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
By Selah J Tay-Song

Who am I?

I’ve been reading epic fantasy since I was fourteen, and over the years my taste has evolved. But the one thing that has always drawn me to fantasy, and always will, is the characters. Whether simple and familiar or deep and complex, every good epic fantasy leaves me a little richer in imaginary friends. While writing my own books over the last twenty-five years, I’ve gained the ability to create my own characters to fall in love with. I get to push them to grow and watch them succeed. I hope you will fall in love with the characters in Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern too!

I wrote...

Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern

By Selah J Tay-Song,

Book cover of Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern

What is my book about?

Princess Stasia follows a vision from a magic dream away from the underground ice kingdom Iskalon. She disobeys her father, outruns the infuriatingly handsome captain of her guard, and ventures into the dangerous tunnels of the fire kingdom. Just another day for Stasia. Until it isn’t. Unbeknownst to Stasia, the half-mad fire king has escalated a centuries-old conflict, determined to burn Iskalon to the ground. Captured in battle, Stasia succumbs to magic flames to protect her family’s secrets in death. Impossibly, she survives the inferno. A new magic begins to grow inside her, the power of the enemy: Fire.

If you like the vivid cast of Assassin’s Apprentice, the detailed worldbuilding of The Eye of the World, and the gritty realism of Empress, you’ll love the Dreams of QaiMaj epic fantasy series!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Assassin's Apprentice

Why did I love 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!

By Robin Hobb,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Assassin's Apprentice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Voyager Classics - timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.

A beautiful clothbound edition of Assassin's Apprentice, the first book in the critically acclaimed Farseer Trilogy.

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if…

Kushiel's Dart

By Jacqueline Carey,

Book cover of Kushiel's Dart

Why did I love 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!

By Jacqueline Carey,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Kushiel's Dart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The lush epic fantasy that inspired a generation with a single precept: Love As Thou Wilt

The first book in the Kushiel's Legacy series is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. A world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, deposed rulers and a besieged Queen, a warrior-priest, the Prince of Travelers, barbarian warlords, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess...all seen through the unflinching eyes of an unforgettable heroine.

A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger... a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm...



By Karen Miller,

Book cover of Empress

Why did I love 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.

By Karen Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a family torn apart by poverty and violence, Hekat is no more than an unwanted mouth to feed, worth only a few coins from a passing slave trader. But Hekat was not born to be a slave. For her, a different path has been chosen. It is a path that will take her from stinking back alleys to the house of her God, from blood-drenched battlefields to the glittering palaces of Mijak.This is the story of Hekat, precious and beautiful.

The Eye of the World

By Robert Jordan,

Book cover of The Eye of the World

Why did I love 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.

By Robert Jordan,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Eye of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When a vicious band of half-men, half beasts invade the Two Rivers seeking their master's enemy, Moiraine persuades Rand al'Thor and his friends to leave their home and enter a larger unimaginable world filled with dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light .

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel…

The Broken Crown

By Michelle West,

Book cover of The Broken Crown

Why did I love 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!

By Michelle West,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Broken Crown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel of the acclaimed Sun Sword series introduces readers to a war-torn world of noble houses divided and demon lords unleashed...

Tor Leonne—the heart of the Dominion of Annagar, where the games of state are about to become a matter of life and death—and where those who seek to seize the crown will be forced to league with a treacherously cunning ally....

Tor Leonne, ancestral seat of power, where Serra Diora Maria di’Marano—the most sought-after beauty in the land, a woman betrayed by all she holds dear—may strike the first blow to change the future of the Dominion…

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