25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) George R.R. Martin) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) George R.R. Martin)

This brilliant series starts with A Game of Thrones. What can I say about this series other than read it! It's well-regarded as the best fantasy series. Martin's books have been at the top of this list for years, and despite his delayed release of the 5th in the series (Dance for Dragons), his works still stand out as some of the best in the genre. You owe it to yourself to read this series. The good news is the Dance of Dragons is finally coming out. HBO is also producing a TV series starting with the first book, A Game of Thrones. Really, if you haven't read the series yet, DO SO.

Martin writes with flair, deftly weaving multiple storylines in a gritty, even brutal, world that consists entirely of gray characters instead of the classic black and white. It's a vast chess game spanning continents, and the pieces are lords, bastards, knights, wizards, ladies, and children. What really stands out in this series is Martin's penchant for axing the major characters. That's right. No character is safe from the author's noose. Despite the demise of major characters, the plot lines continue stronger than ever. Tired of protagonists walking through fire without a scratch, falling hundreds of feet without a bruise, and defeating superhuman creatures with the same amount of effort that one puts into scratching an arm? Then this series is your fix. The sheer unpredictability of the series renders it a delectable experience. Dare you to predict the winners and losers? If you haven't read the series yet, read it! Chances are, you're going to be calling in sick the next day so you can keep reading. It's that good.
The Blade Itself (First Law) (Joe Abercrombie) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Blade Itself (First Law) (Joe Abercrombie)

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he's on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian - leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules. Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it. Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

The Blade Itself is a rousing new entry in the fantasy genre and book one of the First Law trilogy. Joe Abercrombie takes all the classic fantasy conventions and spins them into something new. This is a subversion of epic fantasy brought to a whole new level.

The Blade Itself features reluctant heroes, black humor, and breathtaking action. Seemingly a novel of contrasts, The Blade Itself is defined by its cast: a philosophical Barbarian who hates to kill, a dashing hero afraid to fight, and a crippled torturer with a heart of gold. The twisted plot and cast of unforgettable characters makes The Blade Itself an absolute must read. The other two books are equally enthralling, and there is no dip in the "quality" of the series. This is one of the best trilogies in the fantasy genre. Joe Abercrombie just keeps on getting better and better with every book. His latest book The Heroes is just one of the most awesome books ever.
Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Steven Erikson) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Steven Erikson)

Since Tolkien, Fantasy has rarely been revolutionary, instead becoming more of an evolution and reinterpretation of Tolkien's original work. Well, I can honestly say Erickson's saga is revolutionary.

No Fantasy book series is more epic in scope than The Malazan Book of the Fallen. His saga combines both military and epic fantasy into a delightful mix. Brilliant prose, epic storylines, gritty realism, fascinating mix of gray characters, Erickson combines the best of George R. Martin with the epic scope of the Greek Classics such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. One word when reading it: epiphany. A refreshing change from the usual Robert Jordan-esque fantasy clones that pop up like weeds these days.

The series is now completed for the most part, but the strength of the series has maintained itself throughout the many books. So you can start this series from the beginning knowing that you WON'T have to wait years for sequel books to come out. From start to finish, Malazan Book of the Fallen is one hell of a ride and is a MUST read for any fantasy fan. It can take a few books to get into the series, but if you are patient and bear with the world-building in the first couple of books, the series gets damn good.
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles) (Patrick Rothfuss) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles) (Patrick Rothfuss)

Kvothe: Wizard, Villain, Warrior, Slave. Hero and villain of a thousand tales. But behind a legend, there is the simple story of a boy, a woman, and a world that will never be the same...

In one of the most remarkable fantasy debuts ever, Patrick Rothfuss joins the celebrated ranks of Martin, Erikson, and Tolkien as one of the master tale-spinners. The biography of the legend, The Name of the Wind delves deep into the inner workings of Kvothe, a boy who dares to challenge destiny. The Name of the Wind is Patrick Rothfuss's debut novel, but oh what a powerful debut it is! This is one tale you do not want to miss. I've read a lot of fantasy books in my time, but rarely have I relished a novel as much as I have this one.

Rothfuss has (finally) finished the sequel to A Name of the Wind and by all standards, the sequel (The Wise Man's Fear) is a great read that for the most part delivers on the promise of the first book. It takes over half the book for something to happen, but the latter half of the book ends on a very strong note. So while there are mixed feelings about the book, Rothfuss still gives us a very addictive tale that carries on the strong plot.

We shall see how the series turns out when the next (last) book is released. Depending on how good (or bad) the next book is, Rothfuss's position here may plummet or stay. But based on the sheer strength of the first novel and its sequel, this book/series deserves an "interim" 3rd place on the list. Without a doubt, The Name of the Wind has created quite a stir in the fantasy community over the past of couple years. So read it.
Lord of the Rings (J.R.R Tolkien) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Lord of the Rings (J.R.R Tolkien)

Do I even need to discuss it? The father of modern fantasy, the recreation of the English myth, an apex of English literature; Lord of the Rings is more than mere Fantasy, it is both myth and a fictional history so real, so enticing, that it can be read as "real". Peter Jackson's movies capture the imagination of the books with astounding clarity -- yet at the same time, the books deliver a different, yet equally satisfying experience. If we look at the sheer contribution these books have made to the genre, the series would rank #1. If you have not yet read this series, it's time to get it over with. And no, the movies are NOT the books.

Tolkien spent his life writing in the Lord of the Rings world. Tolkien wrote four "novel" type stories that are pretty much set in Middle Earth. I have listed them below in chronological order. Click on the book picture to get an Amazon book description. The Silmarillion is a prequel to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It details the entire history of Middle Earth, how it was formed, describes the history of the First, Second, and Third ages. If you want to really know the history of Middle Earth, and read some of the old tales, read the Silmarillion -- it's sort of the pre-story of the Lord of the Rings, a history of Middle Earth. Children of Hurin is Tolkien's old "new" novel that was recently released by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Christopher edited and completed one of Tolkien's unpublished works. It's a greatly expanded version of Chapter XXI of The Silmarillion, "Of Turin Turambar." and takes place long long before the Hobbit. The Hobbit is the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, and pretty much a must read if you like Lord of the Rings. If you have never read Lord of the Rings, I suggest starting with the Hobbit, then move on to Lord of the Rings. You can then read the Silmarillion and Children of Hurin
The Black Company (Glen Cook) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Black Company (Glen Cook)

Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more….

Before fantasy became gritty, there was gritty fantasy in the form of Glenn Cook’s Black Company – an influential work that can be felt in many "modern" fantasy books.
The Black Company could adequately be described as “realistic fantasy”, a term applied to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Erickson’s Malazan series.

Fans of Malazan Book of the Fallen, particularly, may find themselves right at home with The Black Company, as both series follow companies of soldiers through battle quite closely. Both series feature epic battles with magic and mayhem thrown in aplenty. Both series have ambiguous characters who are neither black nor white. The Black Company is more tightly focused on a small band of characters than a huge cast, as in Malazan.

What’s particularly intriguing about The Black Company is that the characters are not afraid to make “evil” choices. Too many fantasy books these days have goody goody two-shoes characters who can’t step on an ant for fear that it’s the wrong thing to do. Glen Cook throws all that out the window and creates a group of mercenaries who define their own moral codes – rather than bow to our own. Yet they have their own code of honor, despite the fact that their morality is often suspect (at least according to our own social mores). That means characters often make uncomfortable choices, arguably “evil” choices.

