The best fantasy books that feature childlike mischief and frights that’ll make you pull the bedcovers up a little closer

Who am I?

The allure of magic in literature has gripped me since I was a kid, probably due to a very difficult childhood and the unusually precocious scope of my imagination. Escape is prized in such circumstances. The fact that I could illustrate my own little stories as well as I could read adult works helped, too. Majoring in English and History later on only fortified my subsequent desire to blend contemporary and classically appointed styles along with elaborate illustrations to create (hopefully) enduring works of my own. I describe myself as “raised by wolves, saved by stories, and still exploring the universe in my own magical hot air balloon.”

I wrote...

Rowan Blaize and the Hand of Djin Rummy: Enchanted Heritage Chronicles: Book II

By Jonathan Kieran,

Book cover of Rowan Blaize and the Hand of Djin Rummy: Enchanted Heritage Chronicles: Book II

What is my book about?

The best “portal” to the world of Rowan Blaize! Twenty years have passed since Rowan faced a great magical foe, but the wily warlock is still on-the-run with his mortal foundling, Miranda. What better place to lay low than the charming seaside town of St. Augustine, Florida? The famed Ancient City, however, is already home to voyeuristic ghosts, cocktail-loving vampires, werewolf comedians, and three highly eccentric witches. When a cursed ring crosses paths with a beauty pageant brat, catastrophe is unleashed upon the whole party-town. Can the witches stop bickering long enough to combine their powers and avert disaster?

This is a novel blending enchantment, satire, suspense, and horror in a delectable cauldron's-brew-of-a-tale. Fabulous characters are introduced, elaborate back-stories reveal much about Rowan's past, and tantalizing questions are posed about his future.

The books I picked & why

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Mischief in Fez

By Eleanor Hoffmann, Fritz Eichenberg (illustrator),

Book cover of Mischief in Fez

Why this book?

The fragrance of exotic spice, dreamy Moroccan evenings rife with jasmine, and whispers of dark magic leap from the pages of this little-known fairy tale classic I latched onto as a kid. A young boy must save his beleaguered household from the mischievous plots of wicked djinn, helped by a kind and marvelously magical desert fox in disguise. This evocative tale is breathtaking for readers of all ages—a fantasy feast for the senses, embellished with illustrations by the great Fritz Eichenberg. A “best-kept secret” treasure that I still read once a year!


By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Coraline

Why this book?

The stark simplicity of this work knocked my socks off when I picked it up years ago. Rarely has a fairy tale struck such a perfect balance between the terrifying and the whimsical, the emotional and the macabre. Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, in my opinion, rules the literary pantheon due to its ability to make the idea of parallel worlds horrifyingly outlandish yet believable, and for introducing a young heroine as compelling and as memorable as any in the genre. 

The Thief of Always: A Fable

By Clive Barker,

Book cover of The Thief of Always: A Fable

Why this book?

I was as surprised as anyone when hardcore horror master Clive Barker painted such a magical panorama in this harrowing story suited for almost all ages. In a house haunted by imprisoned spirits and managed by a mysterious man eager to fulfill the dreams of visiting children, young Harvey Swick knows that every marvel comes at a sinister cost, and it’s up to him to rise to the challenge and outwit the forces trying to take him captive. The full impact of Barker’s twisted imagination is on display in this oft-forgotten classic, structured with page-turning verve for fans of contemporary dark fairy-tale adventure.

A High Wind in Jamaica

By Richard Hughes,

Book cover of A High Wind in Jamaica

Why this book?

Not technically a fairy tale, this surrealist classic nevertheless reads as if a haze of magic might as well be wafting the prose directly into the reader’s mind. The story about a passel of spirited children orphaned by a hurricane and kidnapped by bawdy Caribbean pirates remains shocking and yet deliciously lyrical in its cheeky exploration of human nature and childhood resilience. I read it and am reminded of the often frightening fluidity of human behavior under unexpected influences. 

Witches Abroad

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Witches Abroad

Why this book?

Who could resist a trio of country witches leaving the comfort of their cottages just because one of them inherits a new job as a fairy godmother and her companions insist upon tagging along to supervise? Off to the big city they fly, unaware of the hilarious and spooky perils that await them along the way… or the powerful enchantress eager to seal their doom when they arrive. I think it’s Terry Pratchett’s best tale from his “witches series,” and the unforgettable excursion by Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick will charm the pumpkins out of readers for a lifetime.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pirates, witches, and wishes?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Pirates, witches, and wishes.

Pirates Explore 53 books about Pirates
Witches Explore 81 books about witches
Wishes Explore 7 books about wishes

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Magic Circle, Labyrinth Lost, and The Witches if you like this list.