I have two Harry Potter novels on this list. It’s hard to deny the sheer impact of this series. Every novel is enjoyable, but for me there are two that truly stand out among the best Fantasy and Science Fiction novels. The first two novels are fun children’s novels. Azkaban is where the series moves up a level. It’s also the tightest plotted novel in the series, with the most unique plot.
It’s the one novel that doesn’t center around Voldemort. Voldemort is a compelling villain, but it is refreshing to have a different antagonist. Instead, we get Sirius Black and we get the twists that come along with it. Rowling avoids her tangents from the later novels and keeps compelling tension throughout, with a quickly moving story. Dementors are incredible foils for Harry and the climax of this novel, which feels like half the book, is riveting. As an individual novel, this is the best in the series.