Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The 18 Best Fantasy Series Of All Time

It recently occurred to me that, if I met a "fantasy fan" on the street, I might not have anything to talk to them about. Wheel of Time, Sword of Shannara, Sword of Truth, the Belgariad, the Black Company, Thomas Covenant, Dragonlance - I know little to nothing of them, and what little I know I've long since forgotten through apathy and disinterest. I've only read the first Song of Ice & Fire and Dark Tower novels respectively, and neither made much of an impression.

So when I see lists like this, I sometimes feel woefully out of touch. Of the eighteen, I would only pick about six that might be deserving of any such list. How can I be a fantasy fan if I don't like 90% of the SF & F shelf at my local Waterstones?

Still, I'm happy enough just being a fan of good fiction. I'd hate to be the sort of guy who would read or not read a book based purely on genre.

Anyway, as these lists go, it's what's to be expected. It's hilarious that the author includes Eddings even though he admits that he has a problem calling him "the best of anything," making me wonder just why he was included in the first place. I also find it depressing that Conan languishes in 16th place, below Harry Freakin' Potter. Most astonishing of all is placing A Song of Ice & Fire above The Lord of the Rings. Really? I mean, really? Even after this paragraph which, while really overstating the case for Tolkien's impact (he popularized them, but he hardly invented the idea of the "party," "dark lord," "quest" and whatnot), he puts ASoI&F above it?

Still, that's lists for ya.


  1. His ranking of Howard, and other classic writers like Leiber and Moorcock, struck me as very...polite. I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't actually read them, or if he did read them it was only out of a sense of duty to the classics and so he didn't really take the time to understand why they're revered, but since he didn't want to look like a jerk by omitting them, he figured they should go somewhere on the list.

  2. I thought at least he included them, Howard, Leiber and Moorcock, but he could have done with Wagner too.

    All in all my list would be quite different. No amount of current success for ASoIaF in my mind can make it overtake Tolkien-and I like it more than you do-still the dream of Tolkien's world is what launched almost this entire list.

    Besides the obvious my list would have included David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie, Poul Anderson, and Lloyd Alexander. Hell I would even place DeCamp and Salvatore over Goodkind and Eddings.

    Of course I would also want to include Homer and Snorri Sturgilson.

  3. Some of those choices are really bad.. Goodkind dosen't deserve to be on any ' Best of Lists ' at all. And I speak as some one who has actually suffered through all of his books.

    I've actually read most of those.. except the Peirce and Hobb books I think I've read all of them. And there is no way that stuff like Tad Williams, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series dosen't belong on that list.

    and Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore are both Competent Writers even if not terribly imaginative.. Goodkind can't even be given that.

    Including stuff like Dark Materials is just to keep people from attacking the list maker for including Narnia..

    As for the placings on the list of stuff like Conan and Elric.. I have a hard time seeing Conan not being better than Elric..

  4. Seems a fairly arbitrary ranking by me. At least Terry Brooks and Dragonlance aren't on the list, but Goodkind? Eddings? And "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" are just plain awful--I don't care if the main character is an unlikeable, whiny leper and a rapist to boot (well, actually, I do), but the setting was just plain lazy, what with "Lord Foul" and all.

    There are, of course, far worst lists than this floating around the internet. The "OMG Eragon is the Best Fantasy Book Ever better than LOTR !!!" lists.

    I have a feeling the best fantasy these days is still unfolding in the magazines, with short stories, and only occasionally do novels come in their wake. The publishing industry is flooded with so much marketable, trash fantasy fiction that it chokes out the more talented authors. Houses publish what sells, not what's necessarily good, while I find speculative fiction magazines still have a modicum of dignity. Well, except "Realms of Fantasy". They haven't published a good short story in years.

  5. I havent read great quantity of fantasy but my favourite authors are Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock and I must said that in terms of style Michael Moorcock is much better than Robert E Howard... althought in the average I almost prefer Howard for his vibrant prose and the adventure of his stories...

  6. Andy: It wouldn't surprise me if that was the case.

    David: Anderson & Alexander would make my list for sure. I'm still not entirely sold on Gemmell (not even Druss), though I loved Jerusalem Man. I haven't read Abercrombie yet, though I fully intend to. Suffice to say, my list would likely be very different from his too.

    Lagomorph: Glad you're in a position to speak on the books: I haven't read the majority of the series involved beyond a few books, and nothing will really change my mind. I certainly won't read any of these until I've read all the genuine greats.

    Taran: I actually got the entire first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant in a charity shop, and I'm tempted to read it purely because of the infamy. I can't believe he actually went with "Lord Foul," though: that's just bad any way you look at it. Of course, there are indeed worse lists, but they can be dismissed out of hand: some of these books made the godawful list of "top series that make LotR look like it belongs in the fourth grade" or some such.

    Fransisco: I like some of Moorcock's stuff, but it's almost always tainted by either his massive hatred of the British Empire, or his general weirdness.

  7. Why do all these "best-of" lists leave off DUNE? Is it really not considered fantasy, in spite of the giant worms, physically-transformative properties of melange, and the Bene Gesserit's crazy telepathy? Pern (of the dragons and killer thread) is no more fantastical than Arrakis. What am I missing?

  8. Salvatore is a hack. He just writes what Junior High geeks want to read.