Epic fantasy often involves complex world-building and many different characters. Most of epic fantasy need at least three books to tell a story.
Here are the best examples of the first novels from finished high fantasy franchises.
Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy) by Robin Hobb
Keppet, later known as FitzChivalry, is training to become an assassin. He is the bastard son of Chivalry and was sent to live at Buckkeep Castle.
The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy) by Joe Abercrombie
The novel follows the tale of six characters. It is set in The Union, an empire assaulted by various factions on all sides.
The Color of Magic (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett
This novel introduces the readers to Discworld. From the name itself, it is a flat disc carried by four elephants on their backs. The elephants in turn are carried by a sea turtle. The story follows the adventures of the wizard Rincewind.
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan
Five friends from Emond’s Field become the center of attention when their humble village was attacked. Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon and Perrin Aybara were the targets of the Trollocs and a Myrddraal.
Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erikson
This novel is set in Darujhistan where various forces are converging. The Malazan Empire eyes the city even as Empress Laseen is beset by problems. There is more at stake however as gods and former gods try to interfere.
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard) by Scott Lynch
Young Locke was bought by the priest Father Chains, the leader of the Gentleman Bastards. The group defies the Secret Peace between underground criminal groups and the government.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) by Stephen R. Donaldson
Author Thomas Covenant was diagnosed with leprosy. Even after he underwent treatment, he was deserted by loved ones and the community. After an accident, he finds himself in the Land where he was summoned by Cavewight Drool Rockworm. Covenant was told to deliver a message.
Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad) by David Eddings
The novel tells of the creation of the world by the seven gods, one of whom was Aldur. He is in a conflict with brother Torak when the former created a living soul in an orb. It later introduces Garion and Belgarath who pursue a thief.
Redwall (Redwall) by Brian Jacques
This novel is set in Redwood, a refuge for animals in the forest. When Cluny the Scourge arrives to take the Abbey, Matthias sets out to find a legendary sword to help defend the inhabitants.
Wizard’s First Rule (The Sword of Truth) by Terry Goodkind
Richard Cypher investigates the murder of his father. During the search, he runs into Kahlan Amnell who was looking for the First Wizard. He helps Kahlan and takes her to Zedd, later revealed to be the First Wizard. Kahlan begs Zedd to find the Seeker of Truth to defeat the ruler Darken Rahl.