One of my most popular blog posts is my Top Finished Fantasy trilogies you should read post. As such, I have decided to do a fantasy series post in a similar (ish) vein to the trilogy post.
There are far more series both finished and unfinished out there. These are only five that are finished, that I have read all the books in, that I feel are worthy of a mention and that I love. 🙂
I’m including the blurb from the first book and a spoiler-free snippet from my review of the final book in each series to give you an idea of what they are about and why they are well worth your reading time.
So, I present to you Five of my favourite Finished Fantasy Series:
The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne.
- Malice (2012).
- Valour (2014).
- Ruin (2015).
- Wrath (2016).
The blurb from Malice:
A black sun is rising …
Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.
The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.
High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.
Wrath review snippet:
Everyone no matter their favoured and preferred genre of book has a favourite series and The Faithful and the Fallen is mine. Now, I fully admit to shedding a manly tear over Nighteyes in Robin Hobb’s The Tawny Man trilogy and this is the only other series that has brought pangs of emotion out of me. I can still remember reading Malice (book 1 in the series) on the cold and dark wintry nights of November three years ago, sitting on the sofa besides my own equivalent of Storm (Corban’s trusty and faithful wolven companion) and being pulled into the fate of the banished lands as Gwynne wove his epic and magical tale of good vs evil. One moment in particular from Malice has always stayed with me. I remember thinking I’d read a few more pages before bed only for one of the characters fates to come under threat and as a result I just couldn’t put the book down, reading late into the night to find out what happened and threatening to curse Gwynne, on the off-chance you read this I’m sorry John but you do put us through the emotional wringer during the series and throw my Kindle if something bad occurred! Suffice to say, the characters fate was resolved, I didn’t throw my Kindle and I was thoroughly hooked on the series from that moment on.
Wrath like the rest of the series is written in the style of multiple point of view characters. Each chapter is short and to the point moving the story forwards as Gwynne keeps flitting between his main cast of character’s propelling the book along at a fast pace, keeping you both abreast of what’s happening and in the heart of the action. Some chapters are only a couple of pages long before we swap back to another character and a different PoV. While it’s always nice to spend an extended amount of time with your favourite characters, the opposite also occurs and you often lament the chapter length when your stuck reading about your least favourite story arc and character. With Gwynne’s short chapters this doesn’t happen and works really well as you’re never more than a few pages away from a different PoV and as such you find the pages flying by.
Gwynne’s writing is top quality, fast-paced, descriptive and with an eye for detail incorporating both moments that will make you smile and poignant passages and moments found within Wrath that will make you reflect on the losses that the characters have endured.
The Banished Lands have always felt like a fully realised creation in Gwynne’s deft hands, full of various different creatures, giant clans, regions, scenery and people’s. Filled with history and lore and blended with a Celtic infused feel, it’s a world that as Gwynne describes it you can really picture it in your mind as you read about it.
I’m a big fan of becoming attached to the characters I’m reading about and seeing them grow and develop throughout the course of the series. I want to cheer for the good guys and hate the bad guys, caring about the fates of the people I’m reading about. Willing the hero to survive and hoping that the bad guys get what’s coming to them. I don’t want to feel ambivalent about the people on the pages, questioning to myself do I or don’t I care about the outcome, I want to feel that pull that draws me back to the story just to see what happens next.
Gwynne gives you that with his myriad cast of characters bringing them to life with various personalities and reasons for why they are who they are.
As Wrath, well, Wrath is my book of the year, it is the perfect storm, poignant, emotional, humorous, perfectly paced and a gripping climax to what has been an epic battle of good vs evil. Gwynne takes you through a range of emotions as you find yourself feeling sad, happy, laughing and even shedding a manly tear along the way towards that final page. A masterpiece in modern fantasy and a breathtaking finale to what is my all-time favourite fantasy series.
And, with its conclusion, I can say that in my humble opinion John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen fully deserves to be read by all fantasy fans, standing alongside other finished fantasy series as an outstanding achievement in the genre and recognised as a modern classic.
The Long War by A. J. Smith.
- The Black Guard (2012).
- The Dark Blood (2014).
- The Red Prince (2015).
- The World Raven (2016).
The blurb from The Black Guard:
The Black Guard is the first in a major new fantasy series, The Long War, set in an invented world somewhat similar to medieval Europe in terms of technology, heraldry and ethics. Magic features in the world, but is rare and mostly confined to the various priesthoods. The city of Ro Canarn has been assaulted by Knights of the Red. Amongst them is a Karesian Enchantress of the Seven Sisters, intent on manipulating the men of Ro to her ends. Her Sisters intend the assault to be the first move in a longer game, a war intended to destroy worship of the Gods of men and bring back the malevolent Forest Giant of pleasure and blood.
The young Lord of Canarn, and one of his closest friends, plan a desperate gambit to take back the city, whilst his sister journeys north and confronts more of the Sisters’ schemes as they try to conquer the rest of the lands of men.
Divided by geography and surrounded by enemies, a disparate group of Clerics, Priests, Knights, criminals and warriors must defeat overwhelming odds to seize back the lands of men from those unknowingly under the sway of the Dead God and his Enchantresses.
The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King’s decree. The city lies in chaos, its people starving, sickening, and tyrannized by the ongoing presence of the King’s mercenary army. But still hope remains: the Duke’s children, the Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, have escaped their father’s fate.
Separated by enemy territory, hunted by the warrior clerics of the One God, Bromvy undertakes to win back the city with the help of the secretive outcasts of the Darkwald forest, the Dokkalfar. The Lady Bronwyn makes for the sanctuary of the Grass Sea and the warriors of Ranen with the mass of the King’s forces at her heels. And in the mountainous region of Fjorlan, the High Thain Algenon Teardrop launches his Dragon Fleet against the Red Army. Brother wars against brother in this, the epic first volume of the long war.
The World Raven review snippet:
I have followed this series from the very beginning, starting way back many many pages ago with The Black Guard and have thoroughly enjoyed it. With the lands of Ro, A. J. Smith has excelled with world-building, crafted a richly detailed huge world full of religion, magic, history and lore with various different areas all with their own unique geography creating a rich tapestry in which to weave his tales of The Long War, ranging from the stark, cold ice lands of Fjorlan, to the sun-soaked desert lands of Karesia, the large forest of The Fell, Ro Canarn, the area of Tor Funweir with it’s cities Ro Tiris, Ro Haran, Ro Arnon and Ro Weir all the way to the edge of the world with Oron Kaa. And, all are populated with interesting and intriguing creatures and characters.
Alongside the high-quality world building, Smith also has great in-depth and detailed characterisation giving you the reader fully fleshed characters that you like and dislike in equal measure, heroes, villains, the grey area in-between where anti-heroes are placed. These are a set of characters that you care about, you feel for their fates and predicaments, hoping that they survive and for the villain’s, well, you hope that they get there comeuppance.
Smith has crafted an epic conclusion to his The Long War series, with The World Raven he weaves together some of the separate story-arcs and threads bringing certain characters together in epic settings and battles and leaves other characters to their own devices and stories possibly with fleeting overlaps with other arc’s. Every character and story-arc throughout the book is given plenty of page time and none come across as more important than any other giving you a sense that every battle in The Long War is just as important as the next and every characters fate matters.
Smith’s writing is just as good as ever, he has a fast-paced and descriptive style that really pulls you in giving you what feels like just the right amount of history, characterisation, quiet moments, story progression and action. Added with humour, occasionally sarcastic from some characters – big bonus points for that from me as I enjoy my sarcasm and swearing. 🙂 There are a lot of POV’s in the series but Smith has always managed to maintain your focus as a reader and his focus as an author and while you will have your favourite POV characters (one of mine has been Randall the young squire, his has been a fun journey) you’re never bored with the others and can always find something interesting to pull you into their stories and plots.
I’ve mentioned both the deep characterisation and detailed world-building that Smith incorporates into his books and along with that the action scenes demand a mention too. He really has an eye for combat and gives you plenty of action throughout the book and while it’s visceral in places it’s never over the top like some authors seem to write, more gore doesn’t always make better action, there needs to be a balance between the bloodshed and the action taking place and Smith has it on point giving you some great action in The World Raven.
The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell.
- Traitor’s Blade (2014).
- Knight’s Shadow (2015).
- Saint’s Blood (2016).
- Tyrant’s Throne (2017).
The blurb from Traitor’s blade:
Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.
All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…
Tyrant’s Throne review snippet:
Upon starting Tyrant’s Throne you are left with a feeling of melancholy as you know that you are reading about these characters for the last time. You have spent years and pages with them, travelling together on an arduous journey over countless miles and you know that the time spent together, with every page being turned is drawing steadily to a close.
Tyrant’s Throne had some big shoes to fill following on from Saint’s Blood which was the best book in the series, notice that I said ‘was‘ because now that accolade deservedly goes to Tyrant’s Throne. De Castell has achieved an extraordinary feat with The Greatcoats, managing to improve on each previous book. When you think back and remember how good the first book, Traitor’s Blade was you realise that you have been part of one wonderful and unforgettable journey.
I’m not going to delve deep into the story contained within the pages of Tyrant’s Throne, it is simply the culmination of the previous three books and I refuse to spoil that for you, believing that this is a fantasy series that any self-respecting fantasy fan should read, hell, even if you don’t like fantasy you should give this ago, the saying goes that ‘variety is the spice of life‘ and I am sure that book lovers regardless of their favoured genre will all find something to like in The Greatcoats!
Tyrant’s Throne like the rest of the series is once again narrated by Falcio val Mond. Throughout the series he has been a great choice as the narrator, he’s a character that you can really get behind and root for. Under the exquisite writing of de Castell, you feel everything that Falcio goes through.
De Castell constantly puts Falcio through the emotional wringer, similar to Fitz and how Robin Hobb is always heaping tortuous pain and misery on him, I wonder if some authors simply take perverse pleasure and satisfaction in tormenting and torturing their characters?!?
The writing by de Castell as I mentioned earlier is exquisite and while I’m no expert, I know what I like and I can’t fault his style of storytelling, he incorporates everything that you need, fast pacing, fully fleshed characters, heroes to root for, villains to despise, heartache, sadness, anger, poignant moments, happiness, sorrow, courage, daring, humour, hope and an abundance of epic fight scenes that the author brings to life making you feel every rapier thrust, shield bash and arrow shot by our three heroes in superb detail.
From the very start to the final pages, the core of the series has been the relationship between the trio of main characters in Falcio, Kest and Brasti. The banter and camaraderie between them are second to none, Brasti, the comic relief shows his occasional serious and emotional side, Kest, stoic and analytical shows the very occasional glimpses of humour, it’s a privilege to see that, adding little extra to the characters we know and love. Through friendship, courage, loss, heartbreak to overcoming constant adversity the three are more than just friends, more even than brothers or blood, they share an unshakeable bond and you truly believe that they would die for each other.
It’s a term that has been used before by many various people, myself included but it’s true, The Greatcoats are a fantasy version of The Three Musketeers. Falcio, Brasti and Kest fit in perfectly well with the modern fantasy hero image but they also harken back to the olden days, having similarities to the old-fashioned heroes of yesteryear who were just out to save the day in a fun adventure yarn.
The Greatcoats deserves to take its place in the upper echelons of finished fantasy series.
There has been a lot of various Saint’s of Tristia mentioned throughout the entire Greatcoats series, but there hasn’t been a Saint of books?! Talk about craziness!
And so, I humbly give to you all, the Saint of amazing books, Saint Sebastian-who-weaves-magical-words.
The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron.
- The Red Knight (2012).
- The Fell Sword (2014).
- The Dread Wyrm (2015).
- A Plague of Swords (2016).
- The Fall of Dragons (2017).
The blurb from The Red Knight:
Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.
Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men – or worse, a company of mercenaries – against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.
It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.
The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he’s determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with.
Only it’s not just a job. It’s going to be a war…
The Fall of Dragons review snippet:
Over the course of the previous four books in The Traitor Son Cycle Cameron has woven an impressive tapestry of story, characters and their arcs and The Fall of Dragons is the culmination of everything that has gone on before, it’s the endgame.
There’s so much to love about this book and I can’t fault it. For me, it’s the perfect storm, top quality storytelling and pacing that features action (lots and lots and lots of action) with a whole cast of memorable characters (the banter and camaraderie between the core groups are outstanding) all blended and merged together in an exquisite way to form the quintessential rousing read that takes you through a range of emotions whilst reading. From the first page to the last you will be pulled in and engaged by the story that Cameron is telling with each page offering you something that will keep you coming back for more before finally, you are hit with the gut punch poignant ending that will give both have you cheering and give you the feels.
The magic system (which is well thought out and also awesome) is well implemented by Cameron often playing a large role in the plans, protection and fighting and is used to devastating effect when unleashed. There’s also lots of action in The Fall of Dragons, LOTS! Luckily, Cameron is an accomplished writer who manages to bring his battle scenes to brutal and visceral life.
When you come to the final book in a series it’s always with a slight sense of melancholy. You have followed the story and the characters from the very beginning and now you are reaching the conclusion. Yes, the author might revisit the world in future series and we might also get some short stories focusing on certain characters but you will never again be able to look forward to the ‘next‘ book being released and the series that you have come to love having spent hours and hours and pages and pages reading and becoming invested in will sadly, all be over. You also have to ask yourself was the expenditure worth it?! For The Traitor Son Cycle the answer is emphatically, hell yes it was worth it!
With The Fall of Dragons, Cameron reaches the pinnacle, saving the best for last and delivers the standout of the series.
The Traitor Son Cycle is top tier fantasy at it’s finest and Cameron deserves to be acknowledged as one of the great modern fantasy writers. Read it!
Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.
- Gardens of the Moon (1999).
- Deadhouse Gates (2000).
- Memories of Ice (2001).
- House of Chains (2002).
- Midnight Tides (2004).
- The Bonehunters (2006).
- Reaper’s Gale (2007).
- Toll the Hounds (2008).
- Dust of Dreams (2009).
- The Crippled God (2011).
The blurb from Gardens of the Moon:
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
But it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand….
There are no reviews for this series on my blog for which I am able to pilfer snippets as I read it before I Started blogging. So, unfortunately, you will have to put up with a brief ramble from me instead! 🙂
The Malazan Book of the Fallen is for me, a fantasy must-read. It’s an odyssey and a quintessential journey that you take along with Erikson and his plethora of characters. It is a monumental and complex creation and it will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
A whole host of top quality and unforgettable characters that take you through a range of emotions, a variety of races, a vast and detailed world, stellar world-building, plenty of high-quality action with a veritable treasure-trove of many remarkable moments are all to be found within the pages of Malazan as Erikson tells his epic grand-scale story.
Add in a sundry array of the best curses in fantasy courtesy of Hood and the various references to his anatomy amongst other things, Hoods Balls!!!!!
I will say that Malazan isn’t easy reading. Erikson doesn’t spoonfeed you, as a reader, you will definitely need to pay attention whilst reading throughout the course of the ten book series which is admittedly a rather mammoth undertaking! But! If you persevere then you will be richly rewarded for your time with a fully immersive and unforgettable experience.
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