The 10 Best Fantasy Books of 2010

The Ranting Dragon has been around for three months now. That isn’t a very long time, but we didn’t let that stop us when it came to finding the best fantasy books of 2010. Good thing, too, that our reviewers were fantasy readers long before October.

Out of all the 2010 releases we’ve read, we created a list of our top ten. It’s taken us a while to catch up, but we feel like we managed to read all of last year’s most promising releases. And what a great year it was after all! We didn’t get some of the releases that were promised to us, like George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons or Patrick Rothfuss’ Wise Man’s Fear, but what we did get was good enough to make us forget those books (almost).

In 2010, we saw a lot of great fantasy: some great debuts, two of which have a well-deserved spot in this list; some sequels; the start of several epic series, such as Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive and Brent Week’s The Lightbringer; and the much awaited penultimate volume in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. The fact that Towers of Midnight didn’t even make the list shows just how good this year of fantasy really was.

So, without further ado, here is our list of the ten works of fantasy we liked most in 2010:

1. The Passage by Justin Cronin
One of the biggest hits of the summer, The Passage didn’t fail to deliver on the hype. The first book of a trilogy, this novel begins in our near future, quickly devolving into a post-apocalyptic world overrun by humans transformed into blood-sucking, indestructible, humanity devoid vampires by a highly contagious virus. The book is a monster spanning over 100 years that you won’t want to put down. 2012 and sequel The Twelve can’t come soon enough!
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Passage.
2. The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
Sequel to The Warded Man (The Painted Man in the UK), The Desert Spear has all the ingredients of its predecessor: an epic story with a well thought out magic system, fleshed out characters and some great demons for them to fight against, a good amount of foreshadowing and suspense from start to finish. With the addition of many new viewpoints and a much larger scope, the story of The Desert Spear builds upon the previous volume and surpasses it in many ways, making Peter V. Brett a fairly new author who is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Desert Spear.
3. The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms isn’t only a great novel, it’s also written by N.K. Jemisin, the first debuting author on our list. This novel is the first in her Inheritance Trilogy, of which the second volume, The Broken Kingdoms, was also released in 2010. The story is like nothing that’s ever been done before. The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms tells of a naïve girl who’s tossed into a new life in the majestic city of Sky, with all its political intrigue, magic, and dangers. It is also a unique story of gods among men written from the first person perspective of the lead character.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms.
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Fourth on our list is the latest release from the new it-boy of the Fantasy genre, Brandon Sanderson. The Way of Kings is a truly ambitious work at over 1000 pages, but Sanderson manages to make those pages fly by with interesting characters, intricate plotlines and, true to form, fascinating and well thought-out magic systems. In this first volume of The Stormlight Archive series, we get just a little taste of what promises to be a compelling story set in the extensive and diverse new world of Roshar. Though it will be a bit of a wait before we get the next bite of what promises to be one of the best fantasy series of the decade, no reading list is complete without The Way of Kings.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Way of Kings.
5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
As the last book of the trilogy, the Young Adult novel Mockingjay wraps up the story of The Hunger Games satisfyingly. After the rebels flee to District 13, they decide to wage war against the Capitol. We follow Katniss on the battlefield where the story becomes darker than in any the previous books. In the final installment of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins again proved that she is a laudable writer and one to keep an eye on in the future!
Want to find out more? Read our review of Mockingjay.
6. The King of the Crags by Stephen Deas
The King of the Crags is the second volume in Stephen Deas’ Memory of Flames trilogy, the sequel to last year’s The Adamantine Palace. Though this book is yet to be released in the United States, it was released in the UK in 2010 and therefore deserves a place in this list. In The King of the Crags, Stephen Deas has combined all that’s good in fantasy and spun it around in a thriller-paced tale that will leave you breathless. It has the most amazing dragons, political intrigue, epic battles and a good deal of foreshadowing. Though this book definitely isn’t perfect, it is certainly closer to perfection than its predecessor.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The King of the Crags
7. Spellwright by Blake Charlton
Blake Charlton’s debut novel, Spellwright, astounded us with its new and original magic system where the ability to write and understand the written word translates into physical power. The novel follows Nicodemus Weal, a disabled magic user, and his master, Agwu Shannon, as they’re suspected of murder and do their best to convince their accusers that they’re innocent. Filled with twists and turns at every page, prophecies galore, and a lot of action and general badassery, Spellwright is a novel that left me wanting more, and whose sequel I’m expecting quite a lot from.
Want to find out more? Read our review of Spellwright.
8. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Brent Weeks had to live up to a lot of expectations when he released The Black Prism. His debut, The Night Angel Trilogy, had been received very well. With The Black Prism, the first volume of the planned trilogy The Lightbringer, Weeks proves he isn’t a one day fly, but one of the best epic fantasy authors of our time. He has managed to create a whole new world that feels completely unique, yet captures the same atmosphere that made his previous works so good. Add a very intriguing and original new magic system based on colors to the mix, and the foundation for one of the best series of our time is laid.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Black Prism.
9. Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Troubled Waters is a novel by the wondrous fantasy author Sharon Shinn. In her latest novel, she presents to us Zoe, a 20-something who has recently lost her father and is now realizing that she has come into her own power as an elemental prime – someone who rules over an element. She wields an enormous amount of power, physically, culturally, and politically, and is using her new power to set right the wrongs that she sees in the court that she’s been brought into. Filled with political intrigue and a decent amount of action, this book is a thrilling read that demands a sequel.
Want to find out more? Read our review of Troubled Waters.
10. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
The second of two Young Adult novels on the list, The Lost Hero is the first book in the new series set after the bestselling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. A whole new set of heroes takes the stage: Jason, who has lost his memory; Piper, whose father was kidnapped to ensure her cooperation; and Leo, the kid that uses humor to cover up his dark childhood. Together they embark on a quest to save Piper’s father, Jason’s memory, Leo’s self-worth and maybe even the world. Full of adventure, humor and solid world building that makes for a fun ride, this book is candy for the brain. The ending sets up a sequel I’m counting down the days to read.
Want to find out more? Read our review of The Lost Hero.

