The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954 and is considered by many the fantasy series. J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic basically created the fantasy genre and serves as its foundation even today. No wonder there are so many other books like Lord of the Rings out there.
It’s known for its grand world-building, the rich history, the language and many other elements popular in today’s fantasy. It brought us wizards, dragons, magic, swords, and many more.
With 150 million copies sold, The Lord of the Rings proves to be one of the world’s best-selling novels, not merely in the fantasy genre.
Over the decades, there have been many imitators, and many other writers broke into the fantasy genre after Tolkien. Many fantasy fans are searching for something that can quell their hunger for similar novels, epic quests and adventures.
Yet, fantasy today has become much more than books about elves and hobbits. While many follow the tropes popularized in The Lord of the Rings, others are vastly different.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Frodo’s quest or if you’re just looking for other fantasy recommendations. There’s a plethora of fantasy books and series out there since it proved to be one of literature’s most popular genres.
Even in a genre as vast as fantasy, however, only a few books ever come close to Tolkien’s great classic.
For this article, I’ve put together a list of outstanding fantasy series and books like Lord of the Rings, which I’m sure any fantasy fan will enjoy. If you’re looking for horror and science-fiction recommendations check out my list of the best horror books and the best science-fiction books.
Table of Contents
- The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
- The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
- The Legend of Drizzt Series by R. A. Salvatore
- The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Dark Tower by Stephen King
- The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
- The Dragonlance Chronicles by Wise and Hickman
- The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Earthsinger Chronicles by L. Penelope
- The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Series by Tad Williams
- A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
- The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Let’s begin this list of books like Lord of the Rings with one of the most popular and celebrated fantasy series of all times.
The Wheel of Time is often praised for its fantastic world-building. It has rightfully taken its place as a classic of the fantasy genre ever since its debut back in 1990.
Its first book tells the story of three boys, Rand, Mat and Perrin. Their home of Emond’s Field is attacked by Trollocs and a Myrddraal who are intent on capturing the boys. They are rescued by Moiraine, a powerful Aes Sedai who tells them the Dark One wants to destroy the Wheel of Time. Before long, they realize they are the only ones who can stop him. Yet, what can three boys do against the embodiment of pure evil? An epic journey foretold in prophecy begins.
The Wheel of Time comprises 15 books, so it’s a long series and a serious time investment. It comes with dozens of characters, battles and a lot more to immerse you in Robert Jordan’s extensive world.
Jordan’s writing style also adds a lot to the readability of the series. While easy to read, his writing’s extremely descriptive and has a unique style that makes it stand out amongst other series.
Even if the middle books of the series slow down a little, overall, reading The Wheel of Time is an incredible experience.
The series proved massively popular and is beloved by fans of books like Lord of the Rings. When Jordan died in 2007, Brandon Sanderson, a fellow fantasy writer, stepped up and finished the series to honor Jordan’s creation.
If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, The Wheel of Time is definitely a must read.
The Kingkiller Chronicles is another extremely popular fantasy series. It tells the tale of a man called Kvothe.
Over the course of the books we learn of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, the time he spent as an orphan in a crime-riddled city and we learn of his entry into the legendary school of magic. It’s the story of a boy who should one day become a renowned swordsman and the most notorious magician the world has ever known. Perhaps he’s even the most wanted man in the world. It’s a tale of adventure and tragedy; a story of resilience and redemption.
While the series doesn’t stand out in terms of originality, it’s extremely immersive. The only downside is that the series isn’t finished, which is unfortunately often the case in the fantasy genre. The two books release so far, however, are excellent.
What’s most interesting about the books, however, is Rothfuss’ writing style. It’s Kvothe himself who tells his story. The books often feature stories-within stories to get a tale across. Rothfuss uses this device brilliantly to create a detailed and rich universe. The series also features one of the most unique magic systems in the genre.
The Kingkiller Chronicles is a series high on action that’s fantastically written. It’s another must-read for people who like books like Lord of the Rings.
R. A. Salvatore is a name that any fantasy fan will recognize. With almost 40 novels to his name, he’s one of the most prolific and popular fantasy writers of all time.
The Legend of Drizzt Series is set in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons and Dragons and proved massively popular.
