Below my about this list introduction you will find the 100 fantasy books that we - and other readers - simply cannot recommend highly enough.
The purpose of this list is simple: to showcase the books that we'd loved reading and, with the support of thousands of reader reviews, hopefully help other readers find a new fantasy book that they too will love.
We've reviewed over 3,000 fantasy books but there are thousands of other worthy titles that we haven't read. And if we haven't read it, we have no review, and it won't appear here. In the comments section (being re-added imminently) you will find much outrage: Where is this author, where is this book? My answer to this is: We simply haven't read it or have read it and didn't enjoy it sufficiently to allow it to appear in our top 100. But you can do something about this; writing a positive reader review on a book will make a difference (Eragon being a case in point). And if we are missing a title altogether on the site; one you believe should be on here, write a full review and I'll publish it, with gratitude.
Some comments make accusations of bias. Of course there's bias, that's what creating a favourites list essentially is. But there's only bias at a reading enjoyment level, we don't get any financial reward for ranking a book higher than another. After running this site for 15 years, trust me, there is no financial reward. If money was the aim I'd be better doing something else with my time. Like my real job.
To explain further on how a book appears on this top 100: It is based on our review(s) and the positive reader reviews (8/10+) that accompany it. Our average review score + positive reader review score equals a total score and the top 100 list is ordered using this metric. Is it fool-proof? Goodness me, no, but it's the best way I've come up with yet. Any suggestions on improving how this works are most welcome.
So I hope you find this top 100 list useful, please post a comment but I ask you to make it constructive; suggest books you think we are missing and if you want a book to appear higher, simply write a glowing reader review and that will happen.
Happy reading today and always,
Lee @ Fantasy Book Review, April 2020
by JRR Tolkien
There are a couple of reasons The Lord of the Rings is number one on this list. The first is personal: I have simply never read a fantasy book that has pulled me in so completely, made me fall in love the lands, and made the characters so instantly important to me. As a trilogy it is, in my opinion, both beautiful and perfect. I also believe it is timeless. The second reason is you – over 130 readers have written accompanying reviews to mine which tell of their love for Tolkien’s magnum opus.
by George RR Martin
I think, sometimes, amidst the ongoing furore over when Martin will finish the series, it is often forgotten just how damn fine a writer he is. The A Song of Ice and Fire books are as beloved, and rated so highly on this list, because they are amongst the best you will read in the genre. The characters, the story arcs, what bad things happen to the characters, often, are skilfully woven into a magnificent tale that provokes strong emotions in all who read it. The HBO series is very good, but if you want the full story told, as the author intended it to be, read the books. They are amazing.
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1
by Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings begins Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series and two reviewers, Ryan and Joshua, have called it one of the best fantasy books they have ever read. And the readers agree. In all Sanderson books you find the technology, armour, weapons and magic of his world are intricately detailed to the nth degree and utterly believable. The Way of Kings is this gifted author at his very best.
Series: The Stormlight Archive: Book 1
by Patrick Rothfuss
I love this book but some don’t. And my goodness, those that don’t, really don’t. But hey, a book can’t work for everyone, right? For me, it is one of the finest examples of first-person storytelling, it’s like sitting across from someone, in a comfy chair, before a log fire, and listening to them recount one of the most intricate and fascinating stories you’ve ever heard, and are ever likely to hear. Some won’t agree with me but thankfully the majority of fantasy readers will; and also support my belief that Rothfuss is amongst the greatest fantasy authors.
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 1
by Charles Dickens
Now I hadn’t planned on this on being on the top 100 but the visitors to the site, and their reader reviews, have made it happen. Is it a fantasy book? Is it perhaps a ghost story? Does it belong on this list? To be honest I’m not sure. But what I do know is that it is a book whose impact must be difficult for any other to match, it is ghosts and goodwill in the ultimate Christmas story. Dickens’s heart-warming tale and its lamp-lit setting, diverse characters, short length and strong moral message have ensured that it has become a classic.
by Raymond E Feist
Feist's Magician is one of the best known and well read fantasy books; it is a powerful and memorable book that any reader who derives pleasure from reading epic fantasy should read being classic fantasy imbued with many elements of originality. The character development is excellent and the reading experience effortless. In 2003 Magician was voted the 89th most popular book of all time in the BBC's Big Read Top 100. I found the first read of this book to be one of those special moments when you are reading a book that has shaped the fantasy fantasy landscape as it now appears.
Series: Riftwar Saga: Book 1
by Steven Erikson
Gardens of the Moon, and the overarching A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, are works of great skill and beauty. Not for the faint-of-heart, Erikson throws you in at the deep end and you must decide whether, as a fantasy fan, you want to sink or swim (swimming is highly recommended). This series is one of the greatest fantasy literature achievements of the past 100 years and this could easily be number one in the top 100 as it is special, very special. The ambition and imagination set it alone and the execution is masterful.
Series: A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 1
by Robert Jordan
Now Robert Jordan is not for me but over the last 15 years I have discovered that he has brought reading pleasure to millions, and that is why The Wheel of Time is here, and this is what our reviewer, Kat, has to say: The Eye of the World begins an epic a saga filled with unforgettable characters and a world steeped in rich history and legend. The author's skillful writing truly brings the characters and their journey to life. If you truly love the fantasy genre, passing up a chance to read The Eye of the World would be an unbelievable mistake.
