Recommended royalty / monarchy / empire fantasy books

Please find below a list of recommended fantasy books where royalty, monarchy or empire are integral to the story. Fantasy books, especially those with a strong medieval influence, often feature the ruling classes in prominent roles - characters whose actions heavily influence the story. Good examples of royalty / monarchy / empire fantasy would be Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and N. K. Jemisin's Inheritence trilogy (did I just write trilogy three times?).

Recommended Reading

For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo - aide to the true heir to the throne - arrives. In seeking to help his master reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven's Tower holds a secr...

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
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Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy trilogy overturns the expectations of readers and then goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world. A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy - the magic that lies in all metals. A word of mouth success in the states the Mistborn trilogy has, this year, broken onto the New York Times Bestseller list.

"If you want to read one of the best fantasy books published in the last decade, then this definitely has to go at the top of your list. With two books you can read immediately after, characters that jump off the page, and a story that continues beyond this book but still leaving you fully satiated, Mistborn: The Final Empire is a must have for any reader of good fantasy." Fantasy Book Review

Red Queen's War by Mark Lawrence
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The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth getting back out alive and with Loki's Key is all that matters. Loki's creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jal's fortune back in the living world. Jal plans to return to the three Ws that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other, larger, plans... The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster and it will crack the world unless it's stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there's nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jal and Snorri face many dangers - from the corpse-hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue; but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim will exert its power. In the end it's win or die.

"These books have everything - magic and sci-fi, humour and horror, truths and lies, and then some more lies. There is no unnecessary obfuscation of secrets within secrets behind secrets - the Red Queen's war is a rather transparent war that creates drama by putting characters in situations with many viable solutions, and not knowing which one the characters are going to pick. This trilogy is essential reading for all fantasy readers."

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
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Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
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Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant King Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful land cannot be spoken or remembered.

But not everyone has forgotten. A handful of men and women, driven by love, hope and pride, set in motion the dangerous quest for freedom and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana.

"Tigana is so perfect I don’t think I could bear it if Kay wrote a sequel" Interzone

"I was 19 and fresh out of Fionavar when I snatched this book off the shelf. I was totally swept away by the grand scope of the adventure that the young singer Devin d’Asoli found himself in. How could any young person not become the character themselves to live the life of adventure?" Fantasy Book Review

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
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Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could. But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy...

"There is little, nay nothing, that I can find negative with this book. Abercrombie is certainly a master at work, and I eagerly look forward to the next instalment in the series." Jo Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

The Faithful and The Fallen by John Gwynne
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Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage. The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars. High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

"If you follow the frequency of my reviews then you will be able to analyse that I have devoured the stories from John Gwynne's fantasy epic saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, at an inhuman pace, and the reason for this is that they are spectacularly envisaged works of art."

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
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The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
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A glorious classic fantasy combining the magic of Ursula Le Guin's The Wizard of Earthsea with the epic Mastery of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Now reissued in gorgeous new livery. Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship. But When Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life; weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving people soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much risk to himself as it does to his target: for Fitz is a threat to the throne ! but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.

"Hobb is one of the great modern fantasy writers ! what makes her novels as addictive as morphine is not just their imaginative brilliance but the way her characters are compromised and manipulated by politics." The Times

"The Farseer Trilogy weighs in at over 2,000 pages and is a rewarding and immensely enjoyable read. Not only fans of the fantasy genre could enjoy these books as there is such a large human element to them that they appeal to all. The three books improve upon each other and Assassin's Quest is a perfect conclusion to an absorbing tale." Fantasy Book Review

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
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"A Game of Thrones grabs hold and won't let go. It's brilliant." Robert Jordan

"I have only come across two authors who have come close to envisioning and successfully carrying out their literary creations to match Tolkien; Steven Erikson and George R. R. Martin." Fantasy Book Review

