If you are a fan of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, you’ll probably agree that it takes a long time for the writer to produce a book. Martin has been writing them for decades, and, as most are aware, the producers of the Game of Thrones television series had to take matters into their own hands by finishing the tale on screen while waiting for the author to catch up.
The reason for the delay is, of course, that these are long fantasy epics, and they take a long time to write. But Martin is hardly the first, nor will he be the last, to take years to build a fantasy world. Below we look at five series that beat Martin’s opus in terms of length and scope. While some have flaws, they are a wonderful way to escape to a new world this winter:
The Riftwar Cycle – Raymond E. Feist
The most comprehensive world-building by any fantasy author, the Riftwar Cycle spans 30 books. The action takes place on the world of Midkemia (as well as some in the world of Kelewan, which is connected by a rift to the former). Feist first took us to this world with Magician (1982) and finished up with Magician’s End (2013). The stories take place over 100-150 years and feature several recurring characters. While Feist ran out of steam towards the end, the earlier books (Magician, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon) are some of the best examples of high fantasy. Feist is a highly underrated writer who has an uncanny knack for making you want to find out what happens next.
Belgariad and Mallorean – David Eddings
Eddings takes a lot of flak in fantasy circles for his repetitiveness and two-dimensional characters. In addition, the way he writes female characters is a real turn-off for a modern audience. However, there is something that draws you into this epic series (10 main books, 2 prequels) of gods and heroes. It has a je ne sais quoi quality that makes you really care about what happens to Belgarion, Belgarath and the rest of the characters. For all his flaws, Eddings makes you feel like you are part of the close-knit crew who travel across a world to do the impossible – kill a god.
The Conan Series – Various
We won’t say that the Conan series has been tainted by the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies of the 1980s, but those have kind of warped what the series is all about. There is an enduring appeal of the Conan character, even if his current appearances seem limited to comics and NetEnt’s Conan slot game. But Robert E. Howard created the character all the way back in 1932, and there are dozens and dozens of novels and novellas based on the barbarian’s adventures. Some are trash, and some are brilliant. Finding out which is half the fun.
Drenai Saga – David Gemmell
The Drenai Saga is a bit looser than other series on this list. The action still takes place in the same world, but Gemmell plays with different characters, eras, peoples, and themes. As with a lot of heroic fantasy written in the 1980s, one of the main criticisms of Gemmell’s work is that it gets a bit macho, and it is a bit more about epic battles and blood-soaked warriors than magicians casting spells. But there is still plenty to like. The Drenai Saga comprises 11 books, but you can find them in three omnibus editions.
The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
Started by Robert Jordan over 30 years ago (and finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death), The Wheel of Time series is probably the most critically acclaimed of any on this list, and it is much more of a high concept series. There are 15 books in the series (12 by Jordan, 3 completed by Sanderson). There’s also a host of comic books, games, tv shows and even a musical soundtrack. But the best way to immerse yourself is through the books, starting with the Eye of the World (1990).