The best fantasy books with epic world building

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a debut author and avid reader of Urban Fantasy. Renewing the Arbors is my first published work, but I have many more planned to come. Like some of my recommendations, all of my works take place in the same urban fantasy world. Different characters have their own problems to solve and adventures to have. That’s why I love books with big, richly developed worlds. An open world leaves room for new characters and new adventures without becoming stale or overused. I hope the books on my recommendation list keep you as invested as they have kept me. 


I wrote...

Renewing the Arbors

By Samantha Hickey,

Book cover of Renewing the Arbors

What is my book about?

The world has not seen druids for two hundred years. The demon lord, Mathias, has hunted them to extinction in pursuit of vengeance, leaving their cities and magical groves empty and unattended. Alia is ready to take the last step in her training, but Declan has been dragging his feet in fear of losing another apprentice. Also, Galvin has arrived unexpectedly on their doorstep, seeking Declan’s help to escape a life where his greatest expectation is to do as he’s told. 

After Declan is captured, the two discover a spell that could protect Declan and the long empty groves from Mathias, but the spell is more advanced than either of them. Only too late will they discover that it has altered them both forever.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Storm Front

Samantha Hickey Why did I love this book?

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series is one of my absolute favorites. A quirky wizard detective working on a shoestring budget and always getting into trouble is always a fun read for me. The characters and the world building are well crafted with many depths and facets. These books are what really started my love for urban fantasy.

By Jim Butcher,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Storm Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put…


Book cover of Outlander

Samantha Hickey Why did I love this book?

I have always had a love for historical fiction, but not time travel. Gabaldon does both splendidly in her Outlander series. She had done some thorough research to fill her world with historical events and people and it shows. This series really shows that the best magic systems and world building come from the legends and myths we already think we know. 

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Outlander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The first book in Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed Outlander saga, the basis for the Starz original series.

One of the top ten best-loved novels in America, as seen on PBS’s The Great American Read!
 
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and…


Book cover of A Court of Thorns and Roses

Samantha Hickey Why did I love this book?

This book is an absolute five-star read. Maas has built such a beautiful and rich fae world with its own history and intricacies that really make the setting come alive. The characters are also artfully crafted with deep and rich relationships. This series has really rekindled my love for true fantasy with all new worlds to explore.

By Sarah J. Maas,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Court of Thorns and Roses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Experience Feyre Archeron's journey all over again with the beautiful collector's edition of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the seductive first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series by Sarah J. Maas, featuring a deluxe new package, an updated map, ribbon pull, and more! When nineteen-year-old Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin-one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. As she…


Book cover of The Lightning Thief

Samantha Hickey Why did I love this book?

A good story is not exclusive to adult fiction. Riordan proves that with his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Good books are for everyone. Riordan has built a huge urban fantasy world based on the ancient mythology we already know and has breathed new life into it. I love how the different series all exist in the same world. Sometimes they cross over and meet one another, but it’s not a forced meeting. 

By Rick Riordan,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Lightning Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Lightning Thief: the First book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

The first bestselling book in Rick Riordan's phenomenally successful Percy Jackson series.

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive.

This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky,…


Book cover of A Discovery of Witches

Samantha Hickey Why did I love this book?

I love the richness of this fantasy world within our own. The magic system follows rules, but, like life, those rules are not absolute. The characters, as highly intelligent people, do a lot of research and experimenting to discover how to work around these non-absolute rules to, what else? Defeat evil of course. 

By Deborah Harkness,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked A Discovery of Witches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.


You might also like...

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

Book cover of Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

PJ Davis

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Featured in "Best Middle Grade Fantasy Books" - Reedsy Discovery

"Fun & Fast Paced, This is Middle Grade Fantasy at its Best!" — Shaun Stevenson

"If you know any middle-grade readers who enjoy science fiction/fantasy with a mix of action, danger, and humor - recommend this book to them, or just go ahead and give them a copy." — The Fairview Review

“With elements of adventure, exploration, other worlds, and fantastical science, Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time is an exciting middle-grade novel with plenty of suspense… Behind the adventure are important messages about believing in oneself and finding inner strength.” — The Children's Book Review

"The plot of Nemesis and The Vault of Lost Time is a tapestry of surprises characterized by its unforeseen twists and turns. It’s this element of suspense that grips the readers, while the vivid descriptions create immersive visual experiences. Beyond its adventurous core, this mystery novel delves into themes of friendship and the nuanced dynamics of father-son relationships, offering a multi-layered reading experience." — The Literary Titan

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

What is this book about?

Thirteen-year-old Max is a daydreamer. It gets him into trouble at school, but his restless curiosity really turns problematic when he runs into a mysterious professor at his uncle's bookstore.

The old man informs Max that time is being sucked out of the planet by invisible bandits, stolen from unsuspecting people one breath and one sneeze at a time, and is being stored in a central vault. Once full, the vault will fuel a hungry horde of invaders looking to cross into earth, and cross out all its people.

What's more, the professor claims he knew Max's missing scientist father.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in curses, wizards, and witches?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about curses, wizards, and witches.

Curses Explore 77 books about curses
Wizards Explore 95 books about wizards
Witches Explore 134 books about witches