Luckily for fantasy readers, we are in a wonderful era where more and more of our favorite books are getting adapted into TV shows or movies. Thanks to blockbusters like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, there is a huge demand for fantasy on screen. New adaptations are constantly being announced, and I’m really not mad about it.
The next few years look great for fantasy releases. Dune part two in November. Percy Jackson in 2024. The Atlas Six is rumored for release in 2025. There are literally so many great adaptations on the horizon, and yet I think we still deserve more!
However, I do think there are some fantasy books that absolutely would do wonderfully as a show or movie. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t been picked up yet. While I’m not a movie executive or television producer, I’ve got to say they need to get these projects moving ASAP!
Before we dive into this list, I want to be clear it’s in no way exhaustive. There are millions of great fantasy books out there that would do so well on the screen. But alas, it’s impossible to list them all. So today, I have gathered 13 of the best fantasy books or series that I think should be adapted. If there’s a book on this list you haven’t read, well, now’s the time.
One last thing to note: When I was creating this list, there were a lot of books that were already in development! Some more than others, but if you don’t see a favorite here, I’d recommend doing a quick search to see if it’s already on its way to the screen.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Some of you may have heard that Jade City was going to be getting an adaption. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Peacock announced last year that it has dropped plans to develop this beloved fantasy novel into a TV show, even though the show had already been in development for nearly two years. I think this book deserves to be picked up by someone who will see the job done.
For those unfamiliar with the book, we follow an organized crime family who run half of the island of Kekon. They are able to do this as the entire family are green bones, people who gain special abilities from wearing Jade. But a rival crime family is pushing forward, and war is looming. Based on old Chinese crime movies with a magical twist, it would be stunning to see on screen. Hopefully another studio will come to their senses and let us watch this incredible story play out on screen.
Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan
Fans of this beloved YA series have been holding out hope for too long, and there’s been a bit of turmoil around the development of this series.
In 2014, it was announced that this series would indeed be made into a movie, with auditions to be held the following year. And then it gets complicated. The rights to the film change hands, the timeline changes, and no one seems to know if this thing is actually going to happen. Then a ray of hope! John Flanagan tells the world that plans have changed, and Rangers Apprentice will instead be adapted into a TV series. Great news! Except this announcement came in 2020, and we were told that filming would begin after the pandemic had ended. Since then, we’ve heard nothing. With three years of no news, I’m starting to think we may never actually get to experience this adaptation, even though it would be an absolute banger of a show.
The Rangers Apprentice series follows a young boy who becomes what it says on the tin: an apprentice to a ranger. However, people fear the rangers and believe they practice magic. As our young apprentice, Will, is about to learn, the rangers are actually the first line of defense for the entire kingdom, stopping monsters and fighting wars before they can harm the citizens. And as it turns out, there’s a big war just around the corner. Throughout the series, we follow Will as he becomes more and more skilled in his abilities, protecting the kingdom from ever-growing threats.
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Not only would this be a spectacular film to watch with all the battle scenes, escapes, and airship battles, it would also be great because of how funny this book is. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of high fantasy usually takes a serious tone: everything is high stakes, so the time for humor is few and far between. That is not the case with Kings of the Wyld.
Kings of the Wlyd is a hilarious romp that follows a band of old adventurers — and by old, I mean OLD. Long retired from monster hunting, the band is getting together for one last adventure. Gabe, the leader of their band, is ready to kill every monster single-handed to save his daughter. But with a massive horde of monsters, and a cursed forest in the way, he’s gonna need a little help from his friends.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Look, I know this book was only published last year, but it’s basically a crime there isn’t already a movie in the works. This debut novel is filled with amazing characters, curses, politics, war, and magic. Be it a movie or TV series, I think this would be the new blueprint for on-screen fantasy.
Kaikeyi is the only daughter of the ruler of Kekaya. She is smart, talented, and knowledgeable about the gods, and yet she is seen as lesser than her brothers. Unexpectedly, she finds a message from her exiled mother that teaches her of a magic that is hers alone. Transforming herself into the queen she always knew she could be, she rules over Kekaya with poise and wisdom…until her chosen path interferes with the destiny that was laid before her. Everything leads to the question of her legacy. What kind of queen will she be remembered as? Kind and loving, or corrupt and without mercy?
Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Okay, I know this one is technically sci-fi and fantasy, but it absolutely deserves a spot on this list. A tale just as epic as Wheel of Time, this series is absolutely massive, and would make a great animated series. This 26 book series is a classic of the fantasy genre and deserves its time in the spotlight again. The world is huge, the characters are incredibly well-designed, and the dragons would be breathtaking to watch.
The Dragon Riders of Pern series kicks off with book one: Dragonsdawn. Spores are threatening the inhabitants of Pern. That is, until a geneticist is able to create something incredible to combat the problem: dragons. Each book focuses on different issues affecting Pern, and how the dragons and their riders fight for the greater good. Though the books don’t technically need to be read in order — and there’s a lot of debate about what the best order to read them in is — each one is its own adventure with some truly unforgettable heroes.
The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Maybe it’s just me, but every time I read a book about Dragons, I immediately want to see them fly across my screen. I need this book to be a movie like I need air to breathe. Not only does it have my favorite main character of all time, but it also just feels epic. I can practically see the cold landscape and feel the bite of the snow, or a blade. Plus, with a third book in the works, there’s the chance for some truly incredible sequels.
