There are few things in epic fantasy as, well, epic, as a bloody great battle.
You know the ones—those grand clashes of good and evil that make you want to lift your homemade sword aloft and shout “Charge!” into the silence of your living room.
Here, then, is our tribute to the most legendary, awe-inspiring, and tea-spilling battles in epic fantasy.
The Battle of Pelennor Fields (The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)
Middle Earth’s most dramatic set-piece, complete with thundering oliphaunts, a witch-king, and a thoroughly cheesed-off hobbit. Seeing Theoden’s Riders of Rohan break upon the enemy like a furious sea still sends shivers down our spines.
The Battle of the Bastards (A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin)
This was a gnarly tug of war, a gruesome playground fight on a grand scale. With Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton squaring off amidst a sea of mud, blood and twisted bodies, Martin reminded us that chivalry is truly dead. And we loved every grimy second.
The Battle of Capustan (Memories of Ice, Steven Erikson)
In the city of Capustan, Erikson demonstrated that when gods interfere in battles, things tend to get messy. It was a clash of philosophies, a dance of death, a profound lesson in the human spirit’s tenacity. Who knew carnage could be so philosophical?
The Battle of the Tower (Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan)
Aes Sedai, Asha’man, and a farm boy turned messiah – it’s a classic recipe for an epic battle. And the siege of the White Tower didn’t disappoint. When Rand al’Thor declared, “It’s time to roll the dice”, he wasn’t referring to a friendly game of Monopoly.
The Battle of the Bloody Rose (The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin)
Imagine manipulating geology to your advantage in a battle. In Jemisin’s broken world, the Battle of the Bloody Rose was a seismic event in every sense, a cataclysmic clash where Earth was both a weapon and a casualty. Talk about groundbreaking.
The Battle of Adrilankha (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Steven Brust)
It’s one thing to take part in a massive battle; it’s another to try to outmanoeuvre your arch-nemesis while doing so. The climactic conflict in Brust’s Adrilankha was as much a mental duel as a physical one. Chess, eat your heart out.
The Battle of Sorrow’s End (Elfquest, Wendy and Richard Pini)
In a tale about the power of unity and understanding, the Battle of Sorrow’s End served a heart-rending climax. When Cutter’s Wolfrider clan clashed with the Sun Folk, it was not just about survival, but about the clash of ways, ideas, and the painful birth of a new world.
So, there you have it. Seven epic battles that defined and redefined the landscape of fantasy literature.
Moments of triumph, desperation, bravery, and the odd existential crisis, all rolled into one.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to reforge our shattered nerves and refill our tea.
It’s exhausting work, watching all that carnage.
Let me know in the comments which fantasy battles are your favourites.