John Gwynne shares his favourite fantasy books

John Gwynne, bestselling author of epic fantasy series, shares his favourite fantasy books of all time.

John Gwynne is a master of epic feats of imagination. With two fantasy series to his name, the Of Blood and Bone trilogy and The Faithful and the Fallen series, each renowned for their pace, immersive world-building and page-turning plots, who better to turn to for inspiration for your next fantasy read. Here, John shares the books that have most inspired him, and those that he returns to time and time again. 

I’ve always loved fantasy, it’s just been one of those constants in my life, part of me as far back as I can remember. One of my first solid memories is of a primary school teacher sitting my class down and starting to read from The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. I loved it. After that I went in search of more fantasy, discovered and devoured The Hobbit, and moved on to The Lord of the Rings.  

As I was growing up my dad was in the RAF, which meant a lot of travelling - usually a new home and school every three years. Books became my friends during these years. Don’t get the violins out, though, it wasn’t so bad. And I do have real, living, breathing human friends now, actually we settled in Eastbourne on the south coast when I was fifteen, where I proceeded to make some amazing mates that I still have today. I count myself very fortunate in the friend department.

But back to the early years - I think then that books became a big part of my childhood, something that has stuck with me ever since.

I remember being lost in The Lord of the Rings and looking back feel that it had a big influence on my young life and certainly in my writing today. It just seemed to have it all - an epic landscape, a cause to fight for, human drama. To say I loved it is an understatement. I was one of those geeks that re-read it every few years.

Of course, it wasn’t the only book I read - back then in the mix I remember plenty of Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Stephen Donaldson and then Raymond E. Feist and Terry Brooks and David Eddings, as well as about a million comics. Batman was always my favourite.

I can’t remember how old I was when I read Shogun by James Clavell, probably fourteen or fifteen. That was amazing, and it opened up the idea of historical fiction; a whole new world. Now I can’t get enough of that, either.

When I started writing Malice it was for an audience I can count on my fingers - my wife and three boys. And me, of course. So I tried to write something that would appeal to all of us. Something with the epic-ness of Tolkien, Robert Jordan or Tad Williams, a world that felt historical, with some depth, but with a more character-driven heart, inspired I suppose by contemporary writers like J. V. Jones and Brian Ruckley. I wanted a political story with plenty of double-crossing and multiple points of view. That was really inspired by George R. R Martin. But I also wanted it to be an exciting tale, with action and adventure. I guess David Gemmell is to blame for that. And I wanted a coming-of-age tale in there, for my boys.

All of the authors I’ve just mentioned are personal favourites that have written books that are imprinted on my mind and heart.

One of my top reads of all time is Bernard Cornwell’s take on Arthur. I love that series. To me, it has everything that I’ve described above, to perfection. I know that technically it is classed as a historical novel, and it is written as if Arthur were history, but the fantastical is in there, if you look hard enough. And the love story is one of the few I’ve read that feels real. Bittersweet. And the battles are so cool...

I am constantly amazed that Malice is an actual book now, rather than ideas in my head, or notes on my desk. It’s a wonderful feeling to see it in my hands, to feel the weight of it and to open the pages. A dream-come-true. My hope is that it will entertain, that it will whisk the reader off to another place for just a little while. Whether it does or not is another question, but hey, I’ve already seen a few dreams come true.

Looking for even more inspiration? Discover our edit of the very best fantasy books.

Discover the books in John Gwynne's The Faithful and the Fallen series:


by John Gwynne

The violent past of the Banished Lands saw armies of men and giants fight for supremacy, and although the giants were defeated long ago, they begin to stir again. Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, but his time will come, all too soon.


by John Gwynne

Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power . . .


by John Gwynne

The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make; choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands.


by John Gwynne

Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has seized the fortress at Drassil, and now possesses three of the Seven Treasures. And with Calidus and Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the rest. They will allow him to open a portal to the Otherworld – so Asroth and his demon-horde can break into the Banished Lands and finally become flesh.