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04 Fantasy Book Series to Binge-Read

04 Fantasy Book Series to Binge-Read

It’s been a rough year for us all: from coronavirus scares to a struggling economy; like it or not, staying put has become the new normal. And while that may sound like a welcome reprieve to bookish introverts over the world, one crucial question hangs over us all: “What on earth do I read next?!” Well, consider this: EPIC FANTASY BOOK SERIES.

While 2020 has seen its fair share of excellent new releases, there’s just something special about weathering through the cold season with an exceptionally old, deliciously big book, devouring pages upon pages of stories bearing magic, dragons, elves, dwarves, maps (oh, the maps!), friendship, romance, intrigue, conflict -- this genre truly has it all. For those of you who are stuck on house arrest and wondering what your next read should be, here’s a list of four (complete) epic fantasy book series to binge-read through the winter and beyond.

1.The Middle-earth universe by JRR Tolkien (6 complete novels; several posthumous works)

Granted, this one’s a no-brainer, but if you enjoy epic fantasy, chances are you’ve already read the good Professor’s high-fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, as well as its preceding children’s fantasy book, The Hobbit. But did you know that it is actually The Silmarillion that’s considered JRR Tolkien’s magnum opus? Revised and edited posthumously by his son, the late Christopher Tolkien, The Silmarillion is a collection of mythopoeic works that effectively form the core of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth universe. Attempting to summarise The Silmarillion is like trying to cram the events of the Bible into a single paragraph, so all I’ll say is that while this tome isn’t exactly for the faint of heart, the rewards will far exceed your expectations.

If the Middle-earth universe has you hooked but you aren’t quite ready to commit to The Silmarillion just yet, you might like to read some of the other canon novels. In the years following the Professor’s passing, Christopher Tolkien was instrumental in editing and publishing some of his works as standalone novels. These include Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin- epic tales that Tolkien himself believed warranted their own long-form narratives (so although these stories are technically part of The Silmarillion, the writing style is more in line with The Lord of the Rings books). For all you completionists out there, The Tolkien Society recommends you read his works in the following order (though this isn’t set in stone):

- The Hobbit (1937)

- The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

- The Two Towers (1954)

- The Return of the King (1955)

- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962)

- The Silmarillion (1977)

- The Children of Húrin (2007)

- Beren and Lúthien (2017)

- The Fall of Gondolin (2018)

- Any other Middle-earth stories attributed to JRR Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien

For more information on books by Tolkien (including unfinished tales, the music of Middle-earth, and some beautiful illustrated books), this page is worth geeking out over. For a more comprehensive list, click here.

2. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (10 original volumes; 16 additional books as part of Novels of the Malazan)

Are you hungry for a sprawling cast of characters, places and races, bitter warfare, multiple storylines, and no small measure of magic? Consider reading Steven Erikson’s high-fantasy series, Malazan Book of the Fallen- a story so grand that its first instalment, Gardens of the Moon, merely feels like an appetiser for future books. While Gardens of the Moon appears to cover an Imperial campaign to conquer the city of Darujhistan at first glance, what it really does is immerse readers in an elaborate world of intrigue, ideological clashes, and engaging narratives that are interwoven throughout the initial ten-book series (and beyond).

It is the characters’ interactions with complex geopolitics, social issues, and an egalitarian magic system (said to have been built to erase any possibility of sexism) that make Erikson’s world so interesting. There are no cookie-cutter good-and-evil players in Malazan; instead, character motivations are nuanced and deliciously grey. The series is, for lack of a better word, truly epic in scale. And if you think George RR Martin is the Crown Prince of killing everyone off, well... Malazan will introduce you to the King. The Malazan universe also includes an entire prequel series (including books by Malazan world co-creator, Ian Cameron Esslemont) as well as several standalone novels if you’re hungry for more. Here’s how Tor.com recommends you read the series.

3. The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E Feist (32 total works, divided into various trilogies and duologies)

If you’ve got a hankering for some good old-fashioned adventure fantasy peppered with heartwarming friendships and time-space rifts (or is that too specific?), Raymond E Feist’s epic body of work may just be the right fit for you. The first sub-series, The Riftwar Saga (a trilogy), begins with Magician: a sprawling tale that features magic, dragons, and interdimensional war. The novel eases readers in with likeable protagonist, Pug- a young hero at the cusp of a coming-of-age story. That being said, the moment the reader begins to feel comfortable, Feist turns the coming-of-age trope on its head by throwing in the medieval-fantasy equivalent of ‘some serious curveballs’. The Riftwar Cycle reads like classic science fiction fused with all the hallmarks of epic fantasy, giving readers a sometimes bumpy, oft-times electrifying, ride to remember. Considered a classic in epic fantasy literature, Magician was first published in 1982, and is actually divided into two books (Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master). The saga is followed by multiple trilogies, duologies, novellas, and short stories that form The Riftwar Cycle, granting readers a lifetime of adventures in the mythical worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan.

According to author Feist himself, it is recommended that you read the Riftwar books in the order in which they were published.

4. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) (14 novels; 1 prequel)

Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series has enthralled an entire generation of readers from the 1990s-2000s. The scope of his worldbuilding, the intricacies of his magic system, the sheer depth of his huge cast of characters: this series is truly stunning, and will keep you occupied for months on end. Jordan’s work has often been compared to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it’s easy to see why. Aside from the rich worldbuilding and multi-pronged subplots, it is worth mentioning that character arcs and plotlines that were teased as far back as Book 1 actually do come full-circle in later instalments. While the series may seem shorter than, say, Malazan or Riftwar, the sheer size of each instalment makes it one of the heaviest fantasy series in existence.

The series begins with The Eye of the World: following an unexpected attack by the beastly Trollocs, protagonist Rand al’Thor and his companions, Mat and Perrin, attempt to flee the village to protect their loved ones. They are joined by Moiraine Sedai, Lan the Warder, Thom Merrillin, Egwane al’Vere, as well as the village Wisdom Nynaeve al’Meara. Pursued by the enemy, the protagonists navigate a hostile world as they learn more about channeling magic and an omnipresent force called the Dark One. The series features some deeply memorable characters and friendships, and will keep you hooked despite some ups and downs. When Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, the final three books were completed by Mistborn author Brandon Sanderson, who drew on Jordan’s exhaustive notes and guidance from his widow and editor, Harriet McDougal. It is often said that Sanderson ‘saved’ the series through books 12-14, and whether this refers to the fact that he successfully finished a series that could very well have been left incomplete after Jordan’s passing, or if his writing actually surpassed that of his predecessor- I suppose you won’t know until you pick up Book 1! Suggested reading order: by publication date. There is also a prequel, New Spring, which takes place twenty years before the events of The Eye of the World, but it is recommended you read the prequel after you’ve finished the original series.

There are so many other incredible books out there, and while this article by no means claims to have covered the ‘best’ or longest fantasy series ever published, it certainly lists some of the most beloved stories in recent memory.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to see more lists on binge-worthy fantasy book series and genre archetypes, let us know!

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Links:

- Books by JRR Tolkien:

- A comprehensive list of Tolkien’s works

- Tor.com’s guide to reading Malazan

- Raymond E Feist’s guide to reading Riftwar

- Tina Mohandas

To read more article written by Tina Mohandas - CLICK HERE


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