George R R Martin's glorious high fantasy tells the tragic story of treachery, greed and war that threatens the unity of the Seven Kingdoms south of the Wall. Martin unfolds with astonishing skill a tale of truly epic dimensions, thronged with memorable characters, a story of treachery and ambition, love and magic. Set in a fabulous world scarred by battle and catastrophe over 8000 years of recorded history, it tells of the deeds of men and women locked in the deadliest of conflicts and the terrible legacy they will leave their children. In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. And in the bitter-cold, unliving lands beyond the Wall, a terrible winter gathers and the others - the undead, the neverborn, wildlings to whom the threat of the sword is nothing - make ready to descend on the realms of men. Fantasy literature has never shied away from grandeur, but the sheer mind-boggling scope of this epic has sent other fantasy writers away shaking their heads... Its ambition: to construct the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction, with characters so venemous they could eat the Borgias.

The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin
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Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably.

"A story that manages to be both fantastically grand and very personal. Definitely recommended." Waterstones Books Quarterly

"N.K. Jemisin has written a book that is at times smart, at times funny, and at times downright heartbreaking, all wrapped up in one of the most original stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading." Fantasy Book Review

Tymon's Flight by Mary Victoria
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The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain, lifting its children up to the light. All creation nestles in its gigantic branches: all take shelter beneath its canopy. There is no world besides this one - or so the priests in Argos city would have everyone believe. What then if the green God should wither away, or withdraw Her blessings from her children? Tymon is an orphaned boy growing up at Argos seminary, in the lush heart of the Central Canopy. The Argosian priests have declared science to be a heretical pursuit, and banned travel beyond the confines of the Tree. But Tymon yearns to discover new horizons. He longs to break free of the seminary. When he discovers an interloper in the city baths - a foreigner, a female, one of the stigmatised Nurian pilgrims brought to the town every year as slaves - his life changes forever. Punished for his temerity and exiled to the dry and forsaken Eastern Canopy to serve out his indenture, he finds that there are different ways of interpreting the cosmos beyond those taught to him by the priests in Argos. He discovers that the heresy of Grafting, belief in the mystic "Tree of Being", still persists in the eastern colonies. And he meets Samiha, the girl who holds the key to his own latent powers, as well as the ultimate fate of his world.

"Sometimes in fantasy you will come across a hidden gem, a book that you cross paths with having heard absolutely nothing about it, a book that you were unprepared for that completely blows you away. I have been very lucky having found quite a number of these hidden gems in the past twelve months, but of these hidden gems few can compare to Tymon's Flight by Mary Victoria, a book that has taken a remarkable idea and complemented it with one of the most engaging stories I have read this year." Fantasy Book Review

Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence
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Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse. From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

"A dark debut with a lot of clout, Prince of Thorns is fantastic tale of one boy’s fight for control in a world threatening to engulf him." Fantasy Book Review

Hope and Red by Jon Skovron
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In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly trained as a warrior and instrument of vengeance. Red, an orphan adopted by a notorious matriarch of the criminal underworld, learns to be an expert thief and con artist. Together they will take down an empire.

"Superb fantasy packed with daring pirates, brave warriors, intelligent thieves and revolution. Hope and Red is a phenomenal read with something for everyone – I can’t wait for the next book in the series."

Ruin by John Gwynne
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The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make; choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands. Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm. Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow - he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.

"This is one of the top 15 books I have ever read. It did everything that an author should aspire to present to a reader. Mythical, magical, intense, brutal, poignant. If you are reading this and have not started The Faithful and the Fallen, stop being silly."

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding
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A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free . . .

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up . . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. All they have to do now is steal it. . .

Designed to return to classic fantasy adventures and values, from a modern perspective, this is a fast-moving coming-of-age trilogy featuring a strong cast of diverse characters, brilliant set-pieces and a powerful character and plot driven story.

