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10 best fantasy books for adults to get into the genre and inspire your imagination – Destructoid

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It’s easy to think of the entire fantasy book genre being aimed at children, but that’s just not the case. There are hundreds of fantasy books and series aimed at adults and young adults that will free you from the shackles of grounded reads and help you dream beyond the rules of reality.

I always loved reading fantasy books growing up because they take you away from the mundanity of everyday life. I can’t say if the best ones blend real life with their fantasy concepts or not because I genuinely love them all and devoured any sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on as a kid. However, there are still plenty of fantasy books to dig into as an adult that you probably didn’t come across as a child and make for accessible reads to help you get into the genre.

The best fantasy books for adults

Below, I’ve listed what I think are the best fantasy books for adults who want to get into the genre or return to it after a long hiatus of living a busy day-to-day work life. I’ve tried to veer away from anything too niche but also include a few books that are the beginnings of a really engrossing series, just in case you’re hooked after the first page and know you need the next dozen novels.

10. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

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To me, if you’re looking to read the best fantasy books for adults, then you can’t go wrong with anything from J.R.R. Tolkien. Author of the incredible The Lord of the Rings series, he’s got a huge backlog of titles for you to delve into if you adore this universe. However, I’d recommend you begin with The Hobbit.

Unlike the movies, this story is fairly short and to the point but extremely gripping. Where the films drew out everything they could, the book is well-paced and follows the original Hobbit on his unexpected journey across Middle-Earth. During this journey, he encounters all manner of fantasy creatures, establishing the very foundations of everything we know about fantasy today.

Regardless of whether you’ve seen the movies or not, this is a fantastic starting point for a journey into fantasy. If you love it, you can continue on into The Lord of the Rings and far beyond. You could try the LEGO game if you want to experience the book through a new medium.

9. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) – George R.R. Martin

a game of thrones best fantaasy books for adults
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If The Hobbit didn’t exist, A Game of Thrones may be the most well-known fantasy book and TV series of all time. It all begins with this first book, where absolutely everything that could go wrong goes wrong. It’s the start of an epic saga that sees one family torn apart by greed, and a world that doesn’t know it’s about to fall to darkness come closer than is comfortable to complete annihilation.

The story follows the Stark family as they enter into the highest level of society and the fight for the Iron Throne that plays out behind the scenes. No one is safe, not even the king, and there’s a threat looming over the world that no one is prepared to even admit exists. Winter.

What I love about this first book in an entire series that could all be the best fantasy books for adults is how well it introduces every character, setting the tone for what’s to come. You get to know a colorful cast of genuinely interesting people who have all found themselves somewhere in the royal court that extends around the entire region where it’s set. There’s political drama on a global and local level and some of the best lines you’ll ever read.

Don’t go into this if you can’t take losing your favorite characters, though. This series as a whole is pretty brutal and will absolutely not hold your hand while you grieve. It delves into the darkest parts of the human heart in a world where power is everything, and you must do whatever you can to seek it.

8. The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) – Stephen King

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The Gunslinger is the first book in The Dark Tower series, all of which are great fantasy books for adults, but it can be read in isolation and enjoyed without needing to continue through the full set. It follows a lonely character who equates to a fantasy cowboy on a journey of vengeance to find one man. This man has been evading him for a long time and has the ability to twist the minds of those around him, but this cowboy is more than capable of looking after himself.

This book does a fantastic job of setting up the series and makes you fall in love with some really well-realized characters. Everyone the protagonist has a meaningful relationship with becomes a friend to you as the reader, and you end up missing them when the story moves on.

If you like a bit of dark fantasy but not too dark, this is the perfect book for you. It doesn’t require you to read all about tentacled monsters and flying whales, but it does invite you into a desolate world that’s intrinsically linked to ours and tells a tale of reluctant fatherhood that will have you rooting for everyone involved as they trudge ever onward.

7. Neverwhere (London Below #1) – Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller, and Neverwhere is one of his most underappreciated books. I first discovered it as an audio drama created by the BBC, which is a great way to consume this fantasy book for adults, and was hooked on London Below from that point. the universe feels similar to Fallen London but takes a much more literal approach to its translation of the surface world.

The story follows a young man who innocently helps a young girl one night, only to be transported from Earth into London Below. This underground version of the city twists it in whimsically dark ways that make it feel oppressive at first but also somehow welcoming and charming after a while.

It’s a fantastic read and a great way to get into the universe. I’d say it’s probably better if you have at least some level of knowledge of the city of London because some of the characters and locations and their twists might be lost on you without any.

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) – Dianna Gabaldon

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You might know Outlander from the impeccable Amazon Prime show. If not, you’re in for a treat once you’ve read this amazing fantasy book for adults. While the series is close to historical fiction, it’s all framed through a fantasy tale of a woman falling through time without any real knowledge of how she did it. She must find a way to exist in a time when women hold no power and any woman with an ounce of intelligence is treated as a witch.

