Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon when he was 15—the same age I gobbled up the novel while sitting through a boring physics class. I was immediately entranced by the story of the young farm boy and his dragon, Saphira. From secretly raising a baby dragon to learning magic and fighting King Galbatorix’s servants, the fantastical world of Alagaësia was the perfect escape. It also led me to an abiding love for antiheroes (Murtagh!!), mysterious fortune-tellers who may or may not be human (Angela), and high fantasy narratives filled with majestic landscapes and intrigue.
So, if you’re in the mood for similar fantasy stories with dragons, sweeping adventures, and richly-realized imaginary worlds, give these books a shot.
The Name of the Wind
Rothfuss’s debut novel unfolds in the fictional continent of Temerant. Told in a series of flashbacks by a grouchy innkeeper, the story follows the exploits of Kvothe as he grows up to be an infamous and immeasurably powerful wizard.
After his parents and traveling troupe members are killed by the demonic Chandrian, Kvothe wanders the world as a street urchin and then joins the University to master magic and more importantly, gain access to the Archives so that he can learn more about the nefarious powers that killed his family. Packed with twists and turns, Rothfuss’s lyrical prose will keep you engaged till the last page.
Once you finish The Name of the Wind, you might want to check out the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear and an adjacent novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. But after that, I’m afraid there’s a long wait since, like George R.R. Martin, Rothfuss has been slow to continue the series.
Soon after reading Eragon, I stumbled upon Inkheart by German writer Cornelia Funke in the school library, which quickly became a lifelong favorite.
Inkheart is an enchanting novel where characters from books come alive and can inhabit the real world (and vice versa). Both young Meggie and her bookbinder father, Mo, have the special ability to read characters out of stories, and consequently, get embroiled in a grand adventure when the villain from a book appears in their room.
However, if you’re still rather keen on dragons, you can try Funke’s Dragon Rider series that features a young silver dragon called Firedrake who is endearing enough to give Saphira some competition.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Catherynne M. Valente is a wondrously talented storyteller, as evident from her whimsical Fairyland series, and standalone novels such as Deathless and Radiance. Initially crowd-funded, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was later picked up by Macmillan for traditional publication.
In the story, the twelve-year-old September is whisked off to Fairyland by the Green Wood. She meets a host of magical creatures, including a wyvern, a marid, and a very old paper lantern called Gleam. Although reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, Valente infuses her narrative with maturity and effervescent wit, making it a highly unique and memorable read.
The Lord of the Rings
Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle has often evoked comparisons (both favorable and unfavorable) with Tolkien's work due to its invented languages, high fantasy settings and cast of elves and dwarves.
Now perhaps that’s inevitable given that Tolkien almost singe-handedly created the genre that we now recognize as epic/high fantasy, but if you still haven’t read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, there’s never a better time to start your grand journey to Middle Earth.
The Sword of Shannara
Also heavily influenced by Tolkien, Brooks’s Shannara novels are set in the fantastical world of the Four Lands.
The series features a familiar struggle between good and evil, as the protagonist Shea Ohmsford must defeat the Warlock Lord using the titular Sword while Prince Balinor Buckhannah must fight against the Warlock Lord’s armies.
If you’re looking for compelling quest narratives, balanced with action and intrigue, give this trilogy a try.
His Majesty's Dragon
Fans of alternate history will surely enjoy Naomi Novik’s take on the Napoleonic Wars (hint: there are lots of dragons!). In her Temeraire series, dragons are not only sapient but a vital force in aerial warfare.
The first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, introduces readers to Will Lawrence. Once a captain of the Royal Navy, Will becomes the handler for the dragon called Temeraire. From the pair’s early training sessions to their skirmishes, the books vividly chronicle their adventures together.
A Wizard of Earthsea
First published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic coming-of-age fantasy novel. Like Eragon, the novel’s protagonist, Ged, is a young boy who was born in a small village and destined for great magic and power. The novel heavily focuses on Ged’s self-development and inner conflict as he comes to terms with the darker side of magic and death. Upon its release, the book garnered a lot of critical acclaim and has influenced several fantasy writers.
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, a peace treaty prevents humans and dragons from going to war. However, when the Crown Prince is mysteriously murdered, Seraphina, the sixteen-year-old court musician, is pulled into the fray. Written in lush, beautiful prose and featuring a lovely heroine to root for, Rachel Hartman’s debut YA novel, Seraphina ticks all the right boxes.
The Neverending Story
Imagine that you’re a kid on a visit to an antiquarian book store.
While shuffling through the shelves, you find a book temptingly titled “The Neverending Story” and begin reading it. As you’re sucked into a magical narrative populated with centaurs, giant turtles and luckdragons, you find yourself repeatedly mentioned in the text—as though the fictional characters can hear and see you.
Well, that’s the premise of Ende’s beautifully-imagined children’s fantasy novel that was first published in German in 1979. Since then, the book has unsurprisingly gained a cult following. If you love fantasy and meta-narratives, you’ll adore this title.