Well, the title of the post is itself quite explanatory, I’m going to list the top finished fantasy trilogies that I think every fantasy fan should read and if you’re not a fantasy fan “shudders, tuts and then shakes head” well, you just might find something that piques your interest on the list!
Obviously, there are many other fantasy trilogies out there and these are only the ones that I have read and that are finished. 🙂
So, in no particular order:
The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie:
- The Blade Itself.
- Before They Are Hanged.
- Last Argument of Kings.
Well, we have to start with The First Law trilogy by Lord Grimdark himself Mr Joe Abercrombie. Complex, morally flawed and highly memorable characters, great storytelling, droll and sardonic humour, a gritty and grim world that feels real and lived in, fast-paced and action-packed. This is the quintessential Grimdark trilogy for fans and a must-read! After a long break away from reading The Blade Itself was one of the first grimdark books that I picked up and it, along with the following two books in The First Law trilogy firmly cemented my love for the genre. Even years later, it is a trilogy that I remember, think about and one day wish to re-read to relive the grim splendour found within the pages.
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb:
- Assassin’s Apprentice.
- Royal Assassin.
- Assassin’s Quest.
Robin Hobb’s first appearance on my list (not her last as the next two trilogies also come from her). Her Farseer trilogy is a classic and a must-read for every sort of fantasy fan out there. Her world-building and characterisation are top quality with a great main character in FitzChivalry Farseer who narrates the trilogy told in the first person, you are also introduced to Nighteyes one of, if not the best animal companion ever in fantasy, though to just call him a companion is detrimental to his character and role in the story. Then there is the Fool, well, what can you say about the Fool, such an ingenious creation on Hobb’s part and a wonderful character. A quick mention also to Chade, another top character. And, you also have Regal Farseer, every trilogy/series needs a villain (think Joffrey in Game of Thrones) and Regal is that villain, you will hate him by the end and will be praying that he gets what he so thoroughly deserves. I can’t praise the first book Assassin’s Apprentice in this trilogy enough, I’ve read every other Hobb book because of Fitz’s first book with the exception of her Soldier Son trilogy. Classic fantasy for everyone, great story, great characters and a unique world in the Six Duchies, a masterpiece!
The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb:
- Ship of Magic.
- The Mad Ship.
- Ship of Destiny.
Hobb’s second trilogy on my list, set after the events of The Farseer trilogy but in a completely different area of The Six Duchies (huge world). This is a trilogy about talking ships or as they are called Live Ships! Yes, I’m sure there are some of you out there snickering and guffawing at the thought of sentient talking ships and I fully admit that I was one of you. After finishing The Farseer trilogy (I read all three trilogies straight after each other) I had every intention of missing this one out and jumping straight into The Tawny Man trilogy to get back to Fitz’s story, however someone I know had been reading Hobb to and they told me that this series was worth a look. Well, they were right! While completely different to both The Farseer trilogy (set before) and The Tawny Man trilogy (set after) this is a stunning read. Hobb again manages to create another completely different set of characters with another great story and for those who have read The Farseer trilogy before, well you will get more out of this trilogy with a certain character and that’s all I’m saying! 🙂 And if the idea of talking ships seems odd to you, from someone who felt the same, give it a go, you won’t regret it and yes, Hobb makes you care about the ships, I know, you find yourself caring for the fates of ships, crazy right! 🙂
The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb:
- Fool’s Errand.
- The Golden Fool.
- Fool’s Fate.
OK, this is the last time that Hobb appears on my list, so relax, the Hobb lovefest is over, though if you have ever read any of her books you will see why I rate her work so highly! The Tawny Man trilogy takes place fifteen years after the end of The Farseer trilogy and we are once again reunited with our old friends, Fitz, Fool/Lord Golden (I wonder what he was up to during the gap between trilogies, hhmmm), Chade, Nighteyes and many more. This is a great continuation of the characters stories and Hobb again writes a gripping trilogy that pulls you in whittling away hours as you become engrossed in her world, For me, Fool’s Errand has one of the most poignant, sad and heartbreaking scene/section in literature, not just in fantasy but in all genres of book. And, I tell you now blog followers, she even managed to evoke emotion in me, making this often sarcastic tattooed male shed a manly tear! Another must-read by one of the greats in fantasy Robin Hobb.
