The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
The Farseer Trilogy is the first of three trilogies that follow the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, a trained assassin and royal bastard in a kingdom called the Six Duchies. In the Farseer Trilogy, his uncle, Prince Verity, is entrenched in what seems to be an unwinnable war against the Red-Ship Raiders, a people from the North whose main form of attack is to capture the people of the Six Duchies and render them emotionless and violent, then set them loose again. Meanwhile, Verity's brother Prince Regal is consumed by jealousy, and his scheming threatens to destroy the Six Duchies once and for all.
And then there's The Fool, the aging king's jester, who claims to be much more than he appears — and tells Fitz that he is, too.
Handily, if you like this trilogy, there are two more that continue Fitz's and The Fool's story and another that follows just The Fool. So much to read!
The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore
Don't resist the YA fiction! YA is where some of the best fantasy is currently being written, and Kristin Cashore's acclaimed Graceling Realm series is among them. Though each stands on its own, together they create a gripping saga that spans both time and space.
Focusing on three women in the kingdom of Monsea and the land of the Dells — Lady Katsa, a woman blessed with the Grace of killing; Lady Fire, the last human monster; and Bitterblue, the Princess of Monsea — the books interweave gracefully, fleshing out a world as complex and nuanced as any fantasy fans would hope.
The Patternist or Seed to Harvest series by Octavia E. Butler
The Patternist Series, also known as Seed to Harvest, begins in Ancient Egypt and ends far in the future, where telepathic mind control is the norm and an extraterrestrial plague threatens to wipe out the "lesser" species. A fascinating and nuanced series, the Patternist books consider the implications of racism, genetic engineering, and what it means to be human.
The books can be read in chronological or publishing order, and though Butler has declined to bring Survivor back into print, it can be found used — but isn't necessarily vital to understanding and enjoying the series. The series, excluding Survivor, was published in a compilation volume titled Seed to Harvest in 2007, which is what most bookstores carry as opposed to the individual novels.
The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
Following three days in the present — and an entire adolescence and young adulthood in the past — of a man named Kvothe, a renowned magician, musician, and swordsman, who may be the reason for the ongoing war. Set up over three days, with Kvothe telling his autobiography aloud, the series explains how he came to be a living legend, with many extraordinary and fascinating characters along the way.
The story begins in The Name of the Wind and continues in The Wise Man's Fear, with the tentatively named The Doors of Stone currently in the works. There are also supplementary short stories focusing on specific characters.
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
The Grisha Trilogy follows the life of Alina Starkov, a teenage orphan refugee growing up in the middle of a war-torn country called Ravka. Ravka is surrounded on all sides by the Shadow Fold, an impenetrable darkness infested with monsters that thrive on human flesh. When Alina's regiment is attacked and her friend brutally injured, she discovers that she possesses an enormous power — a power that wrenches her away from everything and everyone she knows, as she is trained as a member of the magical elite, the Grisha. Led by an enigmatic, seductive figure called the Darkling, the Grisha is the only thing that keeps the Shadow Fold at bay.
But is the Darkling all that he seems?
The Grisha Trilogy has been a quietly beloved fantasy YA staple since the first book in the trilogy was published in 2012 — and it'll soon be a movie, so now is a good time to read it!
The Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Legacy is the story of the life of Phèdre nó Delaunay, an orphan sold into the Night Court of Terre d'Ange — a brothel of elite courtesans who worship the goddess Namaah — who is seen as flawed for the red mote in her left eye, until a man named Anafiel Delaunay recognizes her as an anguissette. An anguissette is a person who takes pleasure from pain. When Phèdre is betrayed and framed for a heinous crime, finding herself in the frozen, enemy lands of the Skaldia, she must use all of her considerable ingenuity and resilience to find her way home before the Skaldi attack. Let's just say if you were into the idea of 50 Shades of Grey but you wanted it to be more consensual and in an adventure-fantasy setting, this is the series for you.
The Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente
The Fairyland series currently stands at a grand total of four novels, with a fifth forthcoming. September, a girl whose father is a soldier and whose mother is employed building airplanes, is particularly bored with her home and has enough of a propensity for mischief that the Green Wind whisks her off to Fairyland. There she loses her shadow, finds a wrench, meets a wyvern who isn't allowed to fly and a golem made of soap, among other creatures, and finds that Fairyland is not at all what she expected — mainly because the Marquess, who rules Fairyland, is downright evil.
Or is she? September finds there's much more to the Marquess and to Fairyland than meets the eye, which is lucky for her, as every spring she is bound to return.
The fourth book in the series, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, focuses on a boy named Hawthorn who becomes a changeling in Chicago. The fifth, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home, will unite Hawthorn's and September's stories. This is also a great series for young readers.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Earthsea Cycle has become a TV series, an anime, and a radio play, and for good reason. The five books and seven short stories are some of LeGuin's finest work, frequently recommended and lauded by authors like Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman.
The four main books that make up The Earthsea Quartet follow the renowned wizard Ged from his reckless youth childhood, when he was known as Sparrowhawk. Power-hungry and aching for knowledge, his tampering with ancient secrets lets loose some serious evil — evil that only he can undo, with the help of the priestess Tenar.
In addition to the individual novels, you can get The Earthsea Quartet, which collects the four main parts of the series, or you can seek out the short stories and read in chronological order. (Google is your friend.)
The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen
The Queen of the Tearling series is relatively new; The Invasion of the Tearling was just released this summer amid wild excitement. A genre-bending fantasy that follows Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, the (you guessed it) Queen of the Tearling, the series blends high fantasy with speculative dystopia and time travel. While Kelsea takes control over her divided kingdom, where human trafficking, slavery, and poverty are the norm, the Red Queen of the Mort is determined to destroy her. Kelsea begins having visions of her past, which may help her understand how to hold onto her future.
The Queen of the Tearling is currently in production as a film starring Emma Watson as Kelsea.
The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones
The Chrestomanci series, sometimes called The World of Chrestomanci, is a series of seven books by Diana Wynne Jones. Even if you've never heard of Diana Wynne Jones, you have probably heard of Howl's Moving Castle, which she wrote.
While you should absolutely read that, if you're looking for something to dig your teeth into, the Chrestomanci series should be deeply satisfying. As with many complex fantasy series, you can choose to read this one in publication or chronological order. The internet can help you figure that out.
The series follows the Chrestomanci, the only magician powerful enough to control the rampant misuse of magic. Such a magician would have nine lives, of course. Who knew Eric Chant and his sister Cat would both have that many? Or that they could lose them so quickly?