10 Fantasy Novel Series That Could Be Great TV Shows

Published 3 years ago by , Updated December 7th, 2011 at 6:05 pm, This is a list post.

10 Fantasy Novel Series That Could Be Great TV Shows

game of thrones tryion reads book With HBO's Game Of Thrones wrapping up a stellar first season and American Gods (far) on the horizon, television is on the cusp of a fantasy revolution. And it isn't the squeaky-clean fantasy of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (for that, see the upcoming and very promising Once Upon A Time) – cable TV is ready and willing to tell adult fantasy stories for adult viewers. With that in mind, the Screen Rant crew put together a list of the fantasy novels we'd most like to see adapted into serialized TV dramas with modest-to-big budgets. All of them would make sprawling, epic TV shows... in the right hands, of course. Check out our list and see if you agree with our picks - and add a few suggestions of your own to our comment section.

10. The Necroscope Series by Brian Lumley

necroscope cover lumley

Harry Keogh sees dead people. In the modern United Kingdom that could be a problem, but the protagonist of the Necroscope novels uses it to his advantage, discovering that the dead are generally okay folks. They teach him the skills he'll need to solve his mother's murder, fight a growing menace of vampires and necromancers, and affect the growing operations of ESP-ionage on the world stage. With over a dozen novels roughly coinciding with real-world time, there's a lot of material to cover for aspiring writers and producers. This is a series that's not afraid to throw spies, psychics, sorcerers, vampires and mathematical formulas for teleportation into the mix - and that's just in the first novel!  Later novels go even further down the fantasy path, including adventures set in twisted vampire realms, inter-dimensional wars, and conflict on both sides of the life and death divide. With the complex and multi-faceted world of the novels, a rich continuity rivaling the likes of Doctor Who is not out of the question.

9. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

night angel trilogy cover weeks

Imagine the Assassin's Creed video games, minus the ridiculous “genetic memory” framing device. Now add in a medieval setting and a pinch of magic. Bang! You've got The Night Angel Trilogy, also known as The Shadows Trilogy, by Brent Weeks. These three paperbacks have been flying off the shelves since their introduction in 2008. The protagonist is Azoth, a pickpocket orphan (man, there's a lot of them running around the fantasy genre) living in the streets of Cenaria. The boy becomes an apprentice to the best assassin in the city in hopes of avenging the rape of a childhood friend. Cable viewers who want blood and sleaze in equal amounts (I know you're reading, True Blood fans) couldn't hope for better source material.

8. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

name of the wind rothfuss

A more modern fantasy interpretation, The Kingkiller Trilogy begins with The Name of the Wind, in which our hero, Kvothe, recounts his many adventures. As a skilled fighter, intellectual and musician, Kvothe is a pre-Rennaisance man, and uses his talents to haphazardly solve whatever quest is laid before him. Like A Song of Ice and FireThe Kingkiller Chronicle isn't finished; the last of Rothfuss' three books has yet to be published. That shouldn't worry fans too much, though - were development to begin immediately, it would still be 2-3 years before the first episode aired, with plenty of time to conclude the story. Which is more than many George R. R. Martin fans are currently hoping for.

7. The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks

sword of shannara brooks

Terry Brooks has been described as a master of modern fantasy, and tens of millions of readers can't be wrong. The first set of novels in his main universe are centered around the mythical sword Shannara, and the generations of men who wield it. A classic adventure fantasy, The Sword of Shannara is seen by many as a continuation of the Tolkein tradition – although there are a few who say Brooks follows his inspiration a little too closely. Many have tried to adapt Shannara to the big screen with exactly zero success thus far. The latest comer was Warner Bros., who let the rights slip out of their grasp back in 2010. Perhaps someone could take a hint from Game of Thrones (which started out as a movie project) and sail for the long-form serialized waters of television. And if the series should last more than three seasons, there's plenty of material to draw from for a continuing story.

6. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

chronicles of amber zelazny

With a story spanning decades of story time and real-world time (the ten books of the series were published between 1970 and 1985), adapting The Chronicles of Amber for the small screen would be no small task, and bringing audiences along might be even harder. But for the right studio, the series would be well worth the attempt. The novels focus on the relationship between two “worlds” (dimensions) the various shadowy worlds “around” them, and the special few who can travel between the worlds. Reality is a fragile thing within the confines of the series, and meddling with the wrong magic (or taking the wrong hallucinogens) can send hapless users onto terrifying new planes of existence.

