Lore, legend and mythology

Fantasy books feauturing lore, legend and mythology.

Recommended Reading

On the day the world ends... Mau is on his way home from the Boys' Island. Soon he will be a man. And then the wave comes - a huge wave, dragging black night behind it and bringing a schooner which sails over and through the island rainforest. The village has gone. The Nation as it was has gone. Now there's just Mau, who wears barely any...

Ancient Echoes by Robert Holdstock
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Chatwin has visions of a parallel world where a couple are fleeing some terrible event pursued by an enemy and are seeking a gate to freedom. Chatwin is the gate, and when only one of the pair manages to escape, a struggle ensues between the other world and that of Chatwin.

"Robert Holdstock’s greatest gift was to imbue his characters from other times and other realities with characteristics that express their motives and drive without trying to make them modern. His mythological knowledge allows the worlds he creates to feel as if that they could be proto-mythology that we know. It is similar to studying comparative mythology and twisting it to your own needs." Fantasy Book Review

The Once And Future King by TH White
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TH White's The Once and Future King is a serious work, delightful and witty, yet very sombre overall. The volume published as The Once and Future King is actually four works separately composed over about 20 years. The first, The Sword in the Stone, concerns the lost childhood of Arthur, future king of England, and his education by Merlyn. The second, The Queen of Air and Darkness, tells the story of adolescent sons of Orkney and their mother, Morgause. The third, The Ill-Made Knight, takes up the story of Sir Lancelot and his uneasy relation- ship with Queen Guenever and with Arthur. The fourth, The Candle in the Wind, concerns the end of the Round Table and Arthur's death.

"Magnificent and tragic, and irresistible mixture of gaiety and pathos" The Sunday Times

"This ambitious work will long remain a memorial to an author who is at once civilized, learned, witty and humane" Times Literary Supplement

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
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"One of the most laconic, tightly-plotted tales of mythical morality you'll ever read, an anti-establishment satire disguised as a love story, more of a scary tale than a fairy tale" Uncut

"There's nothing fluffy about The Princess Bride. The rocket-powered narrative tricks you without being merely tricksy, and is both modern and timeless" Neon

"A funny thriller for readers who are about ten years of age or wish they were ... Readers of a nervous disposition should be prepared to skim rapidly over the Zoo of Death episode or stick to fiction meant for grown-ups" Spectator

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts - who never leaves survivors - her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairytale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.

Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn
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The details that Mark Chadbourn puts into the Celtic mythology are fantastic. I’ve never really been that keen on Celtic mythology in books in the past, this is the first book where I’ve enjoyed going into the details of the old myths. Generally the small details in the book are amazing. You feel as if he’s walked every path, and driven every road that the characters have travelled upon. It all helps to make the book feel that bit more authentic than the average story.

"Chadbourn's first of three is a sparkling read, weaving multiple Celtic myths together to reopen a Britain that has much of its folklore in mistier times. Providing a new future for the island nation and bringing together some peculiarly British characters (who do need some more work to become more rounded) it is a magisterial tour de force from this author that any fantasy fan will enjoy."

Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton
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Far from the besieged home of Simon and Jaelithe, in peaceful Norsdale, we meet Gillan, who longs to leave her dull life in a secluded country abbey. But when her wish comes true, she finds more than a little adventure. As she ventures out, not only is her life in danger, but also the power that lies within her, waiting to be discovered.

"Knowing which Andre Norton novel to choose from her prolific output can be a daunting task. I confess the late great Ms. Norton is not my favorite author. I’ve liked a few of her novels, while many of her co-authored books published in recent years suffered from lack of editing and an over-reliance on archaic language. Year of the Unicorn is the novel that changed my mind. Norton’s very loose adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast story becomes a tale of love and trust, betrayal and a quest for identity."

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
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In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

"When I finished the last page of The Bear and the Nightingale, I was exhausted. Not in a bad way, but it really is an emotionally draining novel. So much of the story is very personal and Ms. Arden does an excellent job of making you emotionally invested in the characters. It is truly a testament to Ms. Arden’s skill in her craft that she can create such a wonderful reading experience."

The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
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This is the story of the last unicorn on earth. She has lived contentedly alone for hundreds of years, and would have continued to do so, believing that there were others of her kind somewhere in the world, had she not heard a huntsman say that she was the last of her kind. Afterwards she could have no peace of mind until she left the safety of the enchanted wood and searched for another unicorn. Once she leaves the wood she is exposed to the covetous gaze of men and there is danger at every turn.

"The plot is a classic quest structure-an impossible goal, a motley company, heroes, villains, monsters, magic, desperate chances, bittersweet success. The last unicorn in the world sets out from her enchanted wood to discover the fate of her kin… In the process she becomes, briefly and agonizingly, human… What makes The Last Unicorn unique is the way Mr. Beagle transcends the ordinary fantasy quest trope with his incomparable storytelling skill. The book is a triumph… The writing is as precise and beautiful as mosaic tiles, as coloured glass backed by gold, sharp and glittering. Part of the wonder is the effortless way Mr. Beagle combines fairy-tale imagery with matter-of-fact modernity. He slides easily from a heroic fantasy to laugh-out-loud funny: a sorcerer confronts an enemy with ‘demons, metamorphoses, paralysing ailments and secret judo holds’; a prince rides home singing in harmony with the severed ogre’s head lashed to his saddle. The story has an intimacy and immediacy that captivates the reader. You don’t read this with the futile wish that such things would happen to you-you read it and believe, at once, that they could.”" The Green Man Review

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
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Listen then, and I'll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock. But none of your usual wriggling, or I'll stop before I've begun . . .

Halli loves the old stories from when the valley was a wild and dangerous place - when the twelve legendary heroes stood together to defeat the ancient enemy, the bloodthirsty Trows.

Halli longs for adventure but these days the most dangerous thing in the valley is boredom. He tries to liven things up by playing practical jokes. But when one of his jokes goes too far, he reawakens an old blood feud and finds himself on a hero's quest after all. Along the way he meets a ruthless thief, a murderous rival, and a girl who may just be as fearless as he is . . .

"Written out of a deeply felt world, and with a taut, disciplined voice that knows its Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as its Harry Potter, Jonathan Stroud's new book is, quite simply, stunning." The Guardian

"It has been quite a long time since I have enjoyed a book this much. Although this may be my first encounter with Stroud'’s work it will certainly not be the last. An enthralling tale told by a master storyteller." Fantasy Book Review

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
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Liga raises her two daughters in the safe haven of an alternative reality, a personal heaven granted by magic as a refuge from her earthly suffering. But the real world cannot be denied forever and when the barrier between the two worlds begins to break down, Liga’s fiery daughter, Urdda, steps across it…

"Tender Morsels never once tries to show that life has a happily ever after ending. It shows that life is full of hardship; you will experience hurt, you will watch loved ones die and you will often be afraid. It also shows that live can be full of love, caring and kindness and that it is better to experience something, be it good or bad, than to experience nothing at all." Fantasy Book Review

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
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"With their evocative gothic-style pencil drawings and color illustrations, rhyming riddles, supernatural lore, and well-drawn characters, these books read like old-fashioned ripping yarns" New York Times Book Review

"Appealing characters, well-measured suspense and an inviting package will lure readers...Youngsters may well find themselves glancing over their shoulders" Publishers Weekly

Follow Jared, Simon and Mallory Grace into a world filled with elves, goblins, trolls in the Spiderwick Chronicles. It all starts when Jared Grace find their great uncle's book, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastic World Around You and realises that are not alone in their new house. Now the Grace kids want to tell their story but the faeries will do everything to stop them...

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
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Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen. But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment.

"The Brides of Rollrock Island is a dark, brooding and windswept tale of longing and despair in which Lanagan' s writing is as beautiful is ever. Indeed, the best compliment I can give it is that had I have stumbled upon it and knew nothing of its publication date I would have guessed it to have been decades if not centuries old, such is its timeless nature. It reads like a classic. It is a wonderful book and it is unlikely that many better will be published in the genre this year. Existing fans of Lanagan should rejoice and I strongly suggest that those who have not already read her work, do so." Fantasy Book Review

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...

"If you haven’t lost all sense of romance, and are able to still believe in the beauty of stars, Stardust is absolutely a must read."

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
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What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of? Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program - Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

"One of my personal ideals in speculative fiction is beauty in darkness. To take basic human characters, with all their flaws and foibles, throw them into an alien other world, and see how they cope. This is exactly what Kat Howard gives us in Roses and Rot."

