From snow-capped peaks to verdant valleys, detailed fantasy worlds have always fascinated us. Maybe it’s the memorable characters that go traipsing through stunning landscapes, or the ingenious magic systems that draw power from the planet itself. Perhaps it’s the mouthwatering descriptions of the cuisine or the absorbing scenery that make us want to adventure there. Or maybe it’s the scents we swear we can smell while reading! Whatever the case, we keep a running list of worlds that caught us and just won’t let go. If an interdimensional portal ever opens up, you can bet we’ll be leaping in and aiming for one of these lands.
The video games may have come first, but we were equally captivated by The Infernal City, the first in a duology that picks up 40 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Tamriel is one of several continents on the planet Nirn, but it functions as the effective center of culture in this world. That means the land is home to all sorts of fantastic cuisine, delicious beverages, and bewitching magic. On top of that, there’s an entire encyclopedia of interesting beasts to encounter, like moon-adders and were-bears! And while we’re there, we may as well help save the place from a floating city that’s drifting across the country, killing people, and raising the dead.
How could we not include Narnia? The classic children’s series had us racing to the back of every closet we could find in the hopes of discovering another world hidden in a wardrobe. Of course, we’d be ready to do our part to assist Aslan and defeat the White Witch, but we’d also spend plenty of time hanging out with the endless variety of mythical creatures that call this land home, from winged horses to fauns to merpeople. And at some point, we’d hop aboard a ship to get a glance at the very literal edge of the world, because Narnia just so happens to be flat!
Swashbuckling pirates, battles of wits, feats of strength, and Rodents of Unusual Size – where could you find all the makings of the ultimate adventure besides Florin, the setting of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride? Peaceful pastures, gloomy swamps, and elaborate castles characterize this Renaissance-inspired world. This is the perfect destination for those fantasy fanatics who like a little (or a lot of) romance alongside their daring escapades. Once we make the big move, you’ll find us dangling from the Cliffs of Insanity, navigating the treacherous but exciting Fire Swamp, and ensuring that true love really does conquer all.
We’d love to find ourselves in Discworld embarking on a dizzying, comedic adventure. This flat planet sits on the backs of four elephants which balance on the back of a giant turtle. Need we say more about the joyful ridiculousness we’d find here every day? It’s as if Douglas Adams turned his mind to geography instead of interstellar tourism – and then penned dozens and dozens of intertwined novels.
The late Terry Pratchett published 41 Discworld novels in total, winning multiple awards and topping the bestseller list in the U.K. All those books gave us plenty of info on the topography of this place, from the ice-bound mountains that emit magical energy to the great waterfall that cascades off the edge of the world and into space. We’re itching to visit the island kingdom of Krull and study at its magical university, as well.
The world of Fillory is introduced in a book inside of another book – the fictional series Fillory and Further – inside of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians> series, to be exact. In Grossman’s grown-up melding of the worlds of Harry Potter and Narnia, aspiring students learn the ways of magic – and discover that everything comes with a price. Protagonist Quentin becomes consumed with dreams of the idyllic Fillory, eventually discovering that it really does exist. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows like it is in the books of Quentin’s childhood. But it’s still a guaranteed adventure, filled with mythical creatures, striking landscapes, and the requisite kings and queens. Assuming the ability to wield enchantments comes with the territory, we’d dive headfirst into a fierce battle to protect the future of magic.
Sarah J. Maas spoils us with a host of glimmering territories ruled by powerful Fae in her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. (She also gives us the Mortal Lands, but those are decidedly more ordinary, so we’ll stay away from there.) If we’re lucky enough to be gifted with Fae abilities, we would spend an immortal eternity traveling through the magical land of Prythian and visiting its various nation-states, from the glistening Day Court with its sky palace to the mountainous Night Court with its thriving art scene.