"When it comes to the mechanics of the writing and plot, the author has it down pat. It’s clever and challenging, but also funny. Scenes switch between intimacy and humour and horror and back again with an unsettling rapidity that feels like anything can happen. Nobody is safe. Especially when the Dreadknights turn up. The second half is somewhat slower, as more perspectives are added, and the action-packed journey sequences switch to a greater focus on themes and character development. But the explosive finale has more than enough bang for anyone. The rousing ending has the greatest appeal to classic epic fantasy- a group forged in blood and betrayal, bonded by their oaths to do what needs to be done against any and all odds. I, for one, stand with them. This is the fantasy book we’ve all been waiting for."

Legends of the First Empire by Michael J Sullivan
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"In the end, Age of War serves to exemplify why Michael J Sullivan is one of the greatest living fantasy authors, a master of his craft who has excelled at both character and plot, emotion and action, fantasy and fiction. For some, Age of War might represent the walking of a very fine line between failure, but for Sullivan it seems he walks a bridge a mile wide." Fantasy Book Review

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
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THEY CAME AGAINST HER AS A CHILD. NOW THEY FACE THE WOMAN.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.
The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.

A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.

"An exceptional series and by far my favourite of Mark Lawrence’s work. It has that something that sets it apart. It has the deft, unexpected characterisation, the perfect turn of phrase, the killer hook we’ve seen before in his other series, but this has a magic all of its own. I can’t explain it and I’m not going to try. I cheered and I cried. Then I cried some more. I was surprised, amused, and devastated. The author snuck in some stuff that I can’t even talk about because its spoilery, but damn I didn’t see that coming. As for a happy ending? Well, you know who wrote it, right??? That’s all I’m saying. Make sure this is on your 2019 reading list. Highly recommended."

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
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Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill - a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk - Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec. During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death - but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban's release from Keldec's rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

"Marillier can be forgiven some familiar tropes, because no one does character development so well. The Good Folk come alive on the pages, as earthy and otherworldly as the faery creatures that populate Brian Froud’s paintings. Flint and Neryn’s growing friendship and budding romance is deftly rendered. Many traditional quest fantasies separate the hero and heroine until the end of the story, so Neryn and Flint’s constant interaction is a refreshing improvement upon the genre. Strong characters, a believable romance, and a clear anti-authoritarian message make Shadowfell one of the best young adult novels published this year. I highly recommend it to all fans of Juliet Marillier and anyone interested in Celtic fantasy." Marysia Kosowski, Fantasy Book Review

The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan
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The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his country burns and fuels a new order where all can be treated equally. Sometimes to build new you must burn the old. Legends long hidden may rue the day when Old Gods return and Field Marshal Tamas’s coup against a failing, rotten and self-indulgent royalty balances on a knife edge. Tamas must rely on his friends and alienated son Taniel if his people and the Nine Nations are to survive.

"The use of gunpowder, the abilities the Powder Mage’s have, and the way that they conflict with other magic users, makes this story even more captivating. The overall concept of magic in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world is one that I cannot wait to return to, hopefully again and again. Add to that the overarching plot that has been set up, and my own tendency towards disliking monarchies, and Promise of Blood is a book I can easily recommend to anyone."

Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu
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In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she's never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha'ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It's the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother. As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools - they've ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she's ready to face them once and for all.

"Bradley Beaulieu has written a beautiful novel that is intricately detailed without ever feeling overly complicated. The characters, of which there are many, are well written and their lives feel whole, even the characters who may only be seen in a chapter or two. Each character is given a role that will further Çeda and Emre's story. There is a rich mythology flowing through the story and I really enjoyed the history of the Twelve Kings and how, even they are not as harmonious as you would imagine. This is a story that shows how important the narrative you tell will affect your own standing in the world."

The Poison Song by Jen Williams
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All is chaos. All is confusion. The Jure'lia are weak, but the war is far from over.

Ebora was once a glorious city, defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls, and the enemy that has poisoned their land won't lie dormant for long.

The deep-rooted connection that Tormalin, Noon and the scholar Vintage share with their Eboran war-beasts has kept them alive so far. But with Tor distracted, and his sister Hestillion hell-bent on bringing ruthless order to the next Jure'lia attack, the people of Sarn need all the help they can get.