Ryhope Wood by Robert Holdstock
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Deep within the wildwood lies a place of myth and mystery, from which few return, and none remain unchanged. Ryhope Wood may look like a three-mile-square fenced-in wood in rural Herefordshire on the outside, but inside, it is a primeval, intricate labyrinth of trees, impossibly huge, unforgettable... and stronger than time itself. Stephen Huxley has already lost his father to the mysteries of Ryhope Wood. On his return from the Second World War, he finds his brother, Christopher, is also in thrall to the mysterious wood, wherein lies a realm where mythic archetypes grow flesh and blood, where love and beauty haunt your dreams, and in promises of freedom lies the sanctuary of insanity...

Robert Holdstock was a famed fantasist during his lifetime and created a whole cycle of stories around Ryhope Wood, with this being the first book. The book is well written and draws you in so that, although you may not always understand what is happening to Steven as he is drawn further into his quest, by the end of the book, for all its savagery, you are hoping that there is, somewhere in this world, a wood like this in existence.

"Mythago Wood is a fantasy masterpiece." Fantasy Book Review

Dreams and Shadows by Robert Cargill
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In the debut novel Dreams and Shadows, screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill takes us beyond the veil, through the lives of Ewan and Colby, young men whose spirits have been enmeshed with the otherworld from a young age. This brilliantly crafted narrative - part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Torro, part William Burroughs - follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods. Cargill's tour-de-force takes us inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky-swilling genies and foul-mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped. With sensitivity and hopeful examination, Cargill illuminates a supernatural culture that all too eerily resembles our own. Set in a richly imagined and constructed world, complete with its own richly detailed history and mythology, Dreams and Shadows is a deeply engaging story about two extraordinary boys becoming men.

"This novel begins with a perfect love story and yet this isn’t about the love story, there are no happy endings here, instead this is a dark tale where bad things happen to the characters involved. Sometimes this can simply be because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever read older versions of fairy tales? The ones where bad things happen to people who don’t know the rules and fairies aren’t all sweetness and light? If you have and you loved them, then this is the story for you... if you haven’t read those tales then you should read Dreams and Shadows anyway as you might just be surprised." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
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It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

"I know this review doesn't really tell you what the book is about, but I think to do so in more detail would spoil what is supposed to be an intimate trip down memory lane to a time when things were much more fantastical than what they are now. This a story that is simple on the surface, but with a depth of immersion that depends entirely on how much you connect with the story. My guess is that the further you are away from your childhood, be it through age or experience, the more you will connect with this story and the more you will fall in love with it." Fantasy Book Review

Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente
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Sei, November, Ludov, and Oleg -- four people unknown to each other but united by grief and their obsession with the city of Palimpsest. Located beyond the human realm, Palimpsest is accessible only by those who sleep after generating the energy which comes from sex. Once anyone arrives in the city, they indulge in sense pleasures and are able to obtain their innermost desires -- two things which ensure that Palimpsest visitors return.

"Like other Cathryn Valente books (Orphan's Tales, In the Garden of Coin and Spice), this poignant poetic work is a feast for the mind. Palimpsest is the gift of a fairy tale wrapped in an allegory and tied with a mystical ribbon. A gift that readers can enjoy again and again." Fantasy Book Review

The Deverry Cycle by Katharine Kerr
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Celtic Fantasy. In a world outside reality, a young girl's spirit hovers between incarnations, knowing neither her past nor her future. In the temporal world lives Nevyn, who long ago vanquished the maiden's hand in marriage and forged a terrible bond between three souls. Now he must atone the wrong of his youth.

"Published over the past two and a half decades, I was surprised to find no mention on FBR of this epic fantasy saga that has been so much a part of my life and that I hold in such high regard. From the first novel (which I must have read more than 10 years ago) I was hooked and my enthusiasm for this series carried me through to the very last and then moved me to tears." Fantasy Book Review

Grendel by John Gardner
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When Grendel is drawn up from the caves under the mere, where he lives with his bloated, inarticulate hag of a mother, into the fresh night air, it is to lay waste Hrothgar's meadhall and heap destruction on the humans he finds there. What else can he do? For he is not like the men who busy themselves with God and love and beauty. He sees the infuriating human rage for order and recognises the meaninglessness of his own existence.

