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A Guide to Reddit‘s Most Beloved Fantasy Books


Fantasy literature has cast its spell over readers for generations, whisking us away to realms where magic is real, epic quests are commonplace, and the boundaries of imagination are endlessly expanded. With the rise of the internet, fantasy fandom has flourished in vibrant online communities. And there‘s perhaps no better place to plunge into fantasy bookdom than Reddit.

Across subreddits like r/fantasy (1.2 million members), r/books (20.2 million), and r/booksuggestions (799k), Redditors come together to discuss, debate, and celebrate their favorite fantasy stories. These passionate forums act as a gateway to the genre‘s hidden gems and modern masterworks. By crowdsourcing the collective wisdom of die-hard fantasy readers, Reddit has become an invaluable resource for recommendations.

As a digital technology expert and lifelong fantasy devotee, I‘ve spent countless hours exploring these bookish subreddits to uncover the titles that most capture Redditors‘ hearts and minds. Drawing from upvote counts, community polls, recommendation frequency, and insightful user discussions, I‘ve assembled the definitive guide to Reddit‘s most beloved fantasy books.

The Numbers Behind Fantasy‘s Reddit Reign

Fantasy‘s popularity among Redditors is more than just anecdotal—it‘s backed up by some impressive numbers:

  • r/fantasy‘s subscriber count has soared 42% in the last year, from 844k in Q1 2021 to over 1.2 million in Q1 2022
  • The subreddit sees an average of 23 posts per day, with "I just finished…" or "I‘m blown away by…" appreciation threads for fantasy icons like Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, and Patrick Rothfuss reliably netting thousands of upvotes
  • Print sales of fantasy books rose by 25% in 2021 according to NPD BookScan, with much of this growth driven by online communities like Reddit, Goodreads, and BookTok which help buzz-worthy titles go viral
  • Reddit‘s 2021 r/fantasy "Top Novels" poll logged a whopping 1,762,380 votes across 6 rounds as users rallied behind their favorite stories

So what is it about fantasy that so enraptures Redditors? I believe it stems from what user Eoghann_Irving calls "the unquenchable desire to exist in a world that‘s fundamentally different from your own." In an era where real life can feel grimly dystopian and technology threatens to demystify everything, fantasy provides an escape hatch into lands still ripe with adventure, wonder, and primal enchantment.

The Technological Drivers of Fantasy Fandom

At the same time, digital technologies have dramatically increased fantasy‘s accessibility for readers around the globe:

  • Ebooks now make up 27% of all book sales, enabling niche fantasy titles to reach wider audiences
  • Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment in publishing, surging 31% in 2021 as more fantasy fans immerse themselves in epic sagas during their commutes
  • Platforms like Amazon‘s Kindle Direct Publishing have opened the gates for a new generation of indie fantasy authors to cultivate fanbases
  • Fandom wikis, like those for the cosmere and Malazan, empower readers to crowdsource lore and connect the dots between sprawling series in astonishing detail

In a digital world ever more untethered from the physical, there‘s something enticing about fantasy‘s weighty tomes and intricate world maps. The internet hasn‘t killed fantasy—it‘s given it fresh life and free rein to cast an even more expansive imaginative net.

The Art of Fantasy World-Building

As an IT expert, I‘m awed by the staggering level of detail that goes into building a believable fantasy universe. Just as a complex software system requires precise logic and well-defined relationships between objects, constructing a fictional world demands rigorous thinking about things like:

  • Magic systems that operate on consistent "laws" and limitations
  • Millennia-spanning histories and mythologies
  • Competing cultures with their own languages, customs, and sociopolitical structures
  • Fantastical creatures with plausible anatomies and abilities
  • Unique natural environments that shape and constrain civilizations

Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and George R.R. Martin are legendary for their obsessive world-building—and Reddit loves to pore over the arcane minutiae of their lore. r/tolkienfans boasts 164k members eager to theorize about everything from Hobbit genetics to the tax policies of Gondor.

Brandon Sanderson is another fantasy titan exalted by Redditors for his airtight systems of magic. As user diffyqgirl raves about Sanderson‘s Mistborn, "the magic is at once mysterious and yet with clearly defined rules that it adheres to strictly, the hallmark of a well crafted magic system." With 3 laws, 16 metals, and myriad possible god-like abilities, Mistborn‘s magic is a paragon of logical rigor and inventive enchantment.

In our age of virtual realities and computer-generated worlds, there‘s something oddly comforting about fantasy‘s immersiveness. By inviting us to suspend our disbelief and buy into their richly-imagined realms, the best fantasy books make us feel more grounded. We find truth by first embracing illusion.

Fantasy as a Mirror and Crucible

But it would be a mistake to think fantasy is just flowery escapism. By conjuring up fresh worlds, fantasy gives authors radical freedom to wrestle with the most primal themes of human existence. Questions of good and evil, power and subjugation, identity and destiny are dramatized in fantastical terms that recontextualize their stakes.

N.K. Jemisin‘s The Broken Earth trilogy uses a post-apocalyptic world wracked by seismic catastrophes as a bracing allegory for systemic oppression, environmental collapse, and what Jemisin calls "the problem of personhood." Who gets seen as human? How does society fail those with extraordinary gifts? These urgent questions crackle with life when filtered through Jemisin‘s tectonic imagination.