Noon is no stranger to playing with fire and knows just where to recruit a new - and powerful - army. But even she underestimates the epic quest that is to come. It is a journey wrought with pain and sacrifice - a reckoning that will change the face of Sarn forever.

"An exceptional finale that exceeded every expectation and which epitomises the kind of inventive, diverse, and emotional fantasy writing the genre really needs. Everything about this series is so creative, so vibrant and refreshingly different that it almost needs to come with a caution. Beware reader, this is ground untrodden, an exhilarating yet hazardous journey. Your heart is in danger. You have been warned." Emma Davis, Fantasy Book Review

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes
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Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare.

The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on.

But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head.

All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carved both.

Vengeance is its own reward.

"At almost 700 pages, I can't help but admire the sheer skill and cleverness of the plot that unfolds throughout this wrist-breaker. It never felt bogged down or excessively long. Sal's blood-soaked backstory was handled brilliantly by Sykes and added some truly gut-punchy moments. His timing is just utter perfection! Complex characters, great dialogue, intense action, a compellingly bonkers magic system, intricate worldbuilding, brutal violence, humor, romance, A FUCKING GIANT RIDING BIRD NAMED CONGENIALITY. I just adored this book so completely!"

Fortune's Fool by Angela Boord
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A secret affair. A disfiguring punishment. A burning need for revenge.

Kyrra d’Aliente has a bad reputation and an arm made of metal.

Cast out of the safe and luxurious world of silk to which she was born, played as a pawn in a game of feuding Houses, Kyrra navigates a dangerous world of mercenaries, spies, and smugglers while disguising herself as a man. 

War destroyed her family and the man she loved. 

Vengeance is within her grasp. 

But is she willing to pay its price?

"Boord has given us a rare novel that combines crisp, cadenced prose with wonderful, deep, complex characters and a twisting plot that keeps you guessing all set in a brilliantly realized fantasy world. It will appeal especially to fans of Robin Hobb, with prose every bit as evocative and characters every bit as authentic as that master storyteller. Fortune’s Fool should be on the top of your TBR pile. This is a rare piece of storytelling that is beautiful, compelling, and demands to be read. I can’t wait for the sequel and to see what gems Boord shares with us next."

Shadowmarch Quartet by Tad Williams
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As shadows threaten to consume the kingdom of Southmarch, Barrick Eddon, heir to March throne, battles his way across the sinister Shadowlands. He must journey through this dangerous, inhuman realm to fulfil a pact ? as this may be all that can prevent the atrocities of a full-scale war with the Twilight people of Qul-na-Qar. Princess Briony, Barrick's twin sister, finds herself in no less danger at the court of Tessis in Syan. When those close to her fall dead from poisoning, she is to learn the true extent of the betrayal surrounding her. Her only option is to flee, as all those in Tessis turn against her? All, that is, except for one important ally. Meanwhile, the assault upon Southmarch has truly begun. Yasammez, the formidable head of the Qar army, has ordered the attack, believing that the pact between humans and Qar has been broken. Unless Ferras Vansen, Captain of the Southmarch Royal Guard, can convince her otherwise, the humans are sure to meet the dark end that has been promised to them...

"Skilfully merges world-building description with intriguing plots ... a sublime piece of storytelling' SFX 'A page-turner full of character, atmosphere and action." Starburst

"This is an epic story which has many twists and turns, which puts the characters in peril time and time again and yet is so gripping you have to continue reading just to know if they will survive." Fantasy Book Review

The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III
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Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One. Her father-king wants war. Her messianic brother wants peace. The black god wants his due. She suffers all the consequences. King Vieri is losing his war against the lands of Pawelon. Feeling abandoned by his god, he forces his son Caio, the kingdom's holy savior, to lead his army. Victory ought to come soon. To counter Caio's powers, Pawelon's prince enters the conflict. Rao is a gifted sage, a master of spiritual laws. He joins the rajah to defend their citadel against the invaders. But Rao's ideals soon clash with his army's general. The Black One tortures Lucia nightly with visions promising another ten years of bloodshed. She can no longer tell the difference between the waking world and her nightmares. Lucia knows the black god too well. He entered her bed and dreams when she was ten. The Black One watches, waiting to see Lucia confront an impossible decision over the fates of two men--and two lands.