The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence:
- Prince of Thorns.
- King of Thorns.
- Emperor of Thorns.
Can I just write Jorg Ancrath and leave it at that?!?!?!? No, you say, fair enough, here is my quick overview of this trilogy !!HERE!! Love this series, pure Grimdark with a dark and psychotic main character in Jorg who won’t be to everyone’s taste but…..if you allow him, then the murdering little blood spilling psychopathic degenerate will captivate you and you find yourself pulled into his story.
Red Queen’s War Trilogy by Mark Lawrence:
- Prince of Fools.
- The Liar’s Key.
- The Wheel of Osheim.
After I started reading again and got into fantasy Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy was one of my favourite trilogies out there and I loved Jorg Ancrath, he was so different to any character that I had read before. And, so it pains me to write it but overall I prefer his second trilogy with The Red Queen’s War, again set in his Broken Empire world, the story takes place during the same time frame as The Broken Empire and you may even see a little appearance by everyone’s favourite little psychopath Jorg in the books to. Focusing on two main characters Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason, Jalan is a coward and a womaniser while Snorri is his complete opposite, honourable and courageous, Snorri will face danger head-on with a smile and Jalan will run away whilst screaming like a girl. The story throughout the three books in the trilogy is great and the banter and interplay between the two leads is top quality, emotion and humour of the highest level. Both Jalan and Snorri grow so much during the trilogy, that at the end, yes, they are both still recognisable as the characters you met pages ago at the beginning of Prince of Fools (Book 1) but they have developed so much and traits from each other have rubbed off on them both, Snorri is still Snorri but Jalan by the end has some redeeming qualities about him to. The trilogies end is also just pure Jalan and you have to smile. This is more accessible then Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy and is a must-read for fantasy fans with a captivating duo of great lead characters.
Steelhaven Trilogy by Richard Ford:
- Herald of the Storm.
- The Shattered Crown.
- Lord of Ashes.
Another top quality Grimdark trilogy here, that I personally feel is an underrated gem of a trilogy. I don’t see it around much on many fantasy lists, so it’s getting a place on mine! A dark, well-paced, well written engaging trilogy with a decent cast of characters who pull you into their city and their story. A far more detailed overview of the trilogy can be found in my review !!HERE!!
Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley:
- The Emperor’s Blades.
- The Providence of Fire.
- The Last Mortal Bond.
A fast-paced well-written trilogy revolving around three main characters (siblings) and their subsequent story arc’s. Monks, Politicians and a crack commando unit – yay for an A-Team reference in a fantasy list! 🙂 Great character development throughout from a trio of really interesting main sibling characters, set in a richly detailed world, action-packed, anyone who’s read this will agree, who doesn’t want to be a Ketteral?? It really has all you could want in a fantasy trilogy.
Raven’s Shadow Trilogy by Anthony Ryan:
- Blood Song.
- Tower Lord.
- Queen of Fire.
Hhmm, this was a hard one as to whether to even include it on the list or not as I’m a massive fan of the first book but felt that the second book was a disappointment with the third and final book going some way to rectifying my misgivings about the second book. The first book is written in the same vein as Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicles, where the main character Vaelin Al Sorna recounts his tale to another. However, by the end of the book, this has changed as Vaelin’s tale reaches the present and we go from him recounting his past story to what is currently happening. I fully admit that when I started the series I thought great, it sounds really good and Blood Song is an amazing book, great characters, friendships and detailed world-building all created a complex story but…..
When I started the first book I thought that I was going to be reading another KingKiller Chronicles and following Vaelin through his story for the three books or at least up until about halfway through the third book but that wasn’t the case. In the sequels Vaelin doesn’t play as large of a role in the two books and we go from having one main character point of view to multiple points of view and as you can see, the third book is called Queen of Fire, Vaelin is a fella, he would-be a King so it’s obvious that he isn’t the main character in the story. I’ve added the trilogy to the list as I believe Blood Song is a great book and a must-read for fantasy fans and on a whole, the trilogy is a decent read. It’s just a shame that Ryan set such a high standard with the first book and then failed to match it with the two sequels.