The Black Company really do ask the question: “what’s the difference between evil and good?” And it’s not a simple answer folks. The Black Company end up employed by The Lady, a character who might be able to show Tolkien’s Sauron a new trick or two.
Heroes Die (Acts of Caine) (Matthew Woodring Stover) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Heroes Die (Acts of Caine) (Matthew Woodring Stover)

A superstar on earth, Hari Michaelson is worshiped by billions. But in the world of Ankhana, Michaelson is feared by all. He is known only as Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle -- a relentless, unstoppable assassin who kills monarchs and commoners alike. Back home on earth, Michaelson's adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions, but he is forced to ignore the fact that he is killing men for the entertainment of his own planet. Bound by the rigid caste society of his planet, forced to keep a growing rage in check, the boundaries between Hari Michaelson, the superstar, and Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle begin to slip. When his wife goes missing in Ankhana, Michaelson and Caine must become one to save his wife and survive the treacherous rulers of two worlds.

Day of the Jackal meets Lord of the Rings, Heroes Die is a heart-pounding thrill ride that never brakes and one novel you don't want to put down. A blend of sci-fi and fantasy, Heroes Die is as good as they come. It's a unique world with some interesting concepts and a whole lot of blood. A world is only as good as its characters, and Stover's Caine is very, very good. He's an anti-hero through and through, a man twisted by his own violence, confused between his role as a good guy superstar back on earth and his occupation as the best assassin Ankhana has ever seen. Caine ponders the morality of his actions, all the while eviscerating his victims. Ultra violent, visceral and just damn cool, Heroes Die is a shrine to violence and Caine is the high priest. Those wanting a superb story that rushes along faster than a supersonic jet, with more action then you can shake a stick at need wait no longer.
The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive) (Brandon Sanderson) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive) (Brandon Sanderson)

Fantasy has a new face with this novel. This is a hugely epic series that’s casting an eye on the Malazan throne for “epicness”. With an opening 1000+ page novel in a purported 10 book series, The Stormlight Archive is about as epic as they come. Not only epic, but also good. This is one of the best fantasy books of 2010, hands down.

The Way of Kings does everything right as an epic fantasy. There’s a world-ending plot in the backdrop, a cast of interesting characters that are starkly realized, a unique magic system, different races with a lot of tension between them, huge and epic battles, and some of the best action in the fantasy genre.

Characterization is also fantastic. Sanderson has done a particularly well job at building up the character of Kaladin, who spend the majority of the novel enduring the fantasy genre’s worst “Dirty Job” ever. Through the nightmare that is Kaladin’s life (and various flashbacks to his childhood), Sanderson does a great job explaining the character’s motivations and present actions. These flashbacks are also used to great effect as a way to throttle up the dramatic tension as the story progresses. The action, when it happens, explodes – and what a ride it is!

So if you are a fan of Sanderson’s work, you love epic fantasy, or you just want to read one of the best damn fantasy books out there, The Way of Kings will blow the competition out of the water. All in all, a fantastic start to what’s looking to be a great epic series (a series that’s looking to be far superior to The Wheel of Time). The Way of Kings is Sanderson's best work so far, which is why I've replaced Mistborn with it.

If you have not yet read The Way of Kings, this should be the next book you read.
Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy) (Robin Hobb) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy) (Robin Hobb)

Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill--and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

Hobb is one of the best characterization writers in the Fantasy genre. Her characters are vividly real, leaping out of the pages into our minds as living characters. She has no qualms about allowing her protagonist to suffer. If her protagonist falls into a pit, no Dues Ex Machina breaks the fall -- the protagonist will break both legs -- and likely both arms too. Her Farseer books are full of fantastic characters and an interesting, mysterious world to explore. Toss in a gripping plot, and these books make for some fantastic reads. Hobb's The Farseer trilogy is perhaps her greatest work (and she has written quite a few books). Even now with the fantasy genre being moved in new directions with the likes of Bakker, Martin, and Lynch, Hobb's works are still worthy to be on anyone's Top 10 fantasy book list.
A Shadow in Summer (The Long Price Quartet) (Daniel Abraham) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

A Shadow in Summer (The Long Price Quartet) (Daniel Abraham)

Sometimes you need a break from the regular fantasy. Sometimes you might want to lose yourself in a rich fantasy tapestry

Abraham builds an impressively realized world in this series with unique characters and a truly imaginative setting. This is not your standard fantasy fare – those looking for The Wheel of Time Part 2, look elsewhere.

