Fantasy books for adults
What do we mean by fantasy books for adults? If this list represented movies rather than books they would all be 15 or 18 certificated as they contain mature themes and scenes of a sexual or violent nature. Think the Game of Thrones series - which contains all of the above ... and more! We would recommend the following books to ages 15 and over.
The Malazan series is a towering achievement: Brave, ambitious and skilfully executed. This is history. Fiction unlike anything we’d ever encountered. Sure, Glen Cook had gone before and done something similar, and decades earlier than that J. R. R. Tolkien had come along and given us a complete world, languages and archaeology included. But Erikson went that one step further. He took what he’d learnt from both Cook and Tolkien, and then ran with it, bringing along moral inquisitiveness and a mirror to humanity as he went.
Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out - and Empress Lasseen's ambition knows no bounds. However, it seems the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces gather as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...
"Steven Erikson is an extraordinary writer. I read Gardens of the Moon with great pleasure. And now that I have read it, I would be hard pressed to decide what I enjoyed more: the richly and ominously magical world of Malaz and Genabackis; the large cast of sympathetically-rendered characters; or the way the story accumulates to a climax that hits like machinegun fire. My advice to anyone who might listen to me is, treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson is, write faster." Stephen Donaldson
"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard." Glen Cook
In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school, though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count - and soon learned why that man was known as The Beast.
Danio's fate changed the moment he recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one night - intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen a life of danger - and freedom - instead.
Other vivid figures share the story: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting these lives and many more, two mercenary commanders, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.
"Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers." Adam Weller, Fantasy Book Review
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 secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself... and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
"The Raven Tower is a magisterial tour de force of subverted narrative expectations that wrestles with what it means to find identity as a human, and as a god. Unlike anything being written, Ann Leckie will likely be remembered as a literary pioneer, and not as similar to someone else. A masterpiece of storytelling that leaves a willing reader humbled, The Raven Tower is quite simply the best book of the year – mighty, subtle, captivating, unputdownable."
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.
"A much deserved 10/10* from me. This is the best fantasy novel I have read in years, I shall be moving straight onto Godsgrave next."
Is the Living Blade real or just a legend? With it... Prince Bashan could win back his kingdom. Master Telen Diaz can free himself of the burden from his past. Owen Smith sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain untold knowledge... but for Noraya Smith, the Living Blade will bring nothing but suffering and sorrow.
"Touch of Iron is an adult fantasy that’s stark, at times a little shocking and wonderfully written. I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, On the Wheel."
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the President of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City – will fight for survival. In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth’s last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artefact in the destroyed Manhattan streets… Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station… And Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan’s gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself...
"In a book of over 850 pages I never once found myself bored, I progressed through the book at a steady pace, reading every day until it was finished. I looked forward to reading it each evening as I cared about the characters and was easily able to forgive the weaknesses (I think McCammon is being a little too hard on himself) as it was all just so damn enjoyable (I know that enjoyable may not be the right word to use when describing reading about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, maybe gripping would be more suitable). And the mention of Stephen King is also interesting as Swan Song reads very much like a novel he could of written himself and has certain parallels with The Stand." Fantasy Book Review
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."
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
"Alternate timelines, manifestations, Hands of Glory, alchemy, Doctrine of Ethos and immortality and and and GODDAMN. McGuire provides a clinic in storytelling with Middlegame. This is her magnum opus (so far!) It’s magical... truly magical. I could not love it more!!!"
A genuinely original story, beautifully told. Susanna Clarke shows amazing intellect and imagination in creating this new world and it is a joy for the reader to immerse himself or herself in. This book is highly recommended and mainly for adults. It is a genuinely original and arresting story and will establish Susanna Clarke as one of the finest new authors of our generation.
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.
"An elegant and witty historical fantasy which deserves to be judged on its own (considerable) merit." Sunday Telegraph
On the day the world ends... Mau is on his way home from the Boys' Island. Soon he will be a man. And then the wave comes - a huge wave, dragging black night behind it and bringing a schooner which sails over and through the island rainforest. The village has gone. The Nation as it was has gone. Now there's just Mau, who wears barely anything, a trouserman girl who wears far too much, and an awful lot of big misunderstandings...
