Recommended Heroic / Sword & Sorcery fantasy books

The sword and sorcery sub-genre become very popular in the 1950's with the Conan the Barbarian novels by Robert E. Howard. In these novels the hero's are usually atypical and are far from perfect and walk a fine line between doing good and serving their own self interest. This page features the works of the late, great David Gemmell and the magnificient Steven Erikson.

Recommended Reading

Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the af...

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
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According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself - and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind's past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

"The Way of Kings is epic in every sense. Sanderson has built a world that leaps to life, a cast of varied characters and a vast history that slowly unfolds. While Sanderson cuts from the familiar cloth of fantasy, his narrative impetus and meticulous world building bode well for future volumes." The Guardian

"It is, in every sense of the word, an epic beginning to what I can only guess (and hope) will be an epic story told over, apparently, ten books with the second one nowhere near being published. In essence, Sanderson has just begun the next Wheel of Time-like series." Fantasy Book Review

Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
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Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more...

"With the Black Company series, Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy - something a lot of people didn't notice, and maybe still don't. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliche archetypes of princes, kings and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff is like reading Vietnam fiction on Peyote" Steven Erikson

"There are no larger than life characters to be found in The Black Company, all contain frailties and failings that are found in all humans. This book is beautifully amoral and contains no two-dimensional characters. As I've already mentioned, The Black Company is a wonderfully amoral book, often dark and containing violent battles and fantastic characters. Glen Cook changed the face of the fantasy genre forever - and for the better." Fantasy Book Review

The Macht by Paul Kearney
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On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For centuries they have remained within the remote fastnesses of the Harukush Mountains. In the world beyond, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf have been united within the bounds of the Asurian Empire, which rules the known world, and is invincible. The Great King of Asuria can call up whole nations to the battlefield. His word is law. But now the Great King's brother means to take the throne by force, and in order to do so he has sought out the legend. He hires ten thousand mercenary warriors of theMacht, and leads them into the heart of the Empire.

"A terrific writer, one of the best working in epic fantasy." SciFi.com

"But that is nothing compared to the overarching splendour that is The Ten Thousand. Kearney captures all the best parts of fantasy - the young nobodies destined for glory, the gathering of a team, mercenaries, and exotic races and places - and combines them together with grit and realism and enough blood to drown a horse." Fantasy Book Review

Shadow Ops series by Myke Cole
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Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze. Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one. The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

"As a military officer myself, I feel like I can really relate with Cole and the book he has written. It is a book that accurately portrays military life on a military base, while enhancing it using the fantasy elements I love to read about. Whether you are a military buff or not, this is an entertaining book packed full of intense action sequences – a modern interpretation of the fantasy genre that you should have no hesitations in reading." Fantasy Book Review

The Rigante Novels by David Gemmell
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"In my pantheon of literary greats, David Gemmell stands alone. I read his first book, Legend, when I was fourteen and knew even then that I had found the kind of writer I wanted to be. Like Julius Caesar himself, Gemmell wrote with a spare elegance, racing along with characters and events until I found it was dawn and I had to get up for work. Gemmell is the only writer who ever stole my nights in such a way. I read Ghost King when I was at university. I was studying Arthurian literature at the time and somehow missed the references to Gian Avur and the Lancelord. It's difficult to recall a last line of any book that was more of a shock to me than that one. Gemmell was superb at endings. Some of them were so powerful that I could only stare at the ceiling with tears in my eyes." Conn Iggulden

"In short, a book by David Gemmell is about morally grey heroes, who fight for what they believe in, and regularly get kicked in the nuts by fate. A Tavern brawler who selflessly stands up when faced with injustice. A Drunkard that, without a moment of hesitation, sacrifices his life in favor of an innocent family. A Burly woodcutter that travels to all corners of the world to rescue his captured crush. A pacifistic priest forced to slay numerous enemies. These tales tell of honor and glory, duty and loyalty, courage and resolve, all coated in a wonderful blend of action, black humor and suspense." Fantasy Book Review

The Poppy War by R F Kuang
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When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising. But surprises aren’t always good. Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school. For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away... Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

"Simply put, R.F. Kuang’s “The Poppy War” is a towering achievement of modern fantasy. Kuang writes in a descriptive and narrative style that presents many sides of an issue without trying to persuade the reader into thinking which path is the “correct” one, if one such exists. As the book descends into its bleak final act, the connection we’ve built with Rin and her companions is put to the test. It is a testament to Kuang’s skill as a writer to establish such a strong connection with her protagonists that the impact of the events in third act hit as hard as they do. There aren’t any real complaints I have about this book, which is wholly impressive considering how early it is in the author’s young career. This story weaves recent Chinese history into an emotionally chaotic, brilliantly-told grimdark fantasy that is impossible to forget. Read it."