The first book in the series gives us a detailed description of Drizzt’s earlier life. Born a male into the matriarchal society of the drow, he’s determined to leave his oppressive home of the enormous city state of Menzoberranzan. It’s a place and society full of evil and cruelty.
During his time surviving in Menzoberranzan, he develops his own moral code. He becomes a warrior, embarks on thrilling adventures and dangerous journeys. This long series details all of his exploits and conflicts. Each one of them is exciting in their own right.
The style of the world-building in this book and the entire series is very akin to that of The Lord of the Rings and comes with its typical staple of fantasy races. We meet elves, orcs, dwarfs and even halflings who are reminiscent of the Hobbits in more than one way.
It’s a fantastic series and a great read for both hardcore fans of the genre and for those who are looking to get into fantasy. I highly recommend checking out at least the first book of the series if you’re looking for books like Lord of the Rings.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s series is nothing short of fantastic and some readers state its importance to the fantasy genre is second only to The Lord of the Rings.
While it’s not as popular and often overlooked, Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most outstanding fantasy writers of our time and one of the greatest world-builders.
Yet, The Earthsea Cycle is more often compared to The Hobbit than the epic quest featured in The Lord of the Rings. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story.
Where it sticks out, however, is its use and focus on magic. It’s the story of a young man who learns how to be a wizard, written long before Harry Potter was around.
Duny is a young boy who lives in a sleepy community. Soon enough, however, his true calling and name are revealed. When his aunt recognizes his magical abilities, she teaches her nephew. Yet, his adventure only really begins with the mage Ogion, who takes him on as an apprentice at the Mage School.
It’s here he has to learn more about the nature of magic, his responsibilities as a mage, and has to balance the two. Duny, whose real name is Ged, is a different type of protagonist. He’s an arrogant prick who rubs many of his fellow students the wrong way. This, however, makes his fall from grace much more poignant. In the end, he’s nothing but a fragile boy, and thus a much more relatable character than others.
The Earthsea Cycle is a rich series that features some outstanding world-building and writing. What’s interesting to note is that it’s a series which focuses much more on characters, their personal journey and growth, and not a single epic quest.
It’s definitely worth reading for fans of books like Lord of the Rings.
Starting with The Gunslinger, this series is nothing short of Stephen King’s magnum opus. While Stephen King isn’t known to be a fantasy writer, the Dark Tower can be compared to The Lord of the Rings in more than one way. It’s a chilling tale of tragedy, redemption and bloody action.
The Gunslinger introduces us to Roland Deschain, who sets out after the enigmatic Man in Black. This, however, is only part of Roland’s quest, for he’s set out to reach the Dark Tower.
As the series continues, we meet various characters, villains and get to know a variety of different locations. It’s, without a doubt, an epic series about an epic quest that rivals that of Tolkien.
The Dark Tower is a dark and fascinating tale centered on a decaying fantasy world. Yet, it’s much different when compared to the books on this list. It’s part spaghetti western and part Arthurian legend, but we can clearly see the tolkienesque flavor added to the mix.
It’s at the center of Stephen King’s vast universe.
The Gunslinger and many other books in this series are amongst the best King has ever written.
While the Dark Tower might be different from the other books on this list, it’s definitely worth reading for those who are interested in books like Lord of the Rings.
There are many fantasy novels and series who are compared with and criticized for being too similar to The Lord of the Rings. The Sword of Shannara is one of them.
We meet Shea, who lives a quiet life in Shady Valley, oblivious to the world around her.
She’s eventually taken from her village by the wizard Allanon to find a magical artifact in order to stop the evil warlock Lord who threatens to destroy the Four Lands. This artifact is The Sword of Shannara which can be only used by someone of Shannara blood. By now, there’s only one decedent left, no other than Shea herself.
When you read the first chapters of The Sword of Shannara, you can’t deny that the novel was inspired by The Lord of the Rings. It’s extremely reminiscent of Tolkien’s epic, including Wraith-like beings hunting down our main characters.
After these initial chapters, however, the story forms into its own and takes on an entirely different direction.
It’s definitely a great tale and our main characters are both interesting enough to hold our attention. Especially Allanon is quite a thought provoking and significant character.
What I enjoyed especially was that the quest to destroy the warlock Lord wasn’t as drawn out as that to destroy Sauron. Instead, the series expands into several other adventures, spin-offs and sequels and creates its very own identity.
