The popularity of fantasy audiobooks is on the rise. You’ll find that almost all new fantasy books of 2019 launch with an accompanying audiobook, even those from small or independent authors.
The audiobook market itself has been slowly gaining traction in recent years, with sales figures seeing a bump of up to 20% on some platforms. The genre of fantasy fiction has also seen a massive leap in interest since the start of the new decade, with the number of books and audiobooks sold doubling over the 10 years prior.
With so much content available for your ears, how do you find the best fantasy audiobooks to listen to? Audiobooks can make massive tomes of fantasy stories much more accessible to the wider market, but they are a huge investment of time, which means you need to get the decision right
With so many options out there, yet such an important choice to be made, which are the best fantasy books available to listen to? It’s not as easy as you might think. Sure, you can go for classics or well-known books, but some fiction translates better to the spoken word than others, while some narrators really bring worlds to life and make the listening experience an actual experience; whereas some really don’t.
The best fantasy reads aren’t always the best fantasy audiobooks.
Finding the Best Fantasy Audiobooks: At a Glance
When looking for the best fantasy audiobooks to listen to, you might want to really research your next choice, or you might just want to jump in a try something new. Here, you can find all you need. Below I’ve put together a brief coverage of the who, what and why to help you make a quick selection. But, if you want more information on each of the items in this list of the best fantasy audiobooks, click on the image to jump to some longer and more in-depth details.
Author: J.R.R Tolkien
Narrator: Robert Inglis
Length: 18 hours (average)
Subgenre: Epic fantasy
Why? Experience Tolkien’s legendary trilogy in a new and exciting way
Author: Scott Lynch
Narrator: Michael Page
Length: 23 hours (average)
Subgenre: Crime Fantasy
Why? A fast-paced jaunt with exceptional voice acting throughout
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Steven Pacey
Length: 22 hours (average)
Subgenre: Grimdark fantasy
Why? One of the best fantasy audiobooks for voice acting available
Author: Neil Gaiman
Length: 4 hours
Subgenre: Urban Fantasy
Why? A must-listen, this is one of the best fantasy audiobooks for an ensemble cast
Author: Alex Marshall
Narrator: Angèle Masters
Length: 22 hours (average)
Subgenre: Dark fantasy
Why? An immersive dark fantasy ride perfectly suited to the audiobook format
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 50 hours (average)
Subgenre: Epic fantasy
Why? Perhaps the best fantasy audiobooks for sheer volume of content
The Details: More About the Best Fantasy Audiobooks
Lord of the Rings Narrated by Robert Inglis
Okay, so I’m already contradicting myself - sort of. Tolkien pretty much defined the modern fantasy genre with The Lord of the Rings. Yet, despite saying classics don’t necessarily mean great listens, it’s the first title I am suggesting on a list of the best fantasy audiobooks.
Hear me out.
The Lord of the Rings has been in existence for over 80 years. In that time, the way to read has changed and the fiction we care to absorb it has also changed. Tolkien’s world is incredible. It’s earth-shattering and generation-defining, but it can also be a slog at times and isn’t necessarily an easy-to-access fantasy series when on the page.
That being said, anyone that enjoys the fantasy genre - be they newcomers or veterans - will have a yearning to enter the world of Middle-Earth.
Narrated by Robert Inglis, The Lord of the Rings is actually one of the best fantasy audiobooks around, because it enables those who can’t get into the books to experience Tolkien's works.
Inglis’ telling encapsulates everything that is brilliant about Tolkien’s world. His voice brings life where there should be life, eeriness where there should be suspense and gripping drama when our beloved characters are in peril. It’s one of the best fantasy audiobooks because it’s the perfect retelling of the trilogy, done so in a way that can help those who might not be willing to put the time and effort required into navigating the books.
The First Law Narrated by Steven Pacey
Many would argue that the novels in Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series are perhaps the best fantasy audiobooks you can listen to.