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie
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Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers. Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men. And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed... especially when Bayaz gets involved. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult...

"Abercrombie's talent for developing believable characters and changing the tone and voice of each chapter according to the point of view is a joy to read. Although he takes familiar fantasy staples, he manages to avoid coming off as a cheap hack reinventing Tolkien." Fantasy Book Review

The Ascendants of Estorea by James Barclay
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The Estorean Conquord has stood for 850 years. Its Advocate, Herine Del Aglios, knows that she presides over the greatest civilisation in history. But she wants more. And in Estorea's recently conquered territories dissent is brewing. Forced to fight old friends and neighbours in the cause of the ever-growing Conquord, they face brutal choices and savage demands for money and men to be fed into Estorea's wars - demands made by Paul Jhered, head of the Gatherers and the iron hand of the Advocate, With Jhered by her side, Herine believes that nothing can go wrong. Until a disastrous and bloody reversal in the war to overrun the Kingdom of Tsard puts Estorea's armies on the back foot and has Tsardon troops flooding into the Conquord. As the empire trembles, far from the war four unique children are discovering their powers. They are the first true Ascendants, in touch with the elements, able to shape the world. An empire descending into war is about to discover the wonder and terror of magic...

"The large scale battles are detailed and exhilarating. Cry of the Newborn is a satisyingly self-contained fantasy blockbuster.. set against a more thoughtful, realistic background." SFX

"With his Raven series, James Barclay made himself a cult hero. With the Ascendants of Estorea, Barclay stepped away from the action adventure realm and settled into a very fantasy style book. More character focus and interestingly enough styled after the Roman Empire, Cry of the Newborn - the first in the series - makes for an interesting introduction to a new realm for Barclay to play in." Fantasy Book Review

The Drenai Novels by David Gemmell
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The Legend Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering on the clouds. There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death. The Fortress Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai empire. And now it was the last battleground, for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes. And hope rested on the skills of that one old man...

"In my pantheon of literary greats, David Gemmell stands alone. I read his first book, Legend, when I was fourteen and knew even then that I had found the kind of writer I wanted to be. Like Julius Caesar himself, Gemmell wrote with a spare elegance, racing along with characters and events until I found it was dawn and I had to get up for work. Gemmell is the only writer who ever stole my nights in such a way." Conn Iggulden

"The is the kind of book that the term fire-side reading was invented for. This book is far from perfect, this was Gemmell's first foray into the realm of writing fantasy and his skills are from as honed as they would later become. But this is where it all began, the book in which Gemmell stamped his trademark on the fantasy genre. This showed just how enjoyable heroic fantasy could be and in Druss, invented an unforgettable figure able to overcome insurmountable odds." Fantasy Book Review

The Aspect Emperor by R Scott Bakker
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A score of years after he first walked into the histories of Men, Anasurimbor Kellhus rules all the Three Seas, the first true Aspect-Emperor in a thousand years. The masses worship him as a living god, though a few dare claim he's a walking demon. With Proyas and Saubon as his Exalt-Generals, he leads a holy war deep into the wastes of the Ancient North, intent on destroying Golgotterath and preventing the Second Apocalypse. His wife and consort, Esmenet, meanwhile, remains in Momemn, where she struggles to rule not only his vast empire, but their murderous children as well. And Achamian, who lives as a Wizard in embittered exile, undertakes a mad quest to uncover the origins of the Dunyain. But Achamian, of all people, should know that one must be very careful what one seeks...