By now, the series comprises almost 40 books and has evolved from pure fantasy to a science-fantasy hybrid. While it might have started out as a clone of The Lord of the Rings, it’s by now one of the most inventive and sprawling fantasy series out there. It covers thousands of years of history, giving it the same epic and mythic feeling that made The Lord of the Rings so popular.
What’s even more interesting, however, is how many of its standard fantasy tropes featured in earlier books are revealed to be more than that in later books.
While the first book has its problems, I still consider the series a worthwhile read for those who love books like Lord of the Rings.
It’s no surprise that C. S. Lewis and Tolkien have been best friends. At Merton College of Oxford University, the two of them got to know each other and bonded over their mutual fascination with Norse mythology.
The Chronicles of Narnia tells the story of four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. During World War II, they are sent from London to the home of Professor Digory Kirke. It’s there that they discover a wardrobe that leads to the magical lands of Narnia. From then on, they have to help Aslan, a talking lion, to save Narnia from the White Witch.
Each book in the series details their adventures as they protect the lands of Narnia.
While The Lord of the Rings was clearly aimed towards adults, The Chronicles of Narnia is much more tailored towards younger readers. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not a great read for adults as well.
While Tolkien focused on Western and Scandinavian Mythology, Lewis drew inspiration from the classics. His books are full of fauns, mermaids, minotaurs, elves and wizards.
It’s a fantastic series, one that’s very well worth reading for fans of books like Lord of the Rings.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series is one of the most popular fantasy series out there. It comprises 41 books and spans a multitude of subgenres.
It’s, however, quite different from many other series on this list. The Discworld Series stands out by being comical and playing and making fun of many of the tropes established by Tolkien.
It’s a series that’s highly recommended to any fantasy fan out there, but even other readers will surely enjoy the tales of the Discworld.
You’ll find epic quests, lighthearted comedy, but it’s all slightly different from other, every day fantasy books.
What’s most interesting, however, is how Terry Pratchett often uses his comedic fantasy to shine light on real-life issues. Which is something you’ll surely notice if you read the series.
Overall, The Discworld is extremely popular for a good reason and anyone who’s a fan of books like Lord of the Rings should read it.
The Dragonlance books are a collection of tales inspired by the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons and Dragons.
They have taken a well-known world, fleshed it out and extended and populated it with memorable characters and plots.
While some of them can be slightly over the top, they are always a lot of fun to read.
The series blends brilliant writing with your typical fantasy tropes and clichés to create something extraordinary.
While it can be rather stereotypical as far as epic fantasy is concerned, the stories themselves are nothing short of phenomenal.
If you’re looking for more epic stories about elves, halflings and dragons, the Dragonlance Chronicles are not a terrible choice.
The Silmarillion comprises some of Tolkien’s earliest works with some stories completed in the 1910s. It’s a collection of tales and short stories that outline the mythology and history of Middle-earth.
This book is definitely a must read for fans of The Lord of the Rings and those who love books like Lord of the Rings. It gives you a lot of additional information on anything you might be interested in and fleshes out Tolkien’s universe.
The Silmarillion takes us back to Middle-earth’s first age. Many of the tales, however, aren’t fleshed out short stories, but read more like folktales or legends. Yet, this only serves to give them a certain character. The Silmarillion is a book full of lore, but a great read especially for those who love world-building.
The book, however, was never finished by Tolkien himself, but by his son Christopher.
One thing to note is that The Silmarillion is a tough book to go through. It’s extremely complex, dense and full of mythical characters, terms and places. This is the main reason it never became as popular as The Lord of the Rings.
Yet, I still regard it as a must-read for anyone who likes books like Lord of the Rings.
What better to read for fans of books like Lord of the Rings than The Hobbit, Tolkien’s first book published back in 1937? While it stands well on its own, many people recommend reading it as a follow-up to The Lord of the Rings. The book reveals more about Bilbo, the ring and Gandalf making it not only a great read, but it also adds to the experience of Lord of the Rings itself.
The Hobbit tells the story of Frodo’s Uncle Bilbo. One day, Gandalf shows up at his doorstep and convinces him to go on a quest with 13 dwarfs to win a treasure guarded by the terrible and wicked dragon Smaug.
