Ten of the Best Fantasy Novels of All Time
From 'Lord of the Rings' to 'American Gods' and from 'Dracula' to 'Harry Potter,' a look at ten of the best fantasy novels of all time.
The border between science fiction and fantasy can often be hard to define, but for the purposes of this list, the ones that fall on that border have been ignored, and the selection below clearly falls into the fantasy camp, from epic sagas such as Lord of the Rings to the short but famous Dracula. More modern fantasies are represented by the likes of Neil Gaiman’s Hugo Award winning American Gods and the Harry Potter books.
Tastes among fantasy readers are as varied as the genre itself, and as such there never will be a definitive list of the ten best–any such choice by its nature has to be personal. Feel free to add alternative choices in the comments box at the bottom.
The books are listed in alphabetical order, and the date refers to when they were first published.
'A Song of Ice and Fire,' by George RR Martin (1996)
The fantasy saga has now reached the fifth book in the series (arguably the sixth, as the third volume is split into two books), and is still continuing with two more at least in the pipeline. The story weaves together a battle for power in the divided kingdom of Westeros with a race of Others threatening from the north, and a dragon queen threatening from the east. The first book in the series has been televised as Game of Thrones.
'American Gods,' by Neil Gaiman (2001)
This was Gaiman’s fourth novel, and it earned him a Hugo and a Nebula award. The basic premise is that the power, and even the existence of gods is directly proportional to how many people believe in them. The old gods have thus all but disappeared, but Norse god Odin (going under the name Mr. Wednesday) is trying to rally the old gods for a battle with the new gods.
'Dracula,' by Bram Stoker (1897)
Considered by many as the original vampire novel, Dracula was in fact, not the first, but it has certainly become the most influential. The format of the book is a series of diary entries revealing the tale of Jonathan Harker who travels to Transylvania to provide legal help in property buying to Count Dracula. Dracula later travels to England to prey on Harker’s fiancee Mina, and her friend Lucy. This is also in the list of the ten best horror books of all time.
'Earthsea Saga,' by Ursula Le Guin (1964)
What started as a short story has blossomed into a series of six novels. The books are about magic, an inborn talent among the people of the collection of islands known as Earthsea. The best wizards are schooled on the island of Roke to develop their talents. There are also dragons. The books in the series have picked up various awards including a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award.
'Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,' by JK Rowling (1997)
This is first of seven fantasy novels telling the story of young wizard Harry Potter and his adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The USA version amusingly went under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as that was the title of the film in the USA, the producers of which being unconvinced that enough of their audience would know what a philosopher was. The book also appears in the ten best children’s books list.
'Lord of the Rings,' by JRR Tolkien (1954)
What has become the fantasy saga by which all others are judged, the three books in the main trilogy tell the story of the quest to destroy the one ring to stop its power being used for the evil control of Middle Earth. A band of hobbits and guardians set out to take the ring to Mount Doom where it can be destroyed. The story follows the events in Tolkien’s earlier book The Hobbit.
'Northern Lights,' by Philip Pullman (1995)
This was the first book in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and was published in some countries as The Golden Compass. Set in a parallel universe, all the residents are born with their own daemon, an animal that is linked to the host, and causes great trauma if they are separated. The story follows the adventures of 11-year-old Lyra, and her daemon Pantalaimon.
'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,' by CS Lewis (1950)
The first in the Narnia series, it tells the story of four children who discover a portal to a fantasy universe at the back of a wardrobe. The world is in a perpetual winter, and is controlled by the evil White Witch. With the help of Aslan, the lion, and other creatures, the children conquer the witch, and become the kings and queens of Narnia. The book draws on popular mythologies from Norse and Christian religions. This book also appears in the ten best children’s books list.
'The Picture of Dorian Gray,' by Oscar Wilde (1891)
A shorter version of this story was originally published a year earlier in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The full version became Wilde’s only published novel, and tells the story of man who doesn’t age, but rather the picture of him does. More so, the portrait become more disfigured with every evil act in which the real Dorian Gray engages.
'The Wind in the Willows,' by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
The adventures of Mole, Ratty, Mr Toad, and Mr Badger are told in what started as a series of bedtime stories. Playwright AA Milne adapted the book for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall. There have since been numerous TV, and film adaptations, the most recent being a live-action film in 2006.
The Best Fantasy Novel Ever
There are, of course, some great fantasy books not in this list, and many will wonder why the Discworld series from Terry Pratchett is missing, for example. And that was a close call, as was leaving out the Hugo award winning Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susan Clarke. But there was only room for ten, but which of the ten is the best?
Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were both contenders for the top spot, but at the end of the day, the winning fangs fell on Dracula, not just for it being a cracking book, but for the long-lasting, and still-continuing influence Bram Stoker’s classic has had over the years.
Please feel free to disagree, and suggest alternatives for inclusion in the list, and the top spot in the comments box below.
Author: Betty Glauder is a student. She grew up in Aurora, Colorado. She studies at University of Colorado and works at top essay writing service as writer. She is a Greenpeace volunteer. Also she is an amateur hip-hop dancer.