I just started reading fantasy and my jaw dropped when I finished the second book of the first law series by joe abercrombie. Soon starting the final book of the trilogy after I finish gardens of the moon by steven erikson.
I started reading after a long pause from it(last time i read fantasy was in elementary school. harry potter,eragon). So i guess I haven't read much but gardens of the moon is soo epic in scale that in all honesty i feel that the more i read of malazan book of the fallen the more I'll like it, but the setting in first law trilogy feels really strong(maybe i just like the way he writes the story) i really enjoyed the first two books and I have to say the third one is unlikely disappoint me no matter what joe decided to write since he already created a strong feeling of wanting to finish the series through a great set of characters. Meaning the characters are certainly a driving point and the story is being orchestrated by the ancient mage that likes to talk in riddles and always leaves a thirst for more information about the world or characters. Now that is something that isn't going to work with bad pacing or boring setting, so I have to go with the first law series. Up close and personal is the feeling I got from this series.
As a few others have said, it is difficult to pick an absolute favorite. I'm a moody reader at times, so what I do or don't enjoy changes from time to time. I can say, though, that it usually comes down to 1 of 6 series (in no particular order, and all of which have been read multiple times);
Dragon Prince/Dragon Star by Melanie Rawn
The Mythgar series (not really a series but there is an overall story arc to the books) by Denis McKiernan
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephan Donaldson
The Shanara Series (well the first three books anyhow) by Terry Brooks
The Novels of Tiger and Dell by Jennifer Roberson (currently reading for the 5th or 6th time)
The Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore
I'm sure I could name (honorably mention) more but that would be a rather long list.