The Hobbit is a much more charming and gentle story than The Lord of the Rings because it was written for children. It’s also a lot more episodic in fashion, and each chapter contains its own micro-story.
The best part of the book might be the chapter titled ‘Riddles in the dark.’ It’s here where Bilbo meets Gollum and gains a certain magical ring.
The Hobbit is a quick read, but it’s definitely worth reading, especially for fans of books like Lord of the Rings and its connection to the events therein.
Starting with Song of Blood and Stone, The Earthsinger Chronicles might be the newest entry on this list. Yet it’s a fantastic series.
It introduces us to the magical world of Earthsingers and The Silent. They are two warring worlds held apart by a fragile veil called the Mantle.
Our protagonist, Jasminda, is a farmer who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life away from judgement. She’s an Earthsinger who lives amongst The Silent. This makes her someone who possesses ancient magical powers.
For these powers and the color of her skin, she’s shunned by the people around her.
It’s a band of Lagrimari soldiers who destroy her quiet life. Because of them, however, she meets Jack, a spy from the other side of the Mantel. She soon learns that the separation between the two worlds is failing and peace might be at risk.
Jasminda’s Earthsong might be the only thing that prevents the failing of the Mantel and The True Father from crossing over into her world and taking over.
The book tackles a variety of issues, such as race, homophobia, xenophobia and much more. Yet, it all comes with some great world-building and lots of interesting political dynamics.
Penelope’s writing can be best described as lyrical prose, which is strangely reminiscent of Tolkien’s epic, which he called a poetic song.
The Earthsinger Chronicles is an interesting series, one that tackles many of the problems of our time, but mixes them with traditional fantasy elements. While it’s quite different from many other books on this list, I think more people should read it. It’s especially interesting for fans of books like Lord of the Rings.
Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy has proven a fan favorite and has become one of the most popular fantasy series in recent years. It’s definitely worth reading for those who are looking for books like Lord of the Rings.
The series centers on Kelsier, a once hero and now slave and Vin an orphan who’s turned into a thief to survive. What’s special about them, however, is that they have extraordinary powers which are usually reserved only for the nobility.
Together, the two of them lead a band of rebels to eliminate the Lord Ruler.
What makes these books so great is the plot, which is incredibly complex and comes with many twists and turns. Yet, there’s also Vin. With her grit and tenacity, she’s become one of the series’ most beloved characters and a fan favorite.
What’s most interesting, however, is how the series was inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Sanderson didn’t merely want to write another series based on an epic quest to save the world. Instead, he thought about a world in which Frodo’s quest failed and the Dark Lord reigns supreme.
Overall, the Mistborn trilogy is an amazing fantasy series and a must-read for fantasy fans.
One of the earliest work of what can be considered epic fantasy.
It’s set after the events of the Trojan War depicted in the Iliad. Odysseus and his men prepare to sail home, but after angering the god Prometheus, they spend ten years being lost. They encounter mythical enemies, endure multiple challenges and have to show wit and tenacity to overcome them.
The Odyssey is one foundation of Western literature and especially the fantasy genre. There’s no doubt that this work inspired Tolkien’s epic.
It’s a fantastic read, especially for those interested in mythology, but also any fantasy fan out there. If you like books like Lord of the Rings, give the Odyssey a try.
Tad Williams is a writer I always loved. The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series is his big venture into the realm of fantasy. It’s a series clearly inspired by Tolkien, but who shapes its own identity.
It’s set on the continent of Osten Ard. Humans, dwarf-like Qanuc and the immortal elf-like Sithi, live in peace. It’s all because of the human king, John the Presbyter.
When the king’s health fails, however, so does this peace. For the world hides a dark secret that finally beings to stir when the read priest Pryrates sets out to accomplish his scheme. Yet, there are far more terrible powers hidden in the world.
The young kitchen boy Simon knows nothing about these things, but gets caught up in the events of the novels. He’s forced to go on an adventure that takes him to places far away from his home.
This choice of character is interesting for Simon’s entirely relatable to the reader. Especially early on, he feels more like a bystander and watcher who’s dragged into the events at play.
It’s a fantastic series with some great characters and action. If you’re looking for a series of books like Lord of the Rings, Tad Williams’ epic is definitely a must-read.
