Your Epic Fantasy Starter Pack

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Ryan McRae

Epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literature that typically involves a large, complex world-building, with a rich history, diverse characters, and often involves a grand conflict between good and evil. These novels are characterized by their epic scope, sweeping storylines, and a multitude of interwoven plotlines. They often feature magical elements, mythical creatures, and a vast array of unique cultures and societies. Epic fantasy novels are known for their attention to detail, intricate world-building, and the creation of immersive and believable fictional worlds.

But where do you get started? How do you not waste time on a chonky book? Here are three that won't disappoint. 

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

"The Way of Kings" is the first book in Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy series, "The Stormlight Archive." With a vast and complex world, intricate magic system, and compelling characters, this book is an excellent example of epic fantasy at its finest.

The book follows the stories of three main characters: Kaladin, a former soldier-turned-slave, Shallan, a noblewoman seeking to become an apprentice to a scholar, and Dalinar, a high prince struggling to unite his kingdom against external threats. Through their perspectives, we are introduced to a world of highstorms, Shardblades, and magical gemstones that can power everything from buildings to swords.

Sanderson's world-building in "The Way of Kings" is exceptional, with a rich history and mythology that slowly unfolds throughout the novel. From the shattered plains to the mysterious cities of the Parshendi, every location feels unique and fully realized. The magic system, based on the manipulation of Stormlight, is similarly well-developed, with a clear set of rules and limitations that keep it from feeling too overpowered.

The characters in "The Way of Kings" are equally impressive. Kaladin, in particular, is a standout, with a tragic backstory and a compelling arc that makes him one of the most memorable protagonists in recent fantasy. Shallan and Dalinar are similarly well-written, with their own unique struggles and motivations that make them more than just archetypes.

The book does have some pacing issues, particularly in the middle section, where the plot can feel a bit bogged down by exposition and world-building. However, the climactic battle at the end of the book more than makes up for any slow moments earlier on.

Overall, "The Way of Kings" is an excellent start to what promises to be an epic and unforgettable fantasy series. With its stunning world-building, complex magic system, and compelling characters, it's a must-read for fans of the genre.

Note: this series is not complete. 

The Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb 

"Assassin's Apprentice" by Robin Hobb is a captivating and emotionally charged novel that introduces readers to the world of the Six Duchies and the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who becomes an apprentice to the royal assassin.

The book begins with Fitz as a young boy, sent to live with his father's family in Buckkeep, where he discovers his unique ability to communicate telepathically with animals. Despite being a member of the royal family, Fitz is an outcast due to his illegitimate birth, and he finds solace and purpose in his training as an assassin.

The world-building in "Assassin's Apprentice" is superb, with intricate details and vivid descriptions that bring the setting to life. From the sprawling castle of Buckkeep to the bustling markets of the city, every location feels fully realized and unique. The magic system, which revolves around the use of Skill and Wit, is equally well-developed and adds depth to the story without overwhelming it.

Hobb's prose is elegant and poetic, with a masterful use of language that captures the emotions and inner turmoil of her characters. Fitz, in particular, is a well-drawn and complex protagonist, with a deep sense of loyalty and duty that often puts him at odds with those around him. His relationships with his mentor, Burrich, and his wolf companion, Nighteyes, are particularly moving and provide some of the most memorable moments in the book.

The pacing in "Assassin's Apprentice" can be slow at times, with the focus on character development and world-building sometimes taking precedence over action and plot. However, the book is never dull, and the tension and intrigue build steadily throughout, leading to a thrilling climax that sets the stage for the next book in the series.

Overall, "Assassin's Apprentice" is a fantastic start to a must-read series for fans of epic fantasy. With its rich world-building, compelling characters, and poetic prose, it's a book that will stay with readers long after they've turned the final page.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

"The Priory of the Orange Tree" by Samantha Shannon is a stunning epic fantasy novel that weaves together a tale of magic, politics, and dragons across multiple continents and perspectives.

The story takes place in a world divided by religion and politics, with the East and West separated by a vast sea and an ancient conflict between dragons and humans that threatens to ignite once again. The narrative is divided between several perspectives, including Queen Sabran of Inys, a dragonrider named Tane, and a young woman named Ead who is part of a secret order tasked with protecting the queen.

Shannon's world-building in "The Priory of the Orange Tree" is intricate and impressive, with each location and culture feeling unique and fully realized. The magic system is similarly well-developed, with a clear set of rules and limitations that add depth to the story without becoming too complicated.

The characters in the book are equally well-written, with each one having their own distinct voice and motivation. Queen Sabran is a particular standout, with a complex backstory and a compelling arc that sees her forced to confront her own beliefs and prejudices. Ead is also a fascinating character, with a mysterious past and a fierce determination to protect the queen at all costs.

The pacing in "The Priory of the Orange Tree" can be slow at times, with the focus on world-building and character development sometimes slowing the plot down. However, the tension and stakes are always present, and the book builds to a thrilling climax that brings all the threads of the story together.

Overall, "The Priory of the Orange Tree" is a beautifully written and captivating epic fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of the genre. With its rich world-building, compelling characters, and intricate plot, it's a book that will stay with readers long after they've finished it.



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