"I enjoyed this book, immensely. It had style, it had substance, and it had a lot of heart. For an independently self published novel, Siregar easily defies the stigma that you can only get a quality book out of a recognised publishing house. From the cover art he designed himself through to the words put down on paper (or e-paper for e-book readers), Siregar has produced a full package of the highest quality and I will definitely be going back for more." Fantasy Book Review

Kings of Ash by Richard Nell
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Follow the long, bloody journey of Ruka, son of Beyla through the islands of Pyu and the frozen wastes of the Ascom; see the return home of Ratama Kale Alaku, the 'Sorcerer-Prince', and the terrifying rise of his 'miracles'. Before the end, a shocking history will unravel, ancient connections unfold, and all will learn the cost of unleashing the Kings of Ash...

"Nell is one of fantasy’s most underrated (for now) talents, and I find it difficult to fathom how good this series is coming from an author so early in his career. I can only imagine what heights the future has in store for Nell, but I selfishly hope it consists solely of writing Kings of Heaven for now. In Kings of Ash, Nell has crafted a rare and unforgettable sequel that exceeds its predecessor. It will surprise and haunt you, while playing your emotions like an unfinished symphony. I give this series my highest recommendation. "

Wall of Night by Helen Lowe
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"A richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world" Robin Hobb

"This is superior fantasy with a smattering of science fiction... recommended" Interzone

"The Wall of Night is shaping up to be a modern classic of fantasy storytelling, and needs to be on your to-read list" Fantasy Book Review

The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her people garrison the mountain range known as the Wall of Night against an ancient enemy, keeping a tide of shadow from the rest of their world. Malian is expected to uphold this tradition, yet she's known little of real danger until the enemy launches a direct attack upon her fortress home. In the darkest part of the night, the Keep of Winds becomes a bloodbath. Women and children, warriors and priests, are slain by creatures with twisted magic flowing in their veins. And as the castle wakes to chaos, Malian flees deep into the Old Keep, her life at stake. Then when the danger is greatest, her own hidden magic flares into life. But this untapped potential is a two-edged blade. If she accepts its power, she must prepare to pay the price.

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

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

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

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
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The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favour with the naive new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the spectre of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend... and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne - or his life.

The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams
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The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces - talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza 'Vintage' de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure'lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall...

"The kind of inventive, diverse, and emotional fantasy writing the genre really needs. Everything about this series is so creative, so vibrant and refreshingly different that it almost needs to come with a caution. Beware reader, this is ground untrodden, an exhilarating yet hazardous journey. Your heart is in danger. You have been warned." Emma Davis, Fantasy Book Review

The Belgariad by David Eddings
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"Fun, exciting, intriguing fantasy in which the characters are as important as the quest and magical elements ... immerse yourself and enjoy!" Darren Shan

"Fabulous" Anne McCaffrey

Long ago, the evil God Torak fought a war to obtain an object of immense power - the Orb of Aldur. But Torak was defeated and the Orb reclaimed by Belgarath, the sorcerer. Garion, a young farm lad, loves the story when he first hears it from the old storyteller. But it has nothing to do with him. Or does it? For the stories also tell of a prophecy that must be fulfilled - a destiny handed down through the generations. And Torak is stirring again...

