Best Fantasy Books With Orcs You Won’t Want to Miss

Fantasy books typically treat orcs poorly, relegating them to villains or nameless soldiers in an innumerable army. Well, today’s post is about fantasy books with orcs that break that mold!

These fantasy books feature orcs as protagonists and (anti-)heroes in their own right. In addition, each was rated 3.75 or higher by Goodreads reviewers:

Here are three great fantasy books with orcs for you to read:

And for a comparison of these books side-by-side, here is a chart.

Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov


An army is gathering; thousands of giants, ogres, and other creatures are joining forces from all across the Desolate Lands, united, for the first time in history, under one, black banner.

By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom. 

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the Kingdom of Siala.

Harold will be accompanied on his quest by an Elfin princess, Miralissa, her elfin escort, and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world…and by the king’s court jester (who may be more than he seems…or less).

Reminiscent of Moorcock’s Elric series, Shadow Prowler is the first work to be published in English by the bestselling Russian fantasy author Alexey Pehov.

The book was translated by Andrew Bromfield, best known for his work on the highly successful Night Watch series. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

First on our list of fantasy books with orcs is Shadow Prowler. Fans went into this story expecting its heavy use of classic fantasy tropes. As such, they weren’t bothered by it and instead delighted in the book’s spin on common characters, origins and setups.

Readers also praised the fun and often hilarious interactions between the characters. Circumstances force fantasy groups typically at each other’s throats to work together, whether that be dwarfs and gnomes or elves and orcs. Their clashes kept readers grinning.

Aside from that, readers mentioned that a combination of Shadow Prowler‘s lightning-fast pace and its smooth-talking, witty main character immediately absorbed them into the story.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t like Shadow Prowler, what did they say? Typically, these were readers who couldn’t buy into the premise line. They either described the story as cliche overall or didn’t think the book added enough twists to specific tropes.

Other readers said that they thought that the main character, Shadow Harold, initially entertained them with his sarcasm. However, eventually the humor began to come across as predictable.

Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden


In the mist-shrouded haze of the past, the world of Azeroth teemed with wondrous creatures of every kind.

Mysterious Elves and hardy Dwarves walked among tribes of Man in relative peace and harmony — until the arrival of the demonic army known as the Burning Legion shattered the world’s tranquility forever.

Now Orcs, Dragons, Goblins, and Trolls all vie for supremacy over the scattered, warring kingdoms — part of a grand, malevolent scheme that will determine the fate of the world of Warcraft.

Slave. Gladiator. Shaman. Warchief. The enigmatic Orc known as Thrall has been all of these.

Raised from infancy by cruel human masters who sought to mold him into their perfect pawn, Thrall was driven by both the savagery in his heart and the cunning of his upbringing to pursue a destiny he was only beginning to understand to break his bondage and rediscover the ancient traditions of his people.

Now the tumultuous tale of his life’s journey — a saga of honor, hatred, and hope — can at last be told…

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books with orcs is Lord of the Clans, a novel set in the Warcraft universe. While this novel is listed as second in a series, readers reported that it works as a standalone book and doesn’t require familiarity with Warcraft.

Readers who loved this novel described it as a mixture between a ‘coming of age’ and ‘rags to riches’ story. As Thrall journeys from youth to legendary warchief, readers felt they were with him the entire way. His character development, emotions and growth made him seem flesh-and-blood instead of (digital) ink and paper.

In addition, even though orcs are typically portrayed as violent and cruel, readers said Lord of the Clans portrayed orcs, their culture and their society in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Whether it be its heroes or villains, fans said the cast had complexity.  

Negative Comments

What did readers who didn’t enjoy the novel say? In general, critics said that Lord of the Clan‘s characterization was ‘fine’ but not ‘great’. Because of this, they didn’t feel a strong attachment to the characters. The attachment they did feel mostly came from having a prior familiarity with Thrall as part of the Warcraft franchise.

Other readers said that the storyline overall had a colonial subtext to it that made them uncomfortable.

Honor Among Orcs by Amalia Dillin


Tolkien meets Beauty and the Beast in this new fantasy by Amalia Dillin, author of the Fate of the Gods trilogy.

After nearly a decade as the king’s whipping-girl, Princess Arianna has no intention of going quietly into marriage to some treasonous noble, or serving obediently as the king’s spy until her death is more convenient.

When she discovers a handsome orc, chained and trapped inside a magic mirror, Arianna cannot help but see a lasting freedom from her father’s abuse.

Left to rot inside a mirror by the king, Bolthorn never imagined his prayers would be answered by a princess. Nor did he ever expect to meet so worthy a woman after knowing her father’s cruelty.

He needs her help to escape the mirror before the king marches against the orcs, but all he can offer Arianna is ice and darkness in exchange for her aid.

If Arianna can free the monster behind the glass, perhaps she might free herself, as well. But once they cross the mountain, there will be no return, and the deadly winter is the least of what threatens them on the other side. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Last of our list of fantasy books with orcs is a story that uses a ‘Beauty and the Beast’, romance-based spin.

Readers said that the story’s emotional resonance mainly comes from the heartwarming and inspiring relationship built between Arianna and Bolthorn. However, they also highlighted the world-building as a treat: a combination of fairy tales, Norse mythology and Tolkien, Honor Among Orcs tantalized readers’ imaginations.

Fans also mentioned that they found it effortless to fall in love with the characters. Both seemed real and evocative, making their romance (PG-level content) all the more intriguing.

Negative Comments

Not all readers thought that Honor Among Orcs was for them, though. If this was the case, readers generally said they felt the romance was overly sentimental. In particular, they mentioned Arianna’s inner turmoil about the relationship. Critics said she frustrated them because she tended to agonize too frequently and over the same issues.

Along a similar vein, readers said that they didn’t like Arianna herself. Critics said that she’s meant to be seen as attractive in part due to her bravery. However, they didn’t feel that she acted with courage. In fact, some readers said she came across to them as the opposite.

Best Fantasy Books With Orcs You Won’t Want to Miss

How Do These Fantasy Novels Compare?

Best Fantasy Books With Orcs You Don’t Want to Miss


N.S. Mirage

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

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