10 best fantasy fiction books of the 21st century

Fantasy is considered mass commercial literature. In order to define the genre, the literary term known as formula literature is appropriate. Fantasy is written mainly according to the ready-made patterns, schemes tested by years, according to the technological specification.

Annually, 500–800 new fantastic novels come out in the world, which is not so much – there are many more realistic books.

Below, you will learn more about the fantasy genre and find the list of 10 best fantasy fiction books of the 21st century.

What is fantasy?

Fantasy comes from the Greek word “phantastike” (the art of imagining). In modern understanding, fantasy can be defined as one of the kinds of literature that can create a magical, wonderful picture of the world, which contrasts existing reality with the usual notion for all of us.

It is known that fantasy can be divided into different directions:
  • Fantasy and science fiction
  • Hard science fiction
  • Space fantasy
  • Combat and humorous fantasy
  • Love and social fantasy
  • Mysticism and horror

Perhaps these genres or as they are called, the subspecies of fiction, today are the most famous in their circles.

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre of literature and the film industry, which describes the events taking place in the real world and differ from the historical reality in any significant respect.

These differences can be technological, scientific, social, historical and any other, but not magical, otherwise the whole idea of the concept of science fiction is lost. In other words, science fiction reflects the impact of scientific and technological progress on the ordinary and familiar life of a person.

Among the popular stories of the works of this genre one can note the following:
  • Flights to unknown planets
  • The invention of robots
  • The discovery of new forms of life
  • The invention of new weapons, and so on

Hard science fiction

Science fiction has a so-called sub-genre, which is called hard science fiction.

Hard science fiction is different from the traditional fantasy by the fact that during the narration, scientific facts and laws are not distorted.

Space fantasy

Space fantasy is a subgenre of science fiction. Its distinctive feature is that the main plot unfolds in outer space or on various planets in the Solar System or beyond.

There are the following types of space fantasy:
  • A space novel
  • A space opera
  • A space odyssey

A space odyssey is a storyline, in which the actions take place most often on space ships and the heroes need to fulfill a global mission, the outcome of which depends on the fate of the person.

A space novel is much simpler in terms of the type of development of events and the complexity of the plot. Basically, all the action is limited to one particular planet, which is populated by exotic animals or humans.

The goal and main theme of the space novel is the adventures of heroes on a particular planet. A lot of works of this genre can be found on the list of top 10 best fantasy fiction books.

The main goal of a space opera is the maturation and proliferation of conflict between heroes with the use of powerful high-tech weapons of the future to conquer the Galaxy or to free the planet from space aliens, humanoids, and other cosmic beings.

The characters of this cosmic conflict are heroic. The main difference between the space opera and science fiction is that there is almost complete abandonment of the scientific base of the plot.

Combat fantasy

Combat fantasy is a kind of fiction that describes military actions taking place in the distant or not so distant future, and all actions take place using super-powerful robots and the latest weapons unknown to man today.

This genre is young enough, its origin can be attributed to the middle of the 20th century during the war in Vietnam.

Humorous fantasy

Humorous fantasy is a genre, in which the presentation of unusual and fantastic events takes place in a humorous way.

Humorous fantasy is known from antiquity and is developing in our time.

Love fantasy

This kind of fantasy can include love stories with fictional heroes, magical countries that do not exist, the presence in the description of wonderful amulets that have unusual properties, and, of course, all these stories have a happy ending.

Social fantasy

Social science fiction is a kind of science fiction literature, where the main role is played by the relationship between people in society.

The basis is the emphasis on the creation of fantastic motives in order to show the development of social relations in unreal conditions.

Mysticism and horror

Mysticism and horror is probably one of the most popular and attractive for both the reader and the viewer.

It can give such unforgettable impressions, emotions and increase adrenaline, like none of the other fantasy genres.

At one time, before the films and books about traveling to the future became popular, horrors were the most unusual and favorite genre among fans and admirers of everything fantastic. And today interest to them has not disappeared.

10 best books of the 21st century in the fantasy genre

Fantasy is a genre where a fictional world is described, most often in the Middle Ages, and the story line is built on the basis of myths and legends.

This genre is characterized by such heroes as gods, sorcerers, gnomes, trolls, ghosts, and other creatures. The works in the genre of fantasy are very close to the ancient epic, in which heroes come across magic creatures and supernatural events.