Series: Wheel of Time: Book 1
by William Horwood
Some authors write beautifuly and can induce an almost meditive state in the reader. Tolkien, Hobb, Le Guin, Martin can achieve this, and so can William Horwood. There are two books on the site that generate an effusive outpouring of love from readers, two books which will be well know to some but perhaps not as widely known as many books on this list, they are Swan Song by Robert McCammon and Duncton Wood. It 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. Read my review and the reader reviews below it if you want to get a real sense of how highly this book is regarded.
Series: The Duncton Chronicles: Book 1
by Stephen Donaldson
Damnation! Hellfire! I first read Lord Foul's Bane almost thity years ago and then made my way through all 10 books until only finishing the final instalment, The Final Dark, last year. It was not any easy ride, sometimes I wanted to give up and at other times wanted to throw the book out of the window. But what kept me going is the visual imagery that has stayed me through the decades: Mithil Stonedown, Revelstone, the Waynhim, the Giants. Donaldson revels in difficult-to-like characters and the use of archaic language... well, it can be frustrating and overwhelming at times. But it was different to what was being written at the time and the fantasy genre owes the author, and those who similarly broke the mold, gratitude for forging a new path that led to some of the great fantasy of recent years (Steven Erikson as one example). But as for Thomas Covenant - he is arguably one of the most famous names in fantasy, but not all who know it love it. Whether it is due to the Covenant character himself, or simply as a response to the series as a whole, readers find themselves often divided in their opinions: Some love it, some hate it. But few dismiss it. A very complex piece of work but at heart a good old-fashioned tale of epic fantasy.
Series: Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 1
by Christopher Paolini
I can almost sense the disbelief of some, and the delight of others, at not only seeing Eragon on the top 100 list but seeing it rank so high. If it was based on our review it would not be - but the sheer weight of positive reader input means it is here on merit. It has given many readers a great deal of joy over the years and isn't that what reading is all about? Maybe it's not the best, but it got kids reading and loving the genre, and from this stepping stone they will hopefully go onto reading the other great titles on offer. It is important to mention that Eragon is a remarkable achievement by Christopher Paolini, especially when you take in consideration the tender age at which he wrote the novel. It is a tale that contains beauty and friendship, told by a young author who believes fully in the world that he has created.
Series: The Inheritance Cycle: Book 1
by Ursula Le Guin
I felt at complete peace while reading the four books that make up the Earthsea Saga. I almost went into a trance while reading, gone were thoughts of tax returns and shopping lists and I fell into a wonderful world where a story was being told in an almost hypnotic way. You don't need me to tell you what a fine author Ursula Le Guin is, far more eminent than I have already done so. Le Guin has a reputation for exploring psychological and sociological themes within her books and this collection of books is no different. These novels can be read by children and enjoyed from the perspective of magic, wizards, adventure and the beautifully imagined world of Earthsea. They can also be appreciated by adults for the thought-provoking elements that the book conjures. This is a collection that makes you think and leaves you thinking.
Series: Earthsea Saga: Book 1 - 4
by Brent Weeks
Another reader favourite, The Way of Shadows is one of the most entertaining fantasy books available, a rich, engrossing and creative novel. The action sequences are awesome and the plot and characterisation also. If you're looking for all of the above within the framework of a great story, look no further.
Series: The Night Angel Trilogy: Book 1
by Susanna Clarke
Another book that divides opinion. I loved it as do many others. I don't like using the word dense when describing a book as well written as this but that's the most appropriate I can find. Maybe it's the extensive footnotes which make up a book in themselves that make it so but the fact remains that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a genuinely original story, beatifully told. The Telegraph succinctly says it all with 'an elegant and witty historial fantasy which deserves to be judged on its own (considerable) merit'. It is unquestionalbly one of the finest historical fantasy books ever written.
by Robin Hobb
Why isn't Robin Hobb higher? Good question, she should be. But reader reviews make a difference - if you think she should be, tell us in the form of a review and she will be. Go on, what else better have you to do today? Simply put, the fantasy genre is fortunate to have an author who writes as beautifully as Robin Hobb. Her novels are a masterclass in characterisation imbued into the richest of narratives. Assassin's Apprentice begins The Realm of the Elderlings series, one of the very finest written.
Series: The Farseer Trilogy: Book 1
by Brandon Sanderson
Sanderson again, the little spotlight stealer. The Mistborn books appear on so many reader favourite lists it would be hard to put a number of it. But it would be high. 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.
Series: Mistborn: Book 1
by David Gemmell
David Gemmell is unquestionably one of my favourite fantasy authors. For the past 30 years his books have been read and re-read and I am still not weary of them, and I hope that will always be the case. I personally do not think that this is Gemmell's finest but it surely has to be his most important, as without it nothing may have followed. Legend is a great place to start if you have not read any of his work before and a great blend of sword, sorcery and heroism. A MUST read for any heroic fantasy fans.
Series: The Drenai Novels: Book 1
by Guy Gavriel Kay
I once read an interview with Guy Gavriel Kay where he explained his approach to writing. He said that he wrote what he needed to write and then went over it a second time, adding layers and textures, making improvements, rather like a painter. And then he repeated the process for a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and then eighth time. And this is why his writing is so good, it's not just natural talent, which he has in abundance, but attention to detail and hard, painstaking work. It pays off and in Tigana he wrote a book that influenced me as much as The Lord of the Rings when I was a youngster. It is a book I hold very dear. But Kay is the second Canadian on this list and although they may appear the nicest, politest people on the planet I secretely fear plans for world domination, so I'll keep on eye of the Empire of Canadia's ratio.
by NK Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Nebula Award for Best Novel, Audie Award for Science Fiction and the Crawford Award. Enough said. You want more? Okay, every now and again books comes out that deserves all the hype they get. N.K. Jemisin writes books that are at times smart, at times funny, and at times downright heartbreaking, all wrapped up in the the most original stories. This is a must for your bookshelf. This book is flat out 10 out of 10.
