High fantasy books can be pretty scary. They’re usually massive and part of some massive series with an intricate world that is different from the real world. I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t like fantasy and I always ask… have you really tried? Are you sure you’re not just intimidated by it? Fantasy is not a genre you can just dive into. You have to ease your way into fantasy.
I think one of the most important things is not to jump right into high fantasy. If you’ve never read fantasy before. Or you’ve read like… Matilda when you were in elementary school, but nothing really beyond that, then the books that I’m about to talk about are not for you. Not yet. If that’s you, then go and read my other post A Noob’s Guide to Fantasy.
If however, you have read at least some of the books on that list, you’ve learnt how to swim in the shallows of fantasy and you kind of want to go off into deeper water, but you’re a little bit scared and you’re not really sure where to begin, then this post is for you. Grab some popcorn and allow me to ease you into the world of high fantasy.
In the interest of not making this post too long, I will not be talking about what the books are about, I’ll just leave a link to the Goodreads page so you can check them out for yourself.
The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This is probably the best series to get you into high fantasy. Particularly if you’re really apprehensive about reading a book that takes place in a different world. This is perfect. It’s classed as a middle grade series, but it is really good. It’s really clever and witty and quite dark for middle grade, I would say it reads a lot more like YA.
It’s an amazing series, really underrated in my opinion. It’s super fast paced, it’s not too long, the world is not that complex. It’s very similar to just… the real world but with a medieval setting. As far as I can remember, there isn’t any magic in it and if there is, it’s really not prominent. So it’s perfect for people who aren’t used to high fantasy and are perhaps a bit apprehensive about it. Although it’s also amazing for senior high fantasy consumers, like myself. It’s just a great series.
The Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder
This is another excellent series to ease you into high fantasy. This one does have a magic system, but it doesn’t thrust you right into it, I think it only really becomes part of the story towards the end of the first book. It’s really easy to get into, it’s really fast paced. Maria V. Snyder has a great writing style, I really enjoyed this series. I think most of her novels take place in the same world and I think there are 2 or 3 series known as The Chronicles of Ixia. I’ve only read I think 7 of them, but to begin with, I would recommend the first 6 books, which follow the same characters, because I believe the next ones focus more on other characters.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Another pretty light one, as far as fantasy goes. It has a slightly more complex world than the previous two. It takes place in a desert, Roman-like society and it has some elements of magic and mythology that are a little bit more prominent that in the previous books I mentioned, but it’s still not too dense, you don’t get thrust into it, it’s really not difficult to understand and get into.
I’ve only read the first book so far, but I really enjoyed it and I think it’s a good series for beginners. It’s not too long, it’s not too complicated, and it has a really cool setting and some nice mythology to it. I also have a spoiler-free review of this, if you’re interested to read that.
The Assassin’s Curse series by Cassandra Rose Clarke
If you like pirates and assassins, this book is it. This is a duology, the books are quite short and while there is quite a heavy element of magic and mythology, it’s not dense or difficult to understand. I really enjoyed this series, it’s got quite unique characters as far as the YA genre goes. And I think it’s perfect if you’ve maybe read one of the previous books I talked about in this post and are ready for the next step. It’s a bit more complex a fantasy world, but it’s not too bad.
The Graceling Series by Kristin Kashore
This one is a bit more complex. This is the graduation series of this guide to high fantasy. If you’ve read this, you’ll probably be ready to take on some of the more hardcore fantasy series. The world is more complex, the magic system is more complex and the books are longer, closer to your standard high-fantasy book, around 500 pages. It’s not that fast paced. Some people find it slow, I personally really loved the series and I think the fact that it isn’t very fast paced, is good for people who are not as used to high-fantasy. Because it gives you time to digest the world and how the magic works and so on.
This is a companion series. They can either be read in chronological order, or publication order. I recommend publication order, so start with Graceling, then Fire, then Bitterblue.
So, yeah these 5 books/series I think are a very good way to get into high fantasy. I hope this list helps someone get into high fantasy, because it’s an amazing genre and there are so many good stories that people may be missing out on because they’re intimidated by the genre. Let me know if this did help you, or if you’re already a veteran fantasy reader, what books would you recommend for noobs? Also, for fellow veterans, because I’m always on the lookout for some good fantasy recs.