"Adam Brown claims that 'mostly though, the novel is just Grendel himself, encountering the rainy, stony earth, the indifferent vastness of the sky, the cold of winter... Grendel setting his will against the inevitability of history.' the reality is that the 'truth' of Grendel, the only proof, evidenced in so much literature, is that he is a monster that encourages imagination and rationalisation of humanity’s endless struggle to rise above Nature. No matter what lies within his breost-hord his meaning is 'You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves... You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain'. Indeed. Read this novella for it will make you think and define yourself again.'

The Very Best of Charles de Lint‏ by Charles de Lint
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When asked to choose his “very best” stories, Charles de Lint went directly to his fans, who helped him select this collection of timeless, magical tales. From his beloved Newford to the streets of modern Ottawa, these stories take you effortlessly to a place where mystery and myth are right next door.

"Charles de Lint, a fantasy author who has left the same mark on the genre of myth and legend much as the likes of Sir Thomas Malory, Christian Anderson, Grimm, who has found them hiding away in Ottawa’s twilight, turned oral tradition into words on a page and allowed us to remember them all again."

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
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The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a magical tale set in a time of war. The story centres on Sybel whose story begins when, at the age of sixteen, she is given a baby to care for. Born and raised on the titular Eld Mountain, Sybel knows little of mankind, magical creatures summoned by wizardry having been her main source of companionship. The arrival of the baby takes Sybel out of her comfortable life and into realms unknown.

Runemarks by Joanne Harris
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Maddy Smith has always been an outsider. Born with a rusty-coloured rune on her hand - what the villagers call a ruinmark - she is scarred by this symbol of the old gods, a sign of magic. And everyone known that magic is dangerous. Except for Maddy who thinks it’s rather fun. Until now. For suddenly her friend One-Eye, a rascally Outlander, want her to open Red Horse Hill and descend into World Below - a world filled with goblins and far worse - to retrieve a relic of the old gods...

"With Runemarks Joanne Harris has written a great addition to the fantasy books that integrate mythology. Norse mythology is something that I was not that familiar with but I was pleased with how everything came together in the end. In Runemarks you are invited to travel between the Nine Worlds from the World above to the Netherworld." Stuart E Wise, Fantasy Book Review

Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead
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It is a novel where, as you read the author's next books, you later come to understand he is both learning and developing in his creative writing. Lawhead is naturally gifted at portraying the romantic, spinning enthusiasm, adding hyperbole to what is already legend. He does it well. Yet, it is done at the pacy exasperation of the mundane action and narrative that is necessary in any novel. The book begins well, ends well. The middle seems, at times, to be a necessary bridge between the former and the latter. If the start and the end are each a golden city, then the bridge is plain, lacklustre... necessary. The language of the author reflects this haste to cross from one to the other which is why Taliesin is not a perfect offering. At its heart, it is a novel about new beginnings, of legends come to life, of the romance between two people of different nations. It is a prologue to the next six novels and, as one of many versions of the Arthurian legends, worth reading by anyone who adores the fantasy genre.

Poison by Sarah Pinborough
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It’s Snow White, but not as you know her... Take a wicked queen, a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, and a poisoned apple... and now read the true story of Snow White, told the way it always should have been...

"I am a big fan of thrillers and action adventure, therefore probably not within the expected readership demographic for Poison. Yet I was thoroughly entertained and loved its irreverence and boldness. This is an engrossing, intriguing and fun new take on an old story." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
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Only very special people are chosen by children's author Laura White to join 'The Society', an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips. But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, 'The Game'? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura's winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light...

"I found this book very interesting. It did start slowly and it did take time for me to warm to the characters, but this was more like unwrapping a pass the parcel, the more you read the more you want to know what is at the very heart, under all the layers that are being revealed one at a time. With a large cast of characters and back stories to delve into this book will not leave you disappointed, but will hopefully leave you as surprised and satisfied as I felt upon finishing the story." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

The Ghost of Shadow Vale by Jonathan Stroud
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Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.

"With a scary cover image from artist Siku, showing ghostly Glam ready to fight the monster, there are interior illustrations in ink drawn by the same artist in a shonen manga style. Jonathan Stroud's The Ghost of Shadow Vale is the perfect read near a roaring fire with a slice of cake and a hot drink. All Barrington Stoke novels are designed to be dyslexia friendly and other titles are; The Goblin of Tara by Oisin McGann, Young Merlin by Tony Bradman, Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Samurai by Ian Beck."

Downfall of the Gods by KJ Parker
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If you visit the Temple and ask nicely for forgiveness, you might get it - assuming you aren't Lord Archias and you haven't killed the Goddess's favorite musician, Lysippus. But even goddesses are expected to follow certain rules, and as much as she wants to punish Lord Archias it seems her troublesome, all-powerful father forbids it. So the Goddess will just have to get around that by forgiving Lord Archias if he can manage some simple - or, rather, seemingly impossible - tasks. A Goddess has to do what a goddess has to do.

"This book is more about the journey, the exploration, and the arguments that lead to the titular downfall of the gods. I can't really tell you what this book has to offer because it is something you have to see for yourself. This is story that needs to be experienced, and I will wholeheartedly recommend that you experience what it has to offer."

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
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Fourteen-year-old Luce reaches the Depths of Despair when she is Assaulted and left on the Cliffs outside of her Grim gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below. but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in. All of them. Like her. Lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers. Using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

"If I had to pick one word to describe Sarah Porter’s brilliant creation, it would be, ‘beautiful!’ Painful, yes! Full of the untold darkness that could envelope any of us in our hours of despair, but the beautifully crafted first book of the Lost Voices trilogy is told in such a rich, despairing aqua tinged tone, it leaves you desperate for more." Dash Cooray, Fantasy Book Review

Prophecy Keepers by Melaine Bryant
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There is an ancient legend in the memories of the humans of Niwengeard, that a time will come when Darkness will fall upon the kingdoms of Earde and one will rise who threatens all species. It has been foretold that at this time, a Gifted human child possessing the powers of the magical races-the empyreals-will be born to lead a revolution against the Darkness. But this memory is hazy, like the memories of the beginning of time, of the Creators, of the First and Second Destructions, and even of the empyreal races who share the humans’ world. So when a fairy named Rædan appears before fourteen-year-old Lisandra Ackart and tells her that the time of the Third Destruction has begun and that she is the Gifted One, she doesn’t believe him. When a series of strange events leaves her hundreds of miles from home, Lisandra is thrust unwillingly into the heart of an epic struggle that has spanned millennia, a conflict between the races of the Dark and the races of the Light. Now that struggle is nearing its end, and Lisandra must find the twenty-three Keepers of the ancient Prophecy, each of whom holds a single piece of the key to saving Earde from the Darkness. But first she must find a way to stop the Dark Queen, Lucifæra-who the Light Ones believe is behind the sudden disappearance of thousands of fairies-and her mysterious hexagonal charm.

"This is an excellent book, very well written, but what I liked most about it was how the author not only pours all off her inspirations into the story but does so in such a way that it will leave the reader wanting to find out more about the influences mentioned. Edmund Spencer, Homer, William Butler Yeats, Pliny the Elder and William Blake are all referred to and credited - throw in a healthy helping of Norse, Greek and Arabic mythology and you have a feast to whet the appetite of any budding fantasy reader/writer." Fantasy Book Review

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
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The Silmarillion provides the background to Middle-earth, the setting of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. It is an account of the Elder Days; the First Age when Morgoth, the First Dark Lord dwelt in Middle-earth and the war waged upon him by the High Elves to recover the Silmarils, jewels containing the pure light of Valinor.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
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Ella is given a blessing at birth by a very stupid fairy: She gets the gift of obedience! but the blessing turns into a horror for Ella who literally has to do what anyone and everyone tells her, from sweeping the floor to giving up a precious necklace! She has to battle with ogres and wicked stepsisters, make friends and loose them, and even deny she loves her Prince Char to save his life and his kingdom. The story overthrows the stereotypes of the original Cinderella when Ella breaks the curse -- not the prince -- saving not only herself, but Prince Char as well. And Ella rejects his proposal of marriage, at least until she decides herself to propose to him! And the curse is only broken because she's said 'No!' rather than 'Yes!'.