Series: The Inheritance Trilogy: Book 1
by Alan Garner
I've never read Alan Garner so this book's placement is based on readers' input. When a book gets a lot of positive feedback on this site it signifies that it holds a very special place in many hearts. It is the fourth book in a series which began with the Weirdstone of Brinsingamen, set in a mythical place called Alderley Edge. Now I live close to and have worked even closer to the real Alderley Edge in Cheshire so I need to read these books soon (it seemed rather posh in a nouveau riche way but otherwise unextraordinary). So I need to discover how Garner made this place magical. And I will. This is a readers' choice book and series.
by JRR Tolkien
If you've not read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings this may not be for you. But I honestly don't know, it's such a brilliant book, a book about creation really, that maybe it will work for you regardless. But if you have read Tolkien's masterpieces this is a must-read. If you are as captivated by them as most of the reading world is – the Silmarillion will give you the extra information you crave and answer the questions that the two prior books threw up – Who exactly are Gandalf and Sauron? How did the Orcs come into being? Why are the Elves leaving Middle-earth and where are they going?
by George RR Martin
The book I enjoyed most in A Song of Ice and Fire, after A Game of Thrones. If you're a fan of the series make your way to this one and submerge yourself in the continuing story of characters (some of them) that you've followed and been captivated by so far. A Song of Ice and Fire is the history lesson you wished you had in school.
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 3
by RA Salvatore
Drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, first introduced in The Icewind Dale Trilogy, quickly became one of the fantasy genre’s standout characters. But Homeland first reveals the startling tale of how this one lone drow walked out of the shadowy depths of the Underdark, leaving behind a society of evil and a family who want him dead. It is here that the story of this amazing dark elf truly began.
Series: The Dark Elf Trilogy: Book 1
by China Mieville
There is no other way of saying it; Perdido Street Station is a work of art! At times horrific, beautiful, tragic, comic or even uplifting, with a plot which takes unexpected turns and twists and revelations, one of the most unique settings imaginable and above all a style of dark poetry that is truly exceptional. A very intricate and complex novel that provides a refreshing challenge to the way in which epic fantasy is traditionally explored.
Series: New Crobuzon: Book 1
by Patrick Rothfuss
Okay, I didn't enjoy this as much as The Name of the Wind but that is just saying this is excellent while the other is sublime. But it does improve on re-read and this may just be because I'm a reader who does like the familiar and the second half of this book takes us out of this comfort zone and into a land far away where court politics hold sway. This is gone into into intricate detail. And then there's Kvothe training to be a warrior - still not sure what to make of this part. But Rothfuss is a writer that's always a pleasure to read. Can't wait for the third book, is it out yet? Or coming soon? Ask the author. Go on, I dare you.
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 2
by Guy Gavriel Kay
A 10/10 book. We don't get many of those. The second Kay book on the list for the reason our reviewer Adam gives: 'A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers'. Here, here.
by Ann Leckie
Another 10/10 book and the most recently published book to appear on this list, published as it was in 2019. Ann Leckie first came to our attention with her highly-regarded science fiction books. When she turned her hand to fantasy she produced, in the words of the book's reviewer, Joshua: 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.
by George RR Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire. Again. We love it. As an ongoing series it is one of the very best. It didn't become a worldwide phenomenon by chance. Read it.
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 2
by Glen Cook
The Black Company by Glen Cook is the first book of the nine that make up The Black Company series. First published in 1984 this book was responsible for taking the fantasy genre and turning it on its head with his introduction of realistic characters and its complete disregard for fantasy stereotypes and the age-old battle of good versus evil.
Series: Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 1
by Neil Gaiman
"If asked to put The Graveyard Book into a genre, I'd have to say: this is a Neil Gaiman book. It's in the Genre of Excellence" Fortean Times. I can't put it better than that but our reviewer Joshua will add: 'So, the advice is to read this book, unless you are Neil Gaiman, in which case you should really be writing more and more and...'
by Richard Adams
Watership Down is a book which will always hold a special place in my heart. It has captivated and moved me for over three decades and I do not believe this will change for what I hope will be a further three. It has the elements that I enjoy in a story: a quest, the journey, plus the bravery, belief and inability to accept defeat. The rabbit characters are glorious: the nerviously intelligent Fiver and his kind, loyal brother Hazel. The no-nonsense Bigwig, the controlling Woundwort and the ingenious Blackberry - all are rich and wonderful to spend time with. Is it fantasy? Google lists it as Fairy tale, Fantasy Fiction, Adventure fiction. Good enough for me. How many talking rabbits have you met?
by Jonathan Stroud
I don't know if Jonathan Stroud is a household name worldwide but he certainly should be. He'll be on this list twice, once for his Lockwood & Co series but first for his wonderful Bartimaeus books. Comic fantasy is not my cup of tea usually - there's a reason why comedians only do twenty minutes on stage, someone trying to make you laugh can be great for a while and then wears thin. Stroud's greatest achievement in this book and the two that follow is to be consistently funny while striking a balance between humour, tragedy, adventure, excitement, delightful characters (both human and djinni) and a story rich in every way you could wish for. And, my, he can end a trilogy well, arguably the best bringing together of story arcs and untied ends I've read.
Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Book 1
by Stephen King
If you call yourself any kind of reader of speculative fiction and can appreciate a truly rich and complex book, The Stand is a must read. Even if you’ve never read Stephen King before, even if neither horror nor post-apocalyptic are your usual genre choice, you won’t be disappointed. The writing is excellent, the imagery horrifying and the atmosphere hypnotic. After the first few pages you will either find yourself hooked or repelled… it’s that kind of book. But if you want to read one of the greatest examples of dystopian fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy thrown in then look no further.
by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb. Again. Should be higher. Again. This is the third trilogy with Fitz as the lead. Read The Farseer Trilogy, then read The Tawny Man trilogy, then read this trilogy, which begins with Fool's Assassin. You won't regret it.
Series: Fitz and the Fool #1
by Alix E Harrow
It is a rare thing to relate to a book’s character in such a way that similar situations evoke empathy across your lives. Enough parallels can be drawn to feel almost as if the book is catered specifically toward you in some existential way. I have not read much portal fantasy, but I have always felt a feeling of smothered repression through my youth that has tamped down my will to explore. Instead, my portals to elsewhere revealed themselves in books and stories at an early age, and they’ve been with me ever since. Alix Harrow captures this feeling of finding oneself through the stories we share in her stunning and unforgettable debut novel The 10,000 Doors of January. It is a beautifully written and lovingly crafted adventure about the strength of love, the importance of stories, and the timeless power of words.
by A K Larkwood
A. K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name is among the most creative, exciting, and brilliantly-told epic fantasy novels I’ve read. It is an immersive experience that grabbed my attention early on, then grew at a staggering rate until I found myself being launched through fantastic worlds, meeting wonderful characters, and caught in a magnetic prose that left me spellbound. Larkwood has a tremendous talent for building upon the best parts of what makes fantasy great and elevates it all with her own dash of chaos and wonder. Simply put, it is an outstanding debut I won’t soon forget.
Series: The Serpent Gates #1
by Robin Hobb
No other than Orson Scott Card described the Liveship Traders trilogy as a 'masterclass in writing'. The story is unique, the character development excellent. In just a few chapters the characters are well drawn and take on a life of their own. Highly recommended.
Series: The Liveship Traders: Book 1
by Stephen King
I’ve read almost thirty King novels and this might just be my favourite. Although the first book of a seven book magnum opus it can, I feel, be read as a standalone. But stopping after book one will be nigh impossible if you enjoy it as much as I did. Few books can grab you and draw you into them quite as quickly and completely as The Gunslinger. In my experience the first book in a trilogy/series can often take some time to immerse you as a reader, possibly due to the unfamiliarity of the characters but also the new location and place names, this is especially pertinent for high fantasy titles. But this book hooks you from the very first page, from the very first sentence even: ‘The Man in Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed’. Great book.
Series: The Dark Tower series: Book 1
by Madeline Miller
A 10/10 book. Sean: ‘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! I could not recommend it more highly. I really liked The Song of Achilles though this surpassed it in every way. I really hope to see more from this author in the future’.
by Terry Pratchett
Good Omens is by far one of the funniest works of fiction I have ever read. Pratchett and Gaiman have managed to create a story that weaves together large doses of satire, cynicism, slapstick and wacky unconventional humour into a cohesive yet surprisingly accurate observation of human life all over the world. The characters, one of the biggest strengths in this book, bring a lot of charm and humour to the book by managing to be both unique yet stereotypically British at the same time.
by Frank Herbert
To borrow a line from a film adaptation of this novel: “When politics and religion ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows.” Frank Herbert’s Dune is easily one of the most layered works of fiction produced during the twentieth century. From examining Byzantine political gambits to the human penchant for hero worship, Herbert uses a far-flung future setting to examine the best and worst aspects of human nature. Dune is easily one of the primary masterpieces of science fiction / fantasy despite being a dense, somewhat difficult book for the average reader.
by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows is a fantastic book, one of the best fantasy heist books going around. It is funny, tragic, witty, silly, murderous, thoughtful and more all in one package. If there is a criticism, it might be that Bardugo tries to cram too much into a single story, but it's not much of a criticism given how adeptly she pulled this story off. YA readers probably had this book on their radar long ago and have probably re-read it a couple of times, so for those people who steer clear of YA for whatever reason, I would highly encourage you to put your prejudices aside and give this book a shot.
by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky is an intense emotional roller-coaster that flits between genres, using both sci-fi and fantasy to get its message across and although it does pit them against each other, the novel never says one is better than the other, each has its place in this story and it is by both of these working together that the best outcome will be found. All the Birds in the Sky is also a very human story focusing on the confusion and mistrust that can come from not understanding the unknown.
by Jay Kristoff
If the Harry Potter series and The Lies of Locke Lamora ever got together and decided to have a dark book baby, they would call it Nevernight. This is the sort of book I dream about reading. Only a fantasy expert could have written one this well. It’s exactly why authors such as Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are so successful: they know their audience. And here Jay Kristoff certainly knew his.
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #1
by Timandra Whitecastle
This fantasy novel had everything I love: fast-paced plot, fearless female main character, no-holds-barred fight scenes, some romantic/sexy moments and laugh-out-loud humour. It’s gritty, sweary, a bit different and has an intense grimdark feel.
Series: The Living Blade: Book 1
by TH White
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
by Samantha Shannon
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
by Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought between the Kitai and the neighbouring Tagurans, including one for which his father - a great general - was honoured. But Tai's father never forgot the brutal slaughter involved. The bones of 100,000 soldiers still lie unburied by the lake and their wailing ghosts at night strike terror in the living, leaving the lake and meadow abandoned in its ring of mountains.
