The best fantasy novels about forests

Thoraiya Dyer Author Of Crossroads of Canopy
By Thoraiya Dyer

The Books I Picked & Why

Daughter of the Forest

By Juliet Marillier

Book cover of Daughter of the Forest

Why this book?

This is a hauntingly gorgeous, heartening and yet cruel retelling of the brothers-transformed-into-swans fairy tale. In third grade, I gasped aloud in my school library at the imagined feel of nettles burning my hands, and wondered if I loved my own bratty brothers enough to make Sorcha’s sacrifice. This book reminded me of that. It punctured my chest and made me fall even deeper in love with Marillier’s work.

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By Charles de Lint

Book cover of Moonheart

Why this book?

I can’t resist the combination of magic, music, and forests. Plus my mother grew up in Canada, and I’ve meandered along those berry- and bear-rich pebbly beaches. In this book, magic, fey-inhabited Wales crashes into modern Ottawa. De Lint’s setting and style seized my soul as a young adult reader. That yearning youngster is not only still part of me, but part of everyone, I hope.

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By Raymond E. Feist

Book cover of Magician

Why this book?

Look. It’s not derivative if you read it *first*. And I read Magician almost a full decade before I read The Lord of the Rings! Two awesome forests to be found in Midkemia are Elvandar, ruled by the elf queen, and the Green Heart, hideout of the moredhel. Some of Tolkien’s bias carries over, here, since the bloodthirsty Brotherhood of the Dark Path has dark hair and eyes, while the eledhel are “fair”. Still, Feist’s worldbuilding allowed enough room at the margins for my brunette self to imagine being one of the Returned – a dark brother who turns good and is magically embraced by Elvandar. Or like Martin Longbow, elf-like enough – we first see him sparing the life of a deer – to be allowed into the forest’s embrace.

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Walking the Tree

By Kaaron Warren, Greg Bridges

Book cover of Walking the Tree

Why this book?

Warren’s work is darker, more complex, and more compelling than most, and I loved this book to pieces. It’s a coming-of-age quest to circumnavigate a giant island which is also a monstrous tree, each tribe a segment of the orange, or an hour on the clock, to be discovered, savoured, and potentially escaped from, with the tree itself a constant, anchoring presence in the world. Get it! Read it!

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By Naomi Novik

Book cover of Uprooted

Why this book?

Speaking of dark. Normally I like it better when the forest is an ally. Or at least neutral. Menacing forests, to me, are a hangover of colonisation, of unfamiliarity with stolen lands. But this forest has a secret. And these characters are just wonderful, they dragged me into the story without a care for my reservations, and the writing is lush and the pacing is brilliant. Seriously, Naomi Novik is a master. Holds up amazingly well after several re-reads.

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