War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham
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Ruling from the island of Acacia, the emperor of the Known World has inherited an apparent peace and prosperity won by his ancestors generations ago. He's an intelligent man, a widower who dotes on his four children and it is this devotion that obliges him to hide a terrible secret from them: that their prosperity rests on the dark realities of trafficking in drugs and human lives. A man of integrity, he hopes that he might bring an end to this vile trade, but powerful forces stand in his way. And then an assassin strikes, a lone killer sent by the Mein, an ancient foe long ago exiled to the frozen north. Now the Mein have returned to take revenge on their old enemy and begin a series of brutal surprise assaults on Acacia. Mortally wounded, the emperor puts into play a plan that will allow his children to escape, to fulfil their destinies. And so begins a quest to avenge a father's death and restore an empire - this time on the basis of universal freedom...

"...where this sort of thing really works is not just in the attention to detail, but the attention to character. And with its epic duels and mighty sea battles, the whole thing is suffused with a feeling of Greek myth and legend." Daily Telegraph

"Ultimately, it was a book that I was unable to put down and had me ordering the sequel immediately. I urge you to try it, but please be aware of my disclaimer as I have not yet discovered many of the newer fantasy author." Fantasy Book Review

Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
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Battleaxe by Sara Douglass
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A thousand years ago, the people of Achar drove the Forbidden from their lands. But now the northern tribes of the Ravensbund are fleeing south again, with nightmarish tales of creatures who feed upon the terror of their prey. Winter has come early, and with it the promise of war. Axis, bastard son of the dead Princess Rivkah, is sent north to the battlefront at Gorkenfort with his elite Axe-Wielders. Once there, he must hand over command to his hated half-brother, Borneheld, Duke of Ichar and heir to the throne. But during the long journey Axis falls in love with Faraday – Borneheld's betrothed – and finds himself reassessing the very essence of his beliefs. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Axis must unite the feuding lands under one banner before it is too late and the evil rising in the north engulfs them all for good.

"There is a reason classics are timeless - they energise and captivate, bringing the reader back for more, time and time again. Sara Douglass's Battleaxe sits up there with the great epic fantasy books of the last 30 to 40 years, easily holding its own against the likes of Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair, Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara and Raymond Feist's Magician. If you have never read Battleaxe, do so now, you won't regret the decision."

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
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Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skilful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor's sceptre, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

"The Emperor's Soul is a fantastic addition to Sanderson's already bulging bibliography. At 175 pages, it is on the short side, but unlike his previous attempts you really feel like you get a full story in these 175 pages. For those big Sanderson fans, there are a number of neat little Cosmere Easter eggs scattered throughout this story, but you don't need any knowledge of prior Sanderson works to fully appreciate this novel. This is an easy recommendation to every fantasy reader out there." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

Hunt for Valamon by DK Mok
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When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted--for political reasons--to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince. Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm. Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.

"There was no love story, save for one of friendship and familial love, and the hero was a girl cursed with destruction. I can safely say that this is one of my favourite stand alone fantasy novels, and that I definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys fantasy. "

Blackwing by Ed McDonald
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The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

"This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree."

The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark
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Godslayer by James Clemens
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Four thousand years ago, a great war took place among the gods, which shattered their heavenly realm. This Sundering created the land of Myrillia, where near-invincible gods live amongst men. Yet the weapon that fashioned the Sundering may also strike down the immortals, as failed Shadowknight Tylar discovers. He witnesses the death of a god, whose blood heals his deformities but brands him a Godslayer and a hunted criminal. Tylar flees with now god-like powers, seeking to avenge the god's death and clear his name. He must ultimately confront the greatest god of all and face the supreme treachery...

"Shadowfall is a brilliant book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who likes good reading, or who likes good fantasy, or both. A real gem in a world where a gem is normally just a piece of coal painted blue." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review

The Walkers of Legend by Miles Allen
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Two young men are thrown to opposite sides of a war where both will fight to prevent their homeland, the world’s last pocket of free people, from being consumed by a formidable Empire. If they fail, mankind is destined to an existence of slavery and habitual torture. Naïve and inexperienced they must learn fast as they begin their rite of passage, one as a warrior and the other as a Magii, to first survive and then manipulate those around them to save their people.
The Walkers of Legend launches into an epic action fantasy series that will begin to unravel a fearsome and deeply endangered world, and one that holds a staggering ten-thousand year-old secret.

"The book caught me by surprise and was close to blowing me away and appears to be the first in a series from this total unknown. I can't recommend it enough. This new author has amazing storytelling skills and has produced an epic and pacey first book to be proud of. For anyone wanting great characterisation and detailing set on an epic scale, with a pace that drags you kicking and screaming to the very end, I highly recommend it and hope you get chance to review it." Fantasy Book Review

A Trial of Blood and Steel by Joel Shepherd
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Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention. Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit—the Synnich—who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully. When the Udalyn people—the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage—are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?

"Every now and again I am surprised by a book that turns out to be entirely genuine and entertaining. Many books come to me with the foreknowledge that they are such, and many more simply fail to live up to hype. So when I picked up Sasha by Joel Shepherd at my Borders the other week, I hoped that the blurb would come through as being at least somewhat decent." Fantasy Book Review

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
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In a land where magic has been forgotten and peace has reigned for centuries, unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms battle for power… A princess must journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long-thought extinct. A rebel becomes the leader of a bloody revolution. A Sorceress discovers the truth about the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield. It's the eve of war. Each must choose a side. Kingdoms will fall.

"I do have to restrain from telling about too much of the story, it is quite a comprehensive story that reads away easily. But that does show a bit the plainness of the story, though this is not a bad thing at all, it actually makes this book 100% suited for the younger audience. Morgan Rhodes has with Falling Kingdoms definitely made a solid entry into this genre producing a very interesting epic fantasy book that will appeal to younger and older readers alike. It is filled with both action and compelling scenes that truly make the pages of this book come to life." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton
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The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive... Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered - her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.

"I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Drakenfeld. Mark Charan Newton is an author who is not afraid to try something new, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways. I don't think it strictly falls into "New Weird" territory like his Legends of the Red Sun books seemed to, but it is refreshing to read a style of fantasy that I have not read before."

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
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The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces - talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza 'Vintage' de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure'lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall...

"Hold onto your fantasy hats, broom sticks and dragons and any hope you had for not falling in love with Tor, Vintage and Noon."

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
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The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient enemy may not be as crushed as they thought. In the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests - a sign of demonic black magic. In the south, Riv, a young, tempestuous soldier, discovers a deadly rift within the Ben-Elim themselves. Two individuals with two world-changing secrets. But where will they lead? And what role will Drem and Riv play in the Banished Land's fate? Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise...

"I was so happy to venture back into Gwynne's world and mind. Gwynne is a master of his craft and one of the best fantasy writers around right now. With likeable characters, it hits so much harder should bad things happen to them but unfortunately, they do. This is a great place to start or an unmissable next step in Gwynne's majestic tale of Good vs Evil. A Time of Dread is epic, unpredictable and exhilarating with action galore and characters worth rooting for."

Beyond Redemption by Michael R Fletcher
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Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
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A bounty hunter with a death wish. An orphan with her head in the clouds. A conspiracy with the power to bring down a kingdom.

Serena dreams of leaving her harsh desert home behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin's knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of Dalthea to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth... And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

"I’ve been trying to think of some critical things to say about the book as this early SPFBO round as we tend to judge quite harshly, but in the high of just finishing, I can’t think of much. Other than the first two chapters not really engaging me and maybe that some scenes could be tightened up a bit. Technically, this has been done exceptionally well, it read like something that had been traditionally published, skilfully written and decently edited. Regardless of how far this book goes in the competition, it deserves more readers. Honestly, I flat out loved it and I’m looking forward to the next instalment already. In the meantime, there’s a prequel novella called The Fury Yet To Come which is free if you sign up to the author’s newsletter- it won’t be staying on my TBR for long."

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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
An image portraying manga art.
Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

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
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies