The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is set in the fictional world of Roshar—a planet that is plagued by dust storms, populated by various unique races, and where the flora and fauna have evolved to survive in harsh conditions. Each book in this series focuses on a particular character, while larger-than-life events play out against a backdrop of intrigue, politics and cinematic fights. For many bookworms (including me), Sanderson’s novels were an entry point to fantasy novels written by contemporary writers set in vividly realized worlds.
If you’re a fan of the books, chances are that you have a soft spot for epic fantasy, detailed magic systems, immersive worldbuilding and memorable characters. So while you wait restlessly for the fifth book, Knights of Wind and Truth, scheduled to be published sometime in November 2024, check out these series that are also as epic and wondrous.
Epic Fantasy Series Like The Stormlight Archive
Malazan Book of the Fallen
Gardens of the Moon
Like The Stormlight Archive, the Malazan books by Steven Erikson feature intricate plotting, an eclectic cast of characters, and timelines that span thousands of years in a world torn apart by countless wars and rebellions.
The worldbuilding for Malazan was originally done by Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont in 1982 for table-top roleplaying games. The duo eventually turned the story into a movie script that was never developed. Finally, the writers decided to write novels independently set in that shared universe.
Grittier and darker than Sanderson’s works, this complex fantasy series is sure to leave you enthralled and wanting more.
The Mistborn Saga
Several of Sanderson’s novels are set in the Cosmere, an interconnected universe that includes which The Stormlight Archive and standalone novels such as Elantris and Warbreaker are also a part. Written in the same lucid prose, The Mistborn Saga unfolds in the planet of Scadrial. It consists of a trilogy, a quartet and more books planned for the future.
Mistborn utilizes three unique magic systems, all based on metals: Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy. In the first book, The Final Empire, infamous thief and revolutionary Kelsier takes on Vin, an orphaned street urchin. He trains her in her Allomantic powers, and with a ragtag team, they face down the villainous Lord Ruler in a battle of titans.
The Kingkiller Chronicle
The Name of the Wind
The Name of the Wind is the first book in the The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. If you enjoy the immersive quality of Sanderson’s storytelling, you will definitely adore Rothfuss’s poetic prose.
The story begins in the Waystone Inn, where Kote (the innkeeper) deliberately keeps a low profile. But Kote is actually Kvothe, the famed scholar, musician, and magician who recounts his life story to Chronicler, a traveling scribe.
What follows is the coming-of-age narrative of a young boy who is left to fend for himself after his parents and troupe members are killed by the mythical Chandrian. For years, he lives as a beggar and pickpocket, then gets into The University to learn magic. There, he gets banned from the library, makes new friends and enemies, and tries to learn the elusive name of the wind.
Refreshing, marvelous, and yet tinged with an old-world charm, The Name of the Wind and its sequel The Wise Man's Fear are sure to appeal to lovers of heroic fantasy.
The Broken Earth
The Fifth Season
Set in the massive continent called the Stillness, the Broken Earth books follows the adventures of Essun, whose life changes when she discovers her husband has killed their son and kidnapped their daughter.
The series brutally delves into questions of survival, community, inequality, and resilience in a world torn apart by earthquakes and other cataclysms that continuously reshape not just the land but its inhabitants.
Each book in the trilogy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, making Jemisin the first writer to win the Hugos for three consecutive years. It's also the only trilogy to win for every novel in the series.
Gentleman Bastards Sequence
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards, Book 1)
If you love stories about rogues, underdogs, and impossible heists, you’ll love the Gentleman Bastards by Scott Lynch which are comparatively shorter than Sanderson’s Stormlight books but highly compelling.
Set in a world inspired by medieval Venice, the first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora is mostly about the escapades of Locke, an orphan and a master con artist who is the current leader of the Gentleman Bastards. The second novel, Red Seas Under Red Skies continues the thrilling adventures of Locke and his friend Jean.
Although Lynch’s fictional world is riddled with poverty, injustice and seedy criminal elements, it depicts some degree of gender equality, with female pirates and assassins, and women occupying other top positions.
A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones
But if you thought that the TV series and its ensemble cast of characters was packed with too much scheming, backstabbing, and unpredictable plot twists ... it is nothing compared to the books.
Although Westeros is more low fantasy than Sanderson’s Cosmere novels, if you enjoy following multiple, simultaneous plotlines with a plethora of third-person narrators, these grimdark books are bound to be a treat.
Kristin Cashore made her debut with Graceling, a fantasy novel set in a world where certain people are born with special powers.
Marked by their differently colored eyes, they are known as Gracelings and are traditionally viewed with suspicion. The first book tells the story of Katsa, a young girl who is Graced with the power of superior self-defense and is thus employed as a killing machine by her uncle, the ruler. Eventually, she breaks free of her uncle’s grasp, befriends Po (another Graceling from a neighboring land), and becomes embroiled in the mysterious events surrounding King Leck of Monsea, who is Graced with the power to control and influence people’s minds.
The later books in the series deepen the worldbuilding. The plots get more complex, more magical elements are introduced, and the court intrigue only grows more intense.
The Black Prism
The five-volume high fantasy series by Brent Weeks begins with The Black Prism. It tells the story of one Gavin Guile who is chosen over his younger brother Dazen to be the Prism—a powerful magician who can harness magic of every color.
The magic system is intricate and easily comparable to Sanderson’s. Rather than using stormlight as energy, Weeks employs a more wide-ranging magic called chromaturgy, where light is turned into a physical substance called Luxin.
Highly enjoyable and vividly written, packed with family drama, resentment, and politics, the Lightbringer books are definitely worth a read.