Twenty-Five Best Fantasy Books/Series of All Time
Updated: Nov 6
Written by Daniel T. Dodaro
(1) Updates: My taste is constantly changing, so this list will be updated and reposted as time goes on. Novels may be added (or removed) as I read more and grow as a reader.
(2) Subjectivity: My taste is so subjective that it hurts. Seriously. I know that people may not agree with anything (or everything) I say, and I completely respect that. Some books that I consider fantasy might not even fall under fantasy on other people’s lists. That's okay. Sometimes, if a sci-fi novel has a fantasy feel to it, I will characterize it as fantasy in my head (probably because I have always been slightly more partial to fantasy anyway). The only thing I can promise is that I will be fair and honest in portraying what I believe/feel (even if what I believe/feel annoys some of the people reading this).
(3) Cliche: I hope this list is fairly cliche. It does not seem very wise to try to reinvent the wheel with a best of all-time list. Most of the books on my list are well known and highly regarded by fantasy lovers, so I am not trying to stir the pot with anything revolutionary. Because of this, my list will likely mirror many other lists you have seen before. However, since I am a huge fan of “Picture/Children’s Books,” this list will have more “Picture/Children’s Books” than other fantasy lists elsewhere have (if they have any at all).
(4) Manga: I am not including Japanese manga on this list because that would make the selection far more difficult than it already is (if this list gets popular, maybe I will come out with an anime/manga list in the future).
(5) Children's Books / Graphic Novels: I will include “Picture/Children’s Books” because I do not think it would be a fair/conclusive list otherwise. “Picture/Children's Books,” if calling them “Children’s Books” is even a fair characterization, were my first introduction to fantasy (and this is probably the case for many of us). I have learned as I’ve gotten older that “Picture/Children’s” books age like fine wine. Hidden in their short sentences, introspective journeys are patiently awaiting us. I would never underestimate these authors and their knack for expressing so much meaning with so little writing. I will always treat them with the same love and respect as I treat “adult book” writers.
(6) Weighing System: I plan on using the weighing system below to take into account multiple factors and provide a holistic score for each book. Again, all these factors will be governed by my own subjective assessments.
Additionally, for this list, I will consider the factors below very loosely since all of the following books/series are so very near and dear to my heart. Depending on my mood or the current events of my life, this list may shift every year, month, or even every week. So, I hope you will take the specific order these books are in with a grain of salt.
Also, if you do not see a series on this list, it might just be because I haven’t read it yet (for example, I have yet to read Discworld by Terry Pratchett, and I am still in the process of reading (and really enjoying) The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie). I will graciously accept other recommendations in the comments.
I Will Take into Account:
Plot [250 Points]: How does the narrative progress as a whole?
Characters [200 Points]: Do the characters drive the story forward as much as the story drives itself forward? How fun, whacky, or interesting are the characters?
Imagery/Writing [150 Points]: How detailed a picture does the author paint? How engrossing is the author’s writing style?
Worldbuilding [150 Points]: How well-rounded and intricate is the author's world?
Influence [50 Points]: How much has the story had an effect on the fantasy genre (and pop culture) as a whole?
Message/Meaning [100 Points]: Are there messages in the text that are timeless, inspiring, thought-provoking, etc.?
Conclusion/Trajectory [100 Points]: Does the author tie up the story with a neat little bow (independent of whether the story has a happy, sad, or complete ending)? If this is the start of a completed series, is the entire series’ ending enjoyable? If this is a part of an incomplete series, does the series as it stands retain a commendable trajectory?
I will not rank “Picture/Children’s Books” on this scale since such an attempt would be like comparing apples to oranges (they are shorter, illustrated, and of a completely different style). I will put them where I subjectively believe they belong on the list, independent of this weighing system.
Very Important: because I am ranking these books on my best of all time list, all of these score will be higher than a 9/10.
So, without further ado, here they are...
