Books

The 10 Best Epic Fantasy Book Series to Get You Revved Up for ‘House of the Dragon’

Children of Virtue and Vengeance cover

Fantasy lovers are going to be fed well in fall 2022, with the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon premiering on HBO Max in August, and the Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power coming out in September on Amazon Prime. That said, August and September aren’t now. So, if you’re craving an epic adventure to cozy up in, you may want to dive into a book series.

Here are some of our favorite (epic) fantasy book series to tide you over!

The Legacy of Orisha Series by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola thinks she’s the last of the maji, magic workers with amazing abilities who were wiped out when magic was purged from the land of Orisha. Now, Zélie has a chance to bring magic back to the world and avenge her mother’s murder, but first, she has to escape a ruthless prince looking to stamp out the last traces of magic in the world.

Pick up the Legacy of Orisha series if you’re looking for an utterly engrossing page-turner inspired by Nigerian mythology, with characters you’ll instantly fall in love with.

The Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone: Destinies cover image.  Alina holding light.  Image: Netflix.
(Netflix)

The Grishaverse, consisting of one trilogy, two duologies, and two books of standalone short stories, is Leigh Bardugo’s lush and sprawling world of the Grisha, legendary warriors who practice the “Small Science” (which they’ll never admit is magic). The Grishaverse is largely set in the Imperial Russia-inspired land of Ravka, but the books do make forays into the lands.

If this is your first taste of the Grisha, start with Shadow and Bone, the novel that started it all. Ravka has been torn apart by the Unsea, a vast stretch of darkness that harbors terrifying monsters, and the Grisha are responsible for using their powers to get ships safely across to West Ravka. When a young cartographer, named Alina, discovers that she has the power to summon sunlight and banish the monsters, she’s swept into the Grisha’s secretive and opulent world, where she’s trained to destroy the Unsea for good.

Bonus: once you finish the first trilogy, you can watch the adaptation on Netflix!

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

In the middle of the night, a six-year-old boy is dumped on Prince Verity’s doorstep, where Verity is informed that the boy is the bastard of his brother, the crown prince Chivalry. Thus begins the story of FitzChivalry, the unwanted boy who grows up in the turbulent and precarious court of Buckkeep. Since Fitz can never become proper royalty, he’s trained to become an assassin and told that he’ll spend his life as a pawn of the king. But when raiding ships unleash a terrifying new plague on the land, Fitz has to save his kingdom (while protecting his own secrets).

The Farseer Trilogy, consisting of Assassin’s Apprentice, Fool’s Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest, isn’t just a book about an assassin. It’s a saga filled with adventure and betrayal, and it’s filled with characters and landscapes so vivid you’ll feel like you know them.

The Dark Star Trilogy by Marlon James

Moon Witch Spider King
(Penguin)

Don’t try to find volume 3 of this trilogy yet, because it’s still a work in progress. Development, the Dark Star books have already taken the world by storm. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, The first volume in the series, introduces a skilled hunter named Tracker, who has been tasked with finding a missing boy. Although he’d rather work alone, Tracker ends up with a ragtag band that includes a shapeshifter. As they track down the boy, tracker begins to wonder who exactly the boy is, and what deeper mysteries are brewing beneath his disappearance.

Rooted in African history and mythology, the Dark Star books are deliciously imaginative, with prose that sings. Pick this series up if you enjoy fantasy that feels more literary than pulp (not that there’s anything wrong with pulp!).

The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin

When her mother dies, Yeine Darr, chieftain of a small nation, is summoned to the home of the Arameri, the family who rules the world. There, Yeine is named heir to the Arameri throne, but told that she’ll have to defeat her ruthless cousins ​​before she can claim it. Yeine’s momentous few days at the Arameri court set the wheels in motion for the entire trilogy, even though each book introduces a different cast of characters.

The court intrigue in the Inheritance Trilogy is exciting enough, but what makes the series truly visionary is Jemisin’s mythology. The Arameri have enslaved their own gods, using them as weapons to enforce their own absolute power. To survive, Yeine, and the characters who follow her, have to deal not just with humans, but with the many gods who walk the earth.

