Looking for a nice long summer read? Look no further than an epic fantasy book. With a story that is set in an alternate world threatened by evil, you get to follow the good guys in their quest to save the world as they know it from imminent doom. You learn all about how the respective fantasy world works and get invested in all the characters. Then at the conclusion of the epic tale, you’re left wanting more.
There is a sense of satisfaction of having read an amazing epic fantasy mingled with a feeling of loss in the knowledge that you have to say goodbye to your favourite characters as they presumably live the rest of their lives happily ever after. That said, lets narrow down what exactly falls into the category of an epic fantasy.
What is the difference between high fantasy and an epic fantasy?
Multiple sources including both goodreads and Book Riot confirm that epic fantasy is simply another name for high fantasy although goodreads claim that in an epic fantasy, the stakes are of epic proportions where the conflict or immense evil would affect everyone in the story or fantasy realm and likely destroy it completely.
I know what you’re thinking – If there is high fantasy, is there such a thing as low fantasy? And how do you differentiate between the two?
High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy
Brian Stableford, in his book The A to Z of Fantasy Literature, describes that while epic or high fantasy is set in an alternate fictional world (a.k.a. secondary world), low fantasy is set in the real world (a.k.a. primary world). A great example of a low fantasy series is the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer.
The fantasy genre is further elaborated upon by Nikki Gamble and Sally Yates in Exploring Children’s Literature. They explain that in high fantasy, the primary world is non-existent (e.g., A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin), or that the secondary world may be entered through a portal in the primary world (e.g., The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis), or that the secondary world is within the primary world (e.g., The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling).
Is Harry Potter an epic fantasy book series?
It is not surprising, with the enormous fandom that the Harry Potter series has, that this question is much debated on the internet. Some argue that because it is not set in a secondary world, the Harry Potter series is classified as low fantasy. But, as we’ve just outlined, in high fantasy, the secondary world can be within the primary world, and, meeting another requirement of an epic fantasy, that there is a great evil force threatening the world as they know it, the Harry Potter series is definitely an epic fantasy. It certainly was an adventure of epic proportions.
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What epic fantasy book should I read?
There are many epic fantasies out there, however, you will find that the following 3 epic fantasy books are an absolute must-read on any credible list:
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
If you haven’t read this series yet, you are in for a treat and if you have read it, I’m sure that you’d be happy to re-read it in a heartbeat.
In case you are wondering: What is the correct order to read the Harry Potter books?, I’ve listed them out for you;
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (A 2-part play by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany)
Note that there are other books in the Harry Potter franchise (e.g., Quidditch Through the Ages; Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them; The Tales of Beedle the Bard) but as they are associated with the subjects covered in the main books, I would recommend that those be read after the series.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
This can be found as a single volume edition but is really a 6-part book published as a trilogy. If you are familiar with the Lord of the Rings (LoTR) books, you might have also heard of The Hobbit.
If you find yourself thinking: Should I read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings first? or In what order should I read the Lord of the Rings books?, look no further;
- The Hobbit (Not part of the trilogy but precedes it)
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
Note that there are other related books in this series too including “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” and “The Silmarillion” that can be read after this set of books.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
For those unfamiliar with this name, this is the fantasy epic commonly known as “A Game of Thrones” (GoT).
I’m sure you’re wondering: What order should I read the Game of Thrones books in?. I’ve got you covered;
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords
- A Feast for Crows
- A Dance with Dragons
- The Winds of Winter (Yet to be published)
- A Dream of Spring (Yet to be published)
Note that there are other companion books and prequel novellas in this series as well and again I recommend reading them once you’ve read at least some of the novels and have familiarised yourself with the series for context.
Whichever epic fantasy adventure you choose to embark upon, you’re in for a long entertaining ride!
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