To honour and redress his father's sorrow, Tai has journeyed west to the lake and has laboured, alone, to bury the dead of both empires. His supplies are replenished by his own people from the nearest fort, and also - since peace has been bought with the bartering of an imperial princess - by the Tagurans, for his solitary honouring of their dead.
The Tagurans soldiers one day bring an unexpected letter. It is from the bartered Kitan Princess Cheng-wan, and it contains a poisoned chalice: she has gifted Tai with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses, to reward him for his courage. The Sardians are legendary steeds from the far west, famed, highly-prized, long-coveted by the Kitans.
"Under Heaven, inspired by the Tang Dynasty of Ancient China, is as beautiful and enriching a novel as you could possibly wish for. " Fantasy Book Review
by Katharine Kerr
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
Series: The Deverry Cycle
by Mark Lawrence
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."
Series: Book of the Ancestor #1
by Joe Abercrombie
Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers. Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men. And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed... ...especially when Bayaz gets involved. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult...
"At the finale, the seams are brimming with reported conflicts and a bizarre proposed mission that the characters find out are their fates and destinies moving forward. To conclude, I have to admit that Before they are Hanged is set up phenomenally well and I am looking forward to shortly jump back into Abercrombie’s world."
Series: The First Law: Book 1
by Mark Lawrence
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
Series: Broken Empire: Book 1
by Mary Victoria
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
Series: Chronicles of the Tree: Book 1
by Myke Cole
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze. Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one. The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.
"As a military officer myself, I feel like I can really relate with Cole and the book he has written. It is a book that accurately portrays military life on a military base, while enhancing it using the fantasy elements I love to read about. Whether you are a military buff or not, this is an entertaining book packed full of intense action sequences - a modern interpretation of the fantasy genre that you should have no hesitations in reading." Fantasy Book Review
Series: Shadow Ops series: Book 1
by Jon Skovron
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."
Series: Empire of Storms #1
by Michael Chabon
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking 'Alyeska', Orthodox gangs in side-curls and knee breeches roam the streets of Sitka, where Detective Meyer Landsman discovers the corpse of a heroin-addled chess prodigy in the flophouse Meyer calls home. Marionette strings stretch back to the hands of charismatic Rebbe Gold, leader of a sect that seems to have drawn its mission statement from the Cosa Nostra - but behind Rebbe looms an even larger shadow. Despite sensible protests from Berko, his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner, Meyer is determined to unsnarl the meaning behind the murder. Even if that means surrendering his badge and his dignity to the chief of Sitka's homicide unit - also known as his fearsome ex-wife, Bina. 'The Yiddish Policemen's Union' interweaves a homage to the stylish menace of 1940s film noir with a bittersweet fable of identity, home and faith. It is a novel of colossal ambition and heart from one of the most important and beloved writers working today.
"I don’t have much else to say. There are no nits to pick. I salute Landsmann, his compatriots, and their creator. Clearly, this is a writer for the ages, a powerful wordsmith and a uniquely gifted mind at work. Envy him if you must (I do), but by all means read him. I can’t imagine you’ll read a finer book in the fantasy genre. He gives Philip Roth, William Kennedy, and even the venerable Mr. Fitzgerald a run for their money. Black hats off to him." Fantasy Book Review
by Mervyn Peake
Titus Groan is the Seventy Seventh Earl of Gormenghast in waiting and his birth begins this story and that of his rather eccentric family, their servants and the kingdom of Gormenghast itself. The story covers the first two years of Titus’ young life, from birth to his investiture as the seventy-seventh Earl and everything that happens in the Kingdom of Gormenghast during this time. The events, which lead up to the ‘Earling’ of little Titus, involve treachery, greed, murder, madness and revenge. There are also touches of real affection and lots of subtle humour.
Series: The Gormenghast Trilogy: Book 1
by Terry Pratchett
Whenever someone new comes to review books, there is always going to be a measure of consternation at their choices for best books. It gets worse when you narrow it down to genre, because then not only have you narrowed down the people, but in a most perplexing mathematic equation their passion for those books increases.
Series: The Discworld Series: Book 28
by Lev Grossman
Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined.
"The Magicians is a book that will likely divide opinions leaving very few sitting on the fence. The majority will love it but there will be some that will detest it (ardent Potter and Narnia fans possibly). The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done. He has injected sexual tension and questionable morals into a school for wizards and the result is a rousing, perceptive and multifaceted coming of age story that is both bright and beguiling."
Series: The Magicians series: Book 1
by Lauren Beukes
I found this book really throws you into the deep end, leaving you guessing at the full extent of the how the world Lauren Beukes creates is different from our own. Zoo City, set in Johannesburg, invites us into the lives of the undesirables that the majority of the population like to pretend do not exist. But if they have to acknowledge them they will do so to blame them for all the world’s problems. At the same time, although you are thrown into the deep end it doesn’t mean that you’re frustrated as you’re given just enough information to keep you intrigued. Which gives you enough time to connect with the lead character Zinzi December, the so-called heroine of the novel. Zinzi is a survivor who has a talent for finding lost items for people and she ends up getting dragged into a hunt for a missing person, and that’s where her troubles begin…
"Of course – being a fantasy review site – this isn’t a gritty crime novel. Although you will not find wizards or goblins here, what you will find is an intriguing “what if?” urban fantasy story that gives a twist to the contemporary world we live in. If I forgot to mention before, this story involves animals and magic, that fits into the world of Zoo City. As well as inviting questions as to why people who are different from the norm are treated in different circumstances." Fantasy Book Review
by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman
The fantastic, the supernatural, the poetic, and the macabre entwine in this incomparable culmination of storytelling. Imaginative stories of wit and intelligence weave through vivid landscapes that are alternately wondrous and terrifying. Bringing together major literary figures from the 19th and 20th centuries - from Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edith Wharton to Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde - these masters of English and American literature created unforgettable tales where goblins and imps comingle with humans from all walks of life.
