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11 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books With Expansive World-Building

These science fiction and fantasy books go beyond world-building: They build whole galaxies and multiverses with precise detail. 

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  • Photo Credit: Thomas Schweighofer / Unsplash

There’s nothing better than opening the cover to a new book and being transported to a new world. You meet new characters, go on an adventure, and by the time you reach the end, you’re already longing for more. 

Once you step into the well-crafted world of an epic science fiction or fantasy series you love, the last thing you want to do is leave. These 11 books offer incredible world-building so you can lose yourself in wondrous places like Middle Earth and galaxies far, far away. 

must read fantasy books series song of ice and fire

A Song of Ice and Fire Series

By George R.R. Martin

The epic fantasy series spans two continents and follows more than twenty point-of-view characters vying for power in myriad ways. The characters move across the land like chess pieces, from north of the Wall to the desert sands of Dorne, across the sea to Essos, and into the grasslands of the Dothraki Sea.

With five books published and (hopefully) two more to come, this is a series that will immerse you not only in an expansive world but political intrigue, betrayal, vengeance, and more.

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Red Rising

By Pierce Brown

More than a sprawling world, this series sweeps across the solar system. Once considered a Red—the lowest caste in society, destined for manual labor—Darrow infiltrates the Gold aristocracy, determined to break the chains of his people. 

The series is set in the distant future, featuring terraformed worlds. Each step of Darrow’s rebellion sweeps the reader through space, visiting far-off planets in his quest for freedom.

fantasy taverns The Dark Tower The Gunslinger Stephen King

The Dark Tower

By Stephen King

Though the series is primarily set in Mid-World, in King’s The Dark Tower, every world is at stake. Roland and his crew are the only ones who can save defeat the Man in Black before he destroys the Dark Tower, which is the anchor point of all realities. We make our way across and between worlds, witnessing wonders and nightmares alike. 

With eight books and a short story, there’s plenty to experience. If you still want more of this epic world after finishing the series, you can find traces of it in King’s other novels. His expansive multiverse connects many of his classics in interesting and unexpected ways.

The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree

By Samantha Shannon

A sprawling fantasy set in a divided land, The Priory of the Orange Tree has so many aspects epic fantasy fans love: pirates, mages, assassins, and wyverns. The political intrigue is complex, the friendships are layered, and the romance is swoon-worthy. 

Told through various character perspectives, you’ll travel across kingdoms and seas, as unfathomable forces threaten to rise and threaten both the East and the West.

books like Harry Potter

The Color of Magic

By Terry Pratchett

Discworld is more than just a story, it’s a universe of stories all built within and on top of each other, layers and layers of worlds and characters to discover and enjoy. With more than 40 books, six sub-series—each with myriad books, novellas, short stories, and companion novels—there is no shortage of adventure.

The series is full of laugh-out-loud writing and characters that feel like friends. If you’re looking for a world to spend inordinate amounts of time with, this is it.

woman in black holding a bloody dagger

Nevernight

By Jay Kristoff

In the Republic of Itreya, a city rests on the bones of a dead god. Godsgrave is just one piece of the extraordinary world you’ll explore in this trilogy where the three suns rarely set and murder is blessed. 

Travel through blood and sand, and the bones of dead gods with Mia Corvere as she faces powerful enemies and the threat of true dark closes in. Each book takes you deeper into the Republic, where swords, betrayal, and love promise to free Mia—or destroy her entirely.

best fantasy books

Gardens of the Moon

By Steven Erikson

There is no shortage of world-building or adventure in this 10-book epic fantasy series. It’s no wonder this world is so detailed: Erikson drew on his experience as an anthropologist and archeologist, creating a dizzying array of creatures to fill his world with.

Gods, sorcerers, dragons, and more all fight and scheme over the fate of the Malazan Empire. 

adult fantasy books

The Poppy War

By R.F. Kuang

Set in a land resembling ancient China and integrating important elements of Chinese history, mythology, and folklore, The Poppy War is a brutal and violent epic fantasy novel that follows Rin as she goes from peasant to student, soldier to goddess. 

As war looms, Rin struggles with new powers. She might win the war, but the price might be her humanity. The rich history this trilogy draws from invites you to learn more, making it an immersive and compelling read that you won’t want to tear yourself away from.

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi: The High Republic

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi: The High Republic

By Charles Soule

If you love the Star Wars galaxy, it’s unlikely you’ll ever run out of material to read. Building onto that enormous canon of work, in 2021 a new series was launched. 

The High Republic series is set before the Clone Wars, before the Empire, and before the First Order—during the Golden Age of the Jedi as they keep the peace throughout the Republic. 

With 35 books and counting, you’ll meet new Jedi heroes and embark on new adventures in your favorite galaxy, far, far away.

The Expanse comic

The Expanse

By James S.A. Corey

Set in the future after humanity has conquered the solar system, this nine book series follows C.O. James Holden and Detective Miller as they search for a truth one held by a single derelict ship hidden in space. 

The series features tension between Mars and Earth, trouble in the Belt, revolutionaries, corrupt politicians, and powerful corporations all vying for power and control of the universe’s resources. It’s explosive and imaginative, taking you into a future that will captivate your imagination.

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

By J.R.R. Tolkien

There are few worlds as expansive or well-known as Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Even looking at the maps of Tolkien’s masterpiece and the vast amount of land these stories cover is impressive. Every time you read the series, you’ll discover more details that explain why these books have remained treasured classics for decades.

Featured photo: Thomas Schweighofer / Unsplash