16 of the Best Fantasy Authors Ever
These brilliant fantasy authors will transport you to another world—whether a parallel universe or a post-apocalyptic version of Earth. Discover our top listens from the best in the genre.
July 13, 2020
There is no feeling quite like falling in love with a great fantasy listen, doing a little digging, and joyfully discovering that the author has an extensive catalog of audiobooks waiting for you to dive into. Fantasy offers its fans a wealth of diverse authors writing all different kinds of stories. From classic epics to the latest standalone novels, it's the perfect genre for losing yourself in a full day’s worth of listening.
With so many great fantasy authors out there with rich bibliographies filled with exciting adventures and epic worldbuilding, the conversation of who's the best naturally comes up. While there are far too many amazing writers in this genre to rank definitively, we’ve gathered up this list of some of our favorite fantasy authors. Read on and see how it matches up with your own!
You know this New Jersey native as the author of the high fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire— the inspiration for the global phenomenon that is HBO's Game of Thrones. But Martin's work as a writer stretches all the way back to the 1970s, and his writings are an impressive testament to his status as one of the best fantasy authors of all time.
With the urban fantasy October Daye series, the Wayward Children series, and many other works of fantasy to her name, Seanan McGuire is one of the most prolific authors currently working in the genre. Spanning fantasy, sci-fi, and standalone volumes like Middlegame, McGuire's bibliography is packed with great listens.
From finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series to penning his wholly original works in the Cosmere universe, including the Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson has a great talent for worldbuilding and epic fantasy. Beyondwriting novels, Sanderson promotes the art of storytelling through podcasts, teaching, and articles. That passion for constructing good tales is evident in his wide body of work.
Although Patrick Rothfuss has only a few books to his name to date, the Kingkiller Chronicle is such a sweeping, exciting adventure with a deeply imagined magic system that it's hard not to put him on this list. With The Name of the Wind, he established a name for himself as a seriously talented writer of heroic fantasy. The Doors of Stone, the third book in the series, is due out later this year, and should further solidify Rothfuss's status as a true great of the genre.
One could credibly make the argument that no other author on this list would be here were it not for the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, his surname has gone on to become synonymous with epic fantasy. The Lord of the Rings built many of the genre's main characteristics, such as the concept of true heroism and how unlikely bonds are forged in the face of a great evil. Although Tolkien did not invent fantasy strictly speaking, it's difficult to imagine modern fantasy without the signpost of his monumental works.
A Nigerian-American writer, Okorafor is a relative newcomer to the genre—but her fabulous fiction marks a new beacon in fantasy. Among her works, the historical-fantasy hybrid Who Fears Death is one of the finest, featuring magic and a revenge quest in a post-apocalyptic Sudan. Okorafor's stories are often inspired by the real-world conflicts in Africa, a perspective that brings a fresh outlook to the fantasy realm.
The Witcher is a sprawling enterprise at this point, generating novels, comic books, television shows, and even various iterations as video and tabletop games. It all originates from the mind of one writer: Andrzej Sapkowski. The Polish author has written many books—including another trilogy and a standalone novel set during the Soviet-Afghan War—but the Witcher is where gold was struck. It's among the most well-known fantasy franchises out there, and that alone makes Sapkowski one of the most significant fantasy authors working right now.
One of the best things about listening to fantasy is that it grants you the ability to fully immerse yourself in an intricately imagined other world. For a great example of this, look no further than the works of Robin Hobb, including five separate series set in the Realms of the Elderlings. From the Farseer Trilogy to the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, it's an impressive collection of stories that bring Hobb's imagined universe fully into being.
Dragons are one of the fantasy genre's most iconic creatures, and with good reason—dragons are super cool. In the Temeraire series, Naomi Novik creates a historical fantasy in which the Napoleonic Wars are fought not only at sea, but also in the air—aboard dragons. Novik is also the author of the excellent standalone high fantasy Uprooted, about a plain and ordinary teenage girl’s tense yet symbiotic relationship with a wizard (known as the Dragon) who controls the evil of a forest that encroaches her village.
Tamora Pierce is the kind of writer who’s practically impossible to dislike. Her YA fantasy books are not only well-imagined and enticing, but also provide representation for young girls and women in the genre. Pierce has said that while she loved well-known fantasies like The Lord of the Rings, she couldn't understand why the books lacked teenage girls as warriors and heroes. So, when she began gravitating toward fantasy writing, she made it a point to include the types of characters missing from books she loved: strong and brave young women. Beginning with the Song of the Lioness series, Pierce's bibliography is a delight to listen to all the way through.
Among the youngest writers on this list, Katherine Arden is one fantasy author you will want to keep your eyes on in the coming years. This is largely due to her historical fantasy, Winternight. Combining elements of fantasy and Russian folklore with a strong coming-of-age arc for protagonist Vasilisa, the trilogy is a thrill for fans of any genre, but in particular for those passionate about fantasy.
Brian Jacques famously wrote the vast majority of his Redwall series while sitting in his garden, inspired by the foliage around him and the creatures within it, with a typewriter. Jacques wrote the Redwall books non-sequentially, giving the world of Mossflower and Redwall Abbey a limitless feeling and an ongoing, complex chronology in which events of some stories affected the history of others. No other fantasy author writes quite like Jacques did; his work has a truly enduring legacy.
There is some debate as to whether Anne McCaffrey wrote fantasy or science fiction. While the Pern novels feature dragons and other fantastical elements, the dragons specifically are created through scientific means. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the author herself have described her work as science fiction, while one critic listed her books as among the best fantasy novels ever. Either way, McCaffrey deserves consideration on the lists of all-time greats in both genres.
Mariellier's most recent novel, Beautiful, released in 2019, shows that this author of historical fantasy is still writing to the highest caliber. Known widely for the Blackthorn & Grim series, as well as the Sevenwaters books, Marillier writes stories that are wide-ranging and emotionally resonant, while also being very fun to be absorbed in. She places great emphasis on the importance of human connections to the natural world. With elements of folklore, romance, and family sagas, each of Marillier's books is an unforgettable experience.
Having written the earliest drafts and ideas of her Throne of Glass series when she was still a teenager, Sarah J. Maas is a young voice in the genre who has already released several modern classics of the YA fantasy canon. With the recently released debut volume of House of Earth and Blood, the author's signature blend of exciting fantasy settings, romance, and intrigue is showcased in an adult fantasy series for the first time.
You can debate until the sun comes up about the most significant fantasy series of the last 30 years, and there are good cases to be made on behalf of many of them. The conversation would be incomplete, though, without consideration of The Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan's 15-book series, which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after the author's death in 2007, is the epitome of high-concept high fantasy. Taking place on an unnamed planet that is simultaneously past and far-future Earth, The Wheel of Time is, simply put, one of the best fantasy series of all time. By that measure alone, Robert Jordan is one of the best fantasy authors ever.
D.R. Baker is a writer and musician based in New York City. Their work has appeared at Book Riot, Submittable, HowlRound, and others.