10 Most Influential Fantasy Novels

A. E. Engle
10 min readMar 9, 2022

A 20th Century List…


No, hopefully I can add some value here, if nothing more than informational and educational (and maybe a little humor). I recently saw a “top 25 most influential list” and it was a) mostly female authors (no issue there) b) all but one from 2000 was female (also no issue), and not one single book on the list with the exception of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings would anyone consider “influential. Hell, they even left off Sanderson, Jordan, and Erikson (none of which I’m a fan which will clearly show on my list). Brandon isn’t on my list because, well, this is a 20th Century list and he’s a 21st Century author.

I want to do better than the list above. I want to see if I can offer up a list, strictly from the 20th Century (because, let’s face it, once we hit 2,000 books and music fizzled into cardboard mannequin overly produced factory generated krell). And the key word is “influential” not just “fantasy books by…”. The books on my list probably influence (really, the did influence) most of the 21st list, including Mr. Malazan Stephen Erikson.

And let’s not forget: This is an opinion piece folks! 🙂

Number 10

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Let’s start the list with a book that another author on this list said was “highly influential to the creation of” his character. The book is not as well known as maybe Three Hearts, Three Lions for example, but Mr. Anderson is a 7-time Hugo Award winner, and a Fantasy Grand Master. So he’s got street cred for sure. And while this book is largely steeped in Viking mythology (Anderson was from Danish heritage after all), its got the word sword in the title (just kidding) — it was published in the 50’s before the boom of Sword & Sorcery during a time when Sci-Fi was all the craze. Bold move!

Number 9

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I struggled here. I really want to include more female authors, but the crux of them (Andre Norton, Tanith Lee, Ursela K. LeGuin, Madeline L’Engle, C.J. Cherryh, Leigh Bracket) write mostly Sci-Fi. With the exception of Louise Cooper’s Master’s Trilogy, I couldn’t really find an “influential” work from a female author (beside #5 which pained me to include), and Louise Cooper’s trilogy is relatively an unknown (hardly influential — but a great page turner). I’m also trying to stay…

A. E. Engle

Author of the upcoming Darkness of the Northern Sky, writer, metalhead. http://darknessofthenorthernsky.com