(1) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Calculation: [1000/1000] x 10
Ranking: 10.00 / 10.00
I know some people might find it ludicrous that I am ranking the Hobbit over the Lord of the Rings but I am doing it selfishly because the Hobbit is my favorite book of all time. It may be this high on this list because I have been obsessed with The Hobbit since I first read it in middle school. Because of this, I won’t lie and say that there is not plenty of nostalgia baked into my ranking.
Whether it is on the hottest of summer nights or on the chilliest of winter evenings, The Hobbit will take you to a world like no other. This is an adventure novel through and through. Every chapter, page, and word perfectly encapsulates everything I love about the fantasy genre. An unlikely hero goes on a journey (with dragons, wizards, and treasure) and comes back changed.
In my opinion, this is the quintessential fantasy book. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for!!
(2) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Series Conclusion [99/100]
Calculation: [999/1000] x 10
Ranking: 9.99 / 10.00
Here it is. The monolith of fantasy, and the very heart of the genre. Nearly every fantasy book following The Lord of the Rings sits on the great tectonic plate that is Tolkien’s masterwork. They all feel the rumble of its influence, no matter how distant that rumble appears to be.
The Lord of the Rings is an astounding read that is as enriching as it is inspiring, as entertaining as it is invigorating. Enjoy this. Savor this. You might never have the opportunity to be so wholly transported to another world like this one again.
This only has a slightly lower ranking for me than The Hobbit because of nostalgia.
(3) Dune by Frank Herbert
Calculation [991/1000] x 10
Ranking: 9.91 / 10.00
Since I only read Dune and not the rest of the series, my ranking is based solely on this singular novel.
Yes, I know that this is not considered fantasy in many people’s eyes, but I consider it fantasy, and this is my list (so there!). Dune primarily has sci-fi elements, but there are fantastical qualities to spice/mélange, the Bene Gesserit prophecies, etc.
Anyway, I consider Dune to be the The Lord of the Rings of the sci-fi genre (this is probably not a very shocking connection). I read it in high school without knowing anything about it (or just how influential it truly was), and I fell in love with it immediately (finishing it within a few days). It has a meditative/philosophical quality to it while also keeping readers entranced in an epic like no other. I would also liken Dune to A Song of Ice and Fire because it has court politics/intrigue weighing on every scene (this is also probably not a unique association).
If you are not into sci-fi, but you do like fantasy, I believe this is still a great pick for you. Only Frank Herbert can make a novel about a desert planet as colorful and descriptive as a neon light factory two doors over from a printing press.
(4) The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
[Completed Series] [First Novel: The Eye of the World]
Series Conclusion [99/100]
Calculation: [990/1000] x 10
Ranking: 9.90 / 10.00
Think of this as The Lord of the Rings but longer — much, much longer. If you want to entertain yourself for months on end and lose yourself in a world as expansive as it is beautiful, then this is the series for you. With 15 books in total (including 1 prequel), this series starts in a tiny village and ends in a world so large it’ll make your head spin (like a merry-go-round of glee).
It is insane watching the unknown characters at the start of the series grow into the three-dimensional heroes and villains they are by the end.
This world may not have as much “history” as Tolkien’s (again, The Silmarillion is hard to beat), but the storyline is far more complex than the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit put together. It borrows from Tolkien — dark lord, magic, and simple characters leaving an agricultural haven to save the world — but, once it takes off from there, it becomes an epic in its own right.
(5) The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
[Ongoing Series] [First Novel: The Way of Kings]
Series Trajectory [100/100]
Calculation: [985/1000] x 10
Ranking: 9.85 / 10.00
Brandon Sanderson is a storyteller in a class of his own. He spits out multiple books a year, adding to his incredibly complex universe of multiple, ongoing series, the Cosmere, and, despite his ability to release stories like a human printing press, all of his books continue to be very good. His worldbuilding is in its own league and is nearly as complicated and intricate as Tolkien’s (maybe even more so at this point (although it is hard to say with Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in the foreground (sorry for the constant Tolkien plugs))).
The Way of Kings, the first novel in The Stormlight Archive, is where I began The Cosmere, and it is a page-turner if there ever was one. I finished it in a few days, despite its lengthiness, and I savored every chapter. Multiple plotlines are running simultaneously in this one novel, and all of them are engrossing and enjoyable. Sanderson builds characters with more personality than most actual people have (sorry to all the real people out there).
Some readers have complained about the uniformity of Sanderson’s writing, but I think that this is an unfair criticism. His writing is the perfect level of complexity for what he is trying to achieve — to build a cohesive universe where the story, characters, and ideas are not overpowered by the writing style.
He is amazing, and, if you wish to start his multi-series universe, I will argue that this is the best place to begin. Get ready for a very long adventure!
However, for the purposes of a review, it is hard to judge this series against a series like The Wheel of Time because The Stormlight Archive is incomplete (and will remain incomplete for some time).
(6) Sandman by Neil Gaiman
[Completed Series] [Graphic Novel] [First Volume: Preludes & Nocturnes]
Series Conclusion [98/100]
Calculation: [985/1000] x 10
Ranking: 9.84 / 10.00
I started Sandman with Sandman Overture (the technical beginning of the chronological narrative, but the last volume in the series). It quickly became one of my favorite stories of all time due to its eclectic characters, hidden meaning, dark atmosphere, and universal scope. The second I closed Sandman Overture (which is my favorite in the series), I felt a pressing need to lend it to my best friend and see if he would be as blown away by it as I was. He devoured it in one sitting and fell in love with it too. We discussed the story for hours on end.
After Overture, I delved into Sandman from its first actual volume, Preludes and Nocturnes. Sandman is an amazing series driven by mysterious characters and the influence of fairy tales, mythology, and fantasy. The Endless, the main family of deities that drive Sandman’s narrative, are an amazing array of personalities: Death, Dream, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.
Dream, also known as Morpheus (Sandman), is a moody god that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of his siblings. He can be kind yet cruel. He can be emotional yet cold. Dream’s adventures, which span across time and space, have a distinctive atmosphere. Only Neil Gaiman could make something work as well as Sandman does. Oh, i will make you think and feel alright. But, even more importantly, it will set your imagination ablaze.
Some readers may not find Sandman to be as cohesive as other series/stories listed here because Sandman is not linear and goes on plenty of tangents. Some of its side stories are some of my favorite parts of the series, but I can see how its nonlinear nature can be perplexing at first.
(7) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
[Ongoing Series] [First Novel: A Game of Thrones]
Series Trajectory [92/100]
Calculation: [982/1000] x 10
Breathe in. Breathe out. Do not let the ending of Season Eight sway your review, Daniel.
Okay. All ready.
A Song of Ice and Fire is famed for George R. R. Martin’s ability to slay characters like a slasher in a low-budget horror movie. No one is safe, and any number of dastardly deeds are possible within the realm of Westeros. This makes this series darker than any series on this list (still not darker than The Hat Trilogy by Jon Klassen, however). It also builds tension because you, the reader, never know who is going to live and who is going to die. “All men must die,” as the story goes.
Politics. Magic. Violence. A Song of Ice and Fire offers all of these things in a uniform blend. It keeps you turning pages with excitement and suspense. Few writers besides Martin could place readers on such a loose foundation within the world of the story and yet also keep them wanting to read more and more.
However, get ready to be patient, Reader. Who knows when Martin will take us home since he is an infamously slow writer (there’s nothing wrong with this; he has a life to live outside of the story).
If winter is here, will spring flowers ever bloom?
(8) The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
[Ongoing Series] [First Novel: The Name of the Wind]
Series Trajectory [91/100]
Calculation: [975/1000] x 10
This is one of the best written series. Period. Every line is lyrical, and its storytelling pulls you along, always making you hungry for more. I first read The Name of the Wind in high school, and it was probably the fastest I ever finished a book of its size (I finished it in 2 days during the school week). It is addicting, and not just because it is steamy or overly dramatic — it is addicting because it is good.
The only major problem with The Kingkiller Chronicle is that the release date for the finale to the trilogy is still up in the air (like with A Song of Ice and Fire). It has been over 16 years since The Name of the Wind was published and 12 years since its sequel, A Wise Man’s Fear, was released.
