Fantasy books featuring parallel universes or alternate realities

A parallel universe or alternative reality is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a multiverse. The fantasy genre has long employed parallel universes and alternate realities with Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series being quality examples. Below you will find book reviews on the three aforementioned series and more.

Recommended Reading

Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and f...

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
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A tale of Alderley. When Colin and Susan are pursued by eerie creatures across Alderley Edge, they are saved by the Wizard. He takes them into the caves of Fundindelve, where he watches over the enchanted sleep of one hundred and forty knights. But the heart of the magic that binds them – Firefrost, also known as the Weirdstone of Brisingamen – has been lost. The Wizard has been searching for the stone for more than 100 years, but the forces of evil are closing in, determined to possess and destroy its special power. Colin and Susan realise at last that they are the key to the Weirdstone’s return. But how can two children defeat the Morrigan and her deadly brood?

"The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is one of the most important books in children’s fantasy. It has been an enormous inspiration to me and countless other writers, and is as enjoyable and fascinating now as it was when I first read it, wide-eyed and mesmerised at the age of ten." Garth Nix

"I devoured this book in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down, losing myself in both the story and the memories that it evoked of my own childhood. I think that this is a serious contender for the best children’s fantasy – certainly high or epic fantasy ever written, it is certainly the best I have been privileged to read. I acknowledge that others may not feel the same and might not get it – fair enough, after all, some people criticise Gemmell, Brooks, Lewis, Rowling – even Tolkien has people who just don’t buy into their work. But if you are a genuine fan of epic fantasy, get a copy of this book, read it and then share it with your children – they will never forget it." Stuart E Wise, Fantasy Book Review

Nightfall by Will Elliott
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Aden awakens naked in a bath tub, knowing only that he is dead. His new world is Nightfall, a place filled with characters bizarre, grotesque and magical: Julius the duke, the monstrous Gorr family, the goddess Muse, Slythe the deadly assassin. On the night Aden awakens, the Forgetting closes in, erasing everything it touches. Aden has little time to discover why this world and its characters seem so familiar to him, and why they call his grandfather the Worldmaker… and he must work out if he is here to save this world, or to help destroy it.

"Yep. Last Friday I became one of those guys. You know? Those guys who tear up at the end of a book? I saw a tiny little tear stain the last page of Nightfall and in the two days since that moment I am still thinking about that ending and the whole experience I just went through. I have read hundreds of books over the years, and a few of them have been emotional, but nothing has even come close to extracting the types of emotions that Will Elliott managed to pull out of me. I can't guarantee you will have the same experience. I can't guarantee you will be as moved as I was by the ending. But there is a chance that this book will resonate with you on every level, and I think it would be a great decision for you to take a chance on this book and see where it goes. " Fantasy Book Review

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
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Cooper's highly acclaimed series--Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree--is now available in its entirety for the first time in an attractive, sturdy boxed set that's perfect for gift giving

"Cooper is a natural storyteller, and all five novels grip the reader tightly, helped in this with copious amounts of mythology and spectacular prose. The prose of the second book in the series, The Dark is Rising, is some of the best I've read in its genre. The sequence is an absolute classic, and should be required reading for children between the ages of seven and fifteen. Those who are older who haven't read them yet are really missing out on something wonderful. Highly recommended." AT Ross, Fantasy Book Review

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson
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"Something entirely out of the ordinary... you'll want to go straight through Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War and The Power that Preserves at one sitting." The Times

"A very complex piece of work that can not be read without full attention and concentration. The effort is extremely rewarding." Fantasy Book Review

He called himself Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, because he dared not believe in the strange alternative world on which he suddenly found himself - the Land. But the Land tempted him. As a leper, in his own world he had been an outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a saviour, the reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero - Berek Halfhand. Only the mystic powers of the white gold he carried could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of the Despiser, Lord Foul. Yet Thomas Covenant had no idea how those powers could be tapped...

Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
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The gathering forces of the Dark Powers threaten the world of man. The legions of Faery, aided by trolls, demons and the Wild Hunt itself, are poised to overthrow the Realms of Light. Holger Carlsen, a bemused and puzzled twentieth-century man mysteriously snatched out of time, finds himself the key figure in the conflict. Arrayed against him are the dragons, giants and elven warriors of the armies of Chaos, and the beautiful sorceress Morgan le Fay. On his side is a vague prophecy, a quarrelsome dwarf and a beautiful woman who can turn herself into a swan, not to mention Papillon, the magnificent battle-horse, and a full set of perfectly fitting armour, both of which were waiting for him when he entered the magical realm. The shield bears three hearts and three lions - the only clue to Holger Carlsen's true identity. Could Carlsen really be a legendary hero, the only man who can save the world?

Our reviewer Ross Kitson says: "This is a classic of the genre by an excellent writer, a major influence for the half a century since it was created. It would be a great book to shove under the noses of those who think fantasy is all Tolkien-derivatives. It was a book out of its time in many ways."

Seaward by Susan Cooper
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His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. What they do know are the tragedies that took their parents, then wrenched the two of them out of reality, into a strange and perilous world through which they must travel together, knowing only that they must reach the sea. Together West and Cally embark upon a strange and sometimes terrifying quest, learning to survive and to love and, at last, the real secret of their journey.

"Seaward is a book with no disappointment at all in its ending, and one of the finest executions of this genre you will find. Even the high points of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series cannot compare to Seaward. If I didn't make it a policy to never give decimal ratings I'd have given Seaward a 9.5, since while the plot surrounding Lugan is a little under-developed this is only a miner inconvenience. I'd therefore recommend Seaward to anyone, whether you love language, magic, character relations, exploration of fundamental issues or strange worlds you will find something here, all melded into a single whole that is simply wonderful!" Luke, Fantasy Book Review

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
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"Without this child, we shall all die." Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequnces far beyond her own world...

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the great imaginative works in the English language. It creates a universe so atmospheric and tangible that I am convinced it exists, somewhere. It is a gripping epic, set in a wonderfully intruiging world (or rather worlds). It sets out on a soaring arc of imagination that sustains and pays off in a most masterful way - and yet all the way through it touches on human truths and insight. Oh! And it contains one of the best villains in literature.

"Wonderfully engrossing and so packed full of of explosive plot lines that you'll find it difficult to put down." Fantasy Book Review

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
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Dorothy Gale and her little dog Toto are in for the ride of their lives when a tornado drops them off in the Land of Oz. Can Dorothy and her new friends survive the perils of Oz to reach the Wizard and find a way home?

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is as much loved today as it has ever been and the advent of the ebook has led to the book being free to those who able to read them. First published in 1900 when it became an international bestseller it is a relevant today as it was then. Amongst the most-read and most-influential children's books of all time. And you can read it for free." Fantasy Book Review

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
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The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the very few sets of books that should be read three times: in childhood, early adulthood, and late in life. In brief, four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, and profoundly allegorical, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
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Alice in Wonderland was Lewis Carroll’s first novel and its fantasy plot, humorous rhymes and brilliant use of nonsense was revolutionary. Nineteenth-century children’s writing usually served moral or educational purpose, but Alice was written firmly and purely for the amusement of children. Critical response was lukewarm, but the book was still a great success, and remains a hugely influential classic of children’s literature.

"Alice appeals to adults as well as children and over the years readers and critics have found within it all manner of riddles, puzzles, mathematical concepts and references to Carroll’s famous and not-so-famous friends." Fantasy Book Review

The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix
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"Constantly rich and meaty, the story is intriguing from the off. Page by page the tension builds and draws you into a highly imaginative landscape that has familiarity and originality in equal measures." Fantasy Book Review

“Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism. I congratulate Garth Nix.” Philip Pullman

“Fast pace, drama, vivid descriptions, excitement and humour… What more could you want?” The Guardian

Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. After receiving a cryptic message from her father, 18-year-old Sabriel leaves her ordinary school and returns across the Wall into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands – for her father is none other than The Abhorson. His task is to lay the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him – and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father's title and duties – to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible challenges whilst discovering her own supernatural abilities – and her destiny.

