The best clean fantasy reads to take your breath away

Who am I?

I’m a fantasy author and an obsessive world builder (my World of Vindor has 12 diverse nations developed over 20 years), and I love cinematic fantasy that places realistic people in exotic settings. To me, the best fantasy is beautiful in its own right—not merely allegory—but asks deep questions and influences the way we approach real life. I choose to write clean fantasy (without graphic violence, sexual situations, or profanity) to keep my work accessible to readers of all ages and sensitivity levels. The likewise clean fantasy books below have all moved me in some way, helping me see the world around me in a wondrous new light. 


I wrote...

Escape to Vindor

By Emily Golus,

Book cover of Escape to Vindor

What is my book about?

There’s only one place where teenager Megan Bradshaw feels confident: in her own fantasy world of Vindor. There, by her wits and charm alone, she wards off the monsters that threaten the centaurs, merfolk, samurai, and other imaginary nations under her protection.

But when Megan finds herself transported to a very real and physical Vindor—with flesh-and-blood versions of the characters she’s invented—the rules of the game change. Stripped of her alter-ego’s graces and no longer in control of the storyline, Megan must defeat the Shadow—a creature of ice and nightmares that Megan definitely did not create. Can a shy and anxious teen save the world she loves, or will the Shadow destroy her first?

The books I picked & why

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The Last Unicorn

By Peter S. Beagle,

Book cover of The Last Unicorn

Why this book?

This deceptively simple tale is the most beautiful book I’ve ever read, hands down. Somewhere in a lilac wood lives a unicorn—an immortal creature of goodness and light, indifferent to the struggles of men. While on a dangerous journey to learn why all others of her kind have vanished, the unicorn meets a bungling wizard who accidentally transforms her into a human woman. Hiding in plain sight of the evil king who hunts her, she falls in love with a prince and begins to forget her immortal identity. Readers are left to struggle with the question of whether it’s better to shine through the ages in endless light, or live a single lifetime capable of love. The story gives me goosebumps every time. 


Phantastes

By George MacDonald,

Book cover of Phantastes

Why this book?

When I was in my early 20s, this beautiful but strange book fully captured my imagination. Anodos, a young idealist, wanders through Fairy Land and is dismayed to find that his interactions leave the mystical world worse off than he found it. Written in 1858, Phantastes is considered the first-ever fantasy novel for adults. The narrative is a series of vivid scenes—an awakened statue, a city of winged women, a sentient shadow—loosely strung together, like jewels on a necklace. Each episode touches on larger mysteries and gives the meandering story a haunting quality. “It arouses in us sensations we have never had before,” C.S. Lewis writes in the book’s introduction, “troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened.”


The Neverending Story

By Michael Ende, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Book cover of The Neverending Story

Why this book?

If this title sounds familiar, it’s because it was made into a famous 1980s fantasy film. Shy Bastian Bux skips school to read a mysterious book, only to find himself being pulled into the world it describes. Once he enters Fantastica, Bastian has unlimited wishes that will help rebuild everything destroyed by the devastating Nothing. But this seemingly happy ending has a dark side: with every wish Bastian makes in Fantastica, he loses a memory of his life from the real world. Forgetting his origins as a kind underdog, Bastian grows power-hungry and selfish, and runs the risk of trapping his shrinking soul in Fantastica forever.  


The Light Between Worlds

By Laura E. Weymouth,

Book cover of The Light Between Worlds

Why this book?

One night, during a Blitzkrieg attack on London, the Hapwell siblings are whisked away to the fantastical Woodlands. There they spend the next several years helping the great stag Cervus defend Palace Beautiful. But it’s when the siblings return to their own world that their real troubles begin. Pining for the Woodlands debilitates Evelyn, the youngest Hapwell, and she can no longer navigate life at boarding school or maintain relationships. Can her older sister Philippa stop Evelyn from falling to pieces, all while battling her own demons? This beautiful narrative takes us deep into the complexity of grief and guilt, and explores the heartbreak of trying to rescue a loved one who doesn’t want help.


The Mermaid's Sister

By Carrie Anne Noble,

Book cover of The Mermaid's Sister

Why this book?

Clara knows two things about her adopted sister: one, she’s the best friend Clara has ever had and, two, once she turns into a mermaid, she’ll rejoin her birth family in the sea and be gone forever. Nothing Clara does can stop the process, and once Maren is fully transformed, longing for the sea begins to kill her. But it’s a dangerous journey from the hills of Pennsylvania to the Atlantic—especially when there are nefarious characters who would love to get their hands on a real mermaid. Personally, as a mother of two sons, the theme of choosing to help someone you love fulfill their own destiny rather than keeping them back to complete your own happiness is a bittersweet one to ponder. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in mermaids, unicorns, and magic-supernatural?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about mermaids, unicorns, and magic-supernatural.

Mermaids Explore 24 books about mermaids
Unicorns Explore 35 books about unicorns
Magic-Supernatural Explore 348 books about magic-supernatural

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Chocolat, The Lord of the Rings, and The Secret Garden if you like this list.