So you've never read fantasy before. Or you haven't read fantasy since you were a kid, and you associate the genre primarily with
wizard schools and children discovering theologically charged nation states in the backs of wardrobes. Perhaps your main association with the fantasy genre is being forced to sit through seven hours' worth of Lord of the Rings without having a single clue what's going on. Or you've spent hours of your life listening to all your friends debate whether or not Game of Thrones is problematic ad nauseam. In short, you're not so sure about this whole "fantasy" thing. Here are a few new fantasy books that are going to change your mind.
Because yes, despite being utter trash for any book with a map in the front cover, I do get it. Fantasy (especially high fantasy) can seem like an intimidating genre from the outside. You might think that it's too boring or too silly, or too Euro-centric. And those are all entirely valid critiques of fantasy at large.
But if you're willing to give swords and sorcery another chance, these new books take the genre in unexpected directions, building fascinating new worlds and spinning fantastical tales for everyone (even fantasy haters) to enjoy: 'The Poppy War' by R.F. Kuang
Young Rin is a war orphan, destined for a life of despair and servitude at the hands of her criminal guardians. But then she aces a placement test, landing her in the most elite military school in all of Nikan, and surprising everyone, including herself.
The Poppy War is fantasy by way of historical fiction, and a great starting point if you're looking for something epic, smart, and female-centric. Click here to buy. 'Witchmark' by C.L. Polk
Miles has been marked by magic. This means that his options are somewhat limited: he can be enslaved by his family or committed to an asylum. So Miles opts to fake his own death and reinvent himself as a non-magical doctor... until one terrible murder and one very gorgeous man pull him into mystery that might expose him for who (and what) he truly is.
Click here to buy. 'Bruja Born' by Zoraida Córdova
You really owe it to yourself to go back and read the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas series. If you're looking for story that's grounded in modern day Brooklyn, filled with relatable characters, sisterly rivalry, and some light necromancy, then this is the brilliant new fantasy book for you.
Click here to buy. 'Sweet Black Waves' by Kristina Pérez
Fans of romance, historical fiction, or the tragic tale of Tristan and Eseult are going to love this retelling. Even if swooning costume dramas are not so much your thing,
Sweet Black Waves gives us a kick ass heroine out to defend her country, no matter if it means going up against the only man she's ever loved. Click here to buy. 'Temper' by Nicky Drayden
Auben Mutze is the lesser of two twins — that is, Auben has six vices branded on his arm, while his twin has only one. That's when Auben starts hearing voices. Voices that want him to do unspeakable things.
Temper takes us to an alternate Africa, where demons roam during the cold season and one lesser twin must rid himself of these strange hallucinations or lose himself entirely. Click here to buy. 'European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman' by Theodora Goss
What to do when you're the monstrous daughter (or creation) of a mad scientist? Why, go sightseeing, of course.
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman is second book in the Athena Club series, chronicling the adventures of Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Justine Frankenstein, and the other lady "monsters" of Victorian literature. It's a delightful, feminist re-imagining of classic monster fiction (and yes, Sherlock Holmes is there too). Click here to buy. 'Starless' by Jacqueline Carey
If you're looking to dip your toes into epic high fantasy, Jacqueline Carey is a great place to start. Her newest novel,
Starless, follows Khai, an elite warrior charged with the protection of the princess Zariya. As a dark god rises in the west, though, Khai will have to undertake a perilous journey beneath starless skies in order to keep Zariya (and himself) alive. Click here to buy. 'Spinning Silver' by Naomi Novik
I know that a dark, adult retelling of
Rumpelstiltskin sounds a little... weird, but give Naomi Novik a chance to wow you. Spinning Silver brings us the story of Miryem, a moneylender's daughter who can seemingly spin silver into gold. Her talents soon catch the attention of the cold creatures who live in the woods, though, and of the king himself, who wants to use Miryem's reputation for his own purposes. Click here to buy. 'Deep Roots' by Ruthanna Emrys
If you enjoy horror or find yourself creeped out by seafood, then
Deep Roots will haunt your nightmares (in a good way). This re-imaging of the world of H.P. Lovecraft expands on his monsters and mayhem (while doing away with his virulent bigotry). It's a freaky journey from the internment camps of the Deep Ones under the sea to the mysterious remains of the town of Innsmouth up on the land. Click here to buy. 'The Hills Have Spies' by Mercedes Lackey
If you want classic, otherworldly fantasy written by one of the greatest fantasy authors out there, Mercedes Lackey is the way to go.
The Hills Have Spies is set in her world of Valdemar, but you don't need to read any of her other books to appreciate this tale of spies, kings, strange disappearances, and people who can talk to animals. Click here to buy. 'Children of Blood and Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi
Young Zélie lives in a world where all magic users have been massacred, including her Reaper mother. But Zélie has decided that it's up to her to bring magic backing by taking on the ruthless monarchy herself. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie goes up against the crown prince... while struggling to contain her own growing feelings for her sworn enemy.
Click here to buy. 'A Reaper at the Gates' by Sabaa Tahir
You might want to start with book one,
An Ember in the Ashes, to give yourself a good grounding in the world of the Martial Empire. In this Roman-inspired land of war and rebels, factions battle for supremacy and ancient forces go hunting after people's souls. If you're in it for the blood and chaos, Reaper at the Gates gets right to the action and doesn't let up until the very end. Click here to buy. 'The Mermaid' by Christina Henry
In real life, infamous huckster P.T. Barnum once sold tickets to see a "dead mermaid" that turned out to be a monkey sewn onto a fish. In
The Mermaid, he's got the real deal: a mermaid who came to live on land for love, and now finds herself trapped in the bizarre world of sideshow entertainment. And once Barnum has an attraction, he doesn't want to let it go... Click here to buy. 'A Thousand Beginnings and Endings' edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
Let's say you want to start with a sampler platter of fantasy stories—perhaps a book of mythic retellings from all across Asia?
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings pulls together 15 brilliant fantasy authors to bring us 15 fantastical tales that re-imagine classic folklore in beautiful, hilarious, heartbreaking new short stories. Click here to buy. 'Kill The Farm Boy' by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Chain-mail bikinis. Trash talking goats. A necromancer named Steve.
Kill the Farm Boy takes all of the classic fantasy tropes and gives them a wonderfully irreverent new spin. It's the story of a Chosen One who maybe shouldn't have been chosened. I mean, look, I like big ol' fantasy books as much as the next nerd... but sometimes it's nice to have a fantasy realm that doesn't take itself quite so seriously. Click here to buy.