The best fantasy novels with characters you love getting to know

D.L. Gardner Author Of Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1: Rise of the Tobian Princess
By D.L. Gardner

Who am I?

I write, I read, I love people, and I have been living in a fantasy world ever since I was small. Personalities fascinate me and I have studied the little quirks and oddities that flavor individuals both in my artwork (I’m a portrait artist/oil painter), in my college major (counseling), and while writing my stories. What makes us who we are, and who our characters are, involves our backstories, our hopes, our fears, our dreams. Everyone has them and our characters in our stories should too. Oftentimes when I’m writing I find myself exploring a character more than I thought I would and that’s the fun part. I enjoy authors who do the same. 

I wrote...

Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1: Rise of the Tobian Princess

By D.L. Gardner, Mario Teodosio (illustrator),

Book cover of Sword of Cho Nisi Book 1: Rise of the Tobian Princess

What is my book about?

From the moment Erika makes a fatal mistake that could cost her father his kingdom, she meets the challenge of redemption head-on, tackling the Dark Wizard, rescuing her brother from a torturous curse, and wrestling with a stormy love affair. She's not alone, for the struggles are more than one person could handle, and her help comes from both family and unexpected sources. Regardless of who proves their allegiance, the Sword of Cho Nisi Rise of the Tobian Princess is a test of courage for all our heroes.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Half a King

By Joe Abercrombie,

Book cover of Half a King

Why this book?

In the first chapter as Yarvi stands before his father as the king and suffers verbal abuse, I wanted to rush into the throne room and support him. With only one arm, this young disabled prince had to go out into a bloodthirsty world to prove that he was not only worthy of the throne (which he didn’t want), but that he could survive the cruelties of his enemies while lacking the ability to hold a shield or swing an axe. I was pulling for Yarvi from the very beginning and through the entire series. I also love the titles of the Shattered Seas. Half a King, Half a War, and Half the World. So good!

Mistborn: The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson,

Book cover of Mistborn: The Final Empire

Why this book?

I am completely awe-struck by Sanderson’s magic system in Mistborn. The story is as unique and the world captivating. The plot twists kept me turning pages. However, if I don’t fall for a character, I’ll shelf the book, so I must add that in Mistborn, Sanderson does not disappoint. Vin was a compelling female lead, but my heart went out to Kelsier (even though I could sense Sanderson trying to persuade me to root for Vin. I have to admit I found another character to support in the next book). Mistborn was a fun, imaginative, and exciting read, and I think this series is one of his best.

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

By Robert Jordan,

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

Why this book?

I think book 1 of his 14-book series Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan’s best. I absolutely adored Rand (and Mat). The story is a classic because the detail is so vivid, the pacing perfect, and the world building as rich and vast as Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I’m the kind of reader who wants to get lost in a story and stay there as long as I can. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time will. As for the characters, every one of them has distinct personalities and I quickly chose my favorites. There were some I loved to hate as well. 


By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

Dune is science fiction, a little off course for me although it takes place in an equally fantastic world as any epic fantasy, and the dreams and visions certainly expand the reader’s imagination. It’s difficult to understand in some ways, yet there are golden nuggets, little quotable passages of truth offerings one gets to chew on and digest. What I liked most about Dune is the relationships. In a completely alien world where moons rise and fall and people and creatures inhabit multitudes of planets, we still have mother-son, father-son, relationships that tug at the heart. It’s a good book!

The Girl from Everywhere

By Heidi Heilig,

Book cover of The Girl from Everywhere

Why this book?

It’s not often you can pick up a fantasy book and laugh. Not only laugh but travel with a rogue group of people and enjoy every minute of it. The Girl from Everywhere is just plain fun! I loved the characters, so much personality! That it’s a time travel story makes it exciting, and I have a passion for tall ships, so she had me with the sailing adventure. Add to that humor and a feisty dialogue. I can’t say enough about this book.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pirates, galactic empires, and piracy?

5,716 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Pirates, galactic empires, and piracy.

Pirates Explore 57 books about Pirates
Galactic Empires Explore 10 books about galactic empires
Piracy Explore 95 books about piracy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rendezvous with Rama, The Overstory, and The Once and Future King if you like this list.