Wizards. The Fantasy genre is full of characters that go to magical schools or learn from reclusive mentors to use the power that flows within them and become spellcasting wonders that might help to save the world if they don’t get hit with an axe or an arrow or something because they aren’t wearing any armor. While hundreds may aspire to the title, I’ve listed here the five coolest wizards to grace the dusty pages of fantasy novels. Note that this list contains SPOILERS.
The Harry Potter books are full of great wizards, but only one of them walked the tightrope of loyalty between Albus Dumbledore and He Who Shall Not Be Named. Fans argued whether Snape was good or bad right up until the reveal in the final book. What makes Severus Snape so dangerous is that, whether he turned out to be good or evil, either way he had deceived one of the most powerful wizards of his time. In the end, fans that believed that Snape was good at heart were proven right. He earns his place on this list for lying to the face of the evilest wizard in the world, and always protecting the boy hero that he half hated, and half loved.
While its heyday has long passed, fantasy lovers remember a story filled with elves, dwarves, warriors, wizards and dragons… and it wasn’t even The Lord of the Rings! Dragonlance gave us one of the most complex antiheroes in fantasy, and one of its greatest wizards. Raistlin Majere can cast spells, but he’s physically weak and sick. And he might need some kind of magical eye drops because his vision is messed up: he sees the death of every person he looks at with his distinctive hourglass eyes. But that’s not what makes him one of the coolest mages in fantasy. His slow descent into darkness and ascent into godhood was the stuff of legend. Fantasy lovers cheered to look up into the night sky where the gods’ constellations once turned and see instead a starry hourglass. For waging the war between light and darkness within himself—and ultimately winning!—Raistlin Majere is one wicked mage.
The wizards of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series are way cooler than anything in J.K. Rowling’s magical world. They travel to whole other worlds and dimensions in their service to Life, and even defy the Power That Fell (the Devil) on occasion. Dairine is a young wizard that goes on adventures with her sentient laptop, Spot. She actually creates a race of living computer beings and fights the Enemy when he comes to deceive them as he did Adam and Eve. For creating life and being willing to sacrifice herself for it, and for working to redeem even the Devil himself, she proves herself to be one awesome wizard.
How many wizards do you know that consistently fight with a sword? Gandalf doesn’t act like a typical wizard (unless it suits him). He is a warrior at heart. He fights the terrible Balrog to the death. After traveling through the mysterious afterlife, he is brought back to life by God as Gandalf the White… only to pick up his sword and continue the fight. Sometimes what makes a wizard great is not rising to godhood or going off and creating life on a distant planet, but doing all you can in this life, flawed as it is. For coming back and keeping up the fight, even in the face of a foe that is greater than him, Gandalf earns his place as one of the greatest wizard characters of all time.
There’s a fantasy wizard even cooler than Gandalf? Yes there is. He gets beat up, and has been near death more times than Harry Potter has used his invisibility cloak, but there’s only one wizard who could be called the coolest wizard in fantasy, and that’s the hero of the Dresden Files. A magical private investigator in modern Chicago, Dresden makes enemies and friends of vampires, faeries, ancient gods and things with hard to pronounce names, facing off against dark wizards, demonic knights, and the terrible Outsiders. He may not look like anything special, but if you’re a wicked monster (even the human kind) preying on the innocent, you’d better watch out. For being a board game playing nerd at heart who is just pretending to be cool by riding a reanimated dinosaur to battle against evil necromancers, Harry Dresden is the number one Wizard You Don’t Want To Mess With in fantasy today.