"This exquisite book will be read and re-read many times; a book that will always be remembered fondly. If you ever wondered, while watching Cinderella, why she allowed herself to be treated so badly by her step-mother and step-sisters, then the answer will be found here." Fantasy Book Review

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
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Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse - Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena - Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

"I often fear reading young adult books because the main characters can be whiny and immature (as their audience) which can get on the nerves of any adult.  Amazingly Percy seems to be mostly free of self pity and angst while still staying young and believable. A fantastic book for sure that has me thanking the gods I bought the series. Definitely worth the read!" Preita Salyer, Fantasy Book Review

Merlin's Wood by Robert Holdstock
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In the depths of Broceliande - an ancient French woodland - Merlin and the enchantress Vivien play out their deadly feud. Meanwhile, a child is born deaf, dumb and blind. His senses return at the expense of his mother's, who must discover the wood's mystery and set the combatants free.

"I initially picked up this book as it seemed that it was part of the Mythago Wood Cycle but the book turned out to be a standalone story that is a set in a different wood in another country. Maybe it was added as part of the cycle because of the short stories that can be found at the end of the version I read… In Merlin’s Wood there are a few similarities, with the wildwoods and heartwood, but the actual story is fundamentally different in nature as this wood seems to be enchanted by Merlin, hence the title."

Maria and the Devil by Graham Thomas
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The Devil has ridden out. Montana’s most feared outlaw has left his secret lover, Maria, alone in their secluded house deep in the wilds. If he had known that she was pregnant the Devil might have stayed. That was almost nine months ago and Maria is still awaiting her lover’s return. But while Maria waits for the Devil, a vengeful band of gunslingers are hunting him. Led by the relentless Rickman Chill, the gang have ventured deep into the dark wilds of Montana and they will stop at nothing to bring the Devil to justice. It is not long before the Chill gang happen upon a lone house in the woods where a pregnant woman seems to be the only inhabitant. Vengeance is a dangerous game, but as the Devil said to Maria before he left her: "There is nothing more dangerous than lovers".

"In Maria and the Devil, Graham Thomas managed to create a very strong story featuring many elements that come greatly together in the beginning as well as in the end. There was a very strong tone of a dark and sad theme but on occasion giving a light-hearted moment. Maria is shown as a very strong character and all what she goes trough reflects well in her character. And with this edition to the current repertoire of Graham Thomas he shows that he can write great stories, funny and witty as well as dark and gritty."

The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper
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Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother - the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic - steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe's power. The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches' help to thrive. Avery has never read a dream that hasn't come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance.

"Ideal for readers wanting a coming-of-age story in a deeply involving setting with plenty of drama and emotion."

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
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Huginn and Muninn, the Eyes of Thought and Mind; Freyr the Blade that stands alone; Mjolnir, Thunder, strength and devastator. Gods bloodied and wounded, that live and die. Tales of the worlds birth, its shaping and ultimate end. Countless years in the making, Neil Gaiman has given us a fresh eye on the stories of Norse mythology; tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and a pantheon of other gods, giants, and monsters, that every great Mythos has and needs. 

"Gaiman's Norse Mythology is an uncomplicated retelling of classic Norse tales, with easily digestible stories, well written, and given the author that is not hard to understand, aimed at readers of mythology and fantasy alike."

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
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Blending fairytale, fantasy, horror, myth and mischief in a delicious cocktail, Kelly Link creates a world like no other, where ghosts of girlfriends past rub up against Scrabble-loving grandmothers with terrifying magic handbags, wizards sit alongside morbid babysitters, and we encounter a people-eating monster who claims to have a sense of humour. With more than a pinch of macabre humour, this is writing to come back from the dead for.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
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Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive. Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father. But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.

"Ultimately, though, the draw of the book is thematic and atmospheric, more than story. It is a story of diaspora, of a people scattered abroad in the world without a home, of a people that hold to the strong hope that one day the curse would be lifted and they could return to their homeland. The gradual build of the relationship between Evanjalin and Finikkin is wonderful to observe (the hopelessly romantic will adore the final pages of the book). It is about a boy-king terrified to lead his people who finds strength in those people who are around him. It is an extended, occasionally gritty, fairy tale out of the best sense of that tradition."

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
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Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

"It’s a Cinderella story set in a post-apocalyptic future and the Cinderella in question is Cinder Linh; the best mechanic in New Beijing who is also a… wait for it… cyborg! An interesting read? I most definitely think so!"

