On this “Most Disappointing Fantasy Series List,” you will find those novels that, in my opinion, are not enjoyable reads. Now, I love fantasy: heroic fantasy, epic fantasy, and all the other varieties (Grimdark was not a personal favorite, but is slowly becoming one.), so to make this list, the series must REALLY have struck a wrong cord with me. It does not necessarily mean that the series is terrible or that each book in it is unenjoyable, but rather that after reading one, two or all of the books, I feel that there were much better fantasy series out there that I could have spent my finite reading time on.
Does that mean you should never read the books on this list?
Absolutely not. Just because I did not appreciate a certain writer’s style or the story they were telling, does not mean that others might not love them, so please take this list as solely my personal opinion about these fantasy series and try the books out before you cast them on the “Never To Be Read” pile.
So without further apologizes, here is my list of the Most Disappointing Fantasy Series.
30. The Windameire Circle by Niel Hancock.
Back in the late 1970s and earlier 1980s, Mr. Hancock penned these thirteen, high fantasy novels. The Atlanton Earth books, as they were termed, contained the standard fantasy tropes of epic quests and anthropomorphic animals similar to those in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, and like Lewis, Mr. Hancock incorporated spiritual themes into his books, though he used mainly Buddhism and Eastern religions. And because I was new to fantasy and because there were not that many fantasy titles to choose from on my local bookstore’s shelf, I picked several of these novels up. I got through them, but I can’t really say I enjoyed them very much.
Buy The Fires of Windameir at Amazon.
29. Guardians of the Flame by Joel Rosenberg
This early 1980s D&D-esque series about a group of gamers magically transported to their RPG world, who then assume the identities of their role playing characters was never a huge favorite of mine — even when I was a D&D addict back in the early 1980s. Sure, it sounded like a decent idea, loaded with potential for soem excitement and laughs, but after reading the first two books and being let down by the writing, I felt so ashamed that I got rid of them and refused to admit I’d ever read them. So big disappointment – especially to my teenage self.
Buy The Guardians of the Flame at Amazon.
This late 1980s fantasy series was full of magic, talking animals, and the sing-song, poetic language that all “high” fantasy novels used during the period. Nothing inherently wrong with any of that, especially considering “when” the series was published, but after two books, the one dimensional characters had become confusing as well as boring; the world building was a convoluted mess; and the resolution of the plot was too quick and easy for my tastes. Even for a fantasy junkie like me, The Loremasters of Elendium just did not make the cut.
Buy Road to Underfall at Amazon.
27. Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer by James Silke
To save his land from the unstoppable Kitzaak Horde, Gath of Baal dons a magical helmet belonging to the Master of Darkness, becoming the Death Dealer: an invincible demon in human form with a thirst for blood. Naturally, the price Gath pays for this power is very high — his very soul!
Obviously, this is an old school sword and sorcery tale, which can be damn good IF the writer is top notch. Therein lies the problem with this book: the writing quality. It is on the poor side, turning what could have been a decent sword and sorcery story into a third rate Conan clone.
Buy Prisoner of the Horned Helmet at Amazon.
26. Everien by Valery Leith
Tarquin the Free lost his courage, then his honor, when he abandoned eight companions to die in a magical, floating city years ago. Outcast from his people, forever barred from returning home, Tarquin is the only one who can now warn them of the arrival of the invincible Sekk, and, if he can find the courage, return to the floating city to discover the secret knowledge to defeat them.
Sounded decent. Unfortunately, it was morbidly confusing with such indistinct characters that I had no idea who was doing what most of the time or whether it was internal monologue or actual conversation. After a book and a half, I gave up trying.
Buy The Company of Glass at Amazon.
25. Magics by Lyndon Hardy
In the first book of this trilogy, a reader gets to follow Aldor as he goes on an “epic quest” to master the five schools of magic. (Unsurprisingly, Aldor undertakes this mission to obtain the hand of the fair lady, Queen Vendora, in marriage.) After having spent the entire first novel setting up the rules of magic, naturally, the second book destroys them and introduces a new main character, Jemidon, who must discover why they are ceasing to exist and fix everything before chaos is unleashed upon the lands. I’m not sure what ultimately happened in the last novel, because I stopped reading. It wasn’t that the books were bad as much as they were the same old themes rehashed over and over with the same characters with different names.
