Best fantasy novels by year

Here are what I think are the best fantasy novels of the year, going back to 1966. Prior to that notable books include Dracula by Bram Stoker, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, and The Dying Earth by Jack Vance.

The Hugo awards for best novel started in 1953. I’ll put a capital H beside titles that won the Hugo and a small h beside titles that were nominated. The Nebula awards for best novel started in 1965, marked with N and n. The World Fantasy awards for best novel started in 1975, marked with W and w.

The Hugo and Nebula awards favoured science fiction over fantasy until more recently, so there’s not as many markings on this list as the previous one. Also, I haven’t read as much fantasy as science fiction so this list is shorter and there are some blank years. The best year for fantasy novels was 1990.

Here are the big winners:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin is a winner 4 times
  • Orson Scott Card, Barbara Hambly, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Sarah Zettel are winners 3 times
Winner Runner Ups
Year Author Title Author Title
2012 Will McIntosh Hitchers Joanne Bertin Bard’s Oath
2007 Sarah Zettel Sword of the Deceiver
2005 Elizabeth Kostova The Historian Orson Scott Card Magic Street
Michelle Sagara Cast in Shadow
2004 Sarah Zettel The Firebird’s Vengeance
2003 Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveler’s Wife Orson Scott Card The Crystal City
Jo Walton Tooth and Claw W Sarah Zettel The Usurper’s Crown
2002 Sarah Zettel A Sorcerer’s Treason
2001 Ursula K. Le Guin The Other Wind nW Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl
Jasper Fforde The Eyre Affair
2000 Nalo Hopkinson Midnight Robber hn Mercedes Lackey Brightly Burning
1999 Joanne Bertin Dragon and Phoenix Orson Scott Card Enchantment
Barbara Gowdy The White Bone
Gregory Maguire Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
1998 Yves Meynard The Book of Knights Joanne Bertin The Last Dragonlord
Charles de Lint Someplace to Be Flying w Orson Scott Card Heartfire
Tanya Huff Summon the Keeper
Jim Munroe Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask
1997 Neil Gaiman Neverwhere
1996 George R. R. Martin A Game of Thrones n Megan Whalen Turner The Thief
1995 Robin Hobb Assassin’s Apprentice Orson Scott Card Alvin Journeyman
Guy Gavriel Kay The Lions of Al-Rassan
Gregory Maguire Wicked
Garth Nix Sabriel
Philip Pullman The Golden Compass
1994 Sean Stewart Nobody’s Son Charles de Lint Memory and Dream
James Morrow Towing Jehovah hnW
Anne Rice Taltos
1993 Anne Rice Lasher Barbara Hambly Dog Wizard
Laurell K. Hamilton Guilty Pleasures
1992 Guy Gavriel Kay A Song For Arbonne Sean Russell Gatherer of Clouds
1991 Sean Russell The Initiate Brother
1990 Guy Gavriel Kay Tigana w Barbara Hambly The Dark Hand of Magic
Pratchett & Gaiman Good Omens w Robert Jordan The Eye of the World
Ursula K. Le Guin Tehanu N
James Morrow Only Begotten Daughter nW
Anne Rice The Witching Hour
R.A. Salvatore Homeland
1989 Orson Scott Card Prentice Alvin hn
1988 Orson Scott Card Red Prophet hn Terry Brooks Wizard at Large
Barbara Hambly The Silicon Mage
Fred Saberhagen Stonecutter’s Story
Tad Williams The Dragonbone Chair
1987 Orson Scott Card Seventh Son hw Terry Brooks The Black Unicorn
Ken Grimwood Replay Stephen R. Donaldson A Man Rides Through
Barbara Hambly The Witches of Wenshar
Moore & Gibbons Watchmen
Terry Pratchett Mort
Fred Saberhagen Sightblinder’s Story
1986 Frank Miller Batman – The Dark Knight Returns Terry Brooks Magic Kingdom For Sale – Sold!
Stephen R. Donaldson The Mirror of Her Dreams
Barbara Hambly The Silent Tower
Guy Gavriel Kay The Darkest Road
Guy Gavriel Kay The Wandering Fire
Fred Saberhagen Woundhealer’s Story
1985 Barbara Hambly Dragonsbane Terry Brooks The Wishsong of Shannara
1984 Guy Gavriel Kay The Summer Tree Fred Saberhagen The Third Book of Swords
1984 Barbara Hambly The Ladies of Mandrigyn
1983 Tim Powers The Anubis Gates Piers Anthony On a Pale Horse
Fred Saberhagen The First Book of Swords Marion Zimmer Bradley The Mists of Avalon
Stephen R. Donaldson White Gold Wielder
Barbara Hambly The Armies of Daylight
Barbara Hambly The Walls of Air
Fred Saberhagen The Second Book of Swords
1982 Barbara Hambly The Time of the Dark Terry Brooks The Elfstones of Shannara
Stephen R. Donaldson The One Tree
David Eddings Pawn of Prophecy
Raymond E. Feist Magician: Apprentice
1980 Stephen R. Donaldson The Wounded Land
1979 Stephen R. Donaldson The Power That Preserves w Michael Ende The Neverending Story
1978 Stephen R. Donaldson The Illearth War w
1977 Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara
Stephen R. Donaldson Lord Foul’s Bane w
1976 Anne Rice Interview with the Vampire
1973 Ursula K. Le Guin The Farthest Shore
1972 Richard Adams Watership Down
1971 Ursula K. Le Guin The Tombs of Atuan
1968 Peter S. Beagle The Last Unicorn
Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea
1966 Jack Vance The Eyes of the Overworld

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