The Shadow of the Gods is a multi-POV high fantasy epic that’s about the destruction left by a battle of the gods. The world is now shattered after the gods drove themselves to extinction. Monsters roam freely, the checks and balances for those in power are gone, and now word of a war brewing has reached the ears of three people who have no idea that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
Most of the fantasies that are being turned into movies are the ones that are in a totally different world, which is why I think it’s high time we get more that take place in the world we live in. This story is set in our world, where magic isn’t real — except for the Montoya family. The imagery is truly outstanding, and I just want to be immersed in the world again — this time through the screen.
In The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, we meet a family that has been quietly surrounded by magic whenever they visited Orquídea. When she calls the family to her funeral and to retrieve their inheritance, everyone comes. When Orquídea transforms herself, the family is left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out who their beloved matriarch actually was, and what she wanted for them.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Part historical fiction, part fantasy, She Who Became the Sun is one of the most breathtaking books I’ve ever read. What sets this book apart is its subtlety about the magic, so much so that you start to wonder if there really is any at all. The characters are divine, the landscape is beyond stunning, and the story is one that would absolutely hold an audience’s attention for a full season (or two!).
She Who Became the Sun tells the story of a young girl who goes from penniless and starving to one of the most powerful people in the empire. As a child, her and her only surviving brother are taken to a woman who can see their destinies. Her brother’s destiny is one of glory and a lasting legacy. She has no destiny at all. Shortly after this proclamation, her brother dies. She decides to take his identity and his destiny, even if that means trying to fool the gods themselves.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, fantasy needs more queer love on the screen — especially of the lesbian and sapphic nature. The Jasmine Throne is perfect for a film, not only because it’s very queer, but because it has juicy politics to dig into. It also just has so much going on that it could work for either television or film. As an added bonus, the sequel just came out and has some truly incredible battles that would be a delight to watch on screen. This really has the potential to become the new thing everyone is talking about.
The Jasmine Throne tells the story of two women who have very different lives. One is a maid for the palace with a past she must keep a secret. The other is a princess sent from her kingdom by her devout and power-hungry brother. He only wants her to be ritually sacrificed and burned at the stake, and yet she refuses. To keep her from causing trouble, she is constantly drugged so she cannot escape and has no energy to defy her brother. As these two women’s paths meet, they find they are not only drawn to one another, but they have much more in common than either realize. Together they will make things right. They will not burn.
Graceling Realm by KRISTIN CASHORE
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this YA classic series on the list. I think each book in the series would be perfect for a film adaptation. This series really has everything: people with incredible power, monarchies, romance, and so many amazing fight scenes that would look breathtaking on screen. All of that and amazing characters make this a truly stand-out series. It could be great on screen!
Graceling is the first book in the series and follows Katsa, a young girl graced with incredible skill that enables her to fight and kill with ease. Katsa’s uncle is the king, but instead of a life of luxury, she is forced to be the King’s assassin to earn her keep. But her power comes with secrets, and as she uncovers them, she finds more Gracelings out there. As she begins to unravel the secrets of her power and her family, she comes across something that could destroy all seven kingdoms. Now she must try and stop the terrible threat before it destroys everything she knows and loves.
Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas
Graphic novels are incredibly well suited for the screen, and it’s a bummer we don’t see a lot of them being adapted outside of superhero comics. Of all the amazing graphic novels out there, I think Squire should be first on the list for an animated film adaptation. Not only is it an engaging story, but the art practically jumps off the page already. I would do just about anything to see this one brought to life on the screen.
Squire tells the story of Aiza, who wants nothing more than to be a knight of the Bayt-Sajji Empire. Knighthood is her only path to citizenship and a more stable life. With war on the horizon, she is finally allowed to enter the squire training program. She trains diligently, but as time goes on, she realizes not all is as it should be. Bayt-Sajji promises a better life, but not for people like her. Soon her loyalty is called into question, and she must ask herself if she is more loyal to the empire or to herself.
Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb is a giant in the fantasy world, and she 100% deserves it. Her Farseer trilogy is under development for the screen, which is absolutely amazing. I just about screamed when I found out! But there’s been absolutely no news about this series, and I think it absolutely deserves to be on screen just as much as her other works.
Dragon Keeper is the first book and is a true fantasy adventure story. Long ago, a great dragon saved the people of the Trader cities. Now, however, the dragons are in danger. The people have forgotten that they promised to protect the dragons, and now those that hatch are sickly from contaminated water. A group is formed to return these sick dragons to the heart of the magical homeland of the dragons. Guided only by the weak ancestral memories of the very dragons they are to protect, the dragon keepers venture into the unknown.
The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi
When I say that this story has it all, I mean it! Revenge, love, fighting, politics, secret organizations, and much, much more. The Final Strife is a recently published debut novel that absolutely deserves a bidding war over film and TV rights. The main character is complex and someone you want to root for. The story weaves and turns in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There’s heartbreak and horror, but there’s also hope for better things. It would be an absolutely sensational TV show.
The Final Strife takes place in a world divided into a class structure based on the color of one’s blood. Those with pale blood are the lowest in society, for once they tried to overthrow the empire. Those with blue blood are treated as slaves, born to work for the wealthy red-blooded elite. But years ago, a quiet revolt began, and a plan to topple the power structure was put in motion. Revolution is possible, but it will be a bloody fight.
As I said previously, this is not an exhaustive list. The fantasy genre is huge, and there’s no way to include anywhere near the amount of fantasy ripe for adaptation. There are even more books outside the genre that would make great movies. Here’s a list of eight other books we’d love to see on screen!