Here is the list of the 10 best fantasy fiction books published in the 21st century. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The world of the future on Earth is not as beautiful as the mankind, tired of present problems, would like it to be. Colonization of space turns for people into brutal protracted wars with inhabitants of other galaxies. There is even a special army – the Self-Defense Forces of the Colonies – where only the elderly are recruited, promising to restore their youth to them. The truth is, it is only a trick for the simpletons, no one can really say because the soldiers of this mercenary army never return to Earth. John Perry, one of such mercenaries, signs a contract and almost immediately becomes entangled in the terrible whirlwind of the war. During the battle for the Coral planet, which almost cost John his life, he meets ghosts in the Brigade – star special forces – his own wife, who was buried before going to the mercenaries. This moment was the new starting point of his abruptly changed life.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The main character Shadow, after serving 3 years in prison, goes free. He does not yet suspect that the main tests are waiting for him ahead. His wife Laura is killed in a car crash. A strange man named Wednesday waits for Shadow at home, who appears to be a refugee from some distant country and involves the character in intricate events related to the investigation of a series of murders throughout the US.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Once the young Kote, the edema rue, the actor from the roving troupe, and the apprentice of the arcanist, heard from his father about the Chandrian – strange and terrible demons, whether real creatures or heroes of legends and children’s songs-horror stories. Nobody guessed that the song about them would cost a life to Kote’s parents and the whole troupe, and he himself would be pushed to the road full of adventures and dangers. And whoever he was-a vagabond, a university student or innkeeper – he will be looking for the track of the terrible creatures he met one night in the ashes, where his carefree childhood burned down.

Blindsight by Peter Watts

In 2082, mankind became convinced that it was not alone in the universe. The innumerable probes of the glowing web spanned the Earth. The Theseus spaceship, carrying on board a hastily assembled team of specialists, is sent to establish contact with extraterrestrial civilization. But, upon reaching the goal, researchers have to understand that the most incredible fantasies about the alien mind fade in comparison with reality, and at stake is the fate of the Earth and all of humanity.

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

The Land of Angels is a country of unsurpassed beauty and grandeur. According to legend, the angels, having come to this earth, found it beautiful and the race, descended from the seed of angels and people, has long lived by one simple rule: “Love according to your will”.

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

In the impenetrable castle, a powerful warlock is weaving a network of sophisticated conspiracy. In the distant, cold lands, the young ruler of the North, Robb, from the Stark house gathers strength. New and new warriors converge under the banners of Daenerys Stormborn, ruling the last of the remaining dragons in the world. But now in the flaming fire of battles, there are also Others – an army of the living dead, which cannot be stopped either by the power of arms or by the power of magic. The storm of swords is coming in the Seven Kingdoms and many will fall under the blow of this storm.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susana Clarke

England, the 19th century. For several centuries, magic lives only in the pages of ancient books and in the minds of theoretical mages, but from nowhere appear two – real practicing magicians, ready to resurrect the lost art.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson creates a planet of a distant future, similar to the Earth, called Arb, where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians are a religious order locked up outside the walls of the monasteries. Their role is to preserve knowledge while protecting it from the vicissitudes of the irrational secular world. Among the scientists is the 19-year-old Raz, who was taken to the monastery at the age of 8, and who is now a ten-year-old (those allowed to contact outside the citadel every ten years). But the millennial rules are destroyed when an alien threat emerges, and Raz and his companions at some point participating in an intellectual dispute and then struggling like unruly teenagers call for the salvation of the world.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

What if the Chosen One, whose appearance and victory over the Darkness were predicted many centuries ago, will suffer a crushing defeat? The great prophecy, which was believed, feared for the sake of which they died, was the delirium of a madman. The light is defeated, and the Dark Lord triumphs. Unusually, isn’t it? But if the paladin heroes failed, it’s time for the bandits to try their luck. A thief and a renegade Kelsier with a company of inveterate comrades is the last hope in the fight against evil.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

In the gigantic megalopolis, New Crobuzon, allegedly emanating from the pen of Kafka and Dickens through the mediation of Bosch and Neil Stevenson, side by side there are people and khepri, mermaids, man-made mutants, and cacti people. Everyone is busy with his work: khepri sculpt statues of color saliva, drug dealers sell a substance that makes you sleepy, while police pursue dissidents. And the scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is approached by the garuda devoid of wings, a man-bird from distant deserts, who asks again to teach him how to fly. In the meantime, Isaac’s beloved, Lin, gets no less difficult task – to sculpt a portrait of a powerful mafia leader. Isaac and Lin still do not know what danger these orders are fraught with for them, the entire city, and even the structure of the universe.

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