The best fantasy books that are not afraid of a bittersweet ending

Jason Pere Author Of Calling the Reaper: First Book of Purgatory
By Jason Pere

Who am I?

I currently reside in my home state of Connecticut with my darling wife and a duo of sweet cuddly dogs. I am a renaissance man having dabbled in Acting for Film and Theater, Fencing and Mixed Martial Arts, Professional Dorkary, and a bevy of other passions before coming to land on writing. Having stepped into numerous fantasy worlds over the years I have had the chance to sample many different flavors of imagination and developed a refined taste for all things dark, mystical, and tragic. 


I wrote...

Calling the Reaper: First Book of Purgatory

By Jason Pere,

Book cover of Calling the Reaper: First Book of Purgatory

What is my book about?

The time of the Unity has ended. The realm of man is stranded between Paradise and Purgatory. The Valkyrie and Reaper battle over the fate of all who pass from the land of the living into the afterlife. Eight mortal spirits from vastly different worlds tread the same, path toward their last, crucial decision. In this rich, harrowing tale of pride, deceit, honor, vengeance, and redemption, each individual must battle their inner turmoil, facing the sacrifices they have made before their unavoidable end in the land of the living. But their last day in life is also their first day of death amidst the terrors of the underworld. Lord Master Death wants them all…and the real battle has only just begun.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Daughter of the Drackan

By Kathrin Hutson,

Book cover of Daughter of the Drackan

Why this book?

A deep dive into a new kind of anti-heroin. The first book in the Gyenona's Children duology delivers readers into a new kind of dark fantasy world that has enough to feel familiar yet is innovative and fresh. Any fans of fiction that is brutal and bloody as well as features strong minority demographic representation will enjoy this book as well as Hutson’s work as a whole.

Daughter of the Drackan

By Kathrin Hutson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Jungle Book meets Kill Bill... with dragons!"


Born of humans but raised by beasts who despise the legacy of man, Keelin is the only one who can redeem, or destroy, the future of both races.

Keelin is the only human fledgling, weaned by the drackans of the High Hills and given their instincts, ferocious strength, and fierce hatred for humankind. But even the drackans closest to her cannot explain why she has violent blackouts from which she wakens covered in blood.

A desperate, reckless search for the source of this secret brings her face to face with the human…


Sleepwater Beat

By Kathrin Hutson,

Book cover of Sleepwater Beat

Why this book?

A kind of perfect dystopia. The fractured storytelling is as compelling as the characters and greater narrative itself. Sleepwater Beat has a comic book level of action and appeal while also feeling incredibly intellectual and relevant to today’s hot topic issues. Again there is a healthy dose of minority repression on display in the cast of charters presented in this book. Hutson’s Sci-Fi is just as dark and gritty as her fantasy.

Sleepwater Beat

By Kathrin Hutson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In Sleepwater’s world, words are literally more powerful than bullets.


Leo could always make people believe anything she says—really believe. When her chest burns and the words come from her mouth, her targets’ eyes glaze over, they forget their own thoughts, and they’ll do anything she says. It’s what keeps her alive after being on the run and living on the streets for years. But after using it on her girlfriend and her dad’s drug dealer, it’s also what got her here on the streets in the first place.


Then Sleepwater…


Legacy of Hunger

By Christy Nicholas,

Book cover of Legacy of Hunger

Why this book?

Despite being a work of fantasy the level of research and authenticity has to be gravely respected. The storytelling is organic and feels effortlessly natural while still delivering a compelling mix of action and intrigue. Students of Celtic history will eat up the genuine feel that Nicholas is able to produce in her work from cover to cover.

Legacy of Hunger

By Christy Nicholas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the magical secrets of The Emerald Isle beckon, will she survive answering the call?

Pittsburgh, 1846. Valentia McDowell wishes she could rest. Plagued by nightmares of her grandmother’s mysterious brooch lost in Ireland, the well-off woman grows more troubled when a fire ravages her family’s business. But as she buries herself in the rebuilding efforts, she can’t shake the sense that a powerful inheritance awaits her across the ocean… if she can weather the treacherous journey.

Horrified when the voyage claims her brother’s life and afflicts her with malaria, Valentia believes her grief will be for nothing if she…


Legend: Book One of the Drenai Saga

By David Gemmell,

Book cover of Legend: Book One of the Drenai Saga

Why this book?

Legend and the rest of the Drenai saga were required reading for initiation into a fraternity that I joined many years ago. I can say these books were by far and away the most enjoyable required reading that I have ever been assigned. David Gemmell’s greatest strength is his ability to manage a vast cast of characters and keep the reader’s interest maintained in each and every one. He is an author who is lauded by his peers as one of the best to ever write in the epic fantasy genre and rightfully so.

Legend: Book One of the Drenai Saga

By David Gemmell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Legend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“David Gemmell tells a tale of very real adventure, the stuff of true epic fantasy.”—R. A. Salvatore

Druss, Captain of the Ax, is the stuff of legends. Tales of his battles are told throughout the land, and the stories expand with each telling. But Druss himself grows older, until finally, the warrior turns his back on glory and retreats to his mountain lair. There he awaits his old enemy: death. 

But far below, the barbarian Nadir hordes are on the march. All that stands between them and the Drenai people is a mighty six-walled fortress, Dros Delnoch—a great citadel that…

Redwall

By Brian Jacques, Gary Chalk (illustrator),

Book cover of Redwall

Why this book?

Perhaps a little too much nostalgia weighs on my recommendation here but I would be remiss if I did not mention the Redwall series as influential books. These were the books that my mother read to me as a child and many of Mr. Jacques's tales of the heroic mice of Redwall Abby helped me through bouts of the flu and other ailments. His storytelling is delightfully vivid but despite being focused on child-friendly animal characters, he manages to play in the darker side of fiction well enough to keep his material from being too “campy” or “cheesy”. His fiction is addictive and I was always begging my mother for one more chapter before bed. I’m sure you will feel the same.

Redwall

By Brian Jacques, Gary Chalk (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Redwall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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

Redwall Abbey, tranquil home to a community of peace-loving mice, is threatened by the evil, one-eyed rat warlord Cluny the Scourge and his battle-hardened horde of predators.

Cluny is certain that Redwall will fall easily to his fearsome army but he hasn't bargained for the courage and strength of the Redwall mice and their loyal woodland friends . . .

One of TIME magazine's 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

'Not since Roald Dahl have children filled their shelves so compulsively' -…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in malaria, dystopia, and dragons?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about malaria, dystopia, and dragons.

Malaria Explore 6 books about malaria
Dystopia Explore 242 books about dystopia
Dragons Explore 118 books about dragons

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Crippled God, Blood of Elves, and Daughter of the Forest if you like this list.