The best fantasy books about demonic possession

Why am I passionate about this?

My training is in Classics (especially Greek drama), which has given me an appreciation for clever writers who tweak conventional themes to surprise readers, foil expectations, and explore new ideas—or new sides of old ideas. Greek epic and tragedy also exhibit fairly rigid expectations about personal responsibility: even if a god made you do it, it’s still your responsibility. Agamemnon has to pay for sacrificing his daughter; Heracles has to perform his labors. Madness and possession are vivid ways to explore where one’s autonomy leaves off and another power takes over. They’re excellent tools for poking at humans to see how a thinking, feeling individual deals with unintended disaster.

I wrote...

The Sherangivan

By Jacqueline Fellows,

Book cover of The Sherangivan

What is my book about?

You go no farther than your own mind; and what could be more familiar to you than yourself?

A new city on the rivers, its walls pristine and untested. Encroaching strangers, aggressive, seeking a new land of their own. A brutal triple murder in the woods. And a young man caught in the middle of it all, tormented by dreams he doesn’t understand.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of First Rider's Call

Jacqueline Fellows Why did I love this book?

You’re soon going to notice that I like clever variations on a common theme.

This book is a really fun mishmash of possible ways for possession to happen: a person can be possessed by a friendly ghost, a malevolent demon—or both at once! The heroine travels back in time (unusual for fantasy) and possesses the ghost when she was still alive. Two good guys can occupy the same body without surrendering their autonomy; but one can also take over when the other’s strength fails.

I also like the interweaving of the protagonist’s adventures in both the past and the present with chapters from a thousand-year-old journal. The temporal complexity works well with the way the characters fold into each other.

By Kristen Britain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Rider's Call as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magic, danger, and adventure abound for messenger Karigan G'ladheon in the second book in Kristen Britain's New York Times-bestselling Green Rider fantasy series

Karigan G'ladheon was once a Green Rider, one of the king of Sacoridia's elite magical messengers. In the messenger service, she was caught up in a world of deadly danger, and though she defeated the rogue Eletian who cracked the magical D'Yer Wall-which had protected Sacoridia for a thousand years from the dark influence of Blackveil Forest, and Mornhavon the Black's evil spirit imprisoned within it-she had nonetheless been tainted by his wild magic.

Exhausted in body…

Book cover of Oathbringer

Jacqueline Fellows Why did I love this book?

This book features a sort of contest between “real-world” and “fantasy-world” accounts of the hero’s behavior.

Some warriors experience “the Thrill” when they fight: battle is invigorating (because it gets your blood, oxygen, and adrenaline flowing); this is the stuff of modern psychology or biology.

No, wait, the Thrill is basically a supernatural being. Naturally: Sanderson’s world incorporates creatures who appear when various strong emotions are in play. But his handling of psychology is realistic in other respects, so that explanation makes sense, too….

But why does the Thrill affect the hero more than others?  Maybe he’s just a bloodthirsty barbarian. No, wait, he has a special relationship with the supernatural creature. But doesn’t that mean they’re kindred spirits, and maybe the hero is a bloodthirsty barbarian?

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oathbringer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling sequel to Words of Radiance, from epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their…

Book cover of The Heracles of Euripides

Jacqueline Fellows Why did I love this book?

Greek tragedy is similar to fantasy except for matters of form (e.g. the chorus). Euripides was a startlingly modern playwright, especially when it comes to psychology.

Heracles can be portrayed as a monstrous monster-slayer (I’m looking at you, Sophocles), but in Euripides he’s noble, brave, and domestic. He performs his labors because he’s the kind of guy to use his powers for good.

Hera, being a jealous jerk, drives him mad; Madness herself is unenthusiastic about the whole affair, recognizing that Heracles has made the world a better place.

But insane Heracles knows that he’s murdering innocent people. Is that who he really is? Is it all Hera’s fault?

Or is Heracles a good, normal person who’s lost a bit of his decency after so much fighting?

By Euripides, Michael R. Halleran (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heracles of Euripides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Euripides' Heracles is an extraordinary play, innovative in its treatment of the myth, bold in its dramatic structure, and filled with effective human pathos. The play tells a tale of horror: Heracles, the greatest hero of the Greeks, is maddened by the gods to murder his wife and children. But this suffering and divine malevolence are leavened by the friendship between Heracles and Theseus, which allows the hero to survive this final and most painful labor. The Heracles raises profound questions about the gods and mortal values in a capricious and harsh world.

Book cover of The Long Patrol

Jacqueline Fellows Why did I love this book?

The Bloodwrath is basically Berserkergang, not possession, right? It affects badgers almost exclusively. What a bummer to be a badger and bear a burden that no one else has!

But it’s a bit more like possession in this book. Lady Cregga has the Bloodwrath more strongly than anyone has ever observed before; her personality seems to reflect this, as she’s impatient, brusque, and aggressive (even for a badger). She’s wounded and loses her sight, and the Bloodwrath goes away.

Even though her personality appears to be tied up with her madness, the Bloodwrath must be something external, since it can leave her without destroying her. Is it an inborn quality or an effect brought about by her personal choices, an appetite that can be satiated, or something else?

By Brian Jacques, Allan Curless (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long Patrol as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The tenth book in the beloved, bestselling Redwall saga - soon to be a major Netflix movie!

Tammo dreams of joining the Long Patrol, the legendary army of fighting hares who serve Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, ruler of Salamandastron. And with Damug Warfang's mighty battalion of savage vermin on the rampage, young Tammo's dream is about to become a brutal reality . . .

Book cover of Prisoner of the Iron Tower

Jacqueline Fellows Why did I love this book?

The brand of possession is fairly standard: a Drakhaoul possesses a man, enabling him to transform into a dragon—but the man must replenish his strength vampirically.

I like the interplay of personal responsibility and victimization, the use of supernatural powers to protect one’s friends at the cost of innocent suffering.

The Drakhaoul has a name and personality; it’s definitely a discrete being, but it’s also a part of the hero. But then the hero successfully exorcises his demon. But the demon’s memories are left behind, and the hero starts to wonder if he’s going mad.

The demon’s absence, not its presence, drives the hero to madness and despair (even though he hates the demon). The hero simultaneously hates and longs for a dark power, which is and is not uniquely his.

By Sarah Ash,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prisoner of the Iron Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A weaver of tales, a caster of spells, and a writer of rare imagination, Sarah Ash lends her unique vision to epic fantasy. In this captivating continuation to her story, the author of Lord of Snow and Shadows revisits a realm filled with spirits and singers, daemons and kings.

Gavril Nagarian has finally cast out the dragon-daemon from deep within himself. The Drakhaoul is gone—and with it all
of Gavril’s fearsome powers. Though no longer besieged by the Drakhaoul’s unnatural lusts and desires, Gavril has betrayed his birthright and his people. He has put the ice-bound princedom of Azhkendir at…

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By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

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What is my book about?

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What is this book about?

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