You used to love reading books like the Hobbit, or the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Dark Elf trilogy, but then you grew up and lost touch with the fantasy genre. (That is what happened to me, anyways.)
But there are now fantasy books for adults, because there were plenty of other children who read the same books as you did, and they went on to create fantasy novels that grapple with the complexities of the world we all grew up to inhabit.
These works are no longer simply for children, and modern fantasy books have taken an interesting literary and brooding turn. Without a doubt, or, rather, with great doubt, these new fantasy books are winning adult readers by droves because of the intellectual risks they take, their earnest and lapidary prose, and the entertaining and imaginative worlds they whisk their audience away to.
Readers of contemporary fantasy seem to hail from two backgrounds: you either saw the Game of Thrones on TV, or you read Harry Potter. Or both.
Or neither of these, but you have a friend who has seen the Game of Thrones, read all the works of George R. R. Martin, and of course read Harry Potter with you when you were growing up. Unlike you, they kept reading within the genre as they grew up, and you are continually hearing them rave about the latest fantasy novel they are engrossed in.
Their eulogizing has piqued your curiosity because deep down, you want to reignite the imaginative journeys the books of your childhood used to take you on. But you want your next book to be a little more updated with the concerns of your modern self.
If you are returning to the fantasy genre, or are just now learning about it, you are in for a real treat: we are in the Golden Age of Fantasy Literature, and almost all of the texts being authored are in some way or another created for adults.
Which Fantasy Books for Adults Should You Read?
So, if you grew up reading fantasy books like the Lord of the Ring, the Hobbit, and the tales of Drizzt Do’Urden, what should you look to start reading?
Well, what do you want from your next book?
- Moral ambiguity?
- Magic Schools and Magic Universities?
- Urban settings?
- Strong Female Characters?
- Diseased and Sickly Main Characters?
Fantasy books for adults have all of these elements in almost any selection. If you want ruminations akin to ponderous literary volumes, you might enjoy books like the Name of the Wind, or the Magicians by Lev Grossman.
If you want a novel full of backstabbing, quick witted rakes, you might begin reading the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
If you want anti-heroes and bloody battles, you should try reading dark fantasy books, and consider starting with either Glen Cook’s Black Company or Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and the Last Argument of Kings. Additionally, if you are looking for strong female characters, I’d would be an injustice if I didn’t mention Best Served Cold, also composed by Abercrombie.
The Black Company follows a band of mercenaries as they leave their former employer amidst a riot in a filthy, sweaty city. George R. R. Martin has noted that these dark, gritty books were an influence on his own texts.
This fantasy series for adults is composed of three books:
- The Black Company
- Shadows Linger
- The White Rose
Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy centers around a senescent mage, an abused, ferocious slave-girl focused on revenge, a spoiled prince forced to waste time as a soldier, a dashing knight reduced to a crippled torturer, and a barbarian named Logen Ninefingers.
For an incredible blend of dark philosophy and literature, be sure to delve into the work of R. Scott Bakker. His Prince of Nothing series are perhaps some of the best fantasy books for adults currently available.
There used to be a stigma surrounding the fantasy genre: that it wasn’t serious enough for adults to bother reading it. However, I think if you read any of the books above, you will realize how incredible fantasy books for adults are, and that now is the best time to be reading them.
Start Reading Fantastic Literature Again
If you are looking for a book which has assassins, magic, and complexly fashioned anti-heroes, you might consider reading a free chapter from my epic fantasy novels, which are certainly dark, literary, and composed for adult readers.