5. The Belgariad by David Eddings

magician's gambit cover eddings

Another rags-to-riches orphan story in the oldest tradition of high fantasy, The Belgariad follows the story of Garion, a farmboy destined for greatness. The story begins with a prophecy of a confrontation between good and evil foreshadowed by a mysterious “storyteller” character. The five books in the saga have a lot in common with A Song Of Ice And Fire with the exception of a much larger emphasis on magic. Eddings' first novel in the series, Pawn of Prophecy, was published in 1982, and the following four books came out within the next two years. It makes for a fast and extremely cohesive read, and the divisions between novels are pretty much perfect for season-long story arcs.

4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

outlander cover gabaldon

Beginning with the titular Outlander, this time-traveling romance series follows protagonist Claire Randall. She begins the story in Scotland in the 1940s, just after World War II, where she and her husband are investigating some family history. After a pagan ritual near some standing stones (a la Stonehenge) goes awry, Randall is whisked away to the 1700s, wherein she meets a swashbuckling captain who bears an uncanny resemblance to her future husband. Outlander and its sequels stress historical fiction and romance more than strict fantasy, but if its fervent fans are any indication, there' more than enough room in the current TV schedule for its like. Gabaldon doesn't skimp on the sultry details (shifts and bodices go flying with remarkable regularity), and there's plenty of alpha males and despicable villains to keep the story clipping along.

3. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

riftwar saga comic cover feist

If there's one series on this list that fits the traditional fantasy mold to a T, it's The Riftwar Saga. The fist volume was published almost thirty years ago, with a long history and well-developed world that rivals George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire, despite being only three books long. Squabbling kingdoms, ancient magic and a world war all flesh out the long story. The primary character is an orphan named Pug, who begins his career as a magician's apprentice. Across thousands of pages and decades of story time, high magic and good-old-fashioned steel determine the various rulers of the world – heights to which Pug ascends via luck, skill, and no small amount of scheming.

2. Kushiel's Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

kushiel's mercy cover carey

Beginning with Kushiel's Dart and extending across a pair of trilogies, Kushiel's Legacy may be the most risque of the currently popular fantasy series. This medieval world has enough debauchery and deviancy to make residents of Sodom and Gomorrah blush – in other words, it's right up Showtime's alley. Kushiel takes place in a fantastic mirror of 12th-century France, with a plot inspired by some of the more spicy segments of Christian and Jewish mythology. Leading lady Phedre is cursed by a minor physical flaw and sold into slavery, wherein she embarks on a whirlwind tour of Carey's complex and intricate world. There's enough material in the first book for three seasons of television at the very least.

1. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

the curse of chalion cover bujold The Curse of Chalion is a sprawling saga with spiritual overtones, in the vein of a medieval Ben Hur. Lupe Cazaril returns to his ancestral home after a disastrous war and an even more horrifying internment. Despite yearning for a life of quiet fulfillment, his new assignment as a royal tutor brings him front-and-center in a struggle to free the royal family of an ancient curse. The gods of the fantasy world are characters in their own right, not unlike a modernized Greek epic. The Father, Mother, Daughter, Son and the Bastard are an integral and ever-present part of everyday life (far more so than the various gods of Game Of Thrones) and give Bujold's universe a distinct culture that few can match.

Honorable Mention: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

gods behaving badly cover phillips Gods Behaving Badly is a lot like Neil Gaiman's American Gods, in that it assumes that the old Greek pantheon is real but diminished in a modern world devoid of religious fervor. The difference is that in Phillips' interpretation, all the Greek gods live in the same crappy house outside of London. Immortal, yet developmentally stunted, gods like Ares,  Hephaestus and Aphrodite take menial jobs while clinging to their last shreds of power. This gives them just enough time to squabble amongst themselves and make life a living Hades for any hapless mortal who spoils their fun. This book screams for a dark comedic drama along the lines of Dead Like Me – here's hoping that Red Hour Films gets their act together and delivers on their promise to make the novel into a TV series. This isn't an exhaustive list, and we know there's a few well-loved novels we've missed. If you've got a favorite fantasy series that you want to see adapted for television, let us know in the comments.
TAGS: american gods, game of thrones

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  1. great… isn’t there enough rubbish on the TV as it with the American conveyor belt of csi , cop, vampire programming?

  2. No Elric? Sadface.

  3. I’m glad someone else thinks necroscope would be a good series. I’ve read most of the other series you mentioned too, but this is one of my faves and seemed to be the most obscure when I would mention it to others.

  4. David Eddings also has a second set of 5 books continuing after the Belgariad, which would be great to use to continue a tv series

  5. what about a wheel of time? i think that would be perfect for a tv show.

    • I was thinking about that too. I guess it depends on how close they would stay to the books. because the books can be quite slow, and that would be boring for a tv show

  6. I guess Malazan would be too much.

  7. They put all the blockbusters in May, June, and July and then the rest of the year movies suck to find a movie you’ll want to go out and see.

