For readers who have worked their way through Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and are ready to take the next step onto something a little thicker, here are some fantasy series that have stood the test of time and established themselves as modern classics. Each of these series started at least 25 years ago, and many of them have developed into sprawling worlds with multiple series--plenty to fill your reading list!
The Lord of the Rings
Start With: The Hobbit
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." Thus begins the father of modern fantasy, in which the peace-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins is drafted by a meddling wizard for a wet, hungry, and uncomfortable adventure helping a proud band of vagabond dwarves raid a dragon's den for their ancestor's stolen treasure. Along the way Bilbo learns his true depths and uncovers an ancient treasure that sets in motion a struggle for the world in The Lord of the Rings.
The Wheel of Time
The Eye of the World
Three boys and two girls have their lives turned upside down when monstrous creatures of the evil god known as the Dark One attack their backwoods farming community. They are rescued and taken away from their home by a sorceress, who reveals the monsters were hunting for them. She believes one of the youths is the reincarnation of an ancient cursed ruler whose power broke the world long ago, born again to fight the Dark One's rise. The Wheel of Time is known for its vast cast of characters and sprawling world as the five travelers from Emond's Field are scattered, each to come into their own powers and gain influence with kingdoms and armies.
The First King of Shannara
Beginning in The First King of Shannara with a quest to fight off an evil warlock by forging a sword imbued with the power of truth, Brooks' Shannara series are set in land of magic that was once torn apart by an ancient apocalypse of science and technology. We follow the Shannara family and their descendants the Ohmsfords over generations. The land and the conflict change dramatically around them over the years as they bear a heavy legacy of magic in their blood and uncover ancient secrets of technology.
Dragonriders of Pern
Start With: Dragonflight
Every two hundred years, the Red Star comes close to Pern and sends down Thread, a deadly corrosive rain that can only be destroyed by the flames of dragons and their partnered riders. But two hundred years ago the last Thread did not come, and the forces of the dragonriders have dwindled or vanished. Now that Thread looms again, the dragon weyrs haven't the strength of numbers or the support of the people needed to protect the land. Enter Lessa, a deposed noblewoman with the psychic talent and strength of will to bind with the newest dragon queen and lead the dragon riders in their fight. McCaffrey wrote other series developing the world and cast of Pern, including a young adult series, The Harper Hall Trilogy beginning with Dragonsong
, which makes another good starting point.