We review each novel based on the awards it has received, its commercial success, and its impact on the world.
Some factors are hard to judge. The awards, for instance, only apply during the periods in time when awards were available. Go back far enough in time and there were no awards. For these novels, we must put more weight on the social impact as well as the commercial success.
All of the novels on our list so far have had one thing in common—they are complete. That is to say they have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Some of the novels on our list achieved completeness in a single volume. Others required a series of novels to consider the story complete.
This week’s entry forges new ground. It is the first novel on the list to represent an unfinished tale. It feels perhaps a bit premature to include the novel on our list, but the objective data clearly marks it as one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time.
Before we get to the latest entry, we will recap the existing list.
The Greatest Fantasy Novels of All Time
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (Best Novel Awards: International Fantasy Award 1957, Prometheus Hall of Fame Award 2009)
- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 2004, Locus 2004, Nebula 2004; Nominations: Mythopoeic 2004)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling (Best Novel Award: Hugo 2001)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Author: George R. R. Martin
First Year Published: 2000
- Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel 2001
- Geffen Award for Best Fantasy Book 2002
- Ignotus Award for Best Foreign Novel 2006
- Nebula Award for Best Novel 2001
- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2001
George R. R. Martin is a truly amazing author. His fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire is still a work in progress. Martin is following in the footsteps of J. R. R. Tolkien in that all the books in his series are simply parts of a single story.
Martin has delivered to his avid readers the first five novels in the series. His fans eagerly await volumes six and seven. There is no rushing genius. I have no doubt he will finish the series as strongly as he has begun.
This puts us in unexplored territory. Is it possible that we can place a novel on our list that has no end? Make no mistake, A Song of Ice and Fire has a fantastic beginning. It has a powerful and moving middle, but until now, it still has no end.
HBO has famously made the unfinished series into a blockbuster television series that has swept the television-watching globe. The television show A Game of Thrones based on Martin’s series is rewriting the definition of success in cable television.
The success of the series and the television show can be traced to the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords.
A Song of Ice and Fire has so far won four Locus Awards, a Geffen Award, and three Ignotus Awards. It has also been nominated for five Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, and two World Fantasy Awards.
Many consider A Storm of Swords to be the best of the series so far. In the novel, Martin weaves an intricate tapestry of tales. Each tale is delivered from the viewpoint of a character that possesses a distinct outlook on the events unfolding.
The novel is most well-known for the famous scene known as “The Red Wedding”. It is this scene that made Martin’s fans both love and hate him at the same time. It was this scene that pushed the television series over the top and into the mainstream of television viewers.
The Red Wedding allowed A Game of Thrones to transcend the fantasy genre and reach viewers that had never read a fantasy novel before in their lives. The television episode was called The Rains of Castamere and earned the show runners a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing, of all things. The episode also won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form 2014.
For those who don’t know what The Red Wedding is, I won’t spoil it here. Go read the novel or rent the DVDs of season three.
George R. R. Martin is still pounding away on the keyboard, working out the details of the story’s conclusion. His amazing talents will surely deliver a suitable ending.
While we wait for the tale’s ending, we can acknowledge that A Storm of Swords is one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time.
Catch up on the other Greatest Fantasy and Greatest Science Fiction novels of ALL TIME! (images link to the posts)