    • If you really think all movies that are not action-packed automatically suck, then I feel sorry for you.

  8. Michael Moorcock’s Elric series was mentioned, and could be great, but my vote would go to Glenn Cook’s Black Company. Magic, epic battles, and more intrigue and backstabbing than GOT. Cook’s characters are great, and very detailed, both physically and psychologically. As a cherry on top, the story and plot are gritty and visceral, and even the most outrageous show a vulnerable humanity that engages the reader in their story.

    • I totally agree about Black Company! Currently I am reading it and I love it.

  9. Deryni Series by Katherin Kurtz, Wheels Of Time by Jordan, SpellSinger by Alan Dean Foster (this one better CGI action comedy movie), The Guardians of the Flame by Joel Rosenberg.

    • Spellsinger would be great…cast Jack Black as Jon-Tom and have Judd Apatow produce. Even if it would involve CGI talkin’ animals, let’s push an R rating for this baby

  10. What? No mention of Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga, Corum Chronicles or the History Of The Runestaff?

    How about Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser? It would make a good Starz or Showtime series

  11. I’m highly surprised that R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series wasn’t on this list. That would be my number 2 choice.

    Number 1 would be ElfQuest by Wendi and Richard Pini. Or do graphic novels not count?

    • Drizzt will never happen. Sorry. It would be viewed as racist.

      Elfquest would be cool tho.

  12. What about the Legend of Drizzt?

    • At least look at the last page of comments before asking such an obvious question. Drizzt will never happen because of the anti black racism.

  13. No Dragonlance Chronicles means this list fails on so many levels. You have all the source material from all the surrounding novels plus the amazing 3 books from Wiess and Hickman

    How it hasn’t been done proper yet is beyond me.

    • Because it was already done improperly. No one will quickly touch it now.

  14. Legend of Drizzt. Hands down.

    • Drizzt will never happen because it’s too racist, as above.

  15. My fav fantasy/paranormal is being made into a movie Infinity:Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon. And also by the same author The Dark Hunters series is being made into a television show. Very excited about both!! :-)

  16. No “Malazan: Book of the Fallen”?! You disgust me.

    • As if Malazan was remotely filmable. Jeez, man, get over yourself.

  17. I was thrilled when I’d heard that a series was being made out of the Sword of Truth series…then I saw the first episode of ‘Legend of the Seeker’. One hour of my life I’m not getting back.

  18. I am intrigued at the prospect of making a series out of any of Kushiel Series by Jacqueline Carey.

    I would also love to see any of Micheal Moorcock’s epics filmed, especially “The History of the Runestaff” and “Elric of Melnibone” which I remember devouring as a kid.

    And how about “The Witcher” by Andrzej Sapkowski? Great fantasy with even greater black humour.

  19. where is the dragonlance series? the kender alone is worth hes own show.

  20. Check this totally awesome novel out!!!!! For all the readers out there!!!!!!!

    http://talesofaria.com/

  21. I’ve just read one of the best dark fantasy novels called DAMASTOR! Forget tv, this deserves to be on the big screen!

  22. One word: DAMASTOR the novel!!! One of the best dark fantasy novels I’ve ever read!! If ever there was a novel that deserves to be on the big screen, forget tv, this is the one!!

  23. I’m just surprised that no one’s even mentioning Stephen Donaldson. I think his “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever” would make great movies. Or, if that proves to be too long (as 3 trilogies with the last one having 4 books might), there’s still his amazing Sci-Fi work, “The Gap Cycle”, which – in my opinion – would make a marvel with the right team behind it.

    • Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Great book series, but I don’t see it transferring well. Not enough sex and violence for today’s audience. Face it, after the initial rape of Leah (sp?) it gets pretty tame by today’s standards. (or lack thereof? Hmm..)

  24. Celia Friedman Coldfire Trilogy, does it get any darker?
    Brent Weeks Lightbringer trilogy (best i’ve read in a long time, cant wait for the 3rd book) don’t know if they could pull off the special effects for the drafting side ,be awesome if they could.
    Brandon Sanderson Mistborn trilogy, ending is a bit iffy. Same as Lightbringer could they pull of special effects required.
    Raymond E Feist Rift war saga and beyond, up to Merchant Prince. Best chars ever in series in my opinion ,Jimmy the hand and Nakor, Who couldn’t love these two.
    Waylander by David Gemmell, movie for this one.(any of his books would make great fantasy action movies).

  25. Also for stand alone movie , I Lucifer by Glen Duncan.

  26. LOVE THE LIST! Especially #1 and #2. :)

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