Buy Master of the Five Magics at Amazon.
This series by the authors of Dragonlance Chronicles and Dragonlance Legends focused on a world of magic where everyone had magical abilities, except for the hero, Joram, who had no magic at all. Even though it was formulaic I wanted to care about Joram’s quest to discover his place in the world, but it never really worked for me. Mainly, I found I didn’t care about him or any of the other characters; they were all generic and forgettable. The experience was terribly disappointed, so much so that I’ve never read a non-Dragonlance novel written by either author since.
Buy Forging the Darksword at Amazon.
23. The Dark Border by Paul Edwin Zimmer
The dark border was a great fantasy setting where powerful entities of good and evil were locked in an endless battle over the world, one intent to destroy everything, while the other marshaled the resources of the whole world to maintain a worldwide line of magic towers to hold back the evil tide. This conflict an eternal battle until the world itself ceases to be! Unfortunately, Zimmer’s writing was inconsistent, struggled with pacing and characterization, and caused all four books in the series to be rather disappointing affairs. Such a waste.
Buy A Gathering of Heroes at Amazon.
22. The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
A steampunk-esque fantasy following the exploits of Amaranthe Lokdon, a young police woman of the Turgonian Empire, stuck in a dead-end position below her qualifications. Naturally, within no time, our heroine accidentally impresses the Emperor, enrages the real power behind the throne, falls in with the most dangerous assassin in the world, and begins her life as the leader of a very unusual band of secret operatives. And while other readers love the campy silliness, I just could not get on the bandwagon, finding the plot and characters more stupid than hilarious. Different people like different things, I suppose.
Buy The Emperor’s Edge Collection at Amazon.
21. Elemental Wars by Freya Robertson
Heartwood is the center of the world, but now the Arbor, the holy tree, is dying, causing a grand council to convene to determine a way to cure it. From this meeting of the wise and powerful, a group of heroes are sent off on seven epic quests. And while I desperately wanted to like this series due to the traditional concept, the stiff writing style ruined it for me, as I never felt any emotional attachment to any of the characters. When I don’t care about the characters, ultimately, I lose interest in the story.
Buy Heartwood at Amazon.
20. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
The poor farm boy, Eragon, finds a polished blue stone in the forest and takes it home. Little does he know that the stone is priceless beyond imagination, as, soon, a dragon hatchling emerges and changes Eragon’s life forever! The story that follows is a little Lord of the Ring, a little Star Wars, and a lot of over-used fantasy tropes. I can totally understand kids or young adults really loving this one, I’m afraid everyone else might as well skip it.
Buy Eragon at Amazon.
A farm girl runs away and joins the military so as not to marry an idiot boy her father has chosen as her future husband. From there, she steadily becomes a legend. Ms. Moon definitely crafts an excellent narrative with this series, deftly interweaving fantasy themes, intriguing characters, and a realistic portrayal of military life and combat, but, unfortunately, I didn’t find The Deeds of Paksenarrion very interesting, which was a big disappointment — especially since all of my friends back at the time really loved it.
Buy The Deed of Paksenarrion at Amazon.
18. Darkness by Harry Turtledove
This is a fantasy retelling of World War II. Dragons replace aircraft, leylines replace trains, magic replaces guns/cannons, and all the people/nations of WWII are renamed but easy to guess. The story is fairly straightforward and entertaining, but it fails to deliver any suspense, as anyone with a basic knowledge of WWII will know which country is going to be invaded and conquered, which people are going to be persecuted and placed into concentration camps, and how the good guys are going to eventually end the war. After a while, this causes the books to become annoyingly boring. At least, it did to me.
Buy Into the Darkness at Amazon.
17. Shadow Saga by John Sprunk
This tale about a lone assassin going on a quest to discover his past wasn’t meant to be too serious, and I went into the series understanding such and expecting a light, fun read, which I fully received from the first book. After that though the story took a nose-dive until I was mystified why it took three books for the author to get to the ultimate conclusion. To say I was disappointed in the ending would be a huge understatement, because it basically made the entire story irrelevant.
Buy Shadow’s Son at Amazon.
16. Khaavren Romances by Steven Brust
Mr. Brust is an unabashed fan of Alexander Dumas; the Khaavren Romances his attempt to emulate the master of such swashbuckling classics as The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo; and if one read this series understanding that it is meant as a simulacrum of The Three Musketeers, then you might have a chance of enjoying it. But if you (like me) pick it up expecting a dazzling story with crisp dialogue, amazing magic and the like, then you will probably be almost as disappointed in it as I was after forcing myself to slog through three books. Honestly, if I want to read Dumas, I’ll just read Dumas. “Yawn.”
Buy The Phoenix Guards at Amazon.
15. The Childe Morgan by Katherine Kurtz
I began reading Mrs. Kurtz’s Deryni series back in the early 1980s when I was a kid, so in a manner of speaking, I have grown up with these characters, which made this trilogy about one of my favorite characters from the original Deryni series, the famous Alaric Morgan, seem like a sure thing. It didn’t work out though. These early chapters in Alaric’s life reading more like a history book than a novel. Sure, it’s great at filling in gaps in the lore of the Deryni world and its people, but other than for background material, this series was a big disappointment to me.
Buy In The King’s Service at Amazon.
14. The Riftwar Legacy by Raymond E. Feist
This trilogy was Mr. Feist’s novelization of the computer game, Betrayal at Krondor, and, unfortunately, the books read just like that: Complete Quest A. Now that you have completed Quest A you need to complete Quest B! There was little characterization, lots of forced camaraderie, major characters disappearing for no reason, and the dialogue was forced and fairly awful. Overall, this was a trilogy which did not need to be written, nor did it add anything to Feist’s ongoing Riftwar saga. It was bad. Wish I could find some silver lining in the experience, but I just can’t.
Buy Krondor the Betrayal at Amazon.
13. Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey is a prolific writer, having published more books in her fantasy world than most authors have ever dreamed of writing. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed in the ones I have tried, and I have tried more than a few: Arrows of the Queen, Vows and Honor, The Last Herald-Mage, and Mage Winds among others. So I do feel I’ve made a good faith effort to understand why my fantasy friends have enjoyed her writing over the years, yet the simple fact of the matter is that I do not enjoy Valdemar, which is disappointing.
Buy Arrows of the Queenat Amazon.
12. Vlad Taltos by Steven Brust
Vlad Taltos is a member of the human minority of the Dragaeran Empire, born into the lowest class of society, but a noble due to a smart purchase by his dad. Vlad’s “house” one huge criminal organization (Think modern day mafia.), where he acts as a minor crime lord, selling his assassin services and overseeing certain interests of his royal house. The series which follows basically mafia/detective stories glossed over with a thin veneer of fantasy names and places to conceal that you are really reading a modern crime story. If that appeals to you, give this one a try, as for me it made me “yawn.”
Buy The Book of Jhereg at Amazon.
11. Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen
Set in a world where an ancient war changed the very laws of nature, gods and giants stalk the earth, playing malicious games with human lives by unleashing twelve swords of power; each blade the physical embodiment of its unique moniker. And while I was really captivated by the idea of this story, thought it sounded damn cool and wanted to love the series back in the 1980s, I never could get into the novels after book one. I tried and tried to like them. It just never happened. I’m still disappointed it did not work out.
Buy First Book of Swords at Amazon.
10. The Crescent Moon Kingdoms by Saladin Ahmed
Epic fantasy in an Arabian Nights-like setting with ghuls (zombies), ghul hunters, ghul apocalypses and tea. Lots and lots of tea. Honestly, the main character spent more time worried about getting his greedy hands on his next cup of tea than the ghul apocalypse which was supposedly ominously hovering over his home town. How this rather dull narrative was ever nominated for so many prestigious awards is beyond me, because after finishing it all I wanted to do was grab a good cup of tea and an exciting book to sit down and read, because this one was a huge bore from beginning to end.
Buy Throne of the Crescent Moon at Amazon.
9. The Mallorean by David Eddings
This sequel to The Belgariad picked up where that series left off, introducing another ancient prophecy and another grand quest for our heroes. And to be fair, I loved The Mallorean back in the day, not so much due to it providing me with an amazing story, but because I was able to keep spending time with my childhood friends. Even then, I recall being a little disappointed deep down by the conclusion to this series. I guess I knew that instead of a new epic adventure of Garion and friends all I’d been reading was a rehashing of The Belgariad, which disappointed me and made me more than a little sad — though I couldn’t admit it back then.
