The internet is full of top ten lists, ranging from the illuminating and insightful to the amusing to the down-right dubious, but here is one we thought you’d like. Without categorizing (or vouching for) it, here is the list that goodreads.com posted listing the top 10 books of the last decade as voted on by their members in honor of their tenth anniversary. It’s even divided into genres for your convenience.
by Marie, August 30, 2017, first appearing on Goodreads Blog
But don’t fret! History is teeming with royal drama of every kind, from the mad to the Machiavellian to the morally gray. George R.R. Martin himself drew plenty of inspiration from real-life nobles for his world-renowned fantasy series. Consider The Accursed Kings, a history on the House of Capet, which Martin once called, “The original Game of Thrones.”
Click here for a whole list of monarchies and books that have enough complexity to fuel their own television show (in fact, many of them already have). There’s the Plantagenets, the Tudors, the Romanovs…the list of dynasties who took power by force or fortune goes on and on.
Welcome to the house that Tolkien built. Epic Fantasy (also known as High Fantasy) is the quintessential fantasy sub-genre, the fount from which all other fantasy sub-genres have flowed, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s elves and orcs and rings (oh my) utterly dominate the field. There are, of course, stand-outs and outliers, stories that forge news paths in an old sub-genre, but even when a tale isn’t filled with staff wielding wizards and subterranean, master-craftsmen called dwarfs anything called epic fantasy still contains a few essential elements that were originally established when Tolkien first fleshed out Middle-earth on paper.
Epic fantasies create entire worlds, with long and complex histories and vivid cultures and lifestyles. How complex and vivid? Tolkien actually created (or adapted) a historic timeline leading back to the creation of the world, myths, legends, deities, several races of creatures (many of which have become staples of the fantasy genre), multiple kingdoms, and an entire language for the fictional inhabitants of his world! If you look hard enough in the right places I bet it wouldn’t take too much effort to find someone that speaks at least passing Elvish. They are not all that in depth, but that is the kind of detail you are potentially looking at when you jump into an epic fantasy.
In case that isn’t enough to wrap your head around, epic fantasy also almost always has a large cast of characters taking part in quests and adventures that will affect the fate of an entire kingdom or world. Possibly multiple worlds.
So, it is a complex workout for your imagination and memory. What else?
It’s big. Aside from its often immense geographic scope, as it is not unusual for the cast of characters to have to trek across continents and cross oceans in the pursuit of their goal, these stories can also cover large spans of time, with years, decades or even generations passing by in the course of the story (or series of stories). They are also big in another way – these are not typically short books. Once you get sucked into an epic fantasy series you are in it for the long haul.
The Belgariad series by David Eddings
The Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy by Elizabeth Moon
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
The Original Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
Whether it is set on Earth (past, present or future), in a parallel world or universe, or a mystic realm where the familiar laws of nature do not apply, Fantasy allows imagination to run wild. True to this idea, Fantasy’s many subgenres can vary from one another a great deal, encompassing just about anything one could imagine, which helps to explain the genre’s ever-growing breadth and depth.
The Court Intrigue subgenre of Fantasy generally focuses on and around royalty and the ruling elite. Settings can be anything from a well known historical backdrop (but with magic or something) to some unrecognizable alternate world but we are almost always going to be dealing with the upper crust of society and their despicable plotting and scheming. The plots of these stories are often complex and heavily entangled with politics, power grabs, espionage, assassinations (successful and attempted), court scandal and everything else that you would expect from a political thriller, but normally set in feudal, medieval-esque surroundings with sorcerers and dragons about.
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner