The best epic fantasy books with characters you’ll fall in love with

Selah J. Tay-Song Author Of Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern: Dreams of QaiMaj: Book I
By Selah J. Tay-Song

The Books I Picked & Why

Assassin's Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

By Robin Hobb

Book cover of Assassin's Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

Why this book?

Assassin’s Apprentice was the first book where I fell so completely in love with a character that when they died later in the series, I wept like my own brother had died. The story follows Fritz, a royal bastard who finds himself on the knife’s edge of the monarchy’s politics, from the age of six to adulthood. The story is told so closely from Fitz’s point of view that I felt I knew him intimately by the end of the book. Beside Fitz, the whole cast springs to life, from the mysterious Fool, to Molly, Fitz’s first love, to his kind but spacey stepmother, Patience, to the wolf who becomes his greatest friend. I didn’t fully understand the concept of character-driven until I read this book. If you want a fantasy book that delves deep into human nature and reveals cutting universal truths, you must read Assassin’s Apprentice—and the satisfying series that follows!

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Kushiel's Dart

By Jacqueline Carey

Book cover of Kushiel's Dart

Why this book?

Reading Kushiel’s Dart helped me overcome the shame that comes with the enjoyment of kink—and it did so in the context of a hearty fantasy adventure. Carey imagines a world where sex isn’t taboo, no matter how bizarre the desire. The main character, Phedre, has a rare predilection for pain that makes her infinitely valuable, and also infinitely vulnerable. The reason I fell in love with Phedre is that her strength as a character comes from her vulnerability. Without lifting a sword, without clever political manipulations, without any political power of her own, Phedre manages to escape great danger, warn her country of an imminent attack, and thwart the plans of her enemy, a powerful woman who seems to hold all the cards. If you like fantasy with a touch of eroticism along with powerful, yet vulnerable characters, don’t miss Kushiel’s Dart!

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By Karen Miller

Book cover of Empress

Why this book?

Reading Empress forced me to face my own assumptions about the nature of evil. The first book of the Godspeaker trilogy, Empress is a detailed account of the life of the villain. Hekat is a mistress of her own fate, cutting herself a path from child slave to renown warrior, to god-touched wife of the great Warlord, and finally to Empress as she spurs her warlord on to conquer the entire world. Even as Hekat commits terrible atrocities, you can’t help but fall in love with her ability to navigate a bloodthirsty culture and always come out on top. If you enjoy the complicated feeling of falling in love with a villain, Empress is a must-read for your booklist.

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The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan

Book cover of The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time

Why this book?

The Eye of the World has a deep personal meaning for me, as reading the Wheel of Time series as a teenager inspired me to start writing epic fantasy. Archetypal though they are, Jordan’s characters are unforgettable, from stoic Lan to braid-tugging Nynaeve to cheeky Mat. Rather than getting too caught up in character development (although they do grow and change throughout the series), Jordan uses the technique of familiarity. You know Mat’s going to make that quip, and he does; you know Rand will argue with Moiraine again, and he does. The familiar is comforting and endlessly entertaining. You can’t go wrong reading The Eye of the World if you are looking for characters to fall in love with.

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The Broken Crown

By Michelle West

Book cover of The Broken Crown

Why this book?

The Broken Crown is one of those epic fantasy books that snuck up on me. The story starts slow, but by the end of the book I was deeply in love with the characters. The story follows a host of characters from two very different lands, on the eve of war between their countries. Although the customs of one of the lands seem strange, the trials of the characters are universal. For example, the high-born can only show affection for their loved ones in public one night of the year. In the beginning, we see a main character reveling in her father’s affection that one evening. Later, her father destroys everything important to her in the pursuit of power. Her recollection of that one display of affection becomes a real tear-jerker. If you like a fantasy story with more emotional pain than blood, you’ll love The Broken Crown!

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