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 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.

Revenge.

"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."

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

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."

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

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

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."

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 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.

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

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

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 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."

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."

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."

"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."

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 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."

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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