There are a lot of massive epic fantasy series out there. And many of them are simply great. They introduce us to complex and rich new worlds. And the experience we have with them can itself last for years because each series has multiple novels and some are still being added to. Here are the top five and not in any particular order.
The Shannara series by Terry Brooks – There are currently twenty books in the Shannara series and they are roughly broken down into trilogies. It all began in 1977 with the release of the first book The Sword of Shannara. This series of books is often heralded as the rightful heir to the Lord of the Rings. I have to agree 🙂 I read the first book when it came out and fell in love with the series. The books all take place in Shannara but cover a lot of time and a lot of different characters. If you are considering an adventure into Shannara you should start with the first book of the first trilogy The Sword of Shannara. The second book is The Elfstones of Shannara which is currently being made into a major motion picture. The third book of the trilogy is The Wishsong of Shannara.
The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – This is a series of books that currently number eleven. The twelfth and final book is scheduled to be out in the Fall of 2009 and Robert Jordan passed away while working on it but he had done extensive interviews and work with Brandon Sanderson who will complete it for him. It’s a wonderful series of books and is extremely large! The page count of each book goes anywhere from 700 to 1100 pages. I personally devoured the first five books in the series one right after the other. After reading the first I ordered the second and so on right through the first five. Well written and very complex. Nice stuff but does get some criticism for tending to keep you hanging all the time (and for its massive page count). I would say this series is a bit more serious than the Shannara series. The First book is The Wheel of Time and the Second Book is The Great Hunt.
The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind – The first book in this series is Wizards First Rule. I have read the first three books in this series and thoroughly enjoyed them. I will get to the others eventually. The Very first book is just phenomenal. It was released in 1994 to much critical acclaim. You may want to get the box set of the first three novels. You are going to burn through the first one pretty quick. The Sword of Truth Books 1-3: Wizard’s First Rule, Blood of the Fold, Stone of Tears are all masterfully crafted books.
The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever – There are currently eight books in this series and the first book is being made into a major motion picture. – Of all the series I have read this is my absolute favorite. I have read through the whole series twice. This world stands apart from the others for a couple of reasons. True it is a fantasy work with all the usual things like magic, wizards, big battles and well you know. But it is also very sharply balanced by a peculiar main character – Covenant. He is a leper and a bit of an anti-hero. For a portion of the story he doesn’t believe what is happening and he doesn’t want to be the hero. There is a very strong internal conflict in him and it goes nicely with the external conflict. The first book Lord Foul’s Bane was released in 1977 The most recent book in the series is Fatal Revenant and it was released in October of 2007 so this is a nice current series with another book coming.
A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin – This is a series of currently four books and the first book A Game of Thrones was published in 1996. There are three more books planned for the series and several prequel novellas. The fifth book in the series (A Dance with Dragons) is scheduled to be released in September 2008. This series of books is more contemporary than the other series; it was started in 1996 and it tends to have much more of a Medieval Europe flavor to it. Political intrigue and the maneuverings between various factions play a big part in the story.
There are lots of great epic fantasy sagas that span many pages and many volumes. If you want to stick with something that is tried and true then any of these five would make a great choice. No matter which one you choose you are in for many hours of wonderful adventuring in strange and new fantasy worlds.