Who will release their next book first? Martin or Rothfuss?
(9) Circe by Madeline Miller
Calculation: [974/1000] x 10
“Give me more standalone novels!” I screamed from my soapbox as no passersby stopped to listen.
Yes, I love long series. They give me something to look forward to for weeks/months on end. But there is something to be said about a good standalone novel every now and again.
Circe is that novel.
Like Rothfuss, Miller’s writing is astoundingly lyrical and beautiful. Her worlds are as entertaining as they are captivating. Song of Achilles provided readers with a terrific premise and prose as well, but I do think Circe is the better novel.
Circe (and Song of Achilles) both have really interesting concepts. Miller’s formula involves taking a lesser known (underdog) character in Greek Mythology and using that character to tell a riveting tale. However, where Song of Achilles follows Patroculus, Circe follows (you guessed it) Circe from The Odyssey. She lives on the island of Aeaea in The Odyssey, turning sailors into pigs and being badass.
You might think, “What can be so interesting about a woman on an isolated island?” A lot actually.
I think of Circe as a mixture of Greek mythology (plot) and Studio Ghibli (atmosphere). It has that floral and lively energy to it. It is colorful and heartfelt. Although not much seems to happen throughout, by the end of it, you feel as if Circe’s progression rivals some of the most legendary heroes in mythology.
This is one of the best modern fantasy novels I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to read more from Miller in the future.
(10) Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
*As I stated in the weighing rules above, “Picture/Children’s Books” will not have a score on my list because the elements of their composition are too difficult to quantify. I will put them where I feel they appropriately belong in the ranking.
This, my friends, is one of the greats. Dr. Seuss has created a book that shares many qualities with The Fool card in a Tarot deck: it begins and ends all journeys.
Read it before going off to middle school, high school, college, graduate school, work, and/or the grave.
Read it when you are deciding on something major in your life. Read it when you need some inspiration before bed. Or read it when you simply want a pick-me-up.
The iconic, colorful, and whimsical illustrations are enough, alone, to win anyone’s heart. However, the writing is superb, and, every time I read it, I feel deeply inspired by it in a new and touching way.
If I was crossing an apocalyptic wasteland, you better believe that this would be one of the few books I take along for the adventure.
(11) Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
[Completed Series] [First Novel: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone]
Calculation [974/1000] x 10
I spent most of my childhood hating Harry Potter. I was a Tolkien fan through and through, and I found Harry Potter to be just a petty knockoff of Tolkien’s masterwork, The Lord of the Rings. Dumbledore was a shoddy Gandalf. Voldemort was a noseless Sauron (the man/maiar behind the eye actually has a nose, believe it or not). The multiple horcruxes were just substitutes for the One Ring. And the Harry Potter magic just seemed to be a nonsensical and foolish counterpart to the elemental and subtle magic in The Lord of the Rings.
But then, in college, I read the books.
I found myself consuming them as quickly as a sick kid chugging down orange juice. I got through the entire series in a few weeks (and this was probably slow as readings of this series go). From that point on, I came to understand just why there is such hype around Harry Potter. It is a series that progresses much like growing up: it starts off rose-colored and whimsical before slowly getting darker and raising the stakes.
I think what made me realize how well-written this series is was Snape as a character. Without spoilers (although you probably know what happens by now), his evolving depiction is where I truly saw the depth of Rowling’s worldbuilding and character development.
Rowling has the ability to make what is superficially childish into a dramatic piece of literature that can inspire and change the whole world.
If that isn’t magic, then what is?
(12) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Calculation: [972/1000] x 10
This novel was so ahead of its time. Although it is written in 1890 — even before Tolkien’s dwarves were delving too deep in the Mines of Moria — it feels like it was written for us, right here, right now.
Probably because it’s timeless.
Oscar Wilde was a debonaire rebel, who is more quotable than even the likes of Paulo Coelho (and that’s saying something). This book shines in its poetic writing, and its critiques of high society, sin, and vanity. However, its fantastical elements also make it stand out as well.
It’s a shame that The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde’s one and only novel. I would be surprised, Reader, if you too don’t agree with this statement by the time you close the back cover on this charming masterpiece.
(13) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Book Conclusion [97/100]
Calculation: [966/1000] x 10
Get ready for a hot take: I really didn’t like Piranesi. It is one of my least favorite books, and I am honestly surprised by how well it is received. Since I read it prior to reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I was very wary of another Susanna Clarke novel.
Then, I finally decided to give Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a shot this year, and I was blown away. Now, I am an outspoken fan of Susanna Clarke (although I still don’t like Piranesi).
This is such a unique book. It is a historical fantasy where magic and fairies have existed in the world all along, evolving in unison with politics, high society, and other customs. It takes place in 19th-century England and follows two magicians (but magicians who have actual, supernatural abilities), who are master and pupil.
What I love most about this book is the cast of characters. Mr. Gilbert Norrell is the last person you would expect to be a magician in all of fantasy, and yet his role works for this novel. Jonathan Strange is the second-to-last person you would expect to be a magician in all of fantasy, and yet his role works for this novel. This books turns fantasy norms on its head with zany characters, and a long plot that seems to be going in no particular direction until suddenly everything comes together.
This novel, as strange as it is, works on every level. As a new fan of Susanna Clarke, I am just dying for her to write a sequel.
(14) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Calculation: [963/1000] x 10
The Alchemist is a simple story (quite like a fairytale or a fable), and yet it is also a story that is likely to stick with you forever. It reminds us that (to put its many, many messages simply), if we have faith in our destinies, everything will work out in the end. Although this might be an overly optimistic message for some, it is a much needed message for others. As a pessimist by nature, I read this book with skepticism (but also with a longing for its words to ring true).
Every now and then, we need a straightforward story to ground our lives and remind ourselves what’s most important. What also makes this book fantastic is its quotes: Coelho is the master of meaningful quotes. There are more quotes in The Alchemist then well wishes in a high school yearbook. So, just be ready to carry a pencil with you to annotate.
(15) Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
[“Picture/Children’s Book”] [First Novel: Winnie-the-Pooh]
Ah, Winnie the Pooh… “The bear of very little brain.” Or so he calls himself.
And that is where the irony lies. Because, believe it or not, Pooh is far wiser than he lets on. In this short series, he provides us, readers, with more memorable quotes than most well-known philosophers, poets, and historians. He is the Marcus Aurelius of the Hundred Acre Wood.
If you are in the mood to slip out of your worries like you do your business attire after a long day of work, then this is the story for you. It is simple and colorful, driven by a childlike sense of wonder — and that’s what makes it absolutely delightful. Read it slowly. Read it as you would read a poem. It will be worth it.
The Hundred Acre Wood is a wonderful place to escape to when the hubbub of life is weighing you down.
(16) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Picture of Dorian Gray? The Alchemist? Winnie the Pooh? I am sorry, Reader, to drown you in a sea of super quotable books, but here we are.
Now, for another.
I came upon The Little Prince in college, and, for me, that was at just the right time.
The Little Prince is exhibit one for why I resent the “children’s books” or “young adult” characterizations/genres: they mislead some adult readers into thinking that a book is not clever enough to offer them anything of value.
The Little Prince is not a simple book. It is as simple a book as The Art of War (I exaggerate, but only a little). There is meaning here that needs to be pulled out with tiny tweezers (instead of axes or drills), using dust pans (instead of excavators).
Although The Little Prince can be read in under two hours (and that’s if you take breaks), its many characters and events may require a lifetime to parse. It is profound and well-written. As a bonus, its illustrations are entirely unique.
Approach this book with caution. Like a rogue wave, it may wash you out into an expansive sea if you are not careful. Beauty is never easily digested — even if it is expressed in words that are easily read.
(17) The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
[Completed Series] [First Novel: A Wizard of Earthsea]
Series Conclusion [92/100]
Calculation: [962/1000] x 10
Being a massive Studio Ghibli fan, I stumbled upon The Earthsea Cycle after watching Tales from Earthsea, directed by Gorō Miyazaki (Hayao Miyazaki’s son). I hear that this movie gets a lot of flak, but I love it anyway for its colorful world and mystical atmosphere (also, come on, Willem Dafoe voices Cob in the dubbed version (who can’t love it just for that?)).
