Lore, legend and mythology

Fantasy books feauturing lore, legend and mythology.

Recommended Reading

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

"This is a beautiful book; it is flawless and intelligent. I do not have a single criticism for this fantastic piece of writing. I loved it!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The adventures of Li-lin, a Daoist priestess with the unique ability to see the spirit world, continue in the thrilling follow-up to the critically-acclaimed historical urban fantasy The Girl with Ghost Eyes.

It’s the end of the Nineteenth Century. San Francisco’s cobblestone streets are haunted, but Chinatown has an unlikely protector in a young Daoist priestess named Li-lin. Using only her martial arts training, spiritual magic, a sword made from peachwood, and the walking, talking spirit of a human eye, Li-lin stands alone to defend her immigrant community from supernatural threats.

But when the body of a young girl is brought to the deadhouse Li-lin oversees for a local group of gangsters, she faces her most bewildering—and potentially dangerous—assignment yet. The nine-year-old has died from suffocation . . . specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. Li-lin suspects Gong Tau, a dirty and primitive form of dark magic. But who is behind the spell, and why, will take her on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.

With hard historical realism and meticulously researched depictions of Chinese monsters and magic that have never been written about in the English language, The Girl with No Face draws from the action-packed cinema of Hong Kong to create a compelling and unforgettable tale of historical fantasy and Chinese lore.

"I cannot recall a book that has taken me out of my own head and pulled me this deep into its lore. If you have any interest in any of the topics mentioned above, go grab a copy off NetGalley now, pre-order it off a retailer, or go pick up the first volume of the series."

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

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

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

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

Latest reviews

Recommended reads by sub-genre

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

High / Epic fantasy books
High / Epic fantasy

Secondary world 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
Grimdark fantasy fiction
Grimdark

Bleak subject matter and a dystopian setting
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