So at long last I’ve come to the final decade I’ll cover in this series: the 00s! This period saw a surge in fantasy films and television shows, with adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia bringing the genre and its classics to new audiences. The “Noughties” were also crucial for paranormal romance and young adult fantasy – sales grew exponentially, in no small part due to the success of Twilight. Many series from this decade are still being added to today.
Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 2000 and 2010. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets:
(To enlarge a cover simply click on it and the image gallery will open)
It’s hard to discuss the popularity of fantasy books in this decade without also looking at film and television adaptations. Both The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were released in cinemas in 2001, followed in the years after by their sequels and by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005.
TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and (1997-2003) and Charmed (1998-2006) at the turn of the century potentially helped whet the appetite for more paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and by the end of the decade popular paranormal series were also being adapted for the screen, for example the first seasons of True Blood (2008) and The Vampire Diaries (2009), and the first Twilight film (2008).
Sub-genres like grimdark fantasy (e.g. The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Blade Itself) and flintlock fantasy / alternative history fantasy (e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, His Majesty’s Dragon) emerged, as did more examples of high fantasy romance and erotic fantasy (e.g. Graceling, Kushiel’s Dart), continuing a trend from the end of the 90s.
This was also a strong decade for children’s fantasy: the final four books of the Harry Potter series were released, and Artemis Fowl, The Lightning Thief and Eragon all became best-sellers. While not technically fantasy, it’s worth noting that the related genre of young adult dystopian fiction thrived too, sparked by the popularity of The Hunger Games (2008).
A Few Interesting Facts
- Brandon Sanderson had written 12 unpublished novels by the time his first novel, Elantris, was published. The Final Empire came out the following year.
- Sanderson popularised the idea of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ magic systems with his Laws of Magic.
- Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon while in his teens and self-published it with the help of his parents. He travelled around the US to promote it until it was discovered by writer Carl Hiaasen and re-published by Alfred A. Knopf.
- Charlaine Harris published over a dozen mystery novels before venturing into the realm of paranormal fantasy and creating the Sookie Stackhouse series. The TV show True Blood is based on this series.
- The Lightning Thief began as bedtime stories that Rick Riordan told his son Haley, who had been studying Greek mythology at school and wanted to hear myth-inspires stories. The stories involved the character Percy Jackson, and Haley asked his father to turn them into a book.
- Irish author Eoin Colfer was a fan of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and, following Adams’s death, was commissioned in 2008 to write the sixth and final book in the series. Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series had already sold millions of copies by that time.
- Stephanie Meyer wrote Twilight for her own enjoyment and was not initially thinking of publishing the work, but her sister encouraged her to send the manuscript to literary agencies. The series as a whole has sold more than 100 million copies.
- The first drafts of Twilight were titled Forks but the publisher requested a title change.
- Scott Lynch said in an interview that the book he was originally trying to write covered the events of what will be the 4th book of his Gentleman Bastard series, but decided he didn’t know the characters well enough to throw them into that situation. He backed up a few years in their lives to the events that became The Lies of Locke Lamora.
- Patrick Rothfuss’s dedication in the The Name of the Wind reads: “To my mother, who taught me to love books. Who opened the door to Narnia, Pern and Middle Earth.” He worked on the book for at least 10 years while he was studying.
- In City of Bones, Cassandra Clare references the work of friend and fellow author Holly Black: the character Clary is listening to a band called Stepping Razor, which is the name of Ellen Fierch’s band in Holly Black’s book Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale (2002). She also references the works of Philip Reeve, whose steampunk novels Mortal Engines and Infernal Devices she drew inspiration from.
Other 00s Works and Authors
There were many other noteworthy fantasy books in the Noughties, which made it very hard to select a top 12 for this decade – especially because I wanted to include a broad spectrum of styles in spite of the fact certain types have been selling particularly well (e.g. paranormal YA). In the end I tried to strike a balance by selecting popular books from a range of sub-genres. The ones that got left out (a few very narrowly!) are included here:
- Perdido Street Station (New Corobuzon) by China Miéville (2000)
- Kushiel’s Dart (Phèdre’s Trilogy) by Jacqueline Carey (2001)
- The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next) by Jasper Fforde (2001)
- The Magician’s Guild (The Black Magician Trilogy) by Trudi Canavan (2001)
- Fantasy Lover (Hunter Legends) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (2002)
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (2002)
- The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus) by Jonathan Stroud (2003)
- Inkheart / Tintenherz (Inkworld / Tintenwelt) by Cornelia Funke (2003)
- A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle) by Libba Bray (2003)
- Into the Wild (Warriors) by Erin Hunter (2003)
- Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows) by Kim Harrison (2004)
- The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice), by John Flanagan (2004)
- Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood) by J.R. Ward (2005)
- Poison Study (Poison Study) by Maria V. Snyder (2005)
- The Blade Itself (The First Law), by Joe Abercrombie (2006)
- His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik (2006)
- Moon Called (Mercy Thompson) by Patricia Briggs (2006)
- Darkfever (Fever) by Karen Marie Moning (2006)
- Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy) by Richelle Mead (2007)
- Magic Bites (Kate Daniels) by Ilona Andrews (2007)
- Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress) by Jeaniene Frost (2007)
- Marked (House of Night) by P.C. Cast (2007)
- The Way of Shadows (Night Angel) by Brent Weeks (2008)
- Graceling (Graceling) by Kristin Cashore (2008)
- The Painted Man (Demon Cycle), by Peter V. Brett (2008)
- Bitten (Women of the Other World) and The Summoning (Darkest Powers) by Kelley Armstrong (2001, 2008)
- The Magicians (The Magicians) by Lev Grossman (2009)
- Fallen (Fallen) by Lauren Kate (2009)
- Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (2009)
- Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush) by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009)
- Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls) by Maggie Stiefvater (2009)
A lot of popular series that started in the 90s were continued in the 00s, but I haven’t included sequels in my lists to avoid things getting too long. I also haven’t always mentioned a book if I’ve already included a more popular book by the same author in this or a previous decade, or if it was more science fiction than fantasy.
Are any of these books a favourite? Or would you add another important novel to the list? Feel free to give it a mention in the comments.