Anyway, the books are far better than the movie, and they are (and should be) the focus here. Ursula K. Le Guin is a writer who has a very soothing and unique style that transports readers to a different world without clobbering them over the head with it. I love the characters — Sparrowhawk especially (a distinctive wizard in a sea of fantasy wizards).
Also, these books have great messages. Their take on death is especially unique and fascinating (although quite dark).
My biggest problem with the series is the second half. A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore are fantastic reads. However, Tehanu and The Other Wind fell flat. They both lacked the heart of the initial trilogy. In my opinion, the initial trilogy is worth the read, but not the second trilogy (although Tales from Earthsea, the novel, is quite good. It is a collection of short stories that take place in the Earthsea universe).
(18) Bone by Jeff Smith
Series Conclusion [96/100]
Calculation: [960/1000] x 10
I liken Bone (like I do with pretty much everything on this list) to The Lord of the Rings. After reading this for the first time, I told everyone I was trying to convince to read it that it is pretty much The Lord of the Rings of graphic novels. It is about three insignificant creatures (the Bone cousins), who discover that they belong to a much larger world than they thought possible. Due to some comic mishaps, they embark on a quest to save that world from evil.
What I find most interesting about Bone is how Smith uses his art style to color the story in meaningful ways. For example, the Bone cousins are simply drawn creatures, and their art style sets them apart from the vivid world they quickly lose themselves in. Another thing that makes Bone unique is the comedy and creativity that pervades every scene. Somehow, Smith finds a way to tell a serious and dark epic led by three comic-relief characters. It is an achievement if there ever was one. Because of all this, Bone is worth all the hype.
Comedy, check. Epic fantasy, check. Lovable and unique characters, check. Beautiful artwork, check. A story that will sit on your favorites’ shelf forever, check.
(19) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Book Conclusion [96/100]
Calculation: [959/1000] x 10
This, like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, is set in Victorian England and involves two magicians. However, the atmosphere, direction, and story are completely different.
I am not a fan of circuses (they are like zoo mobile-homes, and zoos make me sad). However, the “Night Circus” makes a case for them (not the zoo part). The Night Circus is a magical circus that comes at night and gives ordinary people a brief glimpse of the mystical wonders of the world.
The writing is beautiful. The characters are delightful. And the concept is phenomenal. If you are into fantasy and magic, then this is the novel for you.
(20) The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Book Conclusion [93/100]
Calculation: [956/1000] x 10
I finished this book in three days. I love Faustian stories, and this is the best of them all. Addie and Luc’s relationship, as it spans across history, is believable, layered, and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. The historical tilt (Addie’s life from the 1700s onward) along with Addie’s inability to make a lasting impression on anyone because of her Faustian deal work together fantastically.
Spoiler: The reason this book is not ranked higher for me is the focus on Addie’s partner, Henry Strauss. He is just so…lackluster. His own deal with the Devil and its ability to cancel out Addie’s own bargain were a great twist. However, to me, this novel should have focused more on Addie and Luc. That’s where the story’s heart was. That’s what made it engrossing from the very beginning. I think the ending lost its grip when it focused on something other than that core conflict.
(21) The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Series Conclusion [94/100]
Calculation: [955/1000] x 10
The Once and Future King is a collection of four stories about King Arthur. However, although it is a “collection,” all four of the stories have very different atmospheres.
The Sword in the Stone, the initial portion, is now incredibly famous because of its adaption by Disney. It follows the story of how King Arthur was trained by Merlin, the Wizard, after pulling the famous sword, Excalibur, from the stone. It is as fun and enchanting a read as it is portrayed to be in pop culture. The Queen of Air and Darkness the middle portion of the novel follows Arthur in all of his glory as a noble king as he deals with the infamous villain, Queen Morgause.