"This first book is a very strong lead in to the second trilogy of Eärwa. I believe it is meant as a standalone series, but I feel that if I hadn't read the first series The Prince of Nothing, I would really have had a lot of questions and not enjoyed my reading as much. So I was happy that I didn't have to drag through the first hundred page recap where everyone talked about what happened last week, but felt that a new reader may have been a bit lost." Fantasy Book Review

Godspeaker by Karen Miller
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When a scrawny, unwanted child - so lowly that she does not even have a name - is sold into slavery, a chain of events is set in motion that will have a profound impact on all the civilised world. Naming herself 'Hekat' (after a slaver's observation that she is quite the hellcat), the girl is taken in chains to Mijak's largest city, but makes a bargain with a ruthless god and escapes her captors. After she saves the life of a warlord, he takes her in and teaches her ways that an orphan might use to prosper in an uncaring world. When the warlord's family dies, the way becomes clear for Hekat to carve a dynasty out of infidelity and betrayal...

"Top-notch fantasy. With excellent use of language in a well-told story... a masterclass writer." SFFWorld

"Anyone who liked Kingmaker and Kingbreaker will love this book. It is a very hefty read at 688 pages but it rarely felt like a chore, which can happen sometimes with long books." Fantasy Book Review

Chronicles of the Raven by James Barclay
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The Raven have fought together for years, six men carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it...

"Every now and again you come across an author who manages to write unlike any other. This is not something that will happen often, and I've personally only ever come across a handful (Tolkien, Pratchett, Hobb and Erikson). But one author who manages to write such a compelling story that you never want to put the book down is James Barclay." Fantasy Book Review

The Elenium by David Eddings
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"Sparhawk is the best-realized hero in modern fantasy" Daily Telegraph

"Eddings has a marvellous storyteller style" Anne McCaffrey

"It is a fantasy book of the old school, with its sword fights and magic, but it is more than that. The novel changes direction many times: from action to politics, magic to a buddy road movie. These changes keep the reader interested, and you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next." Fantasy Book Review

After a long spell of exile, Sparhawk, Pandion Knight and the Queen's champion, returns to his native land to find it overrun with evil and intrigue - and his young Queen grievously ill. Indeed, Ehlana lies magically entombed within a block of crystal, doomed to die unless a cure can be found within a year. But as Sparhawk and his allies -- who include Sephrenia, the ageless sorceress, and Flute, the strange and powerful girl-child - seek to save Ehlana and the land, they discover that the evil is even greater and more pervasive than they feared!

Prince of Nothing by R Scott Bakker
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A score of centuries has passed since the First Apocalypse and the thoughts of men have turned, inevitably, to more worldly concerns... A veteran sorcerer and spy seeks news of an ancient enemy. A military genius plots to conquer the known world for his Emperor but dreams of the throne for himself. The spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples seeks a Holy War to cleanse the land of the infidel. An exiled barbarian chieftain seeks vengeance against the man who disgraced him. And into this world steps a man like no other, seeking to bind all - man and woman, emperor and slave - to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men - even great men - means little when the world itself may soon be torn asunder. Behind the politics, beneath the religious fervour, a dark and ancient evil is reawakening. After two thousand years, the No-God is returning. The Second Apocalypse is nigh. And one cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten...

"I found Mr. Bakker's writing style to be extremely satisfying. When I was finished a reading session I felt like I had just exercised or jogged a couple miles. This is not light weight reading my friends, but it is also not a Mervyn Peake. Except for my occasional name problem, I found the philosophical bent and the very personal emotional descriptions to be captivating. Not only is Drusas Achamian one of the most tortured heroes I have come across, every character is given the same respect, if not depth. There are no one dimensional advance the plot and disappear characters in this series. Enjoy them all." Fantasy Book Review

Elves Trilogy by James Barclay
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The elves have fled to Calius, seeking to escape the overwhelming power of the demonic Garonin. A desperate last stand in their own dimension saved the race, at the cost of 100,000 elves lost to the Garonin. The elf who led that fight, Takaar, is blamed for the losses and has gone into hiding. Now the weakened elf race is tearing itself apart in civil war, human mercenaries have arrived in Calius and are ripping the continent apart. Only one elf can unite the elves. And only one elf believes in him. A young warrior named Auum sets out to bring back the shamed hero and save the elven race.