Buy The Malloreon, Vol. 1 at Amazon.
8. Deverry by Katharine Kerr
This classic, epic saga is found among many readers’ most beloved fantasy series, and, honestly, I wish I had a very eloquent reason for why I’ve never warmed to it, but I don’t. You see, I willingly concede Kerr’s work has masterful world-building, complex character development, a unique magic system, and even does a great job of bringing Welsh culture to life. However, I just do not like the books. What’s worse is I’ve tried very hard to like them, reading Daggerspell three times and attempting Darkspell on each occasion only to stop in frustration at my sheer boredom. For that reason, Deverry is a disappointment to me.
Buy Daggerspell at Amazon.
7. The Crimson Empire by Alex Marshall
This was a well-written story which made certain to use every one of the grimdark tropes. The only problem was the caricature characters, the ridiculous plots, and a tendency to favor shocking moments over well thought out plot lines. Certainly, the book had potential, but it just did not measure up to superior books in the grimdark genre. All of which meant that this one was a huge disappointment.
Purchase A Crown for Cold Silver at Amazon.
6. Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley
Great cover. Tremendous hype. An award winning author. And a story of a recurring cataclysm about to strike an unsuspecting world, turning everyone against one another, as worlds collide. Unfortunately, this epic had loads and loads of problems from plot to pacing to characters. If you are interested in all the reasons why this one disappointed me, then I have a lengthy review posted here as well.
Buy at Amazon.
5. Shattered Sea by Joe Abercrombie
Perhaps my expectations were set too high when I picked this young adult grimdark up, but in my defense, I’d heard such praise for Abercrombie’s work that I knew this trilogy was going to be great. But it wasn’t. Good, perhaps. Adequate, maybe. Not great though. Yarvi’s story and the world feeling familiar, unexciting, and meh, if you will. What made it worse was that each book grew worse in my eyes, not better. Overall, the trilogy was a bitter disappointment for me personally.
Buy at Amazon.
4. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
The Farseer Trilogy follows the life of Fitz, bastard son of the king-in-waiting Chivalry, who is trained to become a royal assassin. Unfortunately, I never finished the series back in the late 1990s, as I found it to be the most depressing story I had ever read up to that time. Truly, I had never experienced a story with so many idiotic heroes, so many unredeemed villains, and so many horrible catastrophes occurring to characters. I’m not ruling out giving this series another try one day, but all I know is I am going to need better anti-depression medication to get through it.
Buy Assassin’s Apprentice at Amazon.
3. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
This trilogy is a classic; experts praising its wonderful world building, its magnificent characterization, and its Tolkien-esque touches. I, however, found it to be horribly boring. This epic journey a bloated, formulaic trip to no where. The tale lacking suspense, devoid of surprises. Instead, it was the familiar fantasy trope of simple boy leaves the kitchen to journey across the land until everything is resolved by a nice, neat ending. My disappointment so great after finishing this trilogy that I’ve never read Tad Williams again.
Buy The Dragonbone Chair at Amazon.
2. Demon Cycle by Peter Brett
This tale of a world ravaged by demons every night with humankind cowering behind warded walls really sparked my imagination. Book one truly one of the best fantasy novels I’d read in many years. But then book two and three came out and rehashed the same old story over and over again. I’m not sure if book four turned things around, because by that point I was done with the series. Huge disappointment after the brilliance of The Warded Man.
Buy The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1 at Amazon.
1. Winterlands by Barbara Hambly
Dragonsbane was a fantasy standalone which was light, naive, filled with likable characters and headlined by an endearing couple. so this return to this world and these characters seemed like an amazing idea. However, the Winterlands trilogy was disappointing in every way with Ms. Hambly tormenting the main characters from Dragonsbane, John Aversin and Jenny Waynest, in a ridiculous way, tearing both their relationship and their personalities apart. It was so bad the author reversed directions in the last book, turning it into something of apology to her fans, who had loudly voiced their displeasure with the series. All in all, reading this trilogy was a bitter disappointing in many ways, one I wish I could forget.
Buy Dragonshadow at Amazon.
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