"The Treasury of the Fantastic is an amazing collection of 44 poems, short stories and novellas, all fantasy related, all published before 1923. The anthology editors, David Sandner and Jacob Weisman, should be congratulated for managing to collect the rights to so many amazing stories. At the start of the book they openly provide the criteria they used for putting together this anthology. Unfortunately their criteria mean we miss out on a few great authors who were producing their best work right around the cut-off data, authors like Lovecraft and Howard, but that barely takes away from the excellent 44 stories that made the cut and are celebrated in this anthology." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review
by David Eddings
Pawn of Prophecy is a fantasy novel in its truest form; we have Kings in waiting, mad Gods, magic swords (slight spoiler) and Ancient sorcerers. At the core of Pawn of Prophecy is the quest to retrieve a precious (intentional) object of power before Evil rises once more and destroys the world. You know, nerd candy.
Series: The Belgariad: Book 1
by Andrzej Sapkowski
Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realise that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil or simple naivety.
"Delightfully dry humor, mythology brimming with radical creatures & a group of interesting characters, The Last Wish is a great introduction to this universe. However, something I was missing is the detailed world-building I look for in a first book. Because these are short stories, it feels like it jumped around in terms of fleshing out the Continent. I'm assuming this will be rectified further in the series, considering there are plenty more books to detail such things. I'm thoroughly looking forward to more of Geralt's adventures!"
Series: The Witcher #1
by Brent Weeks
Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. His strength, wit and charm are all that preserve a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live. When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.
"I had never read the previous trilogy and had committed the cardinal sin of buying a book simply because I liked the cover, but that momentary whim has repaid me with interest! This is a beautifully-crafted fantasy that held me from beginning to end, for all 600 plus of its pages. The narrative is enthralling and the twists are so stunning that I had to go back and re-read the first because I couldn't believe that I hadn't seen it coming, that Weeks had so skillfully misled me."
Series: Lightbringer: Book 1
by R F Kuang
Simply put, R.F. Kuang’s “The Poppy War” is a towering achievement of modern fantasy. Kuang writes in a descriptive and narrative style that presents many sides of an issue without trying to persuade the reader into thinking which path is the “correct” one, if one such exists. As the book descends into its bleak final act, the connection we’ve built with Rin and her companions is put to the test. It is a testament to Kuang’s skill as a writer to establish such a strong connection with her protagonists that the impact of the events in third act hit as hard as they do. There aren’t any real complaints I have about this book, which is wholly impressive considering how early it is in the author’s young career. This story weaves recent Chinese history into an emotionally chaotic, brilliantly-told grimdark fantasy that is impossible to forget. Read it.
When Rin aced the Keju - the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies - it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard - the most elite military school in Nikan - was even more surprising. But surprises aren’t always good. Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power - an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive - and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school. For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away... Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
Series: The Poppy War #1
by Terry Pratchett
Mort is a Discworld novel by fantasy author Terry Pratchett. The book is the fourth in the series and was first published in the UK by Victor Gollanz Ltd in association with Colin Smythe Ltd in 1987. The book is 315 pages in length and Corgi Books published the edition reviewed. Mort belongs in the comic fantasy sub-genre of fantasy.
Series: The Discworld Series: Book 3
by Michael J Sullivan
Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles--until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom. Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know?
"Theft of Swords is a fun fantasy full of wonderful characters, deadly conspiracies, and intricate action sequences. There isn't a great deal of original material, and you can easily describe this series as Scott Lynch meets J.R.R. Tolkien, but the way Sullivan puts all the material together and the way that he gets his characters to interact with that material makes this book feel fresh despite the familiarity. If you are a looking to start a new series that has already been completed, look no further than Theft of Swords and The Riyria Revelations." Fantasy Book Review
Series: The Riyria Revelations #1
by Neil Gaiman
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
by Robin Hobb
Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Red Ship War with the terrifying Outislanders. Since then, Fitz has wandered the world accompanied only by his wolf and Wit-partner, Nighteyes, finally settling in a tiny cottage as remote from Buckkeep and the Farseers as possible. But lately the world has come crashing in again, The Witted are being persecuted because of their magical bonds with animals; and young Prince Dutiful has gone missing just before his crucial diplomatic wedding to an Outislander princess. Fitz’s assignment to fetch Dutiful back in time for the ceremony seems very much like a fool’s errand, but the dangers ahead could signal the end of the Farseer reign.
Series: The Tawny Man: Book 1
by Neil Gaiman
In what is one of his most celebrated works, up there along with Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one of the best books of its genre. The real dilemma presented us however is understanding just which genre Gaiman was writing. This is not a negative opinion of his writing ability, suggesting that he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he is doing. Just the contrary, American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre.
A storm is coming... Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
by Patricia Briggs
Meet Mercedes the Volkswagen mechanic, as if that was the only or most interesting thing you could know about Mercy Thompson. Indeed it is not. Mercy is a shifter, meaning that she can shift into the form of a coyote in the blink of an eye. She was also raised by werewolves and try as she might to stay out of trouble it is something that evades her constantly. Kudos to Patricia Briggs for bringing werewolves into a new light, for offering up a believable and relatable female author, and for an over all quite interesting story that had me guessing till the very end. Bravo.
Series: Mercy Thompson: Book 1
by William Horwood
It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation. But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident ¬– it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.
Series: Hyddenworld: Book 1
by Jonathan Stroud
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in... For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
"I hold The Bartimaeus Trilogy and stand-alone novel Heroes of the Valley to be amongst the finest fantasy books I have read. So when a new book from their author Jonathan Stroud arrives my expectations are very high. And I was not disappointed as Lockwood & Co - which is aimed at a slightly older audience than previous novels - proved to be another wonderfully entertaining read." Fantasy Book Review
Series: Lockwood & Co #1
by Anthony Ryan
Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes for ever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly. Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.
"Beautifully written, wonderfully cast and populated, Anthony Ryan does indeed seem to be placing himself as one of the next master storytellers. Book two in his series, ‘Tower Lord’ comes out in the first half of 2014, and given how much I’ve enjoyed Blood Song, immediately steps into the category of ‘Most Anticipated’." Joshua S Hill, Fantasy Book Review
Series: Raven's Shadow #1
by Robert Jackson Bennett
You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air. The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth - but it is likely to cost her everything.
"City of Stairs definitely makes my list of favourite fantasy novels, and I would definitely read a sequel, as well as more of Bennett's work. Excellent and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it." Kat Berwick
by Helene Wecker
The Golem and the Djinni is first rate historical fantasy fiction which makes you care deeply about the characters and instils and eagerness and a need to find how it will all end. It is a wonderful debut novel that brings to life a 1899 New York every bit as atmospheric as the London Conan Doyle created for Holmes. This is a book that consistently delights, a charming love story with pleasing emotional depth.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899. Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
"By far my favourite book of of the year." The Guardian
"Original and fresh... A fascinating blend of historical fiction and Jewish and Arab folklore." Library Journal
"Wecker deftly layers their story over those of the people they encounter... [A] spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction." Publishers Weekly
"The premise is so fresh...A mystical and highly original stroll through the sidewalks of New York." Booklist
by Ed McDonald
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."
Series: The Raven’s Mark #1
by David Farland
The Sum of all Men is the first book in David Farland’s Runelords series. The first of three books, the story continues in Brotherhood of the Wolf and Wizard Born.
Series: Runelords: Book 1
by Tad Williams
The Dragonbone Chair follows Simon as he becomes embroiled in an epic adventure. The book is the first part of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy and was first published in 1988.
Series: Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 1
by Jim Butcher
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Reasonable rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Harry Dresden is the best and technically the 'only' at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they come to him for answers. For the 'everyday' world is actually full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a - well, whatever.
Series: The Dresden Files: Book 1
by David Gemmell
Sword in the Storm tells us about a young hero, Connavar of the Rigante. Burdened by the thought of his father being a coward, he’s eager to prove himself. His thoughts are often shadowed, but his heart beats true. The Seidh, malevolent forces of nature, sense his inner turmoil and decide to use him as a plaything, granting him one wish… When one day a bear attacks him and his friends, he refuses to give ground and attacks the animal, earning him mortal wounds and eternal glory. Against all odds he survives, and returns to his town a hero. This is only the beginning of his perilous journey… Will he be able to live up to his reputation and dreams, or will his inner demons consume him?
Series: The Rigante Novels: Book 1
by Laini Taylor
When I arrived home one evening from work, I found something unusual waiting for me that the Postman had delivered earlier that day. Holding the blank postcard with a single black moustache printed on the front – I began to wonder if I had some sort of strange, hairy stalker. I then received two more of the postcards; one with a tooth on it and one with a feather later on that week. So with curiosity baiting me, I hunted down some information about the postcards on the internet and realised that they were a marketing campaign for a book I was about to receive. To this day I’m not sure whether the marketing campaign was successful (judging by my confusion), but the book on the other hand definitely deserves to stand up in its own right.
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy #1
by Ulff Lehmann
If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss's gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it.
For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion.
Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes.
In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer's oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy's plans for invasion.
As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret.
Series: Light in the Dark #1
by Trudi Canavan
The Magician's Guild is set in Imardin, where every year the magicians amass in order to rid the streets of the homeless and miscreants. The magicians believe themselves untouchable behind a magical shield but when Sonea, who is upset by the behaviour towards her friends and family, throws a stone that passes through the shield, the entire city is shaken. It is at this point where Sonea comprehends her own power and the magician's worst fears are realised ... there is an untrained magician loose in the city, one who could destroy both herself and the city.
Series: The Black Magician Trilogy: Book 1
by Terry Goodkind
One man, Richard Cypher, holds the key to the fate of three nations and of humanity. But until he learns the Wizard's First Rule his chances of succeeding in his task are slim. And his biggest problem is admitting that magic exists at all...
"This is an excellent fantasy book and hopefully Terry Goodkind can keep up this high standard throughout the entire series."
Series: The Sword of Truth Series: Book 1
by Neil Gaiman
A bit of mythology, a bit of fantasy, a bit of urban drama and a whole lot of London makes this book a definite must read.
Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
"A very fine and imaginative writer." The Times
"Gaiman has a rich imagination... and an ability to tackle large themes." Philip Pullman
by Scott Lynch
When an author decides to interweave multiple stories together into a larger story, a lot of talent is needed to back up such an ambition. Some authors pull it off with an ease that leaves you breathless, and staggered at how – several books later – everything is tied up neatly. Other authors leave you giddy with confusion.