I adore the setting for this book and the rest of the series: Scotland in the 1700s. It takes a beautiful country and transports you to a time when it was as lush and green with a reasonable amount of civilization as it has ever been—before the English came in and ruined it all.

Through this book and the series at large, you’ll learn so much about the history of England and Scotland, but it’s the love story between Jamie and Claire that will stick with you. Fair warning: pretty much every book has a few adult scenes, so if that’s not the kind of thing you’re after, maybe skip this one.

5. Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovich

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Rivers of London is the first book in a fabulous fantasy series that’s intrinsically English and explores folklore in a way I guarantee you’ve not experienced before. The first book here follows a police officer who, standing guard at a crime scene all night, notices what appears to be a ghost dog. This leads him into a world filled with mystical wonder and starts him on a path you don’t expect when you join the force.

What I really enjoy about this book and the series at large is how it blends folklore into modern life without it ever feeling jarring. If you enjoy this entry, there’s so much more for you to dig your teeth into. It’s also quite a fresh series in terms of when it was published, so it’s got loads of modern tropes that will help you really get lost in it.

This series can really bridge the gap between standard fiction and the best fantasy books for adults out there. Author Ben Aaronovich has worked on a number of popular TV shows and is brilliant at bringing stories to the table that are self-contained but add to a wider story arc without making you feel like you’ve missed something.

4. The Drowning City (The Necromancer Chronicles #1) – Amanda Downum

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The Drowning City is a fantasy book I picked up in a second-hand bookshop because I liked the blurb and cover. It’s hard to tell what the story is from either, and that’s partly because it’s completely bonkers. It’s set in a rich fantasy world that’s thick with lore from centuries of history. Every event is fueled by something that happened in the past, and it makes the whole thing feel like you’re exploring a culture more than reading a book.

What makes The Drowning City one of the best fantasy books for adults is how dark some of its subject matter is. Each location is so vivid that I felt like I was walking down their streets or getting pulled into the canals by their ghosts. the

I really can’t tell you much about this story without needing to add context that will spoil the plot. What I can say is that you enter the titular location as a newcomer alongside the protagonist and learn all about the magic and politics of the local region as she does. It’s so much fun to explore and is part of a trilogy that you could go on to read if you like a bit of dirty fantasy.

3. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

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Before the TV adaptation was created, I wouldn’t have included The Golden Compass in this list of the best fantasy books for adults. However, I believe that the show opened a lot of people’s eyes to how dark the world that Philip Pullman created really is.

In this book, you enter into a world where human souls stand by their side as creatures that can change shape until they hit puberty when they settle into one form. What starts out as a tale of children disappearing quickly morphs into one that spans entire dimensions, leading to a war between worlds that’s worthy of Magic: The Gathering.

The best part of this book, in particular, is its characters. Each one is beautifully flawed and feels like a firm friend you’ll never forget. The book brings them all to life from mere words on a page, and I think any book that can do that is worth your time, regardless of your age.

2. Carve the Mark – Veronica Roth

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You might know Veronica Roth’s much more popular work, the Divergent trilogy. This follow-up is smaller in size but much broader in scope. It’s set in a star system where the people of each planet have different roles within the stellar society and explores what happens when one society seeks to overthrow and take control of another.

This series only consists of two entries, but they’re gripping and explore the fantastical side of sci-fi that sees humanity intertwined with elements of the universe in a way I’ve never seen explored before or since. That’s why they’re some of the best fantasy books for adults you could hope to read.

At the heart of the plot is a love story that’s probably one of the easiest to understand and identify with, how your weaknesses and strengths can complement someone else’s. It’s beautiful in its own way, a small time investment, and a couple of books you won’t regret picking up.

1. 14 (Threshold #1) – Peter Clines

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I went into 14 expecting to be reading something along the lines of Silent Hill 4: The Room, but I was so, so wrong. While it treads the line between sci-fi and fantasy, I think it fits more into the fantasy genre because it’s more of a mystery book about an apartment building and a group of people who all take the oddities they notice about it as a given, and don’t ask questions. That is until one of them starts poking around and makes a startling discovery.

This book is part of a series that’s connected, but you don’t need to read in order. That’s why I love it. If you enjoy a good mystery thriller with twists that are so out of this world you’ll never see them coming, this is a fantastic book to pick up first.

The fantasy elements lean quite heavily on the work of H.P. Lovecraft. So, if you’d rather avoid the tentacled region of fantasy, give this a miss. I will say that it does a great job of not being anywhere near as vague as some of those old horror novels and won’t scare you so much as it will get your adrenaline going. Especially in the final chapters.


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