Robin Hobb‘s The Realm of the Elderlings tackles similarly weighty themes. Spanning 5 trilogies, Hobb fearlessly probes the psychological scars of childhood trauma, the dehumanizing effects of prejudice, and the aching desire to find love and belonging as an outsider. As we follow the wrenching journeys of FitzChivalry Farseer and his "Wit-bonded" wolf companion Nighteyes, Hobb makes us feel the visceral agonies of characters caught between worlds.

A common thread in many of Reddit‘s favorite fantasy epics is the coming-of-age tale of an apparently "chosen one" hero gradually claiming their destiny. Think Rand al‘Thor in The Wheel of Time, Paul Atreides in Dune, or Harry Potter. Besides serving as immensely satisfying self-actualization parables, these Campbellian narratives resonate in an era where it feels like dark forces are amassing just offstage. As Redditor mowque writes, fantasy offers "a level of deep, systemic, change that I think a lot of people want (on some level) in the real world."

The Diversifying Voices of Fantasy

One of the most encouraging trends in fantasy‘s evolution is the genre‘s increasing diversity—both in the identities of authors and the types of stories being told. This trend is enthusiastically propelled by Reddit, where a growing chorus of readers are seeking out books that bust the clichés of the white male power fantasy.

User JiveMurloc encapsulates this hunger: "I‘m tired of medieval European fantasy with elves and orcs and dragons. I want to read a fantasy story set in a world inspired by pre-Columbian Central America, or a story with Polynesian influences."

Accordingly, some of r/fantasy‘s most frequently recced authors include the Nigerian-American Nnedi Okorafor, the Filipino-American Alyssa Wong, and the trans artist and podcaster Travis McElroy. These new voices are reinventing fantasy by drawing from nonwestern mythologies and centering perspectives historically underrepresented in the genre.

Fonda Lee‘s Jade City marries wuxia martial arts with The Godfather-style crime family saga. Tasha Suri‘s The Jasmine Throne conjures up a South Asian fantasy world textured by political intrigue and sapphic romance. P. Djèlí Clark blends historical fantasy and magical alternate history in his steampunk ode to 1915 Cairo, A Master of Djinn. These are the pioneering storytellers who are making fantasy feel vital and revolutionary again.

As Jemisin said in her historic triple Hugo Award acceptance speech: "For some of us, things have always been hard, and I wrote the Broken Earth trilogy to speak to that struggle, and what it takes to live, let alone thrive, in a world that seems determined to break you."

Finding Your Fantasy Match on Reddit

Armed with this sampling of Reddit‘s most beloved fantasy books, where should you begin your reading quest? A good starting point is r/fantasy‘s 2022 "Top Novels" and "Stabby Awards" lists, which crown recent fan favorites like The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison and The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie.

For more personalized recs, try making a request post on r/booksuggestions with details about the themes, tones, and tropes that most speak to you. Looking for grimdark fantasy with morally grey characters? Seeking upbeat quest stories with lovable animal companions? Prefer plots with minimal violence and a focus on character development? r/suggestmeabook‘s well-read hivemind stands ready to help you find your next favorite read.

Of course, half the fun is stumbling upon that hidden gem or underrated author and then evangelizing it to the rest of the community. As you dive deeper into any of the fantasy book subs, you‘ll find redditors eager to shine a light on buried treasures like:

  • The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft, a genre-defying steampunk saga that r/fantasy mods have praised for "the most creative worldbuilding on a tiny scale"
  • The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee, a mafia-infused urban fantasy of clashing magical clans that user simplycybersex hails for its "tight plot with an interesting Asian-inspired setting that never slides into stereotype"
  • The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, a poetically bittersweet epic with a "deeply melancholic and powerfully human story about the echoing consequences of our choices" according to user IBNobody

Browse enough of these threads and you‘ll soon have an infinite TBR (to be read) pile to last you several fantasy lifetimes. But isn‘t that the point—to never run out of new realms to explore?

The Once and Future Fantasy

"Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality," Ursula K. Le Guin once wrote. "It‘s a way of understanding it." At their philosophical core, the fantasy stories exalted by Reddit are wrestling with the most eternal of human themes—death, morality, belonging, sacrifice, transcendence.

By reimagining these archetypal conflicts in worlds with sorcery and monsters, fantasy equips us with symbolic tools to better appreciate the magic and malevolence of our own reality. We emerge from a 14-book, 11,000-page odyssey like The Wheel of Time with our moral imagination deepened and our real-world problems thrown into cosmic perspective. Rand al‘Thor‘s coming-of-age journey helps us better navigate our own.

As our actual world edges closer to dystopia—with the threats of climate change, mass surveillance, and disruptive AI looming—fantasy feels more vital than ever. We need visions of cataclysm and redemption. We need reminders that a small fellowship can alter the fate of the universe. Epic fantasy is a delivery device for epic meaning.

The real magic of the genre, according to Redditor MarkLawrence, is that "it takes you away from the grind of normal life and remind you that there are still wonders in the world." Perhaps fantasy‘s greatest gift is that it reignites our capacity for awe. And judging by the passion and wisdom of Reddit‘s thriving community of fantasy lovers, that enchantment won‘t be wearing off anytime soon.

Here‘s to happy reading and questing, Redditors. May we forever keep dreaming of dragons.