However, what really made this novel one of my favorites of all time is the third part, The Ill-Made Knight. Far darker than the other two parts, it follows Arthur in his twilight years while his knight and best friend, Lancelot, and his wife, Guinevere, are having an affair. What’s so, so phenomenal about this portion of the novel, is just how three-dimensional all the characters are. They are all pulled along by their vices, insecurities, and loves while simultaneously feeling guilty and unsure about every decision they make. It is a very realistic depiction of romance, friendship, and human nature.
When I read The Once and Future King, I thought the third portion might’ve been written by someone else (yes, it is that different tonally). The Sword in the Stone draws readers in, but The Ill-Made Knight is what stays in readers’ mind well after they finish the last page.
(22) World of Howl by Diana Wynne Jones
[Completed Series] [First Novel: Howl’s Moving Castle]
Series Conclusion [94/100]
Calculation: [950/1000] x 10
You can probably tell that I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan by now, right? I didn’t even realize that Howl’s Moving Castle was a book (let alone the first novel in a trilogy) until watching the famed Hayao Miyazaki adaption several times.
Like other books on this list, this trilogy is very calming and fun to read. All three novels have the elements of the fairy tales kids read before bed.
The first book, Howl’s Moving Castle, is similar to the movie in some ways, but completely different in others. The ending of the book, for example, goes in a different direction than the movie. The second and third books in the series are incredibly enjoyable as well because they feature Howl and Sophie (and Sophie grows more independent and rambunctious with each novel, which is pleasant to see), but they are still standalone stories with new characters.
If you enjoyed the adaption, you’ll love this series. If you didn’t enjoy the adaption, you still might love this series.
(23) The Odyssey by Homer
*I do not think it is fair to give The Odyssey a numbered score (other than a ranking), considering its origin, fame, and style.
What fantasy list would be complete without The Odyssey? Some may say that ancient mythology is in a different league than modern fantasy novels, and I can see the utility in that belief. However, I do think The Odyssey deserves a spot on this list because it is truly a remarkable read despite its old age (over twenty-five hundred years old).
The Odyssey has so many components of fantasy all in one place: monsters, heroes, quests, witches, gods, prophecies, and more. And what makes it even better is that it is the written (originally, oral) origin of a lot of these ideas. I’m telling you, Reader, do not let this story’s age fool you — it is every bit as enjoyable as the other novels on this list if you take the time to surrender yourself to its beautiful prose and epic narrative.
(24) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree is a perfect example of how much can be said with so few words. Its three- to five-minute long narrative addresses a plethora of complex themes (motherhood, aging, love, gratitude — to name a few.) It is a sad story despite its iconic and colorful artwork. It may just be one of the saddest books on this list, but, in its dreary ending, a lot of meaning can be deciphered and a lot of lessons can be learned.
Side Note: I recently read This is Not my Hat by Jon Klassen, and it gave me very Shel Silverstein vibes. It was short, wonderfully illustrated, and dark down to its core. I loved it.
(25) Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Series Conclusion [?/100]
What’s so funny about Alice in Wonderland is just how hard it is for me to even pinpoint why I like it.
What do I mean by this? Both this novel and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, are incredibly surreal works (so surreal, in fact, that Salvatore Dali came out with a series of illustrations for the original novel (and he only seemed to associate himself with things that were as confounding as he was (which was very confounding, by my estimation))).
There are times in my life when I remember a part of Alice in Wonderland, and everything crazy happening around me suddenly makes sense, and I smile to myself. There are other times where this book comes to mind, and I don’t get why I am so fond of it.
And yet I have posters, collector’s editions, calendars, and mugs with Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat’s likenesses. I quote the novel more frequently than most people I know do, and it is on my mind quite often. Do I love it? Like it? Hate it? I honestly have no idea. But I did find myself putting it on this list despite all these concerns.
If that isn’t curiouser and curiouser, I do not know what is.
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If this list gets enough positive feedback, I will post the second half of my Fifty Best Fantasy Books/Series of All Time List.
I appreciate you taking the time to read!
This list was written by Daniel T. Dodaro, the author of Death, the Gardener.
All stories begin and end with a question. It is up to each and every one of us to discover what that question is.
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