I remember reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and falling in love with the Grishaverse, a love that is just as strong today as I eagerly await the TV adaptation in the works at Netflix. And if you’re anything like me, you’re also still obsessing over her most recent release, Ninth House, a year after its publication, and looking for more fantasy novels to dig into. Well, lucky for you, I’ve got a long list of recommendations to tide you over until the TV show or the second Alex Stern book comes out.
If you are a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s books, then it is safe to assume that you’re a fan of riveting characters and page-turning adventure. And if that is the case, you’re going to love BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse. Inspired by the culture of the pre-Columbian Americas, BLACK SUN is filled with forbidden magic and prophecy. Usually, the Winter Solstice is a time of celebration, but this year it is marred by a solar eclipse that may portend trouble. It is during this time that Captain Xiala sets sail for the city of Tova with a single passenger, a supposedly harmless young blind man. But Xiala knows better: harmless typically means the exact opposite. Roanhorse has crafted an incredible world full of rich and unforgettable characters. I’m already eagerly awaiting book two in the series.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.
A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
I love True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse books, so when I found out about Charlaine Harris’s newest Gunnie Rose series, I was stoked. These books are set in the dystopian, alternate-history version of a United States of America that never recovered from the Great Depression. Lizbeth Rose is a Gunnie, a gunslinger who escorts people back and forth between the southwest (a territory now known as Texoma) and Mexico. Her life gets even more complicated than usual when she’s hired by a pair of Russian wizards to guide them through the Mexican border towns. They’re on a desperate mission to find Oleg Karkarov, a potential direct descendant of Rasputin, whose blood might be able to save the current tsar’s life.
From the beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, comes “a gripping, twisty-turny, thrill ride of a read” (Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author) following a young gunslinging mercenary on deadly mission through the American Southwest.
In a fractured United States, a new world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards. Lizbeth Rose has a wildly fearsome reputation but these wizards are desperate. Searching the small border towns near Mexico, they’re trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner believed to be a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin.
As the trio journey through an altered America—shattered into several countries after the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression—they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose has never failed a client, but this job may stretch her to her deadly limits.
“Immersive, involving, suspenseful and intriguing, with a main character you’ll love” (Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author), An Easy Death is a fast-paced thriller of the highest order.
THE LOST QUEEN instantly engrossed me because it combines two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and fantasy. Pike weaves a rich tale set in sixth-century Scotland about the sister of the man who would one day inspire the character Merlin. Languoreth and her brother, Lailoken, were raised on the Old Ways, but now Christianity threatens to destroy their history and way of life. Despite her love for a young soldier, Langoureth is promised to the son of a Christian king. As Langoureth is thrown into a world of politics, religion, and war, she and her brother fight to preserve the magic of the Old Ways.
THE TANGLED LANDS is a novel told in four parts, as connected but distinct novellas that introduce you to the world of Khaim, a city on the brink of an uprising. Also known as the Blue City, Khaim is run by the Jolly Mayor and plagued by Brambles caused by the use of magic. Thus, only those under the mayor’s control are allowed to use magic. But as the Jolly Mayor’s decadent use of magic threatens everyone within the city, its citizens become charged with resistance. Each of these four stories interlock with an interesting and fantastical take on the threat of environmental collapse.
WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD FOR BEST COLLECTION
From award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell comes a fantasy novel told in four parts about a land crippled by the use of magic, and a tyrant who is trying to rebuild an empire—unless the people find a way to resist.
Khaim, The Blue City, is the last remaining city in a crumbled empire that overly relied upon magic until it became toxic. It is run by a tyrant known as The Jolly Mayor and his devious right hand, the last archmage in the world. Together they try to collect all the magic for themselves so they can control the citizens of the city. But when their decadence reaches new heights and begins to destroy the environment, the people stage an uprising to stop them.
In four interrelated parts, The Tangled Lands is an evocative and epic story of resistance and heroic sacrifice in the twisted remains surrounding the last great city of Khaim. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell have created a fantasy for our times about a decadent and rotting empire facing environmental collapse from within—and yet hope emerges from unlikely places with women warriors and alchemical solutions.
THE GRACE OF KINGS is more than just epic fantasy. It feels like an entire alternate history of kings and war, of rises to power and falls from grace and everything that happens in between. This novel is so well developed that in many ways it feels like historical fiction with powerful gods thrown in, and I loved it. Kuni Garu is a bandit and Mata Zyndu is the son of a duke, and while these two are complete opposites they form a friendship amid a series of adventures. But when the emperor is overthrown, they find themselves leading two separate factions against each other. Now their differences have extended beyond everyday ideals, but to how the world should be run and justice served.
Sarah J. Maas is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I fell in love with her Throne of Glass series and have been reading every book of hers since. While Bardugo’s books are typically grounded in magic, Maas creates sprawling fantasy worlds usually focused on the Fae. HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD is high urban fantasy that I think fans of NINTH HOUSE will enjoy. Mostly murder mystery with a bit of Maas’s trademark steamy romance thrown in, HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD follows Bryce Quinlan, a half-fae party girl who is friends with one of the most powerful wolf packs in Crescent City, until her best friend and his entire pack is brutally murdered. But when the supposed killer is behind bars and the killings begin again, Bryce finds herself in the middle of the investigation.
If you loved the elemental magic and the world building in the Grishaverse, then you absolutely must read CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE. This novel is loosely based on a fantasy version of Nigeria where magic does exist, or at least, it did before the ruthless king eradicated all the Burners, Tiders, and Reapers called maji, who are gifted with magical powers. Zelie lost her mother in the maji genocide, but now she has one chance to bring back magic, if she can outrun the crown prince who wants to destroy her.
How to even describe THE STARLESS SEA…for it is not only a feat and a wonder, but also an ode to both fantasy and writing. It’s a book that loves books, that holds a thousand stories in its pages and whisks you away to a world you will not want to leave, and perhaps, in a way, never can. When Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a mysterious book in the campus library, he can’t put it down. And then he reads a story about himself, as a boy, in a book that looks to be way older than he is. This propels him on the journey of a lifetime, through a door he’s been searching for his whole life. But now that he’s found it, the place on the other side may be in great peril. I honestly don’t want to say much more than that. This book is an experience that should be unique to each reader.
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