"In what can really only be called a tour de force by an author who is arguably the greatest living English novelist, Terry Pratchett has pulled out all the stops for his latest book, Nation. Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of books, which stretch across a monstrous 36 books (of which the majority does well to score below 7 out of 10). However this time around, Pratchett has stepped off the Disc and into a parallel universe to our own, with honorable mentions to Einstein and Isaac Newton." Fantasy Book Review
Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, 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 faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.
"King's magnificent uberstory is finally complete... King's achievement is startling; his characters fresh... his plot sharply drawn... It is magic." Daily Express
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse. Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive...
"The finale of this story was utterly breathtaking. Nona is one of my favourite characters in fiction. Lawrence has created one of the most engaging fantasy worlds that my mind has allowed me to visit."
THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING . . .
Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King's throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat's nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.
Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever - casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.
"Barker wrapped up this trilogy almost perfectly. There is a showdown of epic proportions which may decide the future of the Tired Lands and that was expertly played out. After that about forty pages remain to tie the knots and fill the gaps. Some epic action happens during this finale, however, I wish it would have been fleshed out a bit. One of the final showdowns seemed more of a ticking of a box to say that that plot arc had been finished as opposed to presenting the keen acute legendary battle of the ages that we could have witnessed between two fine warriors. That being said, this is one of the best fantasy trilogies I have ever read and I can't wait to see what RJ presents us next. As long as he knows in the future I need more Girton, even if he writes them for me and nobody else!"
"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.
Duncton Wood is the moving love story of Bracken and Rebecca and the trials they must face and overcome to be as one. It is unfortunate that this work must be compared to Watership Down but that is the only book with which I can really compare it to in terms of story-line and excellence. This book is about moles and unlike anything you have ever read before. The animal kingdom is savage and survival of the fittest is a fact of life (or death). This is a book for adults and is at times as dark as it is uplifting. The book was first published in 1980 and has since become a best-selling novel. A story of courage, loyalty and the power of love... inspired by the shadows and light of England's most beautiful countryside.
"An absolute spell-binder, by Lord of the Rings out of Watership Down. I found it enchanting, compulsive reading... I am still haunted by its beauty." Magnus Magnusson
"Duncton Wood is a truly breathtaking and enchanting read that reminds us how savage yet full of love the animal kingdom truly is." Fantasy Book Review
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
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
"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.
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."
Galaxy 'Alex' Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she's thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world's most elite universities on a full ride. What's the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale's secret societies, well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than she ever imagined...
"I can’t remember the last time I wanted to step into a book so much, be part of a world so desperately. Even with all the danger, with the pain and darkness and death, it’s a place that feels like possibility…"
Jack the Bodiless
Earth stands on the brink of acceptance into the Galactic Milieu, a benevolent political and telepathic alliance of alien races. But some are wary, as their new supervisors...
Smoke and Stone
Michael R Fletcher
After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last of humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city. Beyond the outermost wall lies endless desert haunted by the souls of ...
The Guns Above
They say it’s not the fall that kills you.For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.On top...
A game. A husband and wife game. Gerald's Game. But this time Jesse didn't want to play. Lying there, spreadeagled and handcuffed to the bedstead while he'd loo...
Solve the murder. Stop the war. Save the world. Sir Brannon Kesh spent years building a new life as a physician, leaving the name Bloodhawk and the war that spawned it behi...
The Councilate controls everything except the truth. I have nothing save my discovery - but with this shall I destroy an empire.Tai Kulga lost the rebellion and his ...
An alien AI has been sent to the solar system as representative of three advanced species. Its mission is to save the Earth's ecosystem - and the biggest threat to that...
C J Cherryh
Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of hi...
Galaxy 'Alex' Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school earl...
Recommended reads by sub-genre
Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.
High / Epic fantasy
Secondary world with epic characters, themes, and plot
Historical fantasy / fiction
Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Bleak subject matter and a dystopian setting
Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science / Speculative
Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Fantasy for ages up to 12
Fantasy for ages 12+
Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic
Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Monarchy / Empire
Fantasy books with empires at their core
Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Fiction with vampiric characters
Fiction with werewolf characters
Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Wizards / Magicians
Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Roman historical fiction
Explore the ancient Roman Empire
Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
Animal fantasy books
Fantasy with sentient animals
The Thief / Assassin
Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
Japanese comic books and graphic novels
Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
For the reader who loves to laugh
Inspired by Tolkien
Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies