Hey everyone! So, as anyone who has browsed my blog will know, I am a big fantasy fan. It’s the genre that I most definitely read the most of. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like other genres, but, yeah… Fantasy has a special place in my heart.
A huge part of what makes fantasy so enjoyable for me – and I suspect for many others too – is the exploration and immersion of other worlds! Hearing about all these magical places and the various cultures, races and monsters that inhabit them is a real highlight for me. If done well, this world building can make any book soooo much better.
I have a personal obsession with maps as well, so if your fantasy book comes with a map, then so much better! I love pouring over a map and imagining all these places. On a practical, and slightly less crazy level, they help to make a story feel more grounded and real to me. They allow me to visualise any journeys that our characters go on, which is always fun and useful in the immersion of a story/world.
Having read a lot of fantasy – not as much as some of you though! – there are plenty of fantasy worlds that I have had the pleasure of getting lost in, but obviously some of these have stuck in my heart and mind a bit more than others. This could be for a variety of different reasons, but there is always something that makes a world jump out…
Anyway, enough rambling. Here are my favourite fantasy worlds!
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Everyone loves Middle Earth, right? It is the quintessential fantasy world. This is the granddaddy of fantasy worlds. Full to the brim with orcs, and elves and walking, talking trees. And aren’t hobbits adorable? What’s not to love?
Tolkien out so much effort into this world that he even wrote several languages to go with it, including new alphabets! There is some form of history and backstory to everything on the map, and that is brilliant. You can literally look up anywhere on there and find something out about it.
Another kind of obvious one for us fantasy fans. Like Middle Earth, Westeros (and Essos) are fully fledged and thought out worlds. George R.R. Martin is a master world-builder and the detail and back history of his world in A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) really shows this of to the maximum.
One thing that I quite like about Westeros specifically, apart from the amazing detail, is the fact that the fantasy in this world is quite subtle. It is definitely there – we have dragons, giants, dire wolves, zombies, etc – but it isn’t every day. This gives the world a sense of realism and allows us to connect emotionally with the characters when they encounter the fantasy elements. They are just as shocked-and-awed as we are when they first see a dragon!
The Warhammer World
So, the world that Warhammer Fantasy was set in wasn’t the most original world ever; it was really just a whole bunch of fantasy stereotypes shoved together, but I love it. This is definitely partly nostalgia: I have been playing Warhammer Fantasy and Mordheim since I was a child. But it also has so many great parts to it. And, like the other ones on this list, it is very detailed and well thought out. It was always going to be after 40-odd years and multiple writers working on it, but I do love this world.
One of the best things about this universe is the way it blends ‘grim-dark’ with humour. It is a very British/gallows sense of humour, but it has its moments if you are keen eyed to spot them as you read through any of the books set in or about this universe.
Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on this one. I have only read the Six of Crows duology and A Language of Thorns, but that is enough to let me know this makes the list. The world that Leigh Bardugo has created for her books is vivid and unique and filled with a whole variety of well thought out cultures.
It has a dark and gritty side to it, Six of Crows isn’t cheerful and Ketterdam, the city where it is set, is a true city of vices. A Language of Thorns, on the other hand, is a collection of fairy tales from the Grishaverse and, once again, they are dark and gritty and bloody. Just how I like my fantasy!
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So, there you have some of my favourite fantasy worlds out there! In books that is, sure I love Star Wars and Tamriel, but I haven’t read many Star Wars book, so it would be a bit cheeky to add it, and Tamriel pretty much only exists as games.
I hope you enjoyed this list! Let me know what you think of my choices. Do you agree? Did I miss out any obvious ones?
Oh, and here are some honourable mentions. I don’t feel like I have read enough books set in these to add them to my absolute favourites:
- The Final Empire in Mistborn series
- The city of Guerdon in The Gutter Prayer
- The Four Corners of Civilisation from the Kingkiller Chronicles
- Orïsha from Children of Blood and Bone (The world-building is probably the best bit of the book)