"I loved this book. I loved the characters and the journeys that they took and are to take, and I love the hints of what will come; things that we'll know of in passing and get to see in full and other things which are totally new. Barclay has managed to return to the world of Calaius and not leave us disappointed. Barclay is back and he might very well be better than ever." Fantasy Book Review

Legends of the Raven by James Barclay
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Another action-packed adventure from the new master of fantasy launches Legends of The Raven, a new trilogy starring the cult heroes made famous in Chronicles of The Raven. The Raven travel to a new continent in search of mages to help the ruined college of Julatsa rebuild . . . and find themselves in the midst of an ancient curse - a curse that has unleashed a plague that threatens to wipe out the elven race. Barclay excels with another tale that pitches The Raven against the clock and unseen foes. Full of desperate fights and secret betrayals the story also fills in more of Balaia's history and delves deeper into the ancient emnities between the colleges. Barclay has created a wonderfully appealing group of heroes and with every book their history grows and the land they live in becomes wider and richer. This is landmark fantasy in the making.

"If you like high-fantasy and haven't read James Barclay, you are doing yourself a disservice." Fantasy Book Review 

The People of the Black Circle by Robert E Howard
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Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become kingof Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as he wielded his mighty sword and dispatched his enemies to a bloody doom on the battlefields of the legendary Hyborian Age. Collected together for the first time anywhere in the world, in chronological order, are all Robert E. Howard's definitive stories of Conan, exactly as he wrote them, as fresh, atmospheric and vibrant today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines more than sixty years ago.

"There is never a dull moment or wasted moment. Never so much as a modicum of tedium. The writing is fluid, exciting and simple. Robert E. Howard has a style that writes itself, a quality that stands, like his creation, a head and shoulders above the rest. There are times when you feel the bones crunch, the sword sing through the air, the flesh rend under steel. I could go on and on, this is a book like no other. If you love the swords and sandals, style of fantasy then you simply must read this. This is the birthplace of many a hero. Many have tried to write Conan stories but none can hold their own against the might of Robert E. Howard." Fantasy Book Review

Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan
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Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes for ever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly. Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean
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'Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?'

Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg.

But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg - his people - have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.

And as Tomas is dragged into a web of political intrigue by the sinister Queen's Men, forced to work against the foreign infiltrators lurking in the backstreet taverns, brothels and gambling dens of the Stink, one thing becomes clear.

The war has just begun.

"This is a compelling blend of historical style fiction, gangland, and magic, with a fascinating main character in Thomas Piety and a voice that's thrillingly original. I have been lucky enough to read some cracking books this year, but I have no doubt this will sit high in my best-of-2018 list."

Shadow by KJ Parker
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A man wakes in the wilderness, amid scattered corpses and inquisitive crows. He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The only clues to his former existence lie in his apparent skill with a sword and the fragmented dreams that permeate his sleep. Alone in a hostile world he moves from village to village, masquerading as a god to obtain food and shelter. But the shadow of his past pursues him relentlessly. It whispers to him a riddle far more complex than he could ever have imagined - and a truth he may not wish to believe.

"Shadow by K.J. Parker, is an interesting story, especially for people who enjoy having a lot of mystery in their books and also for those who like action, adventure, a plethora of intriguing characters, and a challenge." Fantasy Book Review

Death Angel's Shadow by Karl Edward Wagner
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Kane is battling the prophet of an ancient cult of evil and confronting the demons of darkness on his journeys. He faces death duels in strange swamps, assassin's attacks and the heart freezing terror of the werewolf.

"Wagner’s love of exposition and large paragraphs describing setting set the mood in a much more economical fashion than in Darkness Weaves (which was one of my criticisms of that novel). Due in no small part to the constraints of the form, the short stories allow for tightly focused action, excellent character development (especially of the secondary female characters in each story), and giving the lead character a chance to both pontificate about life’s mysteries while still maintaining time for splitting someone’s head open with a sword. While not for everyone, fans of adult sword and sorcery and charismatic anti-heroes will want to add to this collection immediately." Fantasy Book Review

Godblind by Anna Stephens
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There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire. That time has long since passed and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost. But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable. Vulnerable to the blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains...

"Godblind is a thrilling, unrelenting and a brilliantly presented debut that lets readers walk on the darkest plains visited in the fantasy genre. Highly recommended. It is not for the faint-hearted but definitely for fans of Abercrombie’s The First Law and for fans of ASOIAF’s structure, characterisation, and most brutal moments."

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
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They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried. Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust... The past never stays buried...