The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
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Every saga has a beginning. Every journey has a first step... And so it is with the magical Worlds of Chrestomanci which English fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones began so many years ago with her own episode one - Charmed Life. Winner of the Guardian Award for Children's Books, Charmed Life has been a favourite escape to parallel fantastical worlds since 1977, and remains refreshingly captivating and reassuringly addictive in its latest paperback edition with a wonderful new jacket illustration. The adventure begins in a strange and not-quite contemporary England that is still peppered with paddle steamers, horse-drawn carriages and girls wearing petticoats. Orphans Eric Chant (nicknamed Cat) and his sister Gwendolen, a gifted witch, are whisked away to live in a castle with Chrestromanci, a much-revered man of magic, wealth and mysterious ways. Their new life is full of the surreal and unexpected, and there are several crazy new rules to master--not least by Gwendolen who must learn to channel her astonishing powers for good instead of mischief as she forever seems determined to do! Chrestomanci is a truly original creation, and Charmed Life introduces this dandy nine-lived enchanter - the king of the regal dressing gown - and his associated colourful characters in a story of pace and substance, twists and turns, treachery and bravado. There's also humour amid the author's very immediate writing, and enough puzzles and mystery to keep an inquisitive mind captivated until the very end.

Hyddenworld by William Horwood
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It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation. But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident - it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.

"The entire series a triumph in storytelling. Not every single thing worked perfectly for me personally but when is that not the case? It is not an easy read, the subject is often traumatic but I hope that all readers will finish book four with the same sense of quiet gratitude and completion that I felt. It was a quartet of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I looked forward excitedly to each instalment's yearly publication. If you're a fan of Horwood, or simply a fan of excellent stories, particularly those with a strong ecological theme running through, then I would strongly recommend you read the Hyddenworld books. The journey has been a delight, the characters wonderful and the the story woven beautifully." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Crow's Revenge by Marcus Alexander
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Charlie Keeper has been forced from her home by a bloodthirsty and terrifying stranger. But in escaping she discovers her house holds the gateway to the Realm of Bellania - a place of myth, magic... and an evil Lord with a very bad attitude. Now its fate rests squarely upon Charlie's shoulders. But before she can untangle the mystery that will save Bellania, she needs the answer to a life-changing secret her guardian, the dastardly Mr Crow, has been keeping from her... Just who is Charlie Keeper?

"You simply must go out and buy Keeper of the Realms, the story and artwork are excellent and they compliment each other in the same way as Chris Riddell 's artwork and Paul Stewart's storytelling do on their wonderful Edge Chronicles. The improvements that were needed in the initial book lay in the editing department, which is of course always the most difficult and expensive problem that self-published authors face. But now that the mighty Puffin behind the book readers will find that all these issues have been ironed out and the book is better than ever! Book of the Month for 2009 and and 2012!" Fantasy Book Review

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
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You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air. The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth - but it is likely to cost her everything.

"City of Stairs definitely makes my list of favourite fantasy novels, and I would definitely read a sequel, as well as more of Bennett's work. Excellent and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it." Kat Berwick

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
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Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York state, the graduating students uphold an old tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history. How far would you go to keep a secret?

"The Tragedy Paper shows a great interconnection of two story lines. They are both about finding love but also on how difficult it sometimes can be and how hard when it is all of a sudden over, on how you try to do your best and it may still not be enough and a journey of getting to know yourself. The Tragedy Paper is a great debut and shows an amazing forte for writing this utterly unique and compelling story." Fantasy Book Reviews

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 Testament of Tall Eagle by John R Fultz
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A young warrior's vision-quest unveils an alien city full of magic and mystery. As a tribal rift threatens to destroy Tall Eagle's people, night-crawling devils stalk and devour them, so he seeks the wisdom of the high-flying Myktu. These fantastic beings offer him hope, a chance for rebirth and prosperity, as two separate realities converge. Yet first Tall Eagle must find White Fawn - the girl he was born to love - and steal her back from the camp of his savage enemies. His best friend has become his deadliest rival, and now he must outwit an invading army of conquerors to lead his people into the Land Beyond the Sun.

"The Testament of Tall Eagle is a triumph in storytelling, it has strong and developed characters that are likeable, believable and moral, while fusing two genres together to deliver one of the most gripping and enjoyable science fiction novels I have read in a while."

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence
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Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire
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The marvellous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who's knocking at the door. It's none other than Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy. Amid all this chaos, Elphaba's granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now, Rain will take up her broom in an Oz wracked by war.

