The best fantasy novels that sweep you into a very strange world

Rachel Neumeier Author Of Tuyo
By Rachel Neumeier

The Books I Picked & Why

Night Watch

By Terry Pratchett

Book cover of Night Watch

Why this book?

There’s hardly any fantasy world stranger than Discworld – a flat, round world resting on the backs of four elephants, who are in turn standing on the back of the great World Turtle, A’Tuin, who is swimming through space. There are plenty of Discworld novels, but of the entire set, my favorite is definitely Night Watch, which also happens to be the first Discworld novel I read. Night Watch features Sam Vimes at his best: a guy who is smart, sneaky, competent, and exactly the cop you want to travel through time to take charge if your city happens to erupt into chaos. 

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

Book cover of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Why this book?

Narnia is just as flat as Discworld – though the similarities pretty much end there! In fact, at one point, Prince Caspian is so annoyed with the Pevensies because they hadn’t mentioned they’re from a world that’s spherical. Those are so special and romantic! The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is actually aimed at reaching the edge of the world, and though they don’t quite make it all the way, the voyage is well worth following.

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By Robin McKinley

Book cover of Chalice

Why this book?

The world in Chalice isn’t flat. Or spherical. Or any particular shape. This is a world of little bubble domains embedded in surrounding chaos and the story is all about protecting one of those domains. This book is like a dream. It’s slow and graceful and, well, dreamy. I like the bees. And the honey. I’m not especially fond of honey in the real world, but I love the honey in this story. Some stories are instant “comfort reads". Chalice is one of those. It’s like wrapping up in a fuzzy robe in front of a fire with a mug of hot chocolate. If you’re in the mood for a warm story, beautifully told, you could hardly do better.

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The Pyramids of London

By Andrea K. Host

Book cover of The Pyramids of London

Why this book?

The Pyramids of London has the most ornate, baroque alternative-history setting of any novel in the entire history of fantasy novels. Seriously. To start with, every kind of mythology is true in whatever region that mythology developed. Also, the pharaohs of Egypt have been vampires for thousands of years. Plus, when they die, vampires might become stars. Which are also gods. Plus France is ruled by the Fae. At night, when the Fae Court of the Moon arises in Paris, gravity suddenly drops dramatically.

Insert a murder mystery into this wildly ornate setting, plus fully realized characters you both believe in and root for, and off you go, on a fantastic journey through a world that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

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By Susanna Clarke

Book cover of Piranesi

Why this book?

The House is the World, with infinite Halls filled with marble statues that whisper meaning to you, if you know how to listen. Birds swirl through the air, and the drowned lower levels contain a multitude of oceans, with tides that rush through halls and roar up stairways. Piranesi is built around the most remarkable world in all of fantasy. Also, a remarkable narrator, both naïve and innocent and yet fundamentally right about the nature of the House. Plus a puzzling mystery: who is the narrator and how did he come to this place? A lovely story.

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