The best fantasy novels with unforgettable characters

J. Trevor Robinson Author Of The Mummy of Monte Cristo
By J. Trevor Robinson

The Books I Picked & Why

Faith of the Fallen: A Sword of Truth Novel

By Terry Goodkind

Faith of the Fallen: A Sword of Truth Novel

Why this book?

A sword-and-sorcery classic! Faith of the Fallen was my absolute favourite of the Sword of Truth series, which puts it up against some very stiff competition. One of the reasons it was my favourite, and why it’s being included in this list, is the extremes the main characters are forced into and what it reveals about them. As the hero Richard has spent the previous five books becoming more powerful and capable, it’s fascinating and inspiring to see how he reacts when the story’s villain renders him seemingly powerless and attempts to break his spirit.


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Justified

By Jon Del Arroz

Justified

Why this book?

This is high-caliber space fantasy in the realm of Star Wars or Dune. It brings together a grizzled holy warrior having doubts about his faith with a naïve and sheltered princess in a brutal world ruled by absolutely vile overlords. The perspective switches between the two of them. The warrior – Drin – grapples with whether the church’s mission to fight evil brings it to use methods too similar to the evil it fights. Meanwhile the princess – Anais – has to come to terms very quickly with the reality of life outside the palace when slavers invade her home and abduct her off-world.


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Blue Shadows Fall

By Lenore Stutznegger

Blue Shadows Fall

Why this book?

This book and the next on the list are interesting in that the setting becomes a character in and of itself. The town of Haven seems to have its own character arc, as a post-apocalyptic settlement that has gone from a watchful last outpost of mankind to a more complacent community where things that had once been necessities are now rituals. The human characters are fleshed out just as well, coming across as very much normal and well-realized people.

Altogether Stutznegger builds not only a cast but also a setting where you really care about their continued well-being; especially as threats from the outside world begin to sneak into the town. I would consider this possibly “soft fantasy”, with the semi-mystical mystery of the main character’s enhanced eyesight and a technically sci-fi explanation for the villainous Shadow Elves.


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Guardians of the Garden

By Theresa Pocock

Guardians of the Garden

Why this book?

Superpowered people, living like the Amish, guarding the secret to eternal life. Like Blue Shadows Fall, this sets up a location so unique in the town of Edenia that it’s nearly a character by itself. Unlike that book, Edenia is less a place you’d want to live and more a mystery you want to unravel. This book really drills into the teenage frustration of having no control over your location or circumstances from some very different perspectives in the variety of POV characters. A lot of the story’s tension comes from the main cast’s refusal or inability to come clean with each other, but the underlying reasons for them to keep their secrets are very convincingly layered.


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Fade: A Wizard Private Investigator Novel

By Daniel Humphreys

Fade: A Wizard Private Investigator Novel

Why this book?

Can you call it “urban fantasy” when most of the action happens in rural areas? You really get a sense of how much young Paxton Locke lost when his mother murdered his father to summon a demon, and how that shapes him in the present into a man who goes out of his way to help others all over the country. Paxton isn’t the only character whose layers we get to dig into either. Without spoiling anything, he does pick up a sidekick in his travels who is more than meets the eye, and the narration occasionally switches to some other colourful characters on their own arcs to intersect Paxton’s.


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