The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin

fifth season book cover
(Orbit)

It might seem like sacrilege to give one author two spots in a top ten list, but NK Jemisin is just that good. The first book of the Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season, begins with the end of the world. Essun, an orogene with the power to manipulate energy, is living out her days in a small community in the Stillness, a continent that’s periodically rocked by massive geological events called “Fifth Seasons.” When a season is triggered by the continent splitting in half, Essun and her neighbors have to flee to avoid the oncoming destruction. However, orogenes are shunned and reviled in the Stillness, and Essun—along with two other characters whose stories are intimately tied to hers—have to survive not just the season, but all the panicked people who won’t hesitate to kill her because of her powers.

You could argue that the Broken Earth books are technically science-fiction, since the landscape contains artifacts from a vanished advanced civilization, but the series still has the look and feel of an epic fantasy series. Jemisin’s talent for worldbuilding is unsurpassed, and one of the best parts of the series is the way the secrets of the Stillness’s past are gradually revealed, with puzzle pieces you didn’t even know were there gradually falling into place.

The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

Long before Hogwarts, there was Roke, a legendary school of wizardry in the archipelago of Earthsea. A young boy named Sparrowhawk shows a talent for magic and is fostered by the reclusive wizard Ogion. When Sparrowhawk, arrogant and impatient to master magic, accidentally unleashes a malicious shadow being that will stop at nothing to possess him, the entire course of his life is changed forever.

A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the cycle, is a classic in its own right, but the rest of the series is just as good. Be sure to read The Tombs of Atuan, which introduces the child priestess Arha, or “the eaten one,” who’s bound to an ancient spirit that demands unwavering worship. The Earthsea Cycle is smart, moving, and engrossing: everything you could possibly want in a fantasy saga.

The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest Cover
(Pan Macmillan Australia)

This six-book series, consisting of two trilogies, starts with an adaptation of the fairy tale “The Twelve Wild Swans” called Daughter of the Forest. Sorcha, a young woman growing up in medieval Ireland, has a talent for growing medicinal plants and talking to the Good Folk who live deep in the forest. But then her wicked stepmother Oonagh places a curse on her family, bewitching her father and turning her brothers into swans. Under the guidance of a fairy woman, Sorcha takes on the task of spinning, weaving, and sewing nettle shirts for each of her brothers in order to break the spell.

Read Juliet Marillier’s work if you love romance, strong women, fairy lore, and medieval Irish vibes. Although the first trilogy in the Sevenwaters series quickly moves from Sorcha to her descendants, the second trilogy focuses on one generation of Sevenwaters sisters, with each book giving a sister her own enchanted adventure in the forest.

The Dragonriders of Pern Books by Anne McCaffrey

This is another series that’s technically science-fiction but has that fantasy feel to it. When human settlers arrive on the planet Pern, they make a terrible discovery: every so often, the sky fills with a deadly thread-like substance that kills on contact. Luckily, the settlers figure out how to genetically modify the planet’s fire lizards to create telepathic dragons that can incinerate the Thread before it hits the ground.

There are a lot of Pern books, so if you only want to read the very best, start with the first book in the first trilogy, Dragonflight. This book tells the story of Lessa, a noblewoman who’s lost her home. Lessa wants her lands and title back, but the keepers of the newly hatched queen dragon are looking for someone to ride her, and Lessa finds that she has to make a difficult choice. After you read Dragonflightskip over to the Harper Hall Trilogy, which tells the story of Menolly, a gifted musician who’s denied the right to play music because she’s a girl.

An Ember in the Ashes Series by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a girl growing up in the impoverished backstreets of the Rome-inspired Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested by Martial forces, Laia decides she’ll do anything to save him. Her courage is put to the test, though, when a group of rebels tell her that they’ll rescue her brother if she spies for them in the heart of the Empire’s most dangerous, heavily guarded military academy.

An Ember in the Ashes and the three books that follow it are danger-filled quests that’ll get your heart pumping. Laia is an immensely likable and sympathetic protagonist, pushing herself into the very limits of physical and emotional endurance.

Any amazing fantasy series we left out? Let us know in the comments!

(featured image: Rich Deas for Henry Holt)

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