Explore the Middle Ages through These 10 Medieval Fantasy Books

The medieval fantasy genre can often introduce you to historical fiction while taking you into the world of fascinating characters and landscapes that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

If wizards, battles, kings, and magic are the components you want in your next book, then here are ten of the best medieval fantasy books to read.

10. A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

First Published: 1996

What It’s About:

The first of seven novels in this epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, meant to resemble Medieval Europe. Fifteen years before the start of the novel, the Seven Kingdoms faced destruction by a civil war when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Stark, leading to a lengthy battle between different families of the kingdom. In the present, Lord Eddard Stark is the warden of the North and feels he has been cursed when King Robert appoints him as the in-charge of the office of the Hand.

Why You Should Read It:

If you have already seen the hugely popular television show, then you know how addictive this storyline has been with audiences in recent years. The books in this series are equally, if not more, fascinating with storylines that will enrapture you for hours on end. The characters are fierce while the plotting and scheming across generations are masterfully created by Martin.

Best Quote:

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

9. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

First Published: 1950

What It’s About:

The first of seven novels known as The Chronicles of Narnia, this is one of the best-known and loved fantasy novels to be written in the 20th century. The story focuses around four Pevensie siblings Edmund, Susan, Peter, and Lucy. Evacuated from London during the Second World War, the four children are sent to live in the countryside home of Professor Digory Kirke. When exploring the professor’s house, Lucy comes across a wardrobe which leads to a forest in a magical medieval land called Narnia. Over several visits through the wardrobe, the four children meet a variety of characters, including the White Witch of Narnia, a talking beaver, a helpful faun and Aslan the great lion.

Why You Should Read It:

One of the most successful children’s authors, C.S. Lewis created this timeless classic that is today a much-loved story recommended for both children and adults.

Best Quote:

“Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia.”

 

8. Summers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn

First Published: 2001

What It’s About:

The story revolves around Coriel, the illegitimate daughter of the wealthy Halsing family. Corie, as she is commonly called, is a simple village girl who lives with her maternal grandmother, the local witch and a well-respected wise woman. Until the age of six, Corie is an apprentice under her grandmother, learning all about magic, when she is called to her father’s side of the family. Now Corie spends every summer at Castle Auburn, where she meets her regal half-sister Elisandra, her sister’s fiancé, the crown prince Bryan, and Uncle Jaxon. Spending her time between her old life with her grandmother and her newfound relatives proves to be a difficult way of life for Corie as she struggles to make sense of her magical studies while trying to create a life for herself.

Why You Should Read It:

Set in medieval times, this is a fun coming-of-age story that shows the struggles of a young girl coming to terms with an increasingly complicated life.

Best Quote:

“Sometimes we become what we see. Sometimes we take what we see and make it the model for what we refuse to become.”

7. Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley

First Published: 2000

What It’s About:

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, an evil fairy Pernicia places a curse on a baby princess, Rosie, saying that the child will prick her finger on a spindle on her 21st birthday and fall asleep forever. The princess is taken far away from the kingdom by Katriona a young fairy, who, along with her aunts, looks after Rosie. The trio raise the child in a town called Foggy Bottom and the story follows Rosie as she matures into an intelligent young woman who is able to speak with animals as well. When Rosie turns 20, a powerful fairy, Ikor reveals to Rosie her fate and helps devise a scheme to save her.

Why You Should Read It:

Read it if you enjoyed the original sleeping beauty story and want to see a revised version of the classic.

Best Quote:

“When they finished laughing they were on their way to being not just friends, but the dearest of friends, the sort of friends whose lives are shaped by the friendship.”

6. Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay

First Published: 1990

What It’s About:

In the Peninsula of the Palm, a mystical land with two moons, eight of the nine provinces have been captured by the warrior sorcerers known as Brandin and Alberico. When Brandin’s young son is killed during a battle with the neighboring kingdom of Tigana, the sorcerer proceeds to destroy the entire Tigana principality along with anyone remaining in their army, also destroying the books and the architecture of the region. Several years later, a small group of survivors from Tigana, including the royal prince of the region, are swiftly beginning to implement their plan to overthrow the two evil sorcerers. In the court of Brandin, unknown to him, his favorite concubine is a survivor from Tigana but has kept this fact a secret from everyone. Will she fall in love with the tyrant or will she get the vengeance she has wanted for years?

Why You Should Read It:

The story is fascinating because the subject matter can be applied to the real world, even though it falls under the genre of fantasy. The idea that an entire generation can be robbed of its identity is a horrifying one and themes of displacement and vengeance are explored wonderfully in this medieval fantasy novel.

