I missed this topic when it originally posted for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). So since this week was a free topic, I thought I’d take the time to go back to it–after all, as someone who’s read a lot of epic fantasy, it would just be wrong not to participate.
I fully expected epic fantasy to dominate here. And for the most part, that’s exactly what happened, though two historical fiction novels managed to rank alongside them.
I used page and word counts from Kobo, because they don’t have different sized paperback versions to confuse the issue. And because their word count estimates for the two books I’ve listed with them are accurate. So there’s some reason to trust we’re getting an accurate measure to work with (though note that their page counts tend to run long relative to Goodreads or Amazon). For the two books on this list which were out-of-print and therefore not on Kobo, I compared Amazon mass market paperback page counts.
A Sword of Storms by GRRM
Word Count: 430k
A Dance with Dragons by GRRM
Word Count: 428k
GRRM managed to get the top two spots, which comes as no surprise–if anything, I’m surprised that he doesn’t completely dominate the list with his A Song of Ice and Fire series, and that A Game of Thrones didn’t make the list at all.
For anyone who’s managed to miss the way this series had dominated the cultural landscape after the HBO adaption Game of Thrones started airing, this is a multi-POV epic fantasy series. It’s known for grit and character death, heralding the rise of grimdark in fantasy.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Word Count: 405k
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Word Count: 384k
Brandon Sanderson takes the next two spots with the first two installments in his Stormlight Archives series–and if I’d finished reading the third and latest book in the series by now, it would’ve taken the first place spot away from GRRM with an impressive 453k words! (Which explains why I haven’t finished it yet. I love the series, but I just do not have time for that kind of commitment right now.)
Sanderson is one of my absolute favorite authors, writing character driven fantasy with in-depth worldbuilding. I’ve gushed about The Way of Kings before. The Stormlight Archives is also notable for an unusual approach to visual representation, incorporating sketches made by an artist/researcher character of the unique aspects of the world. These are some of the prettiest ebooks I’ve ever come across.
A Clash of Kings by GRRM
Word Count: 330k
Fortune’s Favorites by Colleen McCullough (Historical Fiction)
Pages (Amazon): 1036
The first historical fiction novel on the list, and the first out-of-print novel as well. Fortune’s Favorites is actually the third in a series (though I haven’t read the first two.) It takes place during the Roman Republic, featuring the larger-than-life figures who lived during that time, and is absolutely loaded with historical detail.
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Word Count: 316k
The first in a trilogy (the second and third of which are the two runner ups to this list), this fantasy series follows a cast of traders who sail on sentient ships.
A Feast for Crows by GRRM
Word Count: 314k
Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn
Pages (Amazon): 848
Also out of print, this book was one of the first epic fantasies I’d ever read, and drew me further into the genre. It follows three powerful sisters as they fight to shape their world. I remember being really drawn into the series as a teenager, though unfortunately it remains incomplete.
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman (Historical Fiction)
Word Count: 313k
I had no idea this book was so long! It follows Joanna–illegitimate daughter of the English King John–and her husband Llewelyn the Great of Wales, as Llewelyn and King John go to war.
Literally nothing under 300,000 words made this list. I have read some seriously long books, people.