Seedy docksides come to life, impressive noble houses sparkle and glitter with wealth and raggedy beggars roam the streets begging for coin. This is a world that’s alive folks, a world that beckons. And it’s a world that you want to lose yourself in – utterly.

And I’m just describing the author’s skill with building a living world. The plot and story are equally enthralling too. It’s a story that’s not about dark wizards trying to take over the world and reluctant farmhands stepping up to prevent them. No there are a different set of heroes here and a completely different sort of “threat” if you can call it that. There’s a marvelous cast of sympathetic and realistic characters – each imbued with a realism that will leave you breathless. The people, like the world, are fully fleshed out, rather than simple cardboard characters with the verisimilitude of real life. Characters are not just shoved into the plot merely to advance it. Motivations and relationships are realistic and malleable and changing.
Lies of Locke Lamora (The Gentlemen Bastards) (Scott Lynch) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Lies of Locke Lamora (The Gentlemen Bastards) (Scott Lynch)

Lies of Locke Lamora is a grand adventure following the exploits of master thief and fraud, Locke Lamora. Leader of the Gentleman Bandits, Locke's flamboyantly carefree life of grand larceny comes to a crashing halt when someone who covets his talents forces Lamora to put his life on the line to protect all he holds dear...

A web of schemes and frauds weave the pattern that makes up the Lies of Locke Lamora. Scott Lynch establishes himself as a fearless storyteller, thrusting his characters into a world doused with intricate historical and cultural information. The writing is witty, the plot twisted, and the characters real. One of the most refreshing (and unique) novels to arrive on the fantasy scene, Lies of Locke Lamora is an entertaining read that delivers on every promise it makes. Those fantasy fans riding the new wave of fantasy, pioneered by George R. Martin, China Mieville, Steven Erikson, and Scott Bakker will be delighted with Scott's effort.
Two books out with the third taking its sweet, sweet time. Word is the third book will be released sometime in late 2013!
Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake)

A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom, unless the conniving Steerpike, who is determined to rise above his menial position and control the House of Groan, has his way.

First, this isn’t fantasy that you are used to. This is not Robert Jordan. This is not George R.R. Martin. This is not Steven Erikson. But this novel deserves -- no, needs -- to be read. It’s bizarre, haunting, joyless, Gothic in the extreme and oh-so-rich in character and detail. The sheer sustained and imaginative power of this novel, the incredible attention to detail, and the stifling rigidity of the castle and cast of characters supersede pretty much every other work in the English language. Peake has been compared to Tolkien and even Charles Dickens – Gormenghast is literature in the purest sense, but it’s also another side of the fantasy coin and deserves to be on the list as both one of the great works of the English language, and a dizzyingly bizarre novel that refuses to be defined by any one genre. If you have a short attention span, having been weaned on the likes of magic-rich, action-heavy books like Feist and Jordan, you might not appreciate the richness of these novels. This description of the novel does seem ambiguous, but like the series itself, words cannot capture what it is. There are three novels in the series and the 3rd novel is disappointing, but the first two are like rich custard: delicious and sweet, leaving you hungering for more. But if you value yourself as a true fan of the fantasy genre, the incredibly odd and totally endearing world of Gormenghast has to be experienced once. You will never, ever forget the characters. Read it and be changed forever.
The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow...