The Waking World by Tom Huddleston
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The Island is in peril. For years the Marauders have raided along the coast, carrying off goods and cattle. Now they're growing bolder, striking further inland, even taking slaves to work their black ships. An invasion is imminent. As the son of a wealthy Law, young Aran should be safe: the underground farmstead of Hawk's Gross lies miles from the sea, and even the killing winds that sweep down from the moors can't penetrate those solid steel gates. But Aran doesn't want to be safe, he wants to be a warrior, whatever his parents might say. When he meets a mysterious stranger, Aran's world changes forever. Can he fulfil his destiny, and turn back the Marauder tide before the Island is overwhelmed?

"I finished the book a couple of weeks ago and I was definitely impressed and its events have stayed in my mind clearly since. I have a feeling that the next book might well be the one that wins me over completely, much as was the case with the Farseer books, and I look forward to reading book two, which I believe the author is currently working on. I would definitely recommend The Waking World to young-adults upwards who have previously enjoyed works by Hobb or Feist, or of course T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is of course a significant inspiration for this novel."

Riverkeep by Martin Stewart
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Fifteen-year-old Wulliam is dreading taking up his family's mantle of Riverkeep, tending the river and fishing corpses from its treacherous waters. But then everything changes. One night his father is possessed by a dark spirit, and Wull hears that a cure lurks deep within the great sea-beast known as the mormorach. He realizes he must go on an epic journey downriver to find it - or lose Pappa forever.

"Martin Stewart’s first novel is a whale of a fantasy attempt. It is often said that first novels are ‘semi-autobiographical’, that second one's ‘draw on the author’s family’ etc... There is a similar effect with fantasy novels; different in that you can see on whom and from where the author has drawn on his or her fantastical experiences growing up."

Never Die by Rob J Hayes
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Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death.

Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war.

"Without spoiling anything, I will say that a book that deals with the spiritual realm always allows for great potential to re-visit the world, and while it seems as though Rob intended Never Die to stand alone, the return of these engaging characters and well fleshed out setting would be extremely welcome. One of the best I’ve read in 2018 and I look forward to a great deal more from Mr. Hayes."

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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One boy, one boat, one tiger... After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan - and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

"Yann Martel’s award winning novel Life of Pi, published in 2010 as a young adult edition by Walker/Canongate, is a unique and often surreal tale of the animal kingdom, shipwreck and faith. First published in September 2001, the UK edition won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002. One boy, one boat, one tiger... After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan - and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger."

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
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Seventeen-year-old Lily, half-mermaid and half-human, has been living on land and attending high school, where she develops a crush on a boy but is afraid to tell him of her true destiny as the ruler of the undersea kingdom of Thalassinia.

"What made The Princess Diaries such a resounding hit is exactly what makes this new story of a mermaid’s quest for a human fiancé a must read series: the quirky, independent, kick-butt narrative complete with a widely used fish terminology of the heroine mermaid, Princess Waterlily."

Curse Workers by Holly Black
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Cassel is cursed. Cursed by the memory of the fourteen year old girl he murdered. Life at school is a constant trial. Life at home even worse. No-one at home is ever going to forget that Cassel is a killer. No-one at home is ever going to forget that he isn't a magic worker. Cassel's family are one of the big five crime families in America. Ever since magic was prohibited in 1929 magic workers have been driven underground and into crime. And while people still need their touch, their curses, their magical killings, their transformations, times have been hard. His granddad has been driven to drink, his mother is in prison and his brothers detest him as the only one of their family who can't do magic. But there is a secret at the centre of Cassel's family and he's about to inherit it. It's terrifying and that's the truth. The White Cat is a stunning novel of a world changed by magic. In this world only 1% of the population can work magic but they have the power of nightmares.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
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In what is one of his most celebrated works, up there along with Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one of the best books of its genre. The real dilemma presented us however is understanding just which genre Gaiman was writing. This is not a negative opinion of his writing ability, suggesting that he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he is doing. Just the contrary, American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre.

King of the Cloud Forests by Michael Morpurgo
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When Japan invades China, Ashley and Uncle Sung are forced to flee. It is a perilous journey across the Himalayas, and they struggle to survive. Then Ashley is captured. Who are these strange creatures that revere him as their king?

"King of the Cloud Forests is a beautifully told story featuring unforgettable characters. Humour and strong characterisation blend with a sparkling narrative to create a moving, yet often humorous fairy-tale." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

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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

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
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
An image portraying manga art.

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
An image portraying comic fantasy.
Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
An image of J. R. R. Tolkien
Inspired by Tolkien

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

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies