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11 Best Fantasy Books for Beginners (My Personal Favorites!)

Diving into the world of fantasy literature can be pretty intimidating, especially when you encounter doorstopper-sized tomes that feel heavier than Frodo’s decision to walk to Mordor.

Trust me, I’ve been there, gazing wide-eyed at ginormous books and feeling just as overwhelmed as you probably are now. But the good news is that a surprising number of fantasies are accessible for beginners.

Allow me to guide you on an enchanting quest as we explore the 12 best fantasy books for beginners!

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links below, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, you may earn a commission. Full disclaimer here.

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1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I found “A Darker Shade of Magic“ by V.E. Schwab to be a great starting point for beginners. Set in the 1800s, the story takes place in multiple versions of London, providing a fresh and unique – yet somewhat familiar – magical setting.

The world-building in this series is approachable and not overwhelming, making it perfect for those new to the fantasy genre. It’s one of those books that makes you feel like you’re watching a movie in your head.

The magic system Schwab has created is both fascinating and easy to grasp. With four distinct versions of London – each with its own level of magic – the story will hook you in within the first chapter.

One of the essential aspects of a great fantasy series is loveable characters, and “A Darker Shade of Magic” delivers on this front.

Kell, an Antari magician who can travel between the different Londons, and Lila, a daring thief who longs for adventure, quickly became two of my all-time favorite characters.

Their adventures provide a thrilling, fast-paced narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The author, V.E. Schwab, has a talent for blending magical realism and fiction while leveraging simple but poignant prose to keep you engaged.

It is the first book in a likewise fantastic trilogy.

2. Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

Tress of the Emerald SEa

As a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work, I found that Tress of the Emerald Sea is the perfect introductory novel to dive into his vast bibliography.

This young adult fantasy novel takes inspiration from the beloved classic, The Princess Bride, combining elements of piracy, intrigue, and unique magic systems to create an exhilarating adventure for readers.

The core of the book revolves around its extraordinary magic system.

Centered on funky magic spores, Sanderson intertwines this concept seamlessly with the world-building. These magical properties offer a fresh twist to the genre and contribute to the novel’s sense of wonder.

Tress of the Emerald Sea is a prime example of Sanderson’s talent to innovate and surprise readers with his magical creations.

The characters and their journeys are crucial to the story. Readers will accompany them on adrenaline-pumping escapades filled with:

  • Swashbuckling pirates

  • Mysterious islands

  • Treacherous waters

  • Talking animals and negotiating dragons

  • Daring rescues and battles

All of these contribute to the overall satisfaction when immersing oneself in the fantastical realm Sanderson has crafted.

Though Tress of the Emerald Sea is considered part of Sanderson’s extensive Cosmere universe, it is remarkably accessible for newcomers.

One does not need to have read any of his other works to enjoy this singular novel.

The compelling characters, engaging plot, and refreshing magic system ensure that readers can fully appreciate this highly entertaining and fun book without any barriers.

So, if you’ve ever hesitated to start reading Sanderson’s work, Tress of the Emerald Sea is the ideal entrance to his remarkable literary world.

3. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

mistborn

If you’re ready to tackle a Brandon Sanderson series but want something accessible, the Mistborn Trilogy is another an excellent starting point. It’s not only engaging and easy to understand, this is one of my all-time favorites. (So much so that I sprung for the leatherbound special editions and swag box from Sanderson’s website!)

Centered on metal-based powers, it is both intricate and easy to comprehend at the same time. As you dive deeper into the world of Mistborn, you’ll find yourself enamored by the details of its magic system.

The trilogy takes place in a vividly described world full of diverse characters, mysterious settings, and an underlying sense of tension.

The political intrigue prevalent in the storyline continuously keeps the reader captivated and eager to know more.

Moreover, the story features dynamic characters who experience significant growth throughout the series.

This trilogy consists of the following books:

  1. The Final Empire

  2. The Well of Ascension

  3. The Hero of Ages

One of Sanderson’s writing hallmarks is his ability to maintain a clear and simple narrative throughout the series. His style makes it easy for both beginners and experienced readers.

4. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

strange the dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is another one of my favorite fantasy books.

Its beautiful writing style, lovable characters, and unique, heartfelt story make it a perfect choice for those new to the fantasy genre. This book masterfully interweaves elements of mystical, forbidden magic, humor, and even a tender romance.

The story follows Lazlo Strange, a young man who dreams of a long-lost city that is believed to be a myth and his journey to unearth its secrets.

As he delves deeper into the world of Weep, he encounters a cast of unforgettable characters that readers can easily connect with and root for. (Even the ones you don’t root for.. you somehow end up rooting for!)

This book also has incredible world-building that isn’t the least bit overwhelming.

As a fantasy novel, it offers a rich and magical landscape that invites readers to fully immerse in an extraordinary environment.

This mystical setting, combined with a well-structured plot and a healthy dose of forbidden magic, results in a truly compelling read for those looking to explore the world of fantasy literature.

5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susana Clarke

If you’re looking for a shorter read to begin your journey into the realm of fantasy, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is an excellent choice.

This novel is a unique and intriguing tale, yet it is quite easy to follow due to a limited number of characters and a centralized setting – a labyrinth filled with mysterious statues.

The protagonist, Piranesi, is an endearing, if increasingly troubled, character. His childlike wonder and fascination with his surroundings make him an engaging character to follow and root for throughout the story.

The novel is perfect if you enjoy magical realism with a strong mystery component.

The central theme of Piranesi revolves around the labyrinth, which plays a critical role in the narrative.

It’s one of those books where you’re confused the second you open it up, but as the tale unfolds and more mysteries are unveiled, you quickly find yourself sucked in. I read this in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down!

6. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

nettle and bone

This fascinating is what I like to call “grim cozy”; it’s made up of dark elements, and yet there is something wholesome and fairytale-like about it.

The novel takes you on an unforgettable journey as you follow the protagonist through her encounters with various mythical creatures, such as dogs made of bones, possessed puppets, and possible-impossible tasks.

It’s the perfect blend of magic and whimsy.

You should enjoy this book if you’re a fan of dark fairy tales that transport you to different worlds while maintaining a sense of familiarity. (However, if you’re expecting more horror elements in your fantasy books, this ain’t that.)

The book focuses more on the bonds of sisterhood and the lengths one goes to save a loved one. There’s also a teensy sprinkle of romance that I enjoyed.

Sprinkled with humor and a refreshing approach to storytelling, Nettle & Bone is the perfect balance between darkness and light.

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Ideal for readers new to the world of fantasy, Legends and Lattes delves into a pleasant corner of the genre known as cozy fantasy.

With its charming, low-stakes storyline and engaging characters, this short novel spins a fun tale filled with magic, wonder, and satisfying moments.

The story follows an ogre who decides to leave behind her life of adventure and embrace a peaceful existence by opening a coffee shop.

Travis Baldree’s writing style is masterful, creating a warm and welcoming environment in which the reader can easily lose themselves. The vivid description of the magical world, the delightful coffee shop, and the cast of characters all contribute to the immersive experience of the novel.

The world the characters live in feels very much like World of Warcraft to me. The premise drew me in as someone who used to play such games because I always loved spending time in the town and talking to NPCs. This book is kind of like that!

7. A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

a river enchanted

I’ve never met a Rebecca Ross book I didn’t like.

But out of all of them, A River Enchanted is probably my favorite! This book has a compelling plot that seamlessly weaves together elements of fantasy, mystery, and magic.

Even though the book is filled with fantastical components, its smooth narrative and well-developed characters make it easily accessible for readers who are new to the genre. Throughout the novel, Ross showcases her talent for crafting intricate and vivid descriptions that fully immerse readers in her world.

The story is about a harpist named Jack who returns to his magical home island, where young girls have been disappearing. Pulled into the mystery to help find them, Jack works with his childhood acquaintance, Adaira.

The Scottish-inspired setting adds a touch of realism and familiarity to an otherwise fantastical narrative.

This book also delivers just as much swoon-worthy romance as it does captivating mystery and adventure.

8. The Will of the Many by James Islington

the will of the many

If you’re looking to explore an epic fantasy novel, The Will of the Many is a good one to try.

The Roman-inspired setting sets this novel apart from others, providing a fresh and intriguing backdrop for the story.

While the plot is somewhat intricate, the clear and precise writing style makes it accessible to beginners to the genre.

The gradual and detailed world-building creates a vivid and immersive experience for readers.

One aspect I found particularly exciting was the political landscape woven into the story; politics play a significant role in the narrative, adding depth and nuance to the characters and their interactions.

If you like twists and turns that you never saw coming, you will love this book.

Without revealing any spoilers, I can assure you that there is a massive twist that I found to be both shocking and incredibly satisfying.

Just a word of warning: the cliffhanger at the end of the book will leave you wishing the sequel was already out!

9. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

the invisible life of addie larue

If historical fiction fantasy sounds like your jam, this is a great one to pick up!

This story centers around Addie LaRue, who makes a pact with a dark spirit to escape a life she does not want. In return, she’s granted the ability to live forever without aging, but her newfound immortality is not without a curse; as soon as she is out of someone’s sight, they lose all memory of her. Addie, who fears death and desires more than anything to leave her mark on the world, finds herself in a constant battle against oblivion.

The book is beautifully written and features memorable characters. Addie is a complex, intriguing protagonist, terrified by the prospect of death yet conflicted about her circumstances. Her relationship with the dark spirit is what makes the book so interesting.

I’d like to emphasize to potential readers that this is not your typical romance novel, so if you’re expecting a traditional love story, you might be disappointed.

However, these unconventional elements only add to the novel’s allure – it remains a terrific choice for fans of magical realism.

10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

throne of glass

This series holds a special place in my heart, even though it is YA fantasy.

Sarah J Maas excels in creating a vivid and immersive world, filled with magic, mystery, romance, and intrigue.

The tale follows the story of the courageous heroine, Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who gets involved in the complex politics and schemes of varying kingdoms.

I love Celaena’s character and her development throughout the series. There are also a ton of other characters you’ll become obsessed with as the series progresses, like Chaol, Dorian, Manon, Rowan, Elide, Yrene, and more.

What sets the Throne of Glass series apart from others is its ability to balance the action-packed plot with the emotional development of its characters.

The story features a wide cast of diverse and vibrant characters, each possessing their own unique skills and backgrounds that contribute to the collective narrative.

11. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I tend not to like older books because the wiring style feels less accessible at times.

Not so with Assassin’s Apprentice! This is the first novel in the Farseer Trilogy and features a captivating blend of magical creatures, immersive world-building, and well-developed characters, making it an ideal choice for beginners.

In Assassin’s Apprentice, readers follow a boy named Fitz as he navigates the treacherous world of court intrigue while learning the art of assassination.

The story is rich with political machinations, and the characters are complex, each with their own allegiances and ambitions that keep the reader guessing.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel for me was its magic system, called the Skill and the Wit.

The Skill is a powerful form of telepathy, whereas the Wit allows the user to bond with animals.

Both forms of magic are woven into the fabric of the story, giving readers a taste of a compelling and unique magical world.

In addition to the magic, the vivid descriptions of the Six Duchies and its magical creatures truly immersed me in the world created by Robin Hobb.

From the majestic telepathic wolves to the deadly Red Ship Raiders, Hobb’s universe feels alive and full of wonder.

Conclusion

There are other authors and writers that I could recommend – Samantha Shannon, Christopher Paolini, or Patrick Rothfuss, to name a few. But I wanted to give you a list of my personal favorites and ones that tend to get overlooked by first-time fantasy readers.

I hope this list of the best fantasy books for beginners has excited you to start living your fantasy era! Just be warned that once you get into the fantasy genre, you may not want to read anything else!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some must-read fantasy novels for newcomers to the genre?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and The Will of the Many by James Islington are my top picks for beginners.

What are the top beginner fantasies for someone who loves romance?

Throne of Glass or the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas are fantastic. I also recommend Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and One Dark Window by Rache Gellig. (Check out my full list of romantasy reads.)

Can you suggest some fantasy literature that is suitable for adult beginners?

My top picks are:
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
The Will of the Many by James Islington
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Which YA fantasy novels are ideal for someone just starting out?

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas is where I would start.

best fantasy books for beginners

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