Hollie’s Fantasy Recommendations
Thanks to a comment on my post Books I’ll Hate If I Re-Read, I had an idea. Fantasy is my most favourite genre to read. I absolutely adore it, and I’m constantly finding new worlds to dive into. But my love for certain tropes and stories in fantasy have got to stem from something, and that’s my library full of fantasy favourites. I have a list of fantasy that I’ve read over the years on my Goodreads, but here are my absolute favourites. These are my fantasy recommendations.
The Grishaverse (Shadow & Bone and Six of Crows) by Leigh Bardugo
The Grishaverse is a world I never want to leave. Filled with magic, political intrigue and beautiful setting, you can dip into the world either right at the start with Shadow and Bone, or in the crooked streets of Ketterdam in Six of Crows, set a while after the events of Ruin and Rising with whole new characters. Regardless of where you start your adventure, I have never read a universe with such fleshed out, diverse, distinct characters.
There are quite a few perspectives in Six of Crows especially, but none of them sound the same and you could very easily find a random quote and know who said it because each voice is so different. I read The Grisha Trilogy a long time ago but I loved the world building and the complexities of the magic involved. I assumed most fantasy lovers have read at least one Leigh Bardugo book, but if you haven’t, get on it!
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Of course, I recommend the whole trilogy, but we’re just gonna state the first titles in each series (if a series). A Darker Shade of Magic takes place in ‘Red’ London, where the main character can find doors into alternate Londons scattered throughout the city. The setting and the characters are both remarkable, and this series has become a beloved favourite. If you enjoy a well-developed magic system and intriguing magical cities/lands, then this is the book for you!
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Now this book is for the ones who love a bit of grit; a lot of swearing, violence, sex, and an anti-heroine seeking revenge for her murdered family. Nevernight tells the story of Mia Corvere, who literally kills and stabs her way through people to get what she wants. You end up finding that you’re just as angry as her as she learns more and more about her family’s past. It’s honestly an excellent read, and definitely one for the ones who love fantasy YA but want to start something more adult and bloody.
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Along the same vein as Nevernight is The Young Elites, a series firmly rooted as a fantasy YA classic in my opinion. It’s set in a fictional world where a blood fever has swept the nation, leaving some of who haven’t been killed as ‘malfettos’, with strange markings and scars, and even strange powers. There are a few narratives in this series but to me, the main is my home girl Adelina Amouteru, who grows darker and darker as the story goes on. But, as with any good anti-heroine story, you end up rooting for her the angrier she gets. The Young Elites is nowhere near as explicit as Nevernight, and I would recommend it if you want to ease your way into the angry and stabby anti-heroine sub-genre! (It’s also similar to Nevernight in that the world is heavily inspired by the Italian Renaissance, my favourite type of inspiration!)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
For the lovers of re-told fairytales, the slaying of monsters and the fair maiden being in control of her own destiny, there’s Uprooted. I read this on an eight hour journey back from Bavaria and I didn’t stop even though I felt a little travel sick. I bought it purely for the cover, hearing only a few things about it and ultimately falling in love.
Uprooted tells the story of seventeen year old Agnieszka who lives in a quiet village near a magical forest. Every ten years, the dragon (the wizard in the tower) takes a girl from said village for her to return changed. You can guess what happens from that premise. It’s beautifully told, with a plot that spans years of Agnieszka’s life. It takes a lot from Eastern European mythology, history and folklore which I also love (see all my reviews from the And I Darken series). Pick this up if you’re looking for a dark standalone fairytale!
The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty
One of my absolute favourites from 2017, you all know I’m a lover of middle-eastern inspired fantasy, and The City of Brass hit the nail on the head. Nahri, a con artist from Cairo, accidentally releases a djinn who takes her to the mythical city of Daevabad, where a civil war is on the horizon. There’s so much politics, with almost all of the characters having morally grey intentions. I wouldn’t trust any of them if I were you. It’s a debut novel, with the sequel coming out at the beginning of next year.
The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller
Oh my God. Ok. Here we go. I read The Song of Achilles a while ago now, and I only decided to because it’s an LGBTQ+ story. If it wasn’t, I might not have even bothered. Ancient Greece didn’t really interest me, plus it sounded super sad. However. I’m so glad I did because it’s absolutely beautiful. This book is one of my favourites, and I knew I had to read more.
And I did, by the name of Circe. Circe’s story spans from before the events of The Song of Achilles as well as after it. They are intertwined only slightly, and you can enjoy those little easter eggs in Circe. But it’s also a novel that stands on it’s own too. The Song of Achilles is a tragic story between lovers Achilles and Patroclus. From their time meeting as children to the events of the trojan war. Circe is an epic of the first ever ‘witch’, who is banished to an island by her father, the god Helios.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I often forget about Carry On when people want fantasy recommendations. But despite Rainbow Rowell being a prolific contemporary writer, Carry On is very much a top notch fantasy that makes you feel nostalgic about Harry Potter, but a lot gayer. Carry On is based on the fanfiction that the character Cath writes in Fangirl. Rowell has claimed that it’s not the exact fanfiction, nor is it the story by the in-universe author that Cath writes fic about. It’s an all new story – and it’s beautiful. While there are elements of it that are a bit cheesy and whimsical, I feel like it is something that was missing in the HP novels. I would have loved to have read about a same-sex couple in HP. Oh my God, can you imagine??
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
And finally, the cream of the crop.
Growing up, I loved reading. However, after finishing Harry Potter when I was 14 and flipping through Twilight in the same year, I suddenly stopped. Reading wasn’t cool (according to people at my school) and I lost my love for it. At university, it got worse. I had no time for reading for fun. I was working, at a job and on my coursework, going out, figuring my own independence out. Reading fell by the wayside yet again.
It’s only after uni, when I got a job and was doing nothing else, that I found a hardback of The Night Circus for a penny on Amazon. It sounded a bit like Moulin Rouge (Victorian and about two people falling in love) and so I gave it a shot. And WOW. Just WOW. After it, I became insatiable; I wanted to read as much fantasy as I could, and here we are today! The Night Circus truly changed my life, and I’m so thankful for it.
The Night Circus tells the story of two warring magicians who create a challenge that spans a lifetime. Their contestants? Two novices who (in a very Romeo and Juliet way) fall in love. It’s perfect for fans of ….Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, maybe even in Caraval? (But worlds better, trust me).
And those are my fantasy recommendations! I love so many more, and continue to read and fall in love with new books. But if you’re new to fantasy or just fancy a bit of a fantasy binge, these are the books I would beg you to read! Which fantasies would you recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!