Series: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence: Book 1
by Brian McClellan
Field Marshal Tamas has finally returned to Adopest, only to find the capital in the hands of a foreign power. With his son Taniel presumed dead, Tamas must gather his beleaguered forces and formulate a plan to defeat the Kez - no easy task when you're outnumbered and can't tell friend from foe. The army is divided... With their enemy bearing down on them, the Adran command is in disarray. Someone, it seems, is selling secrets to the Kez. Inspector Adamat is determined to flush out the traitor, but as the conspiracy unravels, he will learn a horrifying truth. And all hope rests with one man... Taniel Two-Shot, the powder mage who shot a god in the eye, is on the run. He possesses the sole means of defeating the Kez, but to do so he must evade treachery at every turn. If he fails, Adro will fall.
"Make sure you check out the Powder Mage Trilogy, if you haven’t already, as it’s one of the top 10 books to come out this decade."
Series: The Powder Mage Trilogy #3
by Josiah Bancroft
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd. Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
"An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece where I was on Tom's side every step of the way. I'd read Arm of the Sphinx next if I could but as an #SPFBO judge, I'm currently busy trying to find some more gems like this."
Series: The Books of Babel #1
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the coming battle against the forces of evil led by the fallen god Rakoth Maugrim and his dark hordes.
"All in all The Summer Tree was nothing short of amazing, and a book I wouldn't hesitate in recommending to any fantasy fans who love language, character, and seeing the familiar tropes of epic fantasy take flower in new and astounding ways."
Series: The Fionavar Tapestry: Book 1
by Peter V Brett
There isn’t anything quite as lovely as a fresh idea. Whether we’re talking about a new way to cook pork or a book, it’s the same; a new idea is everything. But you don’t always come across new ideas, especially when we’re talking about fantasy novels. One need only look at the ruckus caused by authors like Terry Brooks or Christopher Paolini to see what I’m talking about.
Series: The Demon Cycle #1
by Ben Aaronovitch
There is something eminently satisfying about coming across a new author and finding that he is utterly brilliant. That is exactly what happened when I received Ben Aaronovitch’s book ‘Rivers of London’ the other day. I had been looking for books that were similar to Kate Griffin’s series of books focusing on Matthew Swift, and I came across Aaronovitch’s name (thank heavens for Amazon recommendations).
Series: Rivers of London series: Book 1
by Gene Wolf
Severian is a torturer, born to the guild and with an exceptionally promising career ahead of him... until he falls in love with one of his victims, a beautiful young noblewoman. Her excruciations are delayed for some months and, out of love, Severian helps her commit suicide and escape her fate. For a torturer, there is no more unforgivable act. In punishment he is exiled from the guild and his home city to the distant metropolis of Thrax with little more than Terminus Est, a fabled sword, to his name. Along the way he has to learn to survive in a wider world without the guild - a world in which he has already made both allies and enemies. And a strange gem is about to fall into his possession, which will only make his enemies pursue him with ever-more determination...
"Shadow of the Torturer and the subsequent series are not for beginners in the science fiction or fantasy genre. Wolfe’s prose is lyrical, dense, and filled with double and triple meanings. He is by no means an easy author to read. While he does not invent words for his world, he does use old, archaic language to fill in the gaps, which would force a reader to consult a dictionary (or in this day and age Google) in order to understand the deeper meanings in the prose. I would recommend this book only to seasoned fans of the genre and it will probably require multiple readings to fully grasp what is hiding beneath the surface." Nicholas King, Fantasy Book Review
Series: Book of the New Sun
by Anna Smith Spark
They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust. In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion and only one man can see it. Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built. The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.
"This book truly is grimdark of the highest order with one of the most complex, beautiful and destructive characters ever written. Queen of Grimdark is a pseudonym well earned. If you mixed beauty, darkness, complexity, death and poetry then you would have something that is a lot like Smith Spark's debut."
Series: Empires of Dust #1
by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel, The Colour Of Magic is set on a world sitting on the backs of four elephants hurtling through space. Rincewind, the wizard and Twoflower, the Discworld's first tourist encounter DEATH and Hrun the Barbarian on their journey through the Discworld.
Series: The Discworld Series: Book 1
by James Herbert
He was a stringy mongrel, wandering the streets of the city, driven by a ravenous hunger and hunting a quarry he could not define. But he was something more. Somewhere in the depths of his consciousness was a memory clawing its way to the surface, tormenting him. The memory of what he had once been—a man.
"This is simply a very well told story, accessible to all aged 12 and up. James Herbert expertly captures what a dog's life might be like through and you - as the reader - really find yourself at ground level, revelling in the extra sensory overload that Fluke feels."
by Erin Morgenstern
You have to ask yourself… Wouldn’t it be great to believe in magic? I found this book extraordinary, with so much thought put into not only the story – which unfolds like a carefully constructed maze – but also into the presentation of the hardback edition, which fits perfectly within the spectacle of the story.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
"Playful and intensely imaginative, Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for. This is a marvellous book." Audrey Niffenegger
"Lush, evocative, dreamlike... a magical, coming-of-age story." Sunday Times
by David Eddings
The Elenium consists of six books and The Diamond Throne is the first book in this series. David Eddings is an author who is both loved and criticized in seemingly equal measure but no-one can deny that he writes enjoyable fantasy tales. The Elenium continues in the next volume, The Ruby Knight.
Series: The Elenium: Book 1