The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:
- The Fellowship of the Ring.
- The Two Towers.
- The Return of the King.
Well, it’s the Granddaddy of all fantasy trilogies!!!! The old-timer that is The Lord of The Rings. If you haven’t read the books then I am guessing that you will at least have watched the films, so it’s a name that you all should be well aware of! Anyone out there not heard of The Lord of The Rings?? Hands in the air?? Nope, didn’t think so! Good! It’s a literary classic and a trilogy everyone should read!
The Grim Company by Luke Scull:
- The Grim Company.
- Sword Of The North.
- Dead Man’s Steel.
The Grim Company trilogy features an eclectic mix of characters you grow to care about throughout the course of the three books, an interesting and gritty setting, an entertaining story with twists and turns, emotion, dark humour and in addition to those, one of my favourite staples of the most wonderful genre that is grimdark, plentiful amounts of bloodthirsty and limb severing visceral action.
I’m a big fan of the old and grizzled duo of the legendary highland warrior Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf who are two of my favourite characters. Brodar Kayne, once known as ‘the Sword of the North‘ was the greatest swordsman in the North but age and time have caught up with him though he is still a formidable adversary and highly skilled with a blade. He is more calm and measured and someone who offers words of wisdom. While Jerek is angry, blunt, coarse and foul-mouthed with a gruff, surly and bad-tempered countenance. He is someone whose demeanour belies the depth to him as a character. Jerek often has many fucks to give and they are usually accompanied by the bloody blades of his twin axes.
It firmly stands on its own but if you are a fan of the works of Abercrombie then you’ll enjoy The Grim Company.
The Wounded Kingdom by RJ Barker.
- Age of Assassins – find my review !!HERE!!
- Blood of Assassins -find my review !!HERE!!
- King of Assassins – find my review !!HERE!!
The Wounded Kingdom is set in the Tired Lands and told in the first-person perspective and narrated by the assassin Girton Club-Foot.
A span of years separates each book. At the beginning of Age of Assassins Girton is a fifteen-year-old and all the trials and tribulations that are associated with coming-of-age and when we get to King of Assassins the concluding volume of the trilogy Girton is thirty-five years of age and world-weary. Time, events and life change him over the course of the trilogy but even with those changes he is still recognisable as the Girton from the beginning and he is a character that you can really get behind, care about and root for.
Though The Wounded Kingdom is very much Girton’s story there are many fantastic other characters included too. To name a few, Girton’s master, Merela Karn (they are far more than just master and apprentice, they have such a strong and emotional bond and the relationship between them is a highlight of the entire trilogy), Aydor (who goes through a drastic change during the trilogy and turned into one of my favourite characters), Rufra, Nywulf and even Xus, Girton’s Mount, C’mon, you all know you love animal companions in books!
Barker doesn’t bog you down with excessive detail but with each book more is revealed and the world-building in The Wounded Kingdom is fascinating with an intriguing magic system that is well incorporated into both the story and the world.
There’s plenty of action in the trilogy (a couple of large battles, one in the second book, Blood of Assassins is phenomenal and another highlight of the trilogy but most of the action is small-scale battles and duels involving Girton which often have a beauty and a poetry to them as Girton dances going through a series of iterations when he fights) but it’s not the main focus and whilst there is plenty to satisfy any cravings that you might have what action there is, is included alongside character development, intrigue and storytelling to create an absorbing read for each book in the trilogy.
The Wounded Kingdom has a thriller element running through it with each book having mysteries that require solving by Girton and in my review of King of Assassins, I dubbed it as ‘thrilling fantasy‘ as it’s a perfect blending together of the two genres.
Near the end of King of Assassins, the last book in the trilogy you still don’t know how Barker will conclude his trilogy and with a low page count left the story could still go in any number of different directions. Yet still, Barker manages to knock you for six ending with a shocking revelation that will make you sit back and reflect on many events that happened over all three of the books and it is a perfect conclusion, thought-provoking and surprising with a poignant epilogue too.