We hope 2011 will bring us as many great books! The Ranting Dragon will be here all year to bring you all the reviews.

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 31 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he can be found in a comfy chair reading a fantasy book. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing to boot. Stephan lives in a small town in The Netherlands with his wife Rebecca, an editor for The Ranting Dragon, and their two cats.

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  1. No Towers of Midnight!?

    • Towers of Midnight actually didn’t get a great review from us. It received 3.75 stars, which wasn’t quite enough to put it on this list. It was a finalist until a couple of other books bumped it down.

  2. Many of those are my TBR. I have only read The Lost Hero though 😛

  3. Way of Kings need to be higher but then again I have not read the three above it. Its a interesting list and gives me some new books to get a hold of thanks RD!

  4. Really surprised to see The Passage reviewed so well. Reads like a mediocre King novel

  5. Yeah, the opinions about The Passage seem quite divided. I have seen some reviews that were even more positive than ours, but I’ve also seen some people bash the book on Amazon and Goodreads.

    • I mean its a solid engaging book that stays pretty original in the confines of vampire lore. But it spends a lot of time in character development in the beginning and then just writing all of the work right out of the story. I just felt everything it offered the likes of Sanderson and Rothfuss have in spades. But that’s just me (and I’ve never been a huge fan of apocalyptic novels some part of me must dislike reading of our world being destroyed).

  6. The first novel based on the action coplex very well balanced with good levels of all. Unexpectedly good novel, although it is free.

  7. Loved The Desert Spear and The Way of Kings, however The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms was just average with a dumb ending in my opinion.

  8. Hi, A question. I am thinking of buying an E-Reader and I am wondering if these books are available in Electronic format and if so what would be the best book-reader to purchase. I am currently spending a small fortune of these books. I am also worried about how this may effect the authors????

  9. Your question is a dumb question!

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