. 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 this mythological epic.

Positive reviews 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 Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis


Book Cover of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

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 on our list of classic fantasy books 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 this didn’t bother most readers – several cited it as giving the story more dimension and depth – some felt that it came across too strongly for their enjoyment.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle


Book Cover of A Wrinkle in Time

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book.

A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.01

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another one of our classic fantasy books is A Wrinkle in Time. This novel delighted readers, both as children and now as adults. It has also surged in popularity thanks to a recent movie (2018) and a slew of graphic novels.

Fans cited its atmospheric prose and authentic characterization as major pluses. The main character, Meg, struck them as particularly well-developed when compared to other childrens’ or Young Adult novels. Readers often said she came across as brave, but also reacted realistically to what felt like encounters with true evil.

Negative Comments

Other readers, however, weren’t so enthusiastic. They mentioned that while A Wrinkle in Time was a great coming-of-age story, particularly for young girls, it felt too simple for adults.

These readers often also mentioned that while Meg is initially sympathetic, she’s later prone to too many overreactions.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson


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

Another story on our list of classic 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 Once and Future King by T.H. White


Book cover the Once and Future King

Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn’t possibly imagine.

A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values.

A future that would see him crowned and known for all time as Arthur, King of the Britons.
During Arthur’s reign, the kingdom of Camelot was founded to cast enlightenment on the Dark Ages, while the knights of the Round Table embarked on many a noble quest.

But Merlyn foresaw the treachery that awaited his liege: the forbidden love between Queen Guenever and Lancelot, the wicked plots of Arthur’s half-sister Morgause and the hatred she fostered in Mordred that would bring an end to the king’s dreams for Britain — and to the king himself.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Last on our list of classic fantasy books is The Once and Future King, which many readers found after learning that this was the book Disney used as the basis for their movie, The Sword and the Stone.

Because of this, most positive reviewers came in expecting that it would have a humorous tone and references to modern places, people and events. These readers said that The Once and Future King was witty, entertaining and just an overall fantastic re-imagining of King Arthur legends.

Others mentioned that they appreciated how the story tackled the ‘big questions’, touching on questions such as, “Is human nature primarily good or evil?” and even “What is the meaning of life?”

True to the Arthur legend, the story ends in tragedy, but readers mentioned that this ending was moving, powerful and resonated with thematic depth.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy the book, they often mentioned that they expected a serious fantasy story. As such, it disappointed them that the book had a whimsical and fairy tale tone instead. These readers sometimes commented that the anachronisms, while funny, also ruined the mood for them.

Other readers, however, commented that after the first part of the book, the story began to depress them. In line with the Arthurian legend, The Once and Future King became more and more tragic as it progressed.

5 Classic Fantasy Books That Will Enchant You

How Do These Fantasy Novels Compare?

5 Classic Fantasy Books That Will Enchant You


N.S. Mirage

I'm Natalie, an avid fantasy reader here to help readers find exciting, otherworldly books.

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