12 Fantasy Series That Build Expansive Worlds

Fantasy stories have to power to whisk readers away to far-off worlds, filled with mystical creatures, powerful rulers, and magical spells. Since they don't have to adhere to the rules of reality, fantasy authors can create amazing worlds, taking inspiration from other genres, human history, or their own imaginations. In this guide, we'll look at twelve series that take place in immersive and fantastical environments. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

12 Fantasy Series That Build Expansive Worlds

Series First Book Author Description
1. The Thessaly Series The Just City Jo Walton A story about gods and mortals throughout history
2. The Faithful and the Fallen Malice John Gwynne Dark epic fantasy about ambition, greed, and betrayal
3. King's Dark Tidings Free the Darkness Kel Kade An elite warrior must survive in a world he does not understand
4. Bel Dame Apocrypha God's War Kameron Hurley Sci-fi and fantasy combine in a world full of aliens and magic
5. The Traitor Son Cycle The Red Knight Miles Cameron A group of mercenaries are sent to fight in a medieval war
6. Song of Ice and Fire A Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin Powerful families vie for power, money, and revenge
7. The Farseer Trilogy Assassin's Apprentice Robin Hobb A trained assassin becomes involved in a bloody war
8. The Sword of Shannara The Sword of Shannara Terry Brooks Shea Ohmsford must leave his peaceful home and go on a quest to save the world
9. Legends of the First Empire Age of Myth Michael J. Sullivan Humanity must defend themselves against powerful gods
10. The Dresden Files Storm Front Jim Butcher Fantasy meets crime in modern-day Chicago
11. The Gentleman Bastard Sequence The Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch Con artists fight against a king who wants to take over the criminal underworld
12. The First Law Trilogy The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie A noir fantasy about bloody battles and murderous conspiracies

What is Fantasy?

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that often involves supernatural elements like magic and usually takes place in a fictional universe that is significantly different from reality. Many people group fantasy and science fiction together, but while both are forms of speculative fiction, they are distinct from one another. While sci-fi often attempts to stay grounded in scientific truths, fantasy relies more on imagination and suspension of disbelief. Fantasy's origins are rooted in oral traditions which were eventually written down into books. In modern times, fantasy has expanded into several media, including television, film, and video & tabletop games.

How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better

In Depth

From the creation of fictional world maps to plotting mythological history, world-building offers book lovers the chance to imagine characters in creative settings. From a vast collection of fantasy novels, we selected some of the most imaginative series that feature complex expansive worlds. In no particular order, here is our list of 12.

Starting off at #1 is the "Thessaly" series. This trilogy by Jo Walton features an interesting set of characters, such as gods, philosophers, and children from all ages of human history. The story begins with the goddess Athena, creating a utopia in the island of Thera. This original city splits into a dozen in the second book, "The Philosopher Kings." The third installment of the series, "Necessity," concludes with Apollo rescuing his sister from Chaos, a place that exists before and after time.

At the #2 spot is "The Faithful and the Fallen." Starting with Gemmell Award-winning "Malice," John Gwynne creates an eerie, atmospheric, dark, but beautiful setting called The Banished Lands. This world is populated with fallen angels, wyrms, giants, and draigs. Book two takes place in a Romanesque period, while the last two books shift scenery with vast forests, misty marshes, ancient fortresses and towering mountain peaks.

Book two takes place in a Romanesque period, while the last two books shift scenery with vast forests, misty marshes, ancient fortresses and towering mountain peaks.

Coming in at #3 is "King's Dark Tidings." This 3-book saga centers on the life of Rezkin, a young elite warrior who was raised and trained in seclusion. The plot begins in the Kingdom of Ashai, where a terrible battle destroys all that the protagonist knows. The 2nd and 3rd books feature Rezkin's journey into a foreign world to gain back control over the land. This series is intended for adult readers as it contains violence, sexual innuendo, and creative language.

Next, at #4 is Hugo Award-winning author Kameron Hurley's "Bel Dame Apocrypha." Consisting of "God's War," "Infidel," and "Rapture," the story begins on the ravaged, contaminated planet of Umayma. Nyx, a government assassin, becomes the top pick to bring home a severed head that could end a century old war. This trilogy features alien attacks, kidnapping, and revolution, all occurring in Nyx's plague-ridden world.

At #5 is a five-book collection called "The Traitor Son Cycle." The author, historian Miles Cameron, sets the story in medieval times. A war erupts in book 1, when a group of mercenaries, headed by The Red Knight, are hired to fight a wyvern. In the succeeding books, the saga continues as the fighting spreads across the country and other kingdoms. Overall, the series offers an epic tale of magic, politics, and depravity.

The author, historian Miles Cameron, sets the story in medieval times.

At the #6 spot is "A Song of Ice and Fire." HBO's hit series "Game of Thrones" is an adaptation of these books. The show is now critically acclaimed and has won dozens of awards. Author George R. R. Martin offers intrigue, romance, mystery, and adventure in the pages of this 7-book collection. Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, these novels explore the lives, and deaths, of interesting characters who get involved in a dynastic war among several families.

Taking the #7 spot is "The Farseer Trilogy." The three books tell the story of Fitz, a royal bastard and trained assassin, in a kingdom called The Six Duchies. He becomes involved in a war with the Red-Ship Raiders, a fight his uncle started. Things become more complicated in the last 2 books as Fitz enters into different worlds. Robin Hobb promises readers of this fantasy series an epic tale of adventure in a variety of arenas.

At #8 is a trilogy called "The Sword of Shannara." The first novel introduces us to Four Lands and its people. It follows the life of Shea Ohmsford, a resident of Shady Vale, who goes on a quest to retrieve the Sword of Shannara to defeat the Warlock Lord. The 2nd and 3rd books chronicle the adventures of future generations from Ohmsford's blood line. In this series, Terry Brooks manages to enthrall readers with magic in an entirely new world.

It follows the life of Shea Ohmsford, a resident of Shady Vale, who goes on a quest to retrieve the Sword of Shannara to defeat the Warlock Lord.

Coming in at #9, "Legends of the First Empire," was originally thought to be a 3-book series but author Michael J. Sullivan decided to release two trilogies under the same banner. This epic action story revolves around the life of Novron who saved mankind from extinction. Sullivan's creative writing skills are showcased in this imaginative fantasy adventure.

At #10 is the "Dresden Files," a series of contemporary mystery novels by American author Jim Butcher. This 15-book collection is written as a first person narrative from the perspective of the protagonist, Harry Dresden, who is a private investigator and wizard. Butcher sets the story in modern-day Chicago, plagued with supernatural disturbances, vampires, werewolves, and monsters.

Next on the list, at #11 is the "Gentleman Bastard." Authored by Scott Lynch, the sequence is planned as a series of 7 novels. The story takes place in the world of the ruined Therin Throne Empire and its descendant states. Every installment features the same characters, but in a different setting each time.

Every installment features the same characters, but in a different setting each time.

Finally, at #12 is "The First Law Trilogy." In this series, Joe Abercrombie features three major powers that take place in kingdoms similar to Western Europe, Middle Eastern empires, and the Viking and Anglo Saxon periods. Readers will be presented with stories of bloody battles and murderous conspiracies in this unpredictable, funny, and compelling fantasy fiction.