"If you can’t stand - or don’t like your kids - to read a story in which there is plenty of, gritty violent scenes, swearing, questionable characters and sexual relationships then this isn't your book. Abercrombie’s style is to write a fantasy story in which the characters react like realistic people. You’ll never see a ‘teenage-prodigy’, heroes are non-existent or in for the cash, and there are plenty of crooked and corrupt characters, just like the real world." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
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The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko. He will bow his knee to no Queen. Freshly returned from their recent victories abroad, Colonel Janus, Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass must defeat the Duke, using muskets, magic and every weapon at their command.

"The Thousand Names by Django Wexler is a great book, one you should definitely pick up the moment you have a free moment. Brilliant characters, majestic control of the story, and a fascinating world make this one of the best books I’ve read in a while."

The Tamuli by David Eddings
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At the conclusion of The Elenium the company of Pandion Knights led by Sir Sparhawk, having freed Queen Ehlana of Elenia from the spell which threatened her life, had marched on Zemoch, routed their enemies and defeated or destroyed the evil god Azash. Sparhawk returned to Elenia, where he and Ehlana were married. But their peaceful reign is destined not to last long. A few years later, in the Tamul Empire far to the east, unrest is brewing which threatens the nation's stability. Investigations show that the trouble is clearly of paranormal origin, and suspicion at first falls upon the Styrics. These suspicions prove unfounded, and indeed it is the pre-eminent Styric magician Zalasta who suggests that the Empire look westwards for assistance in solving their problems! specifically, to the legendary warrior Sparhawk.

"It is a cross between a road movie and a romance novel. Two beloved characters from the first trilogy finally decide to marry, and this brings its own complications that could hinder the bigger picture. David Eddings’s craft fully intertwines the simple character pieces with the big political stuff. His descriptions of cultures also come to the fore here, as the reader is finally introduced to how the Styrics live." Angela, Fantasy Book Review

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson
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Set in the awe-inspiring world of the Malazan Empire, three tales of the enigmatic and eccentric necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach collected in a single, readily available volume.

"This collection of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas is an ideal companion pieces for fans of The Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence. It is also a great entry point for those contemplating reading the series. Definitely recommended." Fantasy Book Review

Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook
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Having risked their lives and souls to capture the fortress of Stormgard, a band of weary soldiers known as the Company witnesses their commander's descent into madness and await the reemergence of their ancient gods.

"Glen Cook has the reputation he has today for a reason; he’s a marvellous storyteller with an eye for detail that captures the attention rather than bores it, and focuses the attention down onto ground level where the hardest choices are made. You’ll be exhausted, emotionally drained, and probably really sad, but Bleak Seasons is definitely worth the read." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner
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Kane - indestructible swordsman, invincible sorcerer, immortal wanderer through strange worlds. Efrel, Empress of Pellin, seeks vengeance on the King of Thovnos and chooses Kane as her champion.

"As a fan of both dark fantasy and sword and sorcery stories, I deeply enjoyed Wagner’s Darkness Weaves. If you are a fan of Howard’s Conan series or Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, I would strongly recommend picking up this book. There are six books in total that Wagner wrote before his death in 1994 that deal with Kane. To borrow a line from Wagner’s sister series though, that is a tale for another time." Nicholas King, Fantasy Book Review

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
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Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history. Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

"A Crown for Cold Silver reminded me a little of The City by Stella Gemmell in its structure and construct and Joe Abercrombie books in its dark motifs. If you like your Sanderson, Gemmell and Abercrombie then this is the book for you."

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
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Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes for ever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly. Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

"Beautifully written, wonderfully cast and populated, Anthony Ryan does indeed seem to be placing himself as one of the next master storytellers. Book two in his series, ‘Tower Lord’ comes out in the first half of 2014, and given how much I’ve enjoyed Blood Song, immediately steps into the category of ‘Most Anticipated’." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

A Novel of the Malazan Empire by Ian C Esslemont
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The empire is named for the tiny island and city of Malaz, now a sleepy, seedy backwater port. Tonight however, a once-in-a-generation Shadow Moon brings demon hounds and darker beings. Also, a prophecy promises the return of long missing Emperor Kellanved to the contended imperial throne. This night will determine the fate of the world.

"With characters we have come to love, and new ones to love, returning to the Malazan world is as joyous as I could ever have hoped."

Orconomics by J Zachary Pike
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Jon Shannow Novels by David Gemmell
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It is three hundred years since the world toppled on its axis, and civilisation was destroyed. In this savagely reshaped world ruled by brigands and war-makers, a rider seeks a lost city. Pursuing a dream to calm the violence in his soul, Jon Shannow, the brigand slayer, desires only peace. But from the Plague Lands emerges a fresh terror. The Lord of the Pit and his hellborn army seek to plunge mankind into a new satanic era. Seemingly invincible, they make a fatal mistake. They take Shannow's woman for blood sacrifice. And find themselves facing the deadliest warrior of the new age. Jon Shannow - The Jerusalem Man.

"This style of fantasy is sadly not as popular as it once was. It is heavy on the action but never at the expense of the characters. David Gemmell gives you just enough information to make them real but does not go into such depths so as to leave the reader losing the all important storyline. Also, in Jon Shannow, Gemmell gives yet another fantastic hero to rival Druss and Waylander. Straightforward, HUGELY enjoyable fantasy in which Gemmell gives us another cracking lead character." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Temptress of the Flame by Wade Kakoschke
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Halius is a Plainsward, a simple man tasked with a grave responsibility. Leaving his home behind in search of a cure to a disease that threatens to destroy his village, he soon learns that saving his people will be even harder than he feared. Zebala, a skilled Firemage, takes Halius under her wing-giving him no say in the matter. Through her he learns that his people have been plagued, not by disease, but by Gyanos Yostavro, a half-Demon warrior of such limitless power and savagery that he has subdued his entire homeland merely by existing in it. Yostavro is a far-off problem, as Halius and Zebala are thrust into a world intent to destroy them before they ever confront the self-proclaimed Lord of Fire. Facing dangers that the Plainsward had never dreamed existed, it is up to the pair to save the Plainswards - and the world - from burning destruction.

"In Temptress of the Flame Wade Kakoschke has managed to create a very rich story. Going for a High/Epic fantasy theme he got it right from the start. There is a nice quest, he introduces a very magical world and even more magical races. This makes Temptress of the Flame more that worth the time reading."

Blood of Ambrose by James Enge
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In a remote city on the edge of two worlds, where blood has power and water is more precious than freedom, three far-flung friends unite on a quest to save their families. Sal Hrvati’s estranged father has brought more into the world than the woman he loved. Instead of saving her from the Void Beneath, he has summoned an unknown creature — a creature with a mission of its own and a past that stretches back to the beginning of the world. The quest to find both of them entangles Sal and his companions in a hunt for magical treasure on the floor of the Divide, a mighty crack in the earth inhabited by creatures that are not remotely human. Desert landscapes and dirigibles feature in a fast-paced fantasy that combines romance, adventure, and humor with an original take on magic. 

 

"The Blood of Ambrose is a truly rich story, incorporating nicely an Arthurian legend theme and showing some nice displays of classic Sword and Sorcery novel with a great main protagonist, but not solely focussing on the heroics of Morlock alone however. Taken on the whole there is a great level of detail towards not only the surrounding but also the intricate character relations of the Ambrosii. This is a book for everyone who favours a well calculated and plotted story."

The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove
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The Age of Ra is just what I have come to appreciate of James Lovegrove and his stories, it simply delivers an action-packed, straight to the point story, mashing-up the classical Egyptian pantheon with a heavy military theme. This combination did produce a slightly weird story but you just have to open to it and just let it guide and you will discover that this is a truly unique and fresh take on fantasy.

Overkill by Steven L Shrewsbury
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Deliverance will come... A great flood once wiped clean the earth, destroying everything upon it. Before the deluge, in a time now forgotten, the world was a place of warriors and witches, conflicts between kingdoms, and, until their extermination, dragons. In this world, men may live centuries, fallen angels have begotten terrifying spawn, and sometimes, the best hope can be found in a brothel. In the land of Transalpina, a new religion spreads, and important men are dying mysteriously, slain by what can only be the fire of dragon breath. Summoned by the Queen Garnet, the legendary warrior Gorias La Gaul returns to the place where he once saved the queen's young granddaughter from treachery and enslavement. The Princess Nykia is gone, and soon others may try to claim the throne. The queen has little choice but to turn to the only man who ever told her no. With the aid of one of the queen's elite guard, the battle maiden Alena, and the young palace servant Orsen, the old mercenary will face pirates and traitors, monsters and foul magic in the quest to find the missing heir and learn the truth behind the disconcerting murders. Deliverance will come for Gorias La Gaul, but for now there are women to love, secrets to discover, and killing that needs doing.