I can truthfully say that Jordan is the King of Fantasy, if not in complexity, then in page count. This monstrously big series spans over 13 massive books (each at least 700 pages). Including "A Wheel of Time" on this list invariably riles certain people and it's probably, for some, the most controversial addition to this list. Why? The past several years a new type of fantasy has come to the fore of the genre: gone are the hopefully optimistic village boys wielding magic swords on a quest to defeat the impossible; in their place, a gritty fantasy has arisen; a stark genre where the very conventions of what it means to be a hero are challenged: worlds are made of gray not black and white; heroes may be both villain and savior; love is powerful, but ultimately ephemeral; heroes die and villains live. It's complex stuff that is often genre blending.

Robert Jordan harkens back to the old school days where village boys and dark lords chase each other endlessly across a landscape. However, I (still) strongly feel that Jordan still deserves a place amongst the top of the genre for, if nothing more, the enormous contribution the man has made to the fantasy genre itself. You can call the WOT pulp fantasy or not, you can spend hours debating whether Jordan's efforts fell to pieces part way through the series, you can moan about how typecast some of the characters become. It's all moot! Jordan, whether you like him or not, had a profound impact on fantasy.
Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire) (Mark Lawrence) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire) (Mark Lawrence)

A different sort of fantasy, but one that’s extremely refreshing, disturbing, and entertaining – one of the best fantasy reads of 2011. This one is full to the brim with gritty, amoral, cynical dark humor.

Now I haven’t been this impressed with a fantasy novel since Abercrombie. There’s a strong influence from A Game of Thrones and if you’ve ever read KJ Parker’s The Engineer trilogy, you’ll see what I mean.

Lawrence had managed to do well what few authors ever do: create a compelling anti-hero – arguably one of the most complex and interesting in the whole fantasy genre. Make no bones about it: the protagonist is one vicious bastard, but the genius of Lawrence is that you still kind of like him, despite the fact that he’s, well, a pretty vile human being as a whole.

Truth be told, it’s tricky for an author to cook up a compelling anti-hero; to do so, you need the absolute perfect blend of good world-building, a protagonist that you can still sympathize with, and sharp, witty prose that binds the whole thing together and keeps you from hating the protagonist. Most authors can’t balance this sensitive equation and fail horribly, either making the antihero so unlovable that you hate him completely or eventually turning the anti-hero into a good yet “misunderstood” character. Well Lawrence does not fall into these trappings.
Black Sun Rising (Cold Fire Trilogy) (C.S. Friedman) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Black Sun Rising (Cold Fire Trilogy) (C.S. Friedman)

The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity's progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.

This is epic fantasy with a different face. Think a mix of epic fantasy, Gothic, horror, and mystery. I like to call it dark fantasy. Dark fantasy does NOT follow the standard (arguably tired) fantasy conventions of 'protagonist saves the world gets the princess/hero always wins'. The main characters may die, the hero may die, evil may, in fact, win. The hero may do questionable things to gain victory. It's fantasy that's morally ambiguous
The Troupe (Robert Jackson Bennett) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Troupe (Robert Jackson Bennett)

A compelling work that’s so good I had to list it here. The Troupe is a perfect blend of horror, fantasy, science fiction and romance. It touches on so many genres it’s hard to pin down just exactly what this book really is.

The story starts off simple: young George Carole has a penetrating desire to find his father that he’s never known, a man who he believes is the leader of the Silenus Troupe, a troupe of vaudevillian travellers. To uncover the mystery of the man he suspects may or may not be his father, George joins the merry band of travellers and finds out there’s something more to the Troupe – and Silenus – than initially meets the eye.

Once you get into the novel, you start to realize it’s not about what you first thought it was. Then you start finding out just what’s really going on. There’s a couple of different things going on in this novel – a couple of layers if you will. First there’s the classic tale of a boy looking for his father and his own identity. And beyond the magical mystery adventure tale, there’s also a grand mythic theme too to the whole, with the Troupe being a symbol for the dying magic that was once but is now no more, and the search for the mystery behind the Troupe a strong metaphor for seeking something larger than life that we’ve once had but now lost. There’s some deep stuff going on here and if you read between the lines, you’ll find plenty of themes bubbling from beneath the surface waiting for you to explore them.
This is one of those books that keeps you turning the pages to find out just what the hell is going on. And when things click, they really click.
Engineer Trilogy (K.J. Parker) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Engineer Trilogy (K.J. Parker)

Tired of sword-and-sorcery epics and dark lords and farmboy heroes? If you are becoming jaded to all that stock formulaic epic fantasy out there, then this one will shock you out of your lethargy. These are very different sorts of books. Rather than a flat out epic save the king and the world story, these are more character-driven novels with a compelling world that’s intricately built up with some refreshing twists.

First off, this is low fantasy – there are no magic spells, pointy-haired elves, or anything like that. Just a feudal world with some machinery. What there is, however, is a deep story that intelligent and philosophically-minded readers will enjoy. There’s also a really compelling story that will keep the pages flying as well.

Parker’s world-building is top notch and the world created is something you’ve never seen before. She creates a society here where engineers are more highly regarded than anyone else – the sort of social elite. It may not make a lot of sense at first, but once you start to get into the workings of the story, it makes perfect sense. This is really the "thinking man's fantasy" and those who appreciate intelligent fantasy that's more about character and plot than action fast pacing, you'll find this series the perfect feast to sink your teeth into.
The Darkness That Comes Before (Prince of Nothing) (R. Scott Bakker) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Darkness That Comes Before (Prince of Nothing) (R. Scott Bakker)

In a world saturated by religious fanaticism, Maithanet, enigmatic spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples, declares a Holy War against the infidels. Ikurei Conphas, military genius and nephew to the Nansur Emperor, embarks on a war to conquer the known world in the name of his emperor...and himself. Drusas Achamian, spy and sorcerer of the mysterious northern sorceries, tormented by visions of the great apocalypse, seeks the promised one, the savior of mankind. Anasurimbor Kellhus, heir to the shattered northern kingdom, whose ruins now lay hidden in the deepest north, a place now desolate, home to only the No-Men. Gifted with extraordinary martial skills of hand and foot, and steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men--even great men--may be cast into ruin. For in the deep north, the hand of the forgotten No-God stirs once more, and his servants tread the lands of men...

Those looking for more of the "boy becomes wizard and defeats dark lord" books that litter the bargain bins of any bookstore, look elsewhere; The Darkness That Comes Before (and the two sequels) is fantasy for grownups. Gritty and cerebral to its core, The Darkness That Comes before is a new type of fantasy -- a philosophical meandering about existentialism. Oh, and it has enough action and bloodletting that even Rambo fans would appreciate. Combining the gritty realism of George R.R. Martin and epic scale of Steven Erikson, The Darkness That Comes Before will grip you harder than a vice. Rest assured that the two sequels, The Warrior King and The Thousandfold Thought maintain the excellent standard set by the first book. Scott Bakker has established himself as one of the genre's top fantasy authors.
There is a sequel trilogy in the works that follow twenty years after the events of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Two of the three books have been released and they both continue the high quality of the first trilogy.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

What would happen if you locked Tolkien, Dickens, and Jane Austen in a room? Why, Susanna Clarke's masterpiece Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell of course! Like the Victorian era the book is situated in, the story ambles along at a sedate pace. But what starts out as a jolly stroll down Oxford Street transforms into the darkly disturbing descent into the madness of two magicians.

Fabulously written, dark, fully of mystery and wonder, Susanna Clark's masterpiece deserves to be read by every fantasy fan. A complete reimagining of English history, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is the story of two English magicians in a world where magic exists only in the annals of English history. It starts slow, but keep reading--the tale soon envelopes you. This a different sort of read than the Robert Jordan type of fantasy, but it's a refreshing addition to the fantasy genre. You can't always eat the same meal every day right? Why not try something different? If you are in for something new that's very tasty, give Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a shot.

Note to readers: a lot of people complain how tedious the book is, how flowery the language is, how boring the plot is, etc. Here's what to expect: it may take you 3 months to get through the first half of the book and 3 days to finish the second half. It takes until the second half of the book for things to get going. Once the book gets going, it really gets going! So read the WHOLE book before you say it's boring!
Lord Foul's Bane (Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) (Stephen R. Donaldson) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Lord Foul's Bane (Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) (Stephen R. Donaldson)

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself. Yet he was tempted to believe, to fight for the Land, to be the reincarnation of its greatest hero....

Stephen R. Donaldson changed the face of fantasy in 1977 with the publishing of Lord Foul's Bane (book one in The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). It took the world by storm. Hailed as a masterpiece of fantasy literature, TC went on to sell over 6 million copies. And for good reason. Donaldson's magnum opus is regarded as one the most emotionally compelling fantasy works ever created. Covenant is through and through an antihero. From anti-hero to hero, from tragedy to victory, this is one man's quest to save The Land from Evil and in the process, find his own redemption. If you love fantasy, READ THESE BOOKS. Donaldson is one of the best characterization writers ever. Donaldson is not afraid to explore the darker side of humanity, however. If you're looking for a saccharine fairy tale that brings a feel-good smile to the table, look elsewhere. If you want a riveting, darkly realistic tale about a flawed man's quest for redemption, you won't do better than Thomas Covenant.

This is one of those you love or you utterly hate series -- there is very rarely any middle ground. If you don't want to read about a brooding anti-hero that takes a good while to grow on you, you might want to consider skipping this series. The major complaint people have is the protagonist himself; however, the point of the whole series is to watch the protagonist evolve from a selfish anti-hero into a genuine hero who commits acts of selfless sacrifice to save many over the course of the entire story.
American Gods (Neil Gaiman) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

Released shortly after his wife's death, Shadow finds himself adrift without ties. Things change when Wednesday, trickster and wise man who just may or may not be a god, convinces Shadow to be his driver and errand boy. They journey from place to place, across the rural landscapes of America, rounding up Egyptian deities, Norse gods, and a host of other entities in preparation for what will be the Last Battle -- a battle between the old gods who have found themselves in America over the past 10,000 years and the new gods of the digital age. Shadow finds himself drawn into a world where myth and legend coexist with today's realities.

American Gods is triumph of storytelling and a real look into the underlying, hidden assumptions of what it means to be American. A scary, somewhat strange hallucinogenic road trip, American Gods is quest to find the American identity. During the novel Gaiman captures the quintessential American truth: every person in America has roots from somewhere else.

A crossover fantasy, American Gods is also a literary triumph. It's also more than just an intelligent novel about a bunch of homeless gods, but rather a cerebral fantasy that's also a damn good tale. If you want some well-written, addictive fantasy that digs into the fabric of American society, American Gods delivers.
The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) (Jonathan Stroud) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) (Jonathan Stroud)

In a genre that’s collapsing under the weight of cloned Tolkien worlds, hackneyed plots, and stick-thin characters, it’s hard to find something new and interesting. That is until you read Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus, a clever and superbly witty take on the young adult fantasy genre.

While the books are geared towards Young Adults, don’t be fooled by this label – the book will appeal every bit as much to adults as it does to kids.

Bartimaeus is a much darker work of fiction than others in the genre. The protagonist, Nathaniel dwells in a world where magicians are the ruling class of society and who maintain power by harnessing the power of enslaved spirits (genes, imps, etc). Everyone (including the protagonist) is driven by the unquenched thirst for absolute power, wealth and revenge and will do anything and everything to achieve it.
The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn) (Tad Williams) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn) (Tad Williams)

Memory, Sorrow, Thorn is William's answer to Lord of the Rings. But his answer in not a clone, but a challenge. Get ready to explore a vivid world and journey to the far yonder. William's characterization is top notch; you follow the journey of young Simon from boy to man, from kitchen scullion to hero. The plot is thick and often crawls at a snail's pace, but the series is an undisguised jewel. A must for any fantasy aficionado! There is a reason why after so many years, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn remain near the top of many fantasy lovers' list. Read it to find out why!
Daughter of the Empire (Empire Trilogy) (Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

