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Excellent Fantasy

Ben "Ben"
The list author says: "Most of these are contemporary fantasy, written in the last decade. There seems to me two kinds of recent trends in contemporary epic fantasy (ie, post-Robert Jordan): slow, world-building, and colossal (Martin, Bakker, Erikson), and fast-paced and action-oriented (Lynch, Morgan, Abercrombie). Some try to straddle the middle, to less effect (Sanderson).

Others don't fit into those categories at all but I wanted to recommend them anyway (Mieville, Clarke).

I've also included what I think are among the best older fantasists - Donaldson, MAR Barker, Moorcock, Guy Gavriel Kay.

Comments applied at random, and presence, absence, or length of comments do not imply any kind of ordering of this list."
The Man of Gold
The Man of Gold
"Rich, complex, unexpected and very under-appreciated. If Barker had continued to produce work like this he would have been unforgettable."
The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, Book 1)
The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, Book 1)
"Dark and complicated, with a compelling anti-hero and a rich world.  Well-written. One of the great post-Jordan epics."
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards)
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards)
"Excellent and unpredictable. I didn't enjoy the sequel as much, but the first one is a must-have."
Perdido Street Station
Perdido Street Station
"One of a kind.  Bladerunner meets Stephen King's It."
Daughter of the Empire: An Epic Saga of the World on the Other Side of the Riftwar (Riftwar Cycle: The Empire Trilogy)
Daughter of the Empire: An Epic Saga of the World on the Other Side of the Riftwar (Riftwar Cycle: The Empire Trilogy)
"The outstanding Empire trilogy by Feist and Wurts, heavily inspired by James Clavell's Shogun, is far superior to Feist's Magician series (which starts out relatively strong but rapidly degenerates; the latest have become bonfire-fodder)."
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
"No qualifier needed, I'm sure.  Best of the best."
The Steel Remains
The Steel Remains
"Excellent, and not just for the gay sex scenes!  Though not quite as good as his Takeshi Kovacs books, this is not just a parody of fantasy cliches but a well-written contribution to the genre."
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
"Yet another of the new great post-Jordan epic fantasies.  Only two have been written but if he keeps it up this series can easily be on par with Martin and Erikson."
The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)
The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)
"Sequel to Name of the Wind and nearly as good."
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
"The wannabe hipsters who worship George R. R. Martin but are contemptuous of Robert Jordan are doing nothing but pretending.  This series is the pivotal world-building epic fantasy. There's a reason why epic fantasy is so often divided into pre- and post-Jordan: he was transformative. Fantasy has moved on, of course, so read Martin/Bakker/Erikson before you read Jordan."
Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
"As good as Martin, but so many characters that you shouldn't get attached to any one in particular, since entire books could go by without them showing up."
Tigana: Anniversary Edition
Tigana: Anniversary Edition
"Maybe the best stand-alone epic fantasy. Ground-breaking."
Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1)
Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1)
"Excellent, if slightly purple prose in comparison to recent series, as is characteristic of pre-Jordan fantasy thanks to Tolkein.  I can't stand all the songs and poems (Tad Williams has that problem too, unfortunately) so I recommend just skipping them, it doesn't affect the story, which is superb."
American Gods
American Gods
"Fabulous of course. I recommend everything Gaiman, but this is probably his best work outside of Sandman. This is more modern magical realism than a 'fantasy' but I wanted to include one Gaiman."
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
"Possibly my desert-island book, this stand-alone is incredibly rich.  Jane Austin with magic."
Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, Book 1)
Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, Book 1)
"Book one starts off shaky but becomes excellent...book two, not so much.  I couldn't get through the sequel but others might like it. As a stand-alone it's well worth it."
Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, Book 1)
Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, Book 1)
"I enjoyed this a lot; the first one is a typical farm-boy-saves-the-world but the series gets better and more complex.  His Dresden Files are worth reading also."
The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 1)
The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 1)
"Great series in the Robert Jordan farm-boy-saves-the-world vein."
The Warded Man: Book One of The Demon Cycle
The Warded Man: Book One of The Demon Cycle
"Fast-paced and action-oriented. Interesting post-apocalyptic premise. Not on par with Lynch, Morgan, or Abercrombie, but still recommended."
The Briar King (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1)
The Briar King (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1)
"Very well-written, though not as imaginative as some of the other post-Jordans."
Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy #1
Black Sun Rising: The Coldfire Trilogy #1
"An older series with the characteristic purple prose and heavy telling of the pre-Jordans, but with an imagination like you won't believe. Highly recommended."
Lamentation (Psalms of Isaak, Book 1)
Lamentation (Psalms of Isaak, Book 1)
The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
"Fabulous characterization and very well-written. It's a more traditional plot than Brett (wizards, warriors, and an epic journey to save the world), but Abercrombie's comparative strength is his brilliant characters."
The Lions of al-Rassan
The Lions of al-Rassan
"author of Tigana, need I say more?"
Ysabel
Ysabel
"another great by GGK."
Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch: Volume I
Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch: Volume I
"not as good as MST or his excellent scifi series Otherlands but still worth reading."
Abhorsen (Old Kingdom)
Abhorsen (Old Kingdom)
"Excellent teen fantasy, among the best of the genre (which of course is just as good for adults!)."
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book No. 1)
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book No. 1)
"I wasn't as blown away by this as others were, but I still highly recommend the first one. It should have ended there, but if you like the characters read the second. I wouldn't bother with Book 3 unless you just have to know what happens. Sanderson's not on the same level as Bakker, Erikson, or GRRM, but is still worth reading."
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Dark Lord of Derkholm
"I love DWJ!  This one and Year of the Griffin give a taste of her humor and quirky genre-breaking.  Also counts as teen, she and Garth Nix and JKR are among the best of the teen/YA-friendly fantasy writers."
Elric Of Melnibone: Book One of the Elric Saga
Elric Of Melnibone: Book One of the Elric Saga
"Unusual and epic. Ornate language with lots of telling, but I can't quite call this purple prose, since Moorcock makes it work. One of the best pre-Jordans."
The Magicians: A Novel, 1st Edition
The Magicians: A Novel, 1st Edition
"Narnia and Harry Potter meet Cruel Intentions. Quite good, and with an excellent frame tale -- a postmodern retelling of the Chronicles of Narnia that I've never seen done in quite the same way."
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun'
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)
The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Chathrand Voyage)
The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Chathrand Voyage)
Winterbirth (The Godless World)
Winterbirth (The Godless World)
A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)
A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)
"Must read."
The Way of Shadows: The Night Angel Trilogy: Book 1
The Way of Shadows: The Night Angel Trilogy: Book 1
"Excellent, well-written. Of the fast-paced variety, on par with Lynch/Brett."
The Etched City
The Etched City