"The Wicked Years series looks at the social and political dealings of the land of Oz – touching on things like animal rights, prejudice and stereotyping, good and evil, the role of fate versus free will in our lives, religion as totem and charade, and what defines family and being a parent. Maguire has created, throughout the series, a large tapestry that he uses to tell a political and ethical narrative that is closely enough rooted in our “memory” of Oz (from the movie) but that has enough room to breathe, grow, and become it’s own world. The political machinations, religious subtext, personal and broader struggles all feel very real." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review

11.22.63 by Stephen King
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WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11/22/63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless... King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

"11.22.63 finds Stephen King on top form. A compelling tale of alternate history and time travel showcasing King’s skill as a storyteller as he effortlessly weaves together fact and fiction, highlighting the benefits of meticulous research." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
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He calls himself Alif - few people know his real name - a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocratic Intisar, he believes he has found love. But their relationship has no future - Intisar is promised to another man and her family's honour must be satisfied. As a remembrance, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious book. Entitled The Thousand and One Days, Alif discovers that this parting gift is a door to another world - a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked amongst us. With the book in his hands, Alif finds himself drawing attention - far too much attention - from both men and djinn. Thus begins an adventure that takes him through the crumbling streets of a once-beautiful city, to uncover the long-forgotten mysteries of the Unseen. Alif is about to become a fugitive in both the corporeal and incorporeal worlds. And he is about to unleash a destructive power that will change everything and everyone - starting with Alif himself.

"I would highly recommend this book to anybody who like a ripping yarn, whether they are into fantasy or not because this is more of a thriller with echoes of the computer acrobatics seen in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which I find really interesting, but set against an exotic landscape that really comes to life. You can feel and smell the duststorm as it sweeps over the houses, seeping its way in through the cracks, the panic as The Hand, an unbending, alien force, closes in, and the awkwardness of a young American scholar who tries to help Alif but is so clearly out of place. Overall, a sumptuous, colourful and many-layered novel." Fantasy Book Review

Endless by Matt Bone
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After an inexplicable catastrophe on Earth, John Bridgeman is left to scrap out a solitary existence, surrounded by bodies and haunted by the girlfriend he cannot allow to die. His headaches are increasingly debilitating. Even his senses are turning against him: amongst the desolate streets is a light which moves as if alive. The onset of insanity, he assumes, and yet... why does he feel like he is being hunted? John's fate is entwined with that of Crescent: a world teeming with life both human and supernatural, where Spirit storms rack the skies and rumours of a terrible army in the North have the great nations in unrest. Crescent is John's only chance to rediscover the bonds of life and love, but this perilous yet extraordinary world could also lead him to lose everything all over again.

"As you will no doubt have already ascertained from the above sentence in bold, I enjoyed Matt Bone's Endless a great deal. I found it to be a skilful and ambitious merging of the epic fantasy and dystopian fiction genres by an author whose writing talents matched their impressive imagination." Fantasy Book Review

Pantomime by Laura Lam
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R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass - remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone - are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It's a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It's a place where anyone can hide. Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist's apprentice and soon becomes the circus's rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

"Pantomime is a remarkable debut novel, one of the best debut novels I have read, and one that I hope leaves its mark on the fantasy genre as a whole. Lam has taken a bit of a risk by dealing with themes that make people uncomfortable, but by doing this I think she shows that fantasy is still one of the best genres for providing social commentary on the world we live in. This is an easy recommendation from me - Pantomime is a book you really should read." Fantasy Book Review

Down Station by Simon Morden
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A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through... and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf's cloak and with wolves by his side. He speaks English and has heard of a place called London - other people have arrived here down the ages - all escaping from a London that is burning. None of them have returned. Except one - who travels between the two worlds at will. The group begin a quest to find this one survivor; the one who holds the key to their return and to the safety of London. And as they travel this world, meeting mythical and legendary creatures, split between North and South by a mighty river and bordered by The White City and The Crystal Palace they realise they are in a world defined by all the London's there have ever been.

"This is a very fast paced book, with intense moments of danger as well as being full of wonder. There are so many things to discover in Down not only geographically but historically. I really enjoyed reading about both Mary and Dalip’s journey."

