Undoubtedly I’ve hit this topic from time to time, but I’m coming back to it now because of my comment in yesterday’s post that Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is one of my top-ten picks for epic fantasy. Obviously that leads to the need to do an actual top-ten list, so let me see how close I can come to that.
First: I’m defining epic fantasy thus:
— Multiple volumes
— Multiple pov protagonists
— Large scale, long-running overall story arc, high stakes for the world, not just the characters
— Secondary world setting
— High fantasy tone or something fairly close to that
And no doubt every one of those characteristics could be arguable and plenty of stories would wind up on one edge or another between epic fantasy and something else. Still, those characteristics are the ones I have in mind.
So, with that in mind, here’s a quick attempt at a top-ten list for epic fantasy. In no particular order:
1.The Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler
Five-book series, hard to beat the first book, the first three or so are each self-contained but definitely not the fourth. Winter is one of my favorite protagonists of all time, and Janos is one of my favorite non-pov protagonists of all time, and well, there you go.
2. Inda series by Sherwood Smith
If you follow the link, you’ll see that I once just defined “epic fantasy” by pointing to this series and saying, There, this is what the term means.
A long quadrilogy. Again, some truly fantastic characters, great writing, really hard to beat.
3. Dead River trilogy by Naomi Kritzer
I’m not listing these series in decreasing order by number of books, it just sort of looks that way. Despite having only three books in the series, and despite perhaps not being quite as world-shattering in scope as some epic fantasy, I would definitely include this series in my top-ten list of the subgenre.
Also, it’s just a practically perfect story in every way. Really top notch.
4. Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear
Complicated, intricate, my biggest problem was that I really wanted the whole story to focus on just one of the many, many wonderful characters.
5. Fortress series by CJC, possibly excluding the fifth and final book. I’m linking a post here in which that some of us argued back in forth in the comments about Fortress of Ice and whether it should be ignored or read and so on. Personally I would treat the first book, Fortress in the Eye of Time, as a standalone, and then the next three as a linked trilogy, and then stop. Regardless, this is a great series — possibly excluding the fifth book.
6. Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliot
The whole thing is in one point of view, so … epic fantasy? Yes/no? The scope is pretty large, we see a whole lot of the (very complicated) world, I’m leaning toward yes.
7. The Rain Wilds books by Robin Hobb
This is honestly the only series by Hobb I really liked. She’s a fine writer in a lot of ways, but protagonist stupidity is a real thing in some of her books and I have a really hard time with that. Anyway, this dragon series starts off rather small-scale, but the scope broadens as the series continues, especially as we find out that dragons are really a dominant species here and now they’re back.
10. The Lord of the Rings.
The LotR practically defines epic fantasy, so I’m putting it here. I feel no need to comment on its inclusion.
But I’m not sure what to include for the other two spots on this list. There are a lot of series where I read the first book but haven’t gone on with the series — I liked the first book but not enough, or I liked most of it but hated one aspect and didn’t go on with the series, or I admired the first book but didn’t actually like it, or I liked the first book but wanted to re-read it before going on and then just never have, or I don’t know, lots of things.
Here are some of the epic fantasy series where I’ve read only the first book. If you’ve read the whole thing, how do you feel about the work as a whole? Would you tend to include it or not?
— Dark Prism series by Brent Weeks
— The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham
— The Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson
What else? Please toss any fantastic epic fantasy series that ought to be included in a top ten list into the comments.