Posted December 8, 2014 by in Book Lists

My Top 4 Fantasy Novels

Define what makes a book fantasy. Really think about it and all the hundreds of books that fall into this genre; it’s sort of a go-to for all the “stuff” that doesn’t fall into one of the other, more defined genres. Does there need to be magic, or is it enough to have the illusion of magic like so many of the King Arthur tellings? Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has an elemental magic that is so well developed and accepted that it almost feels like science fiction. Must new worlds, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Middle Earth, be created? Because Naomi Novik has seamlessly sewn aerial combat with several species of dragons into the historical Napoleonic Wars. But what of Diana Gabaldon’s renowned Outlander time travel series? Is that fantasy or historical fiction? Are vampires fantasy? I wouldn’t think so, but Amazon does.

See? It’s hard! Fantasy is really a subgenre of speculative fiction, a term coined by Robert Heinlein in 1941 to collectively categorize all things science fiction, fantasy, and horror into a pretty little package. So why is the aisle at the bookstore called Science Fiction/Fantasy instead of the speculative fiction it really contains? So when I tell people my preferred reading genre is fantasy, it’s a pretty vague answer.

I began to wonder what my top four favorite fantasy novels are. Even though this list only contains my top four, or perhaps because it is ONLY 4, I have thought about it and updated it for several months.


  TheThe Eye of the World image Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

“The wheel of Time turns, and ages come and go. What was, what will be again, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.”  True, this is the first in a very long series, but it is definitely my favorite. It is here that I met literary friends that I would spend          much of my young adult life with…and go back to visit from time to time. The author, Robert Jordan, developed characters that represented different parts of me; Rand al’Thor is afraid but determined to do what needs to be done, Matrim Cauthon wants to feel alive and enjoy life, Perrin Aybara is slow and thoughtful, Egwene al’Vere is innocent but brave, and Nynaeve al’Meara is full of conviction. They all come from a sleepy little village but quickly realize that there truly is evil in the world.



Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

I found this marvel of a novel years before it made its way to Broadway, at a time in my life when being me was painful and lonely. I thirstily consumed this emotional socio-political take on Elphaba’s life in Oz, and how she bitterly came to live an isolated life in the West. I cried when I turned the last page; I felt I was saying a painful goodbye to a dear friend. Author Gregory Maguire went on to write several other alternative tellings to life in Oz, but none of them resonated with me as this one did.


A-GAME-OF-THRONES-new-HC A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

It’s now a hit drama on HBO, but I originally read this novel about 10 years ago. With this first novel in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, author George R.R. Martin breathed new life into the fantasy genre for me. What I was drawn to most was Martin’s fearlessness with his characters; just when you feel you have found your hero, he dies. I was in shock! How can the hero just have been beheaded? I remember thinking “I must have read that wrong,” but I hadn’t…he was dead. I had been reading a lot of books with the classic setup where the innocent young farmboy reluctantly accepts that only he can defeat the evil threatening the world. A Game of Thrones does not follow this road map; it is a political battle between noble houses spread throughout a world of seven kingdoms.


HeirToTheEmpireHeir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

A Star Wars novel in a fantasy list? I may be breaking some sort of unwritten science fiction vs. fantasy rule, but I fully feel that Star Wars falls in the fantasy genre and not science fiction: there’s a mystical evil master and a dark apprentice build a militant force to rule the galaxy through fear, an innocent farmboy who reluctantly accepts his fate to save the galaxy with the help of spirits that come back to help train him, and a magical Force. How much more fantasy could a book get? Set five years after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star, Heir to the Empire broke new ground in the Star Wars expanded universe, becoming the first in a long line of novels written by dozens of different authors, and it was magical to read for a Star Wars fan like me.



People write top five lists all the time, but I wanted to be different so I picked my top four for this list. There are so many good books out there; I would love to hear what your top four favorites are. Let us know in the comments area below.

Rachel Storey

Software engineer by day, bookworm by night. I love reading. I love writing about reading. I love talking about writing about reading. I joined Bookkaholic to have great conversations about literature, so please feel free to leave comments and discussions.