Daughter of the Empire (Empire Trilogy) (Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts)

This is a fantastic series with a cast of compelling and interesting characters. Recommended if you like fantasy with intricate politics. The setting is quite interesting – a sort of honor-bound feudal society that’s a fantasy version of Japan set on another world with exotic races and creatures. It’s a complete standalone set in the wider Riftwar Saga universe.
Some of the standard fantasy conventions such as Magic, Action, and World-Ending events are not part of this story; it’s more about one woman’s struggle to manipulate her way into power against all odds, navigating through the various pitfalls and traps set before her by her enemies and maybe at the same time, find love. If you want the epic fantasy tale set in the Midkemia world, along the lines of Jordan’s WOT, then you’ll have to read Feist’s Magican. This tale, however, does not concern itself with the destruction of the world by dark forces, but rather a personal character-driven tale.

While this is some strong “female fantasy” there are also some compelling male characters as well – so don’t let the female bent sway you from reading this if you are a man.
On the whole, this is the best of all the Midkemia books, vastly superior to every single one with only the original duology “Magician” coming anywhere close.

Feist has so many series, it's downright confusing where to start. He's been getting worse and worse as he writes, I'm sad to say.

So I'll make it simple for the average fantasy reader with a guide to what Feist is actually worth reading:

Read his Riftwar Saga (it's the best he's wrote).
Read his Empire Trilogy cowritten with Janny Wurts (it's the best he's going to ever write).
Read his Conclave of Shadows trilogy
All the rest of his books: skip
Ok, if you are really a fan of his Midkemia world, then read his Serpentwar, followed by his Conclave of Shadows, followed by his Darkwar, followed by his Demonwar saga, then followed by his newest series, Chaoswar. Whew, done.
The Dresden Files (The Dresden Files) (Jim Butcher) - 25 of the greatest Fantasy books ever written

The Dresden Files (The Dresden Files) (Jim Butcher)

The Dresden Files are Jim's first published series, telling the story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I.

Harry Dresden, a Sherlock with kick-ass attitude and wizard powers. This is some damn addictive detective fantasy. The series contains everything a fantasy book lover could want: magic, action, mystery, adventure, love, and sorrow. It also gets pretty damn dark by the later part of the series. Get ready to meet vampires, werewolves, wizards, fairies, and angles. Dresden is what Anita Blake should be.

I'm not usually a reader of urban fantasy, but Butcher has converted me with this stunning series.

Yea, yea, some of you will tell me that Dresden is only pulp fiction and shouldn't join the ranks of this august list. Pulp fiction or no, The Dresden Files are great reads. They may not be literary in the sense of a China Mieville novel, but heck, sometimes you don't WANT to think when you read. Pulp or not, Dresden represents another aspect of the fantasy genre: paranormal hardboiled noir fantasy.

The whole Butcher series is listed in chronological order, from left to right. Click the book image to see the details. Note, Welcome to the Jungle is a prequel novel. Butcher has also created an epic fantasy series called Codex Alera. I highly recommend you read it -- it's gotten rave reviews across the board, features a unique magic system, an interesting plot, a Romanesque fantasy setting, action galore, and a likable protagonist.

Sauce: http://bestfantasybooks.com/top25-fantasy-books.php#

Where to find some of these: http://imgur.com/gallery/ZNgmNku

Guys, I want to thank you for every upvote you gave me, I really appreciated it. I make these lists for you so you can read something new or ignite the flame of reading in your heart. Sorry that I don't answer your messages immediately, I live in Europe(Bosnia). The reason I haven't added Harry Potter or other great books is because I am making a part 2, and long lists bore you.Enjoy this as much as you can, and, as always, leave your oppinions in the comments.