This is probably the most famous and popular fantasy series after The Lord of the Rings. When the series first debuted, it not only revitalized but revolutionized a genre that seemed stuck.
It’s set in a medieval world in which dragons once proved to be the supreme military power and seasons lasted for years.
Yet, the story itself is low on magical elements and instead focuses on political-intrigues and power-play. While there are magical elements to be found, they are scarce. This, however, only heightens their impact. The Song of Ice and Fire is a series that focuses much more on realism than any other series on the list.
It’s set in a dark, violent world, full of intrigues, villains and anti-heroes. Its narrative is almost entirely character driven and adds a lot of emotional depth.
The story is set in Westeros, the land of the Seven Kingdoms and Essos, a continent to the East. The events in the books center on the various ruling families of the Seven Kingdoms.
Before the series’ outset, Robert Baratheon led a rebellion and took the throne from the last ruler Aerys II. Years later, the land is at peace, but trouble stirs again. The hand of the king suddenly dies and Eduard Stark, his old friend, is called to Kings Landing to become the new hand of the king. This sets into motion a series of events and ploys for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. At the center of these and other events are the children of Eduard Stark and we follow them as they try to survive in a world that becomes increasingly violent.
Most impressive about the series is its set of characters. There are a lot of characters to be found in A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, be they villain or protagonist, they all prove massively interesting and the many POVs give us insight into all of them. Be they Lannister, Stark, Baratheon or Targaryen, they all have set their eyes on the Iron Throne.
Yet, there’s another danger. In the north, beyond the 8000-year-old Wall, the Others loom.
Even though there’s the HBO series based on Martin’s books, I highly recommend reading the books. They far eclipse the adaption and are much more detailed. Yet, the books remain unfinished to this day and most likely will never be finished.
Even though, A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the greatest accomplishments in the fantasy genre and anyone looking for books like Lord of the Rings should read it.
Steven Erikson’s epic is my favorite fantasy series of all times. It’s raw, gritty, full of war and brutality and one of the most complex series I’ve ever come upon.
It centers on the Malazan Empire, whose armies set out to conquer the last remaining free cities on the continent of Genabackis.
The first book of the series introduces us to Whiskeyjack and what remains of the Bridgeburners, an elite unit of soldiers. They are sent to Darujhistan to prepare for the impending conquest. Yet, other powers gather around the city and soon things go out of hand.
This, however, is only the first book of this epic series about war. Over the course of the series we get to know new characters, new dangers, and, of course, The Crippled God, the major antagonist of the series.
What makes this series so great, however, are the many characters. The books are populated by a vast, yet incredible cast of characters. I’ve you read the books I’m sure you’ll come to love Whiskeyjack, Kalam, Quick Ben and especially Anomander Rake.
What makes things even better is that almost all the main characters are hardened soldiers whose talk is full of dry, crude and sarcastic soldier humor.
Yet, one thing has to be said about these books. They are brutal and unrelenting. One of the best things is that it’s a depiction of a world of war and full of dangerous creatures and ambitious gods is unforgiving. Over the course of the books, you will learn just how unrelenting it is, and that almost no one’s safe.
While it’s a series full of action and brutal battles, it also contains its fair share of philosophical musings. Especially Toll the Hounds, one of the later books in the series, is full of retrospections about life and the world.
The greatest parts about the Malazan book of the Fallen, however, are the world-building and its magic system. Over the course of the books, we slowly get to know more about the world, the Malazan Empire and many other things.
The magic system in Malazan is entirely unique and based on different planes called Warrens. Magic users can tap into them and control them. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and absolutely fantastically done.
The only criticism I have for the series is that there’s sometimes too much going on and one can easily get lost in a world and story that is almost too rich. The worst offender of this is book one, The Gardens of the Moon, which is arguably the worst book in the series. It throws you into the world, explains nothing and leaves you hanging while you’re trying to make sense of things. Frankly said, the Malazan world can be overwhelming. Things get better, and the book isn’t bad by any means, but it still proves a challenge.
Overall, however, I think if you’re looking for a series that’s full of magic, war and brutal battles that comes with a cast of fantastic characters, you can’t go wrong with The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
It’s one of the best epic fantasy series out there for people who look for books like Lord of the Rings. I can’t recommend it too much.