With each book Barker upped the ante and improved, Age of Assassins was a great debut, Blood of Assassins was a better book and then King of Assassins was even better, the best of the three and nigh on perfection.
The Wounded Kingdom trilogy is a journey that is well worth your time and Girton is a character that you will love.
Empires of Dust by Anna Smith Spark.
- The Court of Broken Knives – find my review !!HERE!!
- The Tower of Living and Dying – find my review !!HERE!!
- The House of Sacrifice – find my review !!HERE!!
Throughout the Empires of Dust trilogy, you follow Marith Altrersyr, King Ruin, King Death and Amrath Returned on his journey, his merry dance of conquest, death, destruction and massacre across Irlast. From a nobody in a mercenary crew marching on Sorlost in The Court of Broken Knives to the King of Irlast in The House of Sacrifice. We see him descend into madness, see him kill, destroy, raze cities to the ground and bathe the world in rivers of blood. His empire is been built from the death, the blood, the bones, the corpses, the decaying remains and the rotting flesh of his enemies, from those who stand against him, turned to dust in the ground.
As well as following Marith, the story also takes place in Sorlost, the crown jewel of the Sekemleth Empire. Sorlost is like an aged movie star whose beauty has long since faded and whose glory days lay far behind them. It is a city with a storied history, a city whose bronze walls have never been breached but it is no longer gloriously golden. Instead, it is a gilded turd, mired in filth, decaying, rotting, wilting and withering away.
In Sorlost we follow Orhan Emmereth and the machinations, various plans, plots, politicking and scheming that he undertakes throughout the trilogy along with witnessing the fallout of his deceptions and lies.
There are a few of other PoV characters in the trilogy but to avoid any spoilers on their story arcs and events from the trilogy I’ll refrain from mentioning them.
Marith is a drug addict (Hatha) and a drunk. A complicated character, conflicted and self-destructive. He is full of loathing and self-pity he hates himself and what he does but, at the same time, he likes doing what he does too, it gives him a sense of being, of purpose and like a coin he has two sides, two sides to his nature that war with each other. Along with moments of clarity, of lucidity, he spirals down into the throes of insanity and his fractured mind is a turbulent and churning sea. He’s captivating and he’s someone that you love to hate.
The Empires of Dust is populated by characters with hardly any morals or redeeming features. To give you an idea about him I’ve mentioned Marith in detail but honestly, I enjoyed reading about all the characters involved in the story that Smith Spark weaves over the three books.
The fighting in the Empires of Dust trilogy is plentiful, confusing and chaotic, violent, vivid and visceral.
The world-building is stellar and throughout the course of the trilogy the world opens up like a flower coming into bloom and Smith Sparks brings all of the locations to life thanks to her decadently descriptive writing. It is the small details that just add that little extra clarity, that makes the image, the location, the setting and the scene more evocative and more graphic.
Smith Spark has a very unique way of writing and writes with a mixture of richly detailed sentences that gently caress you with her words and short and snappy sentences that are sharp, harsh and like a bark. She often uses only a single word or a variety of words that all hold a similar meaning to convey emotion with both third-person perspective and first-person perspective thrown into the mix too.
There is a beauty and a cadence to be found in Smith Spark’s lilting and lyrical writing. Her writing flows smoothly like blood from a freshly opened wound, like waves lapping on the shore and like leaves rustling on a gentle breeze. The mixture of sentences that are used to beat, bludgeon and pummel. Like chewing on broken glass, rusted nails and thorns. Then, the contrast, the counterpoint and those sentences that gently caress you, like a lovers hands, their soft touch, their warm embrace. Like soothing your mouth with the sweetest honey and quenching your thirst with a glass of ice-cold water.
The Empires of Dust is the epitome of the beauty that can be found in darkness and grimdark at its finest. It is a tapestry of betrayal, blood, brutality, butchery, conquest, corpses, death, delusion, desires, destruction, killing, love, mania, machinations, pain, regrets, plots, politics, suffering, tragedy and violence.
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