"Shrewsbury has succeeded in writing an exciting fantasy novel with some truly shocking incidents (one in particular is shall we say stomach churning!) This is unapologetically violent, shocking and very funny and in this universe an age gap of 667 years is not a bar to a physical relationship!" Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review

The Twilight Reign by Tom Lloyd
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Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn't to a place in the army as he'd expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Fahlan. Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish...

"Tom Lloyd’s The Twilight Reign series is surely shaping up to be one of the best epic fantasy series of the past several decades, and while I’m late to the party, I can’t wait to keep going." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

Runelords by David Farland
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The Runelords is a first rate tale, an epic fantasy that more than delivers on its promise. Read it soon and treat yourself to an adventure you won't forget.

Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul by Steven L Shrewsbury
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I must admit this is the first time I have come across Shrewsbury’s work and found his writing style hugely enjoyable. He has managed to create a deeply flawed character, who despite his violent and direct nature, we cannot help but warm to. They may not be for the squeamish or faint-hearted but these short stories should please fans and non-fans alike. I am certainly going to give the novel ‘Thrall’ a try based on these shorts.

Thrall by Steven Shrewsbury
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Here is a novel set ‘in the mists of ancient times’ and sees an aging legendary warrior in Gorias La Gaul who has spent centuries battling monsters of lore. Shrewsbury’s novel takes place where demonic forces known as Nephilum walk the earth and dragons are creatures of reality not myth. On a journey to discover the whereabouts of an estranged relative caught in the shadow of necromancy Gorias’ path crosses with familiar enemies, some who enjoy supernatural powers and abilities.

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
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So honestly, I am glad I’ve read it. This story is a great read. It’s fast, exciting and brutal. The characters are clear and realistic even when they are psychopathic, axe wielding generals. If you want something totally different in this genre, you should read it, but if you expect the ‘usual Heroic Fantasy’ you’ll get a surprise on you plate.

Prophecies Awakening by Peter Koevari
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When Kassina’s sorceress mother and vampire king father are brutally murdered, she forges a pact with Shindar, the Demon of Darkness. In exchange for her soul she obtains power and becomes the most feared sorceress in all the lands. For years, Marithia, a mystical world inhabited by humans and elves, has lived in an age of peace. But that peace is shattered when King Arman is slain by his own son. His murder sparks the most brutal and bloody war ever seen between the Forces of Darkness and the peaceful Marithians.

"I greatly enjoyed the tale told, and it marks a solid debut. I’d like to wish Peter all the very best with his future writing and look forward to his future works. He is an author who has an excellent understanding of the genre and a fertile imagination which, if used to the best of his ability, should be a treat for fantasy readers in the future." Fantasy Book Review

The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler
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Alex is a master thief, with dark magic to give her an edge. When she goes up against Duke Orlanko's Concordat secret police, though, she may have taken on more than she bargained for...

"Available on io9 if you want to read it for free, or very cheap on Amazon and other e-retailers if you want to throw a few cents at the author, The Penitent Damned is a must read for Django Wexler fans, sheds some light on the dark workings of Duke Orlanko for fans of The Shadow Campaigns series, and is bound to entice new readers into the wonderful world of Django Wexler’s writing."

The Wandering Inn by pirateaba
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Recommended reads by sub-genre

Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.

High fantasy books
High fantasy

Fantasy set in an alternative, fictional world
Epic fantasy books
Epic fantasy

Fantasy with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery fantasy books
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery

Fantasy with heroic adventures
Contemporary / Urban fantasy books
Urban fantasy

Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fiction / Alternate history books
Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Parallel worlds.
Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science fantasy / Speculative fiction books
Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Children's fantasy books
Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12
Young adult fantasy books
Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+
Adult fantasy books
Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian fiction
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Image derived from Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns book cover
Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core
Gothic fiction books
Gothic Fiction

Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Vampire fiction
Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters
Werewolf fiction
Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters
Steampunk books
Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Dragon fiction
Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Praetorian cover image
Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire
An image of Darth Bane, taken from the cover of a Star Wars book
Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
An image taken from the front cover of The Wind in the Willows
Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals
An image taken from the front cover of Giant Thief.
The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
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Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
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Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
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Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
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Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The Time Traveller's Almanac
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies