The best fantasy books that plunge us into alternate worlds of power, magic, betrayal, and love

Josephine O'Brien Author Of Shared Skies: Complete
By Josephine O'Brien

Who am I?

I think I was in my twenties before, with great sadness, I had to accept I was never going to be granted three wishes or activate my flying prowess. Any book that shows me maybe I was wrong or I just didn’t look hard enough fills me with hope. I love to be pulled into worlds that are so real and yet the magic is right there, in front of us, unseen, or where a parallel world is just a side-ways step or the opening of a door away. I read and write to reinforce my belief that it is all still possible.


I wrote...

Shared Skies: Complete

By Josephine O'Brien,

Book cover of Shared Skies: Complete

What is my book about?

What if you could make people do what you wanted simply by thinking about it? What if your grandparents disappeared so completely that even their house was gone? What if they turn up after eleven years, want you to live with them, and you're the only person in the world who remembers they were ever gone?

What if the first time you fall in love you're not sure if they're even human?

The books I picked & why

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

By J.K. Rowling,

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Why this book?

Engrossed and enthralled, I was swept into the Harry Potter world from the first chapter. I didn't want to leave, I was involved, I was part of it! A magic world is revealed to a lonely twelve-year-old Harry. A move to a boarding school for students of magic! Friends, feasts and foes, and a school year that brings him face to face with danger. My lifelong feeling that magic, mystery, and enormous possibilities were at our fingertips was echoed in this book nothing in this story was predictable or stale and it never became so in this amazing seven-book series.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Why this book?

Could there be anything more ordinary than a wardrobe? Yet, in this novel, there's a door at the back of one which leads unsuspecting Lucy into the extraordinary world of Narnia. A world of talking creatures, of magic and evil, a world where ordinary children can become kings. A book where the journey from one world to another is as simple as opening a door. Published seventy years ago, the writing style can seem old-fashioned but the story is alive, exciting, and involving.


The Golden Compass

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass

Why this book?

Although set in Oxford, in England, this book opens with eleven-year-old Lyra living in a world which has a degree of magicaliity in it already. There are the daemons, shape-changing manifestations of their inner selves that children are bonded to and can communicate with which remain with them for the rest of their lives. In common with the other books on this list, I was whirlwinded into another world. A world where everything normal was a smokescreen for the workings of power-hungry adults and where childhood friendships stand strong in the face of magic, deceit, and danger. Like the Harry Potter series, it is impossible to stop reading at book one.


The Magicians

By Lev Grossman,

Book cover of The Magicians

Why this book?

This book very definitely takes a step from YA towards A. The protagonist, Quentin, is a high school student and the story contains sex, swearing, smoking, and mental health issues, and yet... It also has a letter swept by the wind into the bushes of a neglected, winter New York park and when Quentin pushes through to grab it he is now standing on the vast, sunny grounds of a Hogwartsesque college. What’s not to love? Obviously, my desire for there to be more to life than we can see made me fall in love with this book. 


Assassin's Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

By Robin Hobb,

Book cover of Assassin's Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book 1

Why this book?

A wonderfully written Fantasy that is filled with sorcery, betrayal, war, and love. I read this book so often I had to replace it several times!  In a medieval-type world, a six-year-old boy is dragged from home to live with the animals in the stables of the royal castle. Against great odds, he discovers his powers which are forbidden and have to be hidden. Royal rivalries and attacks on the country from outside lead to the boy, now named Fitz being put in a group of students being trained to use their powers (sound familiar??) to help save the kingdom.


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