It’s a dark fantasy that explores both elements of high and low fantasy. It’s very accessible and great for newcomers to the genre, yet has plenty of depth and world-building to satisfy even the most well-versed of fantasy fans. And, its story is rich and full of diverse characters that ensure there is always somebody you want to learn more about.
However, the real reason these are some of the best fantasy audiobooks around is the way Steven Pacey delivers each and every line. His voice acting is spot on, his accents bring the characters to life in a way many other narrators simply can’t, and his dramatisation of scenes is just textbook.
The Crimson Empire Trilogy Narrated by Angèle Masters
What makes The Crimson Empire Trilogy worth of a spot on this list of the best fantasy audiobooks? We have to start with the story, of course.
The Crimson Empire is a strong contender in this competition thanks to its highly-immersive and visual world. The plots, locations and characters within which this series is set lends themselves to the kind of campfire oral storytelling that you can only really achieve with an audiobook.
Author Alex Marshall’s dark and twisted grim fantasy world is outlandish and vivid, yet described in a way that makes it really easy to digest as an audiobook. Some fantasy is so rich and so descriptive that the subtleties get lost in the audio medium, but The Crimson Empire translates perfectly across platforms.
You’ve then got the narrator, Angèle Masters. She is the conduit through which life really is given to this, one of the best fantasy audiobooks you’ll find. Her voice acting is diverse and incredibly memorable, giving characters personality and adding a new layer of depth to the unfolding narrative.
Stormlight Archives Narrated by Michael Kramer
The Stormlight Archives, written by Brandon Sanderson, feature an epic fantasy world of staggering depth. From the word go you are plunged into a high-fantasy story of diverse magic, creatures, mythology and other concepts. Those looking for the best fantasy audiobooks will find something wonderfully immersive and creative in Sanderson’s work.
Although, be warned, the detail here goes down to the minute and is offered up quickly and relentlessly. You need to pay attention at all times, this isn’t a fantasy audiobook that you can really listen to while doing other things.
What may really attract listeners to the Stormlight Archives though, is their sheer length. If you have a lot of spare time to kill, perhaps you are travelling a lot or your commute is a killer, these are some of the best fantasy audiobooks you’ll find.
At around 50 hours in length per novel, you’ll struggle to run out of story.
Neverwhere Narrated by a Full Cast Ensemble
Neverwhere is very different from the other items found on this list of the best fantasy audiobooks for a few reasons. First, it’s actually the novelised adaptation of a BBC series written by Neil Gaiman. It’s also an urban fantasy, set in London during the 90s, intertwining magic and mythic elements with modern Britain in an exciting tale that toes the line between high and low fantasy.
What really makes this one of the best fantasy audiobooks available, and well worth a listen though, is the full cast ensemble.
Featuring the voice of the legendary Christopher Lee, as well as performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer and more, this well-told and professionally voiced tale is one of the best fantasy audiobooks you’ll find, purely because it's such a dramatic and dynamic experience. Having everyone read the lines of their own characters really makes for a different kind of audiobook, and one everyone should try.
If Neverwhere isn’t your thing though, you can try other full cast ensemble audiobooks, such as His Dark Materials, American Gods or Ender's Game.
The Gentlemen Bastards Narrated by Michael Page
The Gentlemen Bastards has to be featured on this list of the best fantasy audiobooks because it offers fantasy lovers and fans of fiction alike something completely unique when it comes to the genre. This series is rough around the edges, very much focused on an adult market with some particularly grim scenes and heavy-handed use of expletives. But, that fits the story brilliantly. The book revolves around fantasy-themed heists and is set in a world modelled on a sort of dark-ages Venice.
Like I said, it’s very different to your typical fantasy book.
What truly makes the novels in Gentle Bastards series some of the best fantasy audiobooks though, is the fantastic work of Michael Page. As you’ll have noticed on this list, what really makes a good audiobook is the person behind the spoken word and Page’s interpretation of Scott Lynch’s series is without flaw. Like Pacey and The First Law, his mannerisms, focus on bringing dialogue to life, and attention to detail when it comes to characters really sets this one up as a must-listen.