As I said, Jared and Justin talked me into this. This half of the list reflects more closely my personal preferences, rather than what I see as influences/important works in the field. In rough order of preference. Very rough. Ask me a different day, and I will have a different order.
Also, I am ignoring Rule #2. Because I can. Because I want to bring up many individual works!
1. Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts. (Tor, 2012)
This is best described as “the epic fantasy I had been waiting to read all my life, unknowing.” I love it. It is amazing.
2. Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. (Harper Voyager, 2003.)
This is one of the books that changed the way I look at the world, and had a profound, fundamental affect on me. Sometimes, I think it helped save my life.
3. Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. (Harper Voyager, 2001.)
I don’t love The Curse of Chalion quite as much as I love Paladin of Souls. But it is still one of those books that touched me deeply, in ways difficult to express.
4. Martha Wells, The Wheel of the Infinite. (Eos, 2000.)
I don’t know if I can express how much I love Wells’ The Element of Fire – and after Element, Wheel is the book of Wells’ that I love best.
5. Kari Sperring, The Grass-King’s Concubine. (DAW, 2012.)
Is it epic fantasy? I don’t know. I don’t care, either. It is the best thing to come out of DAW in 2012.
6. Elizabeth Bear, All The Windwracked Stars. (Tor, 2009.)
Peri-apocalyptic fantasy! Epic in scope, amazing, brilliant, I love it.
7. Amanda Downum, The Bone Palace. (Orbit, 2010.)
It is epically amazeballs, even if it doesn’t fit a subgenre definition of epic fantasy. Its sequel, The Kingdoms of Dust (Orbit, 2011), does fit such a definition – and is also amazing.
8. Beth Bernobich, Passion Play. (Tor, 2010.)
Neither its title nor its cover do this excellent novel justice. It and its sequel, Queen’s Hunt (Tor, 2012), are very strong character-centred epic fantasy.
9. Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Dart. (Tor, 2001.)
The first book in a revolutionary epic fantasy trilogy. I’m serious when I call it revolutionary: Carey’s work is distressingly underrated by critics, but its ability to mix sexual desire and grand, sweeping narratives – to combine the personal and the political both so closely and so coherently – is an achievement in itself.
10. Tanya Huff, The Silvered. (DAW, 2012.)
Epic! With shapechangers and pregnant women and war and things going boom and a prophecy and everything: and not only that, it stands alone. (I also love Huff’s Quarters books – Dear DAW Books, please reissue them in an omnibus or two. I want to give them to my friends.)
11. Kate Elliott, Crossroads trilogy. (Spirit Gate, Shadow Gate, Traitor’s Gate, Tor US/Orbit UK, 2006-2009.)
Elliott can always be relied upon to do something interesting in her work. In the Crossroads trilogy, she’s interrogating the assumptions of epic fantasy – and has people who ride griffins. Good stuff.
12. Michele Sagara, Chronicles of Elantra. (Luna, 2005-?)
A long series, at this point. It is an urban fantasy set in an epic fantasy world, and Magical Doom regularly appears in the narrative. Dragons! Elves! Fun stuff! One of the many interesting ways by which epic fantasy can be interrogated.
13. Celine Kiernan, The Poison Throne. (Orbit US/O’Brien, 2010.)
IRELAND REPRESENT! Ahem. With that display of gross nationalistic fervour out of the way, let me say that this book, the first (and best) in a trilogy aimed more into the YA demographic? Is really very essential reading.
14. Sarah Monette, The Doctrine of Labyrinths. (Mélusine, The Virtue, The Mirador, Corambis; Tor, 2005-2009.)
A strange, baroque, not infrequently grotesque entry into the lists of epic fantasy. I have some strong affections for it, despite problematic elements.
15. Sherwood Smith, The Banner of the Damned. (DAW, 2012)
Epic fantasy with a scribe and a scholar as its protagonist. An asexual protagonist. It stands alone well enough, too.
I mean the anime series, but I’ve got about five volumes into the manga, too. Shocked it’s not a book? Don’t be: it’s still EPIC.
17. Dragon Age: Origins.
Bioware’s giant RPG has its problems. But it is definitely epic fantasy, and I think despite its problems, it’s still worth looking at – particularly for how it takes epic fantasy elements long familiar to us from literature and adapts them to a new medium.
18. Violette Malan, The Sleeping God. (DAW, 2008.)
Mercenaries. Kicking arse, taking names, killing people in the face and saving the world.
19. Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. (Greenwillow, 2011.)
Aimed at the YA demographic, this is again the first book of a trilogy (better than its sequel, I think). Lovely coming-of-age epicness.
20. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, A Companion to Wolves. (Tor, 2007.)
The frozen north. Trolls. Men bonded to intelligent wolves. Trolls.
21. Jacqueline Carey, The Sundering. (Banewreaker, Godslayer; Tor, 2004-2005.)
Epic fantasy. As told from the villains’ point of view – but more complicated than that.
22. Steven Erikson, Deadhouse Gates. (Tor, 2005.)
I’m picking only one novel from Erikson’s opus magnus, The Malazan Book of the Fallen – because, well, I fell off the wagon at book five, and have yet to go back. But Deadhouse Gates would be a stellar entry in any epic series: it certainly is here.
23. Simon R. Green, Deathstalker series.
Epic fantasy in a science fictional horror universe.
24. Ursula Le Guin, Voices. (Harcourt, 2006.)
24. Ursula Le Guin, Lavinia. (Harcourt, 2008.)
Yes, you get two entries for #24. I couldn’t choose between them. I love them both.
25. The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy.
Every adaptation is a fresh recension. LOTR on film brought epic fantasy to a massive audience, and paved the way for epic fantasy to come to the screens again.
A fond mention for Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I don’t think is epic but which is cool nonetheless.