Vurt by Jeff Noon
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Take a trip in a stranger's head. Travel rain-shot streets with a gang of hip malcontents, hooked on the most powerful drug you can imagine. Yet Vurt feathers are not for the weak. As the mysterious Game Cat says, ‘Be careful, be very careful’. But Scribble isn't listening. He has to find his lost love. His journey is a mission to find Curious Yellow, the ultimate, perhaps even mythical Vurt feather. As the most powerful narcotic of all, Scribble must be prepared to leave his current reality behind.

"Vurt offers its readers a host of original visions even as it riffs off the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Like one of Noon’s dream feathers, it is well worth consuming this book for it transports you to a richly imagined world of distorted realities and twisted fantasy. Its highly inventive blend of poetic and grotesque imagery lingers in the mind like the residue of a powerful dream." Karl Bell, Fantasy Book Review

Shadow Girl by Sally Nicholls
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A poignant story about foster care children with a supernatural twist, from the award-winning author of Ways to Live Forever. Clare knows she's at least partly to blame for her problems at school, but she's learned that it hurts to make friends when you're a foster kid and you'll just be moved on again. It's a relief to meet Maddy, who knows exactly what it's like to be in the system. But then Maddy disappears. Clare has opened her heart at last, and she can't let it go - will she find her friend? Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 12+

"Shadow Girl, rather than being about a girl who finds a new foster mother and friend has a very interesting twist you don't expect. When Clare discovers more about her friend, Maddy, she wonders if she is from another time as she likes bands from the 1980s while Clare is more interested in more modern bands. She wants to know who Maddy really is and where she is from, but when she does, it might shock her. From the author of Ways to Live Forever and Close Your Pretty Eyes comes another gem from Barrington Stoke." Sandra Scholes, Fantasy Book Review

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
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Late one night Alice Creighton hears her father having an argument with a fairy – a snarling, bald beast with warts and needle-like teeth. The next day her father disappears, never to return. And Alice is sent to live with Master Geryon, an uncle she never even knew existed. Geryon has a dark, mysterious library which is strictly off-limits to Alice. But after meeting a talking cat who is willing to sneak her in, Alice opens a book and suddenly finds herself inside it – and the only way out is by conquering the dangerous creatures within...

"There’s a small cast of well-defined and interesting characters; many readers will love the talking cat, Ashes, in particular. Despite being over three hundred pages, it gallops along nicely through 29 brisk chapters. There are secrets, subterfuges and spells galore amongst plenty of action and some humour." KM Lockwood

A Darker Shade of Magic Trilogy by VE Schwab
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A Readers' Choice Award

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers - magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London...

"A Darker Shade of Magic feels like a priceless object, brought from another, better world of fantasy books." io9

"Like the best books I have read, V. E. Schwab has left me wanting to read more about these characters that have come alive in my mind." Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review

A trilogy consisting of:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic
  • A Gathering of Shadows
  • A Conjuring of Light
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
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When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!

"Whether you’re a vintage Wynne Jones fan or are discovering her books for the first time as I was, whether you’re an eight year old more interested in reading than socializing, or indeed a thirty four year old still more interested in reading than socializing, Time City is absolutely worth a visit."

The Emerald Atlas: The Books of Beginning by John Stephens
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Kate is in charge. The oldest. The only one who remembers their parents. Promised to protect her brother and sister until they return. Michael is the bookish brother. Scrawny, bullied at every orphanage (his glasses somehow always end up in the toilet). Loves stories about magic, especially involving dwarves. Emma is a pint-sized brawler. Devoted to her brother and sister. Thinks Michael is deeply weird. Will fight anyone who says so. Secretly threw Michael's glasses in the toilet - twice. Together, they will learn: 1. Magic is real 2. Old books cause trouble 3. Only they can save the world.

"Every now and then a book will come along that is so different, so unique and so thought provoking that half the internet love it and the other half hate it. This is not that book. The Emerald Atlas is an old fashioned book with an old fashioned storyline. It has abandoned children, an old wizard, dwarves, time travel, even a prophecy. And it’s good. The book is a fantastic read that pulls the reader in, tucks them up in a chair by the fire, puts a rug over their knees and hands them a cup of cocoa and a buttered crumpet." AT Ross, Fantasy Book Review

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
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1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some said mad, others dangerous - scientist when she finds a curious gadget - a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever. And that's an understatement if ever there was one...