Best Quote:

“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”

5. The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One), by Joe Abercrombie

First Published: 2006

What It’s About:

A trilogy, which blurs the line between good and evil, hero and villain, The First Law is full of memorable characters. Logen Ninefingers is a barbarian with a bad reputation who has collected his share of enemies who now want him dead. Captain Jezal Dan Luthar is a nobleman who is always looking for someone to take advantage of, even his own friends. Along with his friends, he is preparing to fight on the battlefields of the frozen north. Glokta is the inquisitor and also a torturer and wants Jezal dead. Bayaz is the bald wizard with a bad temper and is about to complicate the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta.

Why You Should Read It:

The author does a brilliant job of showing how a character goes from being good to evil. The battle scenes, while quite gory, are fantastically written. This medieval fantasy novel veers towards the darker end of the spectrum in terms of subject matter and themes.

Best Quote:

“Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than live with the fear of it.”

4. The Histories of Middle Earth, by J.R.R. Tolkien

First Published: 1996

What It’s About:

Written as part of the appendices for the Lord of The Rings, Tolkien’s monumental fantasy trilogy, the History of Middle Earth is a compilation of Tolkien’s work on this magical land. Divided into several books, the story follows the evolution of the people of middle earth, the languages they spoke, the different regions, and the rise of Sauron, the evil shadow, which later ruled the evil land of Mordor in Lord of The Rings. Compiled by his son, Christopher Tolkien, these books were published post J.R.R.’s death and were derived by studying countless essays and other records which had never been published before.

Why You Should Read It:

If you are a fan of Tolkien’s work, you will enjoy seeing how he conceptualized the background to Middle Earth a long time before Lord of the Rings was published. It is fascinating to see how the stories were later changed in the published version and what Tolkien originally created. Even if you have never read Tolkien’s work, this is an excellent collection to have because at heart, it’s storytelling at its best. From discovering individual characters to entire races and places, the books show the depth of Tolkien’s vociferous imagination.

Best Quote:

“Thus the third age of Middle-Earth began. History became Legend. Legend became Myth and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.”

3. The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks

First Published: 2010

What It’s About:

The Prism refers to the most powerful man in the world. Gavin Guile, the protagonist of this story, is the Prism. A man with plenty of charm and wit, Gavin is the high priest and also the emperor. Unfortunately for Gavin, Prisms are not meant to last forever and Gavin knows he has only five years left to achieve all his goals. Gavin’s world is turned upside down when he discovers the existence of his son, who lives in a kingdom far away. He must now decide how to keep this secret hidden while plotting his move to fulfill his destiny.

Why You Should Read It:

If you enjoy plots with a heavy dose of magic and grandeur, then this is the book for you. Each character is a complex one and with an intricate story to follow, the reader is left with a fast-paced page-turner in their hands.

Best Quote:

“Moments of beauty sustain us through hours of ugliness.”

2. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

First Published: 2000

What It’s About:

In this mysterious fantasy trilogy, the reader enters a world where demons and winged creatures live alongside humans. An entity that calls itself ‘Dust’ has the power to unite the different universes, but only if it survives the destruction itself. The books bring together the topics of science, theology, and magic. The story takes place in a location similar to Earth, while some of the story also takes place in a location similar to Oxford, England.

Why You Should Read It:

If you enjoyed the Hollywood adaptation of the first part of the trilogy, The Golden Compass, then the books will be even more enjoyable. The stories are a thrilling adventure moving swiftly between different worlds. Read this book if you enjoy fast-paced stories set in vibrant worlds with multifaceted characters. The fascinating point about these books is the way in which they look at the subject of good and evil, dissecting each side and questioning how one becomes good or evil without simply picking one side.

Best Quote:

“Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.”

1. The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman

First Published: 1982

What It’s About:

The protagonist of this modern classic is Richard, the Third. A monarch who was betrayed by those he trusted. He was born in fifteenth century England during the War of the Roses and was raised as the lesser loved brother of his famous sibling, King Edward IV. The book is a retelling of the monarch’s life, discussing a man who was deeply loyal towards his friends and in love with a woman who he was not allowed to love.

Why You Should Read It:

With plenty of politics, battles, passion and revenge, this is the story of a monarch which you can simply not miss. The story blends history with fiction, perfectly bringing to light an often misunderstood member of royalty. If you prefer your historical fiction with a lot of action, adventure and memorable characters, then this is the book you must read.

Best Quote:

“We tend to forget at times that it is the little ones, the children, who do suffer the greatest hurt. If we cannot comprehend why certain sorrows are visited upon us, how on earth can they?”

Conclusion

These ten medieval fantasy novels will be loved by readers looking for stories from another time. If you are looking for Kings, battles, feuds, magic, and mythical characters like witches, then look no further.

Whether you are a medieval fantasy fan or a first-time reader of the genre, you will enjoy going back in time and sometimes, even to a different realm with these medieval fantasy books packed with adventure.

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