The best fantasy novels set in strange new worlds

Who am I?

Back in the dark ages, before the internet and cell phones, the most common form of off-duty soldiers’ entertainment was reading. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on, but I was always most excited to read fantasy and science fiction. If a book has a wild new world, magic, or tech, I’m in and usually can’t get enough. I remain a cross-genre reader to this day, but fantasy and science fiction always feel like home. Bonus points for dragons.


I wrote...

Queen of Crows

By Steven Wilton,

Book cover of Queen of Crows

What is my book about?

In a world of strange magic, dangerous creatures, and villainous wyverns, an ousted young queen struggles to regain her throne.

Sophia Pendergast’s quest is complicated by deep-rooted misogyny embedded in her culture and religion. Her lover, a dashing young knight, offers her a life in obscure comfort, but she refuses to abandon her people to the usurper’s whims. To retake her throne and set prophecy on its path, she must embrace a long-denied secret and discover a prophecy’s hidden meaning. In Queen of Crows, we discover simple truths may not be exactly simple.

The books I picked & why

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Jade City

By Fonda Lee,

Book cover of Jade City

Why this book?

I picked this book because its world building and mythos swept me away into a world unlike any I’d visited before. The magic and power jade granted to the green bones was fascinating. Likewise, when trying to use jade, those who were not green bones suffered great peril. I fell in love with the main character’s struggle to maintain loyalty to her family and still live her own life. The nail-biting climax had me fearing the outcome.

Jade City

By Fonda Lee,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Jade City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD

'An epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book' KEN LIU

'Gripping!' ANN LECKIE, author of Ancillary Justice and The Raven Tower

'Lee's astute worldbuilding raises the stakes for her vivid and tautly-described action scenes' SCOTT LYNCH, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora

*****Shortlisted for the Nebula Awards, the Locus Awards, the Aurora Awards, the Sunburst Awards and an Amazon.com Best Book of the Month*****

TWO CRIME FAMILIES, ONE SOURCE OF POWER: JADE.…


Sand Dancer

By Trudie Skies,

Book cover of Sand Dancer

Why this book?

This fantastic desert world where fire magic is common, but taboo, sucked me in right from the start. Although the main character is a young adult, I connected with her right off the bat. Her struggles as a possessor of fire magic and learning to control it, are daunting, but I couldn’t help rooting for her. Then, there are many strange and dangerous creatures to boot. I was left guessing and worrying if she’d succeed right to the end.

Sand Dancer

By Trudie Skies,

Why should I read it?

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


Sheepfarmer's Daughter

By Elizabeth Moon,

Book cover of Sheepfarmer's Daughter

Why this book?

Not only does this book have a fantastic world of mercenary warriors and a completely relatable main character, it has the most intriguing prolog I’ve ever read. Magic abounds, but it comes at a high price to the users. There’s plenty of treachery to, a personal favorite. My interest in weapons such as swords and pikes was well served as the warriors trained and fought with varying levels of skill. I was carried right onto the battlefield with the main character. Awesome. 

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

By Elizabeth Moon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sheepfarmer's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter may be the daughter of a humble sheep farmer in the far north end of the kingdom, but she dreams of so much more. After refusing her father’s orders to do the sensible thing and marry the pig farmer down the road, Paks, runs away to join a band of mercenaries, dreaming of daring deeds and military glory. But life in the army is different than she imagined, and her daydreams at first seem to be turning to nightmares. But Paks refuses to let her dreams die—and does her duty with honor and integrity. Her path is an…


Wayfarer

By K.M. Weiland,

Book cover of Wayfarer

Why this book?

Listed as a ‘gas lamp’ fantasy, and me being a pre-Victorian/Victorian era London fan, I had to grab this one. It had a fresh twist on the mad scientist’s experiment went wrong, creating a superhero and a supervillain. I found that exciting. I loved how the main character (the hero) struggled to learn his abilities and limitations, all the while not knowing who the villain was or what he was up to. I enjoyed this master class on how to put your main character through the wringer. And the twist ending surprised me. Great stuff. 

Wayfarer

By K.M. Weiland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this heroic gaslamp fantasy, superhuman abilities bring an adventurous new dimension to 1820 London, where an outlaw speedster and a master of illusion do battle to decide who will own the city.

Think being a superhero is hard? Try being the first one.

Will’s life is a proper muddle—and all because he was “accidentally” inflicted with the ability to run faster and leap higher than any human ever. One minute he’s a blacksmith’s apprentice trying to save his master from debtor’s prison. The next he’s accused of murder and hunted as a black-hearted highwayman.

A vengeful politician with dark…


Keeper

By Kim Chance,

Book cover of Keeper

Why this book?

I cheated on this one, no new strange world here. It’s more of an urban fantasy. I was swept up with the main character, though, as she learned she belonged in a secret society of witches. Her struggles are so real, I couldn’t help but bite my nails as I ripped through the pages. And again, treachery abounds. I’m a sucker for needing to overcome a traitor. This being book one of a short series, the ending left me gasping for more.

Keeper

By Kim Chance,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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