"The Long Earth is very much not a Discworld novel. It has none of the inherent silliness and humour and restricts Pratchett’s ability to satirise everything in sight. That being said, the collaboration has resulted in a magnificent story that had me hooked form the first few pages. What more can you ask for?" Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

Babylon Steel by Gaie Sebold
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Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She's not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it's tax time, and there s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night's takings are at risk when Babylon's hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.

"All in all I was more than pleased with Babylon Steel, and it is these types of book that give me a great pleasure in reading. Authors that dare to go outside the box and combine - in a great way - existing fantasy genres to create something new. And in this Gaie Sebold has more than succeeded. Using a great narrative behind the strong character of Babylon, interweaving the past and present , which in the end came neatly together, and all this in a carefully constructed world, which will allow in the books to come more exploration of this great universe. I can only say that this is worth a hearty recommendation." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

The Four Realms by Adrian Faulkner
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Half-vampire Darwin stumbles across a corpse on the streets of London, and in a pocket discovers a notebook in a mysterious language. Divided between human ethics and vampire bloodlust, Darwin finds himself both condemner and saviour of a race who’ve never considered him one of their own. Now, he must try and lead the survivors to sanctuary in New Salisbury before Mr West completes his genocide of the vampires in his quest to obtain the book… Maureen Summerglass is eighty-two years old, and a prisoner in her ramshackle home. She is afraid to let people enter in case they discover the oak door in her cellar. Threatened with homelessness and retirement from her job as a gatekeeper between worlds, Maureen breaks protocol when the death of a close friend is covered up… and enters the city of New Salisbury to search for his missing notebook. There, she discovers a world unlike the one of myth and fairy tale she imagined, and instead one of black market economies, brand names and tuk tuks. As she investigates, not only is she in extreme danger, but discovers she may be the first human female able to use magic…

"The Four Realms throws the reader in at the deep end, challenging them to sink or swim. Those that swim will be treated to a rich and vibrant tale with a decidedly dark underbelly. I recommend this book most fully to those who are growing bored with the fantasy genre, those who are tired of reading derivatives of the classics they once enjoyed. If I had just one sentence in which to pass on my recommendation to another reader, I would say, "Imagine an action-packed fantasy book co-written by J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling and H. P. Lovecraft - and then throw in some vampires, angels and demons, plus a healthy dose of science fiction then you should have an idea of what to expect from The Four Realms."" Fantasy Book Review

Weaveworld by Clive Barker
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This is a true epic of a story – a whirlwind of base instincts and heights of imagination that brings together fantasy and horror, whilst grounding the fantastical in a recognisable, mundane, suburban England.

Jet Black Heart by Teresa Flavin
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Dory is on holiday on the moors with her family when she stumbles across a Victorian walkers' 'letterbox' and a faded message for a boy called Eli. The message opens a slip in time and soon Dory is battling alongside Eli to help save his sister from her cruel father. But is there more to Eli - and his gift of a Victorian heart pendant - than meets the eye...?

"Jet Black Heart is a novel that draws you into its world of past heartaches and new, real terrors. Tread with caution... or you're in for a scare." Sandra Scholes

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
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Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

"The Invisible Library is a world I want to write in. I want the opportunity to play in this sandbox, to visit the Library and meet someone new, and to take them on adventures through this intricate and magical world of alternate Earths and mysterious interdimensional libraries. However, I will have to satisfy myself with Genevieve Cogman treating me to future stories in this world, and I would recommend that you give yourself that same opportunity."

Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton
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Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds
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Return To Allapatria by Shelley E Parker
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Daniel's school holidays are interrupted when, via a ley-line that passes through the goldfish tank in his bedroom, he is transported to a parallel world - in which he has been chosen to fight a battle on behalf of Good against the forces of Evil! Reluctant isn't the word...

"Return To Allapatria tells the story of Daniel, an ordinary 12 year old at the start of his school holidays. With his father away on business, as usual, and his mum’s attention fully on the local gardening competition, Daniel has nothing but good weather and his computer game to look forward to filling his days; just the way he likes it. His neighbour is a boy of the same age called Barnaby who seems a little ‘odd’ as far as Daniel is concerned and as such Daniel tries to ignore him as much as possible. Daniel’s plans for a relaxed six weeks is shattered when strange things start to happen with his fish tank, he gets dragged along on a day out he doesn’t want to go on and a rather strange creature appears in his bedroom!" Fantasy Book Review

The Portable Door by Tom Holt
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It's brilliantly inventive, narrated at a careless speed that make the plot plausible and cheerfully answers the question as to what actually goes on in the office once every human has left. Read it.

The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
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Guy Gavriel Kay's fantasy masterwork. Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of All Worlds, called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak to battle the forces of evil.

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
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Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does. At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that he kills men on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet--and bound to keep his rage in check. But now Michaelson has crossed the line. His estranged wife, Pallas Rill, has mysteriously disappeared in the slums of Ankhana. To save her, he must confront the greatest challenge of his life: a lethal game of cat and mouse with the most treacherous rulers of two worlds...

"Overall, I liked the book. It’s not going to reach my ‘all time favourites’ but neither will it sit as a tea coaster on my desk. It’ll likely sit on my shelf, forgotten, until a rainy day. But, you know what? I’m glad I read it. It’s odd, it’s different. Sure, concepts of ‘realities within realities’ have been played with before, but I like this take on ‘Entertainment’ in the future. Matthew Woodring Stover, sir, you’ve certainly entertained me." Mike Evans, Fantasy Book Review

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
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A young couple are caught in an avalanche during a ski-ing holiday in the French Alps. They struggle back to the village and find it deserted. As the days go by they wait for rescue, then try to leave. But each time they find themselves back in the village. And, increasingly, they are plagued by visions and dreams and the realization that perhaps no-one could have survived the avalanche.

"The sense of foreboding continues to build throughout the story as the sense of reality of what is happening dawns on the characters. Part way through the book I was not sure where the story was going as the obvious truth was revealed. From this point on, it does become a more haunting tale and, for the reader, from this point on it is even more important to reach the end and discover the reality. A very good read; a mix of fantasy and love story. It flows well and is well worth reading at least twice." Joe Warren, Fantasy Book Review

The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere
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Step through the door to Lost Pages and escape a life you never wanted! On her tenth birthday, Aydee runs away from home and from her neglectful parents. At first, surviving alone on the streets is harsh, but a series of frightening, bewildering encounters with strange primordial creatures leads her to a bookshop called Lost Pages, where she steps into a fantastic, sometimes dangerous, but exciting life. Aydee grows up at the reality-hopping Lost Pages, which seems to attract a clientele that is either eccentric - or desperate. She is repeatedly drawn into an eternal war between enigmatic gods and monsters, until the day she is confronted by her worst nightmare: herself!

"While the symbolism of his scenarios can at times feel ambiguous, and the individual tales occasionally feel a little too much like independent stories, the overall effect is truly masterful. The very definition of weird and wonderful, The Door to Lost Pages is an enticing, enigmatic read that’s more than worth a few hours of your time." Alice Wybrew, Fantasy Book Review

The Three Powers by Frank P Ryan
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On the summit of the fabled mountain Slievenamon in Ireland there is a doorway to an ancient land of terrible power. The gate of Feimhin has lain closed for centuries, the secret of its opening long lost. But now four orphans drawn together by Fate must pass through the portal to face their destinies. What they find beyond is the enchanted but war-ravaged world of Tír, a strange land populated by monsters. Here death waits at every corner and they must learn to fight if they are to survive. And they'd better learn quickly, because their enemy, the Tyrant of the Wastelands, is growing in power.

"A book that takes us on an fast-paced, action-packed and truly fantastical journey." Fantasy Book Review

The Lazarus Gate by Mark A Latham
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London, 1890. Captain John Hardwick, an embittered army veteran and opium addict, is released from captivity in Burma and returns home, only to be recruited by a mysterious gentlemen's club to combat a supernatural threat to the British Empire. This is the tale of a secret war between parallel universes, between reality and the supernatural; a war waged relentlessly by an elite group of agents; unsung heroes, whose efforts can never be acknowledged, but by whose sacrifice we are all kept safe.

"There aren’t many people who can come back after such an ordeal at the hands of captors, but John has the time to get back on his feet and fighting and become a part of an organisation that could do enough to keep London free of the criminal underworld. It is easy to lose all sense of time and normality with this novel as the reader will become ensnared in Latham’s setting."

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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
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.
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