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Adventure List

27 Best Fantasy Adventure Books

 

Art by Dave Rapoza. Check out his Instagram (I follow him) and Patreon.

Sometimes, at the end of a long day (or even a short one), I want to be thrown into the middle of a bunch of exploding weirdness and not have to think too hard. Or, if a book is going to make me think when I’m tired, it had better be sneaky about it, and do it while I’m having a lot of fun.

 

27
Markswoman
by Rati Mehrotra – 2018
Book 1 of 2 in the Asiana series

Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, one of a handful of sisterhoods of highly trained elite warriors. Armed with blades whose metal is imbued with magic and guided by a strict code of conduct, the Orders are sworn to keep the peace and protect the people of Asiana. Kyra has pledged to do so—yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her murdered family.

When Tamsyn, the powerful and dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. She is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof.

Kyra escapes through one of the strange Transport Hubs that are the remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past and finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of a desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a disillusioned Marksman whose skill with a blade is unmatched. He understands the desperation of Kyra’s quest to prove Tamsyn’s guilt, and as the two grow closer, training daily on the windswept dunes of Khur, both begin to question their commitment to their Orders. But what they don’t yet realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is thin… as thin as the blade of a knife.

“Well-developed characters and intriguing worldbuilding…will keep readers engrossed in this fast-paced, enchanting post-apocalyptic fantasy debut.”
—Library Journal, starred review

26
The Devourers
by Indra Das – 2015

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

“A chilling, gorgeous saga that spans several centuries and many lands… The all-too-human characters—including the nonhuman ones—and the dreamlike, recursive plot serve to entrance the reader.”
—The New York Times Book Review

25
Malice
by John Gwynne – 2012
Book 1 of 4 in The Faithful and the Fallen series

Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin’s rule—to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood.

Evnis has sacrificed, but what he wants—the power to rule—will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path.

Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother.

Nathair has ideas and a lot of plans. Many of them don’t involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father’s idea to summon his fellow kings to council.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Now, the stones weep red and giant wyrms stir, and those who can still read the signs see a danger far worse than all that has come before…

“Middle Earth-ish extravaganza with all the usual thrills, chills, spills and frills… there’s plenty of action.”
―Kirkus

24
Dragonflight
by Anne McCaffrey – 1968
Book 1 of 21 in the Pern series

On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack from a myth that is all too real. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen—a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat to Pern reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly… and Pern will be changed forever.

“Read Dragonflight and you’re confronted with McCaffrey the storyteller in her prime, staking a claim for being one of the influential fantasy and SF novelists of her generation—and doing it, remarkably, in the same novel.”
—SFX

23
Tigana
by Guy Gavriel Kay – 1990

Tigana is the story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered.

But years after the devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name: Tigana.

“[B]rilliant and complex portrayal of good and evil, high and low.”
—Publishers Weekly

22
The Red Knight
by Miles Cameron – 2012
The Traitor Son Cycle

Twenty-eight florins a month is a huge price to pay for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

Twenty-eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men—or worse, a company of mercenaries—against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he’s determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abbey is rich, the nuns are pretty, and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with.

“Literate, intelligent and well-thought-out…a pleasingly complex and greatly satisfying novel.”
―SFF World

21
The Dragonbone Chair
by Tad Williams – 1988
Book 1 of 3 in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard, as Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard.

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

“A grand fantasy on a scale approaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.”
—Cincinnati Post

20
Gray Hawk of Terrapin
by Moss Whelan – 2018

Ever since her father’s death, Mool has been talking with an imaginary green lion named Inberl.

When Mool’s mysterious uncle gets sick, she and her mother take a train from Vancouver, Canada to the inner world of Terrapin, where Inberl is unexpectedly arrested. Mool’s know-it-all cousin, Olga, helps track down family friend Parshmander who might know how to save Inberl.

They corner Parshmander at home, where they overhear mention of Gray Hawk, but the girls are captured and interrogated. Upon release, Mool discovers a secret map, finds a hidden bridge and crosses it with Olga. On the other side of the bridge, she and Olga find a secret city that keeps Terrapin at war.

Gray Hawk of Terrapin is a backhand in the mouth parading as the smartest, sharpest fantasy you’ll read… twisting the true-life horrors inflicted on a family and beast in the name of justice and selling us cheap trinkets into a wrenching story of friendship, loss, and terrible revenge.”
—Book Review Concierge

19
Nyx
by D. M. Livingston – 2013

Nyx, a sarcastic, mildly homicidal fairy, is hurled into Hell, but instead of damned souls and devils, she finds only a group of confused, young human witches.

It’s hate at first sight.

But Nyx and the witches, whose magical skills are not quite polished, must work together to survive the ravages of Hell, and then the demon-infested nightmare Earth has become.

The motley crew searches for the Keys of Iron, Flame, and Sorrow, which will (hopefully) close the Gates of Hell. However, the dark queen Morda, who opened the Gates by tricking Lucifer himself, takes a special interest in obliterating the bickering group.

That is, if they don’t obliterate each other first…

“Yes, I gave Nyx 5 stars & I don’t run around, Willy Nilly givin’ out 5 stars.”
—An Amazon reviewer

18
Ship of Magic
by Robin Hobb – 1998
Book 1 of 3 in the Liveship Traders Trilogy

Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.

For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles by capturing a liveship and bending it to his will.

“A truly extraordinary saga… The characterizations are consistently superb, and [Hobb] animates everything with love for and knowledge of the sea.”
—Booklist

17
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
by N. K. Jemisin – 2010
Book 1 of 3 in The Inheritance Trilogy

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. When her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

“Multifaceted characters struggle with their individual burdens and desires, creating a complex, edge-of-your-seat story with plenty of funny, scary, and bittersweet twists.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

16
Prince of Thorns
by Mark Lawrence – 2011
Book 1 of 3 in The Broken Empire series

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung, pinned on the thorns of a briar patch, and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

“[A] morbidly gripping, gritty fantasy tale.”
—Publishers Weekly

15
The Blade Itself
by Joe Abercrombie – 2006
Book 1 of 3 in The First Law series

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 Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

“There is a gritty edge to his world and an awareness of the human cost of violence that is very contemporary.”
―The Times

14
Pawn of Prophecy
by David Eddings – 1982
Book 1 of 5 in the Belgariad series

I discovered this book when I was in middle school and went absolutely nuts over it.

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But that was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the dark man without a shadow had haunted him for years. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved—but did not know?

For a while, his dreams of innocence were safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while . . .

13
Peter Pan
by J. M. Barrie – 1904

Sure, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are great, but it’s the enmity of the pirate Captain Hook that makes this story exciting.

12
Redwall
by Brian Jacques – 1986
Book 1 of 22 in the Redwall series

In this graphic novel, what can the peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey do to defend themselves against Cluny the Scourge and his battle-seasoned army of rats? If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior, they might have a chance. But the legendary weapon has long been forgotten—except, that is, by the bumbling young apprentice Matthias, who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. Teeming with riddles, humor, unforgettable characters, and high-bounding adventure, the original Redwall is the launching point for a series that has captured the world’s attention.

“A grand adventure story. Once the reader is hooked, there is no peace until the final page.”
—Chicago Sun-Times

11
The Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman – 1995
Book 1 of 3 in the His Dark Materials series

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other…

“Superb… all-stops-out thrilling.”
—The Washington Post

10
Watership Down
by Richard Adams – 1972

Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time.

Set in the Hampshire Downs in Southern England, an idyllic rural landscape, this tale follows a band of rabbits in flight from the incursion of man and the destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they travel forth from their native Sandleford warren through harrowing trials to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

I’ve always loved this book, and especially liked the depth of the rabbit’s mythology and language.

“A marvelous story of rebellion, exile, and survival.”
—Sunday Telegraph

9
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift – 1726

Regarded as the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) intended this masterpiece, as he once wrote Alexander Pope, to “vex the world rather than divert it.” Savagely ironic, it portrays man as foolish at best, and at worst, not much more than an ape.

The direct and unadorned narrative describes four remarkable journeys of ship’s surgeon Lemuel Gulliver, among them, one to the land of Lilliput, where six-inch-high inhabitants bicker over trivialities; and another to Brobdingnag, a land where giants reduce man to insignificance.

Written with disarming simplicity and careful attention to detail, this classic is diverse in its appeal: for children, it remains an enchanting fantasy. For adults, it is a witty parody of political life in Swift’s time and a scathing send-up of manners and morals in 18th-century England.

8
Sabriel
by Garth Nix – 1995
Book 1 of 6 in the Old Kingdom series
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

“Rich, complex, involving, hard to put down, this… is excellent high fantasy.”
—Publishers Weekly

7
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis – 1950
Book 1 of 7 in the Chronicles of Narnia

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

A perennial favorite, this is a wonderful series of books that gets bogged down by heavy-handed Christian allegory near the end.

6
Stardust
by Neil Gaiman – 1997

In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he’ll retrieve the star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

“Strange… marvelous… Stardust takes us back to a time when the world was more magical, and, real or not, that world is a charming place.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer

5
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling – 1997
Book 1 of 7 in the Harry Potter series

I suspect you already know all about this one.

4
Jingo
by Terry Pratchett – 1997
Book 21 of 45 in the Discworld series

It isn’t much of an island that rises up one moonless night from the depths of the Circle Sea—just a few square miles of silt and some old ruins.

Unfortunately, the historically disputed lump of land called Leshp is once again floating directly between Ankh-Morpork and the city of Al-Khali on the coast of Klatch—which is spark enough to ignite that glorious international pastime called “war.”

Pressed into patriotic service, Commander Sam Vimes thinks he should be leading his loyal watchmen, female watchdwarf, and lady werewolf into battle against local malefactors rather than against uncomfortably well-armed strangers in the Klatchian desert.

But war is, after all, simply the greatest of all crimes—and it’s Sir Samuel’s sworn duty to seek out criminal masterminds wherever they may be hiding… and lock them away before they can do any real damage. Even the ones on his own side.

“Pratchett’s writing is a constant delight. No one mixes the fantastical and the mundane to better comic effect or offers sharper insights into the absurdities of human endeavour.”
—Daily Mail

3
The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss – 2007
Book 1 of 2 in the Kingkiller Chronicle series

This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

“This breathtakingly epic story is heartrending in its intimacy and masterful in its narrative essence.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

2
A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin – 1996
Book 1 of 5 in the A Song of Fire and Ice series

Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There, Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow.

Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season. Yet a more immediate threat lurks to the south, where Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, has died under mysterious circumstances. Now Robert is riding north to Winterfell, bringing his queen, the lovely but cold Cersei, his son, the cruel, vainglorious Prince Joffrey, and the queen’s brothers Jaime and Tyrion of the powerful and wealthy House Lannister—the first a swordsman without equal, the second a dwarf whose stunted stature belies a brilliant mind.

All are heading for Winterfell and a fateful encounter that will change the course of kingdoms. Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Prince Viserys, heir of the fallen House Targaryen, which once ruled all of Westeros, schemes to reclaim the throne with an army of barbarian Dothraki—whose loyalty he will purchase in the only coin left to him: his beautiful yet innocent sister, Daenerys.

“Martin makes a triumphant return to high fantasy . . . [with] superbly developed characters, accomplished prose, and sheer bloodymindedness.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

1
The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien – 1954

Of course.

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