Must-Read Fantasy Books: Top Picks for the Year


The Azrian Portal recently compiled a list of fantasy books, from the legendary series that is The Lord of the Rings to new and unheard of fiction. Unfortunately though, I haven’t read nearly as many of the titles on that list I’d have liked to.

With a cumulative word count pushing into the hundreds of millions, there is simply no way one man can read so much fiction in so few years on this world. I’m sure I’ll get there one day.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent this year exploring more than my fair share of fantasy worlds. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a multitude of amazing must-read fantasy books in 2018, and as the year draws to a close, thought it time I shared my top picks of the year.

Note, these are just books/audiobooks I read/listened to in 2018. I’m not trying to pretend they are new finds of the year!

*Update - Check out the latest blog for this year’s most relevant content about the new fantasy of books of 2019.

The First Law Series - Joe Abercrombie

The father of the Grimdark genre, Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy is a triumph of fiction and a must-read fantasy series.

I became utterly engrossed in this series the moment I picked up The Blade Itself, and spent much of my free-time pushing to get to the end of the trilogy. I was wrapped with both the epic scale of the conflicts involved and the close-knit character stories.

The First Law series is so noteworthy because everything you expect to happen, happens, but not in the way you expect it to happen. You can see plenty of things coming, and plenty of tropes played out, but not ever in anyway like you’d imagine.

Joe Abercrombie’s world is, not surprisingly in a grimdark fantasy series, grim and dark. It has a realism and truth to it which propels the stories and makes the strangest of characters believable in everything from their behaviours to their motives.

The First Law series was an intense ride I couldn’t wait to go back to every time I finished a book. It’s a must-read fantasy, with the second in the series, Before They Are Hanged, being my favourite book of the year; and potentially my favourite ever written.

The Poppy War - R.F Kaung

R.F Kaung’s The Poppy War is winning awards and picking up accolades left, right and centre. There is a damn good reason for it too. The Poppy War is an impressive work of fiction, and not just because it’s the debut piece of a 21-year old author that has reached best-selling status.

Another grim and sworded affair, both thematically and in terms of those giant forged steel weapons, this book offers everything you could possibly want in a must-read fantasy novel. It has epic conflict; it has driven and believable characters; its world is both fantastical and fleshed out while feeling completely real and tangible as a place; it has exciting magic and breathtaking mythology; it also has true consequences for actions and isn’t afraid to break the reader’s heart.

The Poppy War is a wild ride. It has twists and turns. It has fun elements aplenty while also bringing sheer pain and anguish as well.

It’s a real, visceral story.

The Crimson Empire Trilogy - Alex Marshall

Monsters. Bloodshed. Betrayals. Twists. Passion. Devastation.

The Crimson Empire trilogy has so many elements of an exciting story, let alone a must-read fantasy book series, in sheer abundance. This is one of those tales that has you questioning what is happening, but not in a ‘I don’t get it’ sort of way.

No, in a ‘I need to know more’ sort of a way.

A story of depth that reaches as many moments of absolute depravity and heartache as it does joy and satisfaction, The Crimson Empire trilogy toes a perfect line between a world of hope and a world of impossibility. You never know what is going to happen next. Where things will go.

Fans of fantasy will find everything they could possibly hope for in this series. There is magic. There is mayhem and brutality. There are dirty politics, deeply explored religions and culture, creative worlds and a genuinely intriguing mythos.

I couldn’t get enough of this series, I don’t reckon you will either.


Already read these titles and looking for something you might not have heard of before? Why not try the fantasy short stories available from The Azrian Portal.