In the past we’ve had great fun discussing some of our favorite fairy tale retellings, so I thought in celebration of my Fairy Tale Enchantress series–which essentially pulls my entire fairy tale world together, we could list some of the best fantasy worlds we’ve read! The following books vary in terms of violence and romance, but the reviews should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Important note, in the interest of keeping my “Best of” booklists varied, I’m going to try to not include the same authors/books over and over, so if I haven’t included a particularly famous book, chances are its because I’m planning to include it in another booklist, but please feel free to call out your favorites in the comment section! But for now, we’re covering the kings of fantasy world building.
Middle Earth: By J R R Tolkien
Of course, we start with the strongest, Middle Earth! Tolkien breathed life into his world, not only giving it individual races but complex languages, different cultures, and eons and eons of history. Middle Earth continues to inspire the entertainment industry today, and has forever changed the fantasy genre. If you’re looking for sprawling landscapes and endless adventures, this is your world.
Narnia: By C. S. Lewis
It’s difficult to describe what makes Narnia so special. I think it’s because it perfectly captures the wonder of childhood with its talking animals, deep magic, and–of course–Aslan. Narnia is the fairy-tale world every child wants to live in. It has everything from adventure on the high seas to horse stories, fauns, and more. If you’re looking for a story of comfort and brightness, Narnia is yours for the taking.
Hogwarts: J. K. Rowling
No fantasy world list could be complete without a nod to J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world, but I specifically chose Hogwarts because to me that’s where much of the magic and incredible settings occur. But really, Rowling creates a spellbinding world with extraordinary attention to detail–from food and drinks to stores and cafes and beyond! If you want to laugh at the shenanigans of magic and get lost in a world, Hogwarts is the one for you.
Innkeeper World: Iona Andrews
The Innkeeper world is a perfect blend of fantasy, paranormal, and a dash of sci fi. It possesses all the fun and fantastical elements of Hogwarts, with the vast universe of magic like Middle Earth, with a dash of Men In Black thrown in. The books in this series are fun, fast paced, and have all kinds of amazing plot twists, plus it has some of the most unique world lore/magic mash up I have ever seen. (Let’s just say werewolves and vampires are real…but they don’t usually live on earth.) The basic premise of the series is this: Innkeepers (as our heroine is) are responsible for running safehouses where magical, alien races can stay at, or meet in to discuss political talks, on neutral territory. If you want to see the modern day world through new eyes, or perhaps a more adult version of Rowling’s wizarding world, I cannot recommend the Innkeeper Chronicles enough to you!
Aileen Travers: by TA White
If paranormal/urban fantasy is more your speed, than the Aileen Tavers series is all for you! Filled with all kinds of fantastical creatures and races, the Aileen Tavers series is essentially our world with the secret of vampires, fairies, pixies, and more hidden in the shadows. In this series TA White spins some of the most incredible plotlines using different kinds of magic and races, and she puts everything in a whole new spin. (The vampire politics in this series are honestly probably the most refreshing and unique I’ve seen in ages.) Aileen is the title character who was (unwillingly) turned into a vampire. The vampire who did so dropped her and ran, abandoning her to a new life in the fantastical world she previously didn’t know existed. The series has humor, amazing world building, and is loads of fun!
The Five Hundred Kingdoms: By Mercedes Lackey
In the Tales of Five Hundred Kingdoms, Lackey takes common fairy tales stories and tropes, weaves them together, and then turns them on their head. The books are stand alone, but filled with hilarious and witty banter, lots of twists, and original takes on fairy tale elements. In the first book we meet Cinderella–whom tradition dictates would normally go to a ball and wed a prince. There’s just one problem, the prince of her country is a child. So instead she becomes a Fairy Godmother, and watches/protects multiple countries. If you love fairy tales and laughter, this is a series you need to dive into!
Of course there are dozens more series that I would love to include on the list, so I’m going to add in a few honorable mentions here, and what better way to start the honorable mentions than with a self-promo plug? (Ahaha thank goodness this is my own website, or this might be awkward.)
Other honorable mentions:
- Fairy Tale Enchantress by K. M. Shea
- Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
- the Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore
- Damar, which appears in two of Robin McKinley’s works
- Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy,
- Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede
What series do you think have the best fantasy world building in them? List them in the comments down below, and share this post with a friend! (Because who doesn’t need more book recommendations??)