The best fantasy novels that showcase the power of stories

Who am I?

I've always loved stories. After years of observing the importance of stories, and their role in creating our reality, the determination to write my own clicked into place. Storytelling is very much at the heart of my first novel, Strange Gods. Strange Gods features a multiverse of powerful gods, but humans still stand out for their ability to tell self-defining stories. From the inciting incident where Carcass kidnaps Spooky to be his storyteller, to the decisions she makes along her journey, the stories Spooky tells others and herself determine her outcomes. I hope the books on this list inspire you to reflect on the power of any stories you tell, as they've inspired me. 


I wrote...

Strange Gods

By Alison Kimble,

Book cover of Strange Gods

What is my book about?

Spooky arrives at a wilderness boot camp for troubled teens with two suitcases and an ultimatum: either she stays out of trouble over the summer, or she won't be allowed home at the end of it. But when an encounter with another camper goes awry and ends with Spooky hiding in the woods, trouble finds her. Something ancient and powerful has sent out feelers, hoping to catch a human alone. For its purposes, even a delinquent teen will do.

If Spooky wants to survive to see any kind of future, she will have to figure out how to gain leverage over a god. And as if the one wasn't bad enough, a pantheon of dark entities are lining up between her and the life she's always wanted....

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The books I picked & why

Middlegame

By Seanan McGuire,

Book cover of Middlegame

Why did I love this book?

So many fantasy worlds repeat familiar settings, characters, and types of magic. Middlegame delights because it is so different. I couldn’t encapsulate all of it in a single sentence, but to peel back some of the weird layers: alchemists give universal concepts like Good and Evil semi-human forms in a race to control them and attain godhood. This ties into the theme of storytelling because McGuire reframes historic literary greats like Mark Twain as alchemists, who are intentionally creating and changing the nature of the world with their books. If that isn’t a powerful image of a storyteller, I don’t know what is. 

By Seanan McGuire,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Master fantasist Seanan McGuire introduces readers to an America run in the shadows by the Alchemical Congress, a powerful society focused on transmuting reality itself.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren't exactly human, though they don't realise it. They aren't exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor…


A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Book cover of A Monster Calls

Why did I love this book?

This is a quick and heartfelt read that explores loss, love, and truth. It centers around Conor, a boy with a sick mother, who is struggling with bullies in school. One night, a monster visits him, demanding his truth. Throughout their encounters, the monster tells Conor original stories that smack with all the weight of ancient fables. It offers a classic story-within-the-story that helps Conor understand his circumstances through new eyes and access a deeper part of himself

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…


Anansi Boys

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Anansi Boys

Why did I love this book?

This follow-up to American Gods once again puts ancient gods in the modern world, but you don’t have to have read the first book to jump in. American Gods centers on Shadow, the son of Odin, while Anansi Boys focuses on the children of the trickster god, Anansi. Anansi is a classic storyteller, who fooled the animal god Tiger into giving him ownership of all stories. This book is all things you would expect from Gaiman—clever, humorous, and mythic. And it directly analyzes the power and purpose of storytelling, giving readers a rare glimpse into a storyteller’s toolbox

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Anansi Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From bestselling storytelling legend Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Anansi Boys is a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that will thrill Game of Thrones devotees and Terry Pratchett fans alike. 'Exhilarating and terrifying' Independent.

Fat Charlie Nancy is not actually fat. He was fat once but he is definitely not fat now. No, right now Fat Charlie Nancy is angry, confused and more than a little scared - right now his life is spinning out of control, and it is all his dad's fault.

If his rotter of an estranged…


The Hazel Wood

By Melissa Albert,

Book cover of The Hazel Wood

Why did I love this book?

I read The Hazel Wood while writing my own book, and the vibe immediately struck me as similar. It takes the protagonist, Alice, on a journey between our world and a world of dark, original fairytales, where stories are the very fabric of the universe. The more entangled the story becomes in the fairytale world, the more the book itself reads like one...it feels like a dream, with events unfolding unpredictably as we learn the rules of the new world and what the characters from it want. 

By Melissa Albert,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Hazel Wood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_____

One of The Observer's Best Children's Books of 2018!

Fans of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and The Children of Blood and Bone have been getting lost in The Hazel Wood...

"The Hazel Wood kept me up all night. I had every light burning and the covers pulled tight around me as I fell completely into the dark and beautiful world within its pages. Terrifying, magical, and surprisingly funny, it's one of the very best books I've read in years". -Jennifer Niven, author of All The Bright Places

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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of…


Mistborn

By Brandon Sanderson,

Book cover of Mistborn

Why did I love this book?

Mistborn might not have as much of a direct link to storytelling, but in addition to this flat-out being one of my favorite series, it does give an important role to ancient stories. In the Mistborn series, current characters are trying to decipher truths about their magic system from ancient texts and relics, with imperfect results. It employs the worthy trick George R.R. Martin pulls again and again in A Song of Ice and Fire—it treats myth, legend, and prophecy as unreliable information sources. This not only creates exciting conflict but is also realistic—goodness knows humans love to make up stories, whether or not they are true. 

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Mistborn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brandon Sanderson - the international phenomenon who finished the Wheel of Time sequence - introduces a fantasy trilogy which overturns the expectations of readers and goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world.

A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash…


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One Giant Leap

By Ben Gartner,

Book cover of One Giant Leap

Ben Gartner Author Of The Eye of Ra

New book alert!

Who am I?

I love to read a good action-adventure story. I’ve also written a few. And I know that no matter how high the stakes, if there’s no heart in the characters then there’s very little engagement to make it any more memorable than a temporary thrill. I love thrills, but the stories that stick with you after the excitement of the moment is over, those are the true gems. Besides the fun of reading that type of book, maybe you even learn something about yourself or the world and come out a wee bit wiser than when you went in. And isn’t that a fantastic use of our imaginative powers?!

Ben's book list on new action-packed middle grade with heart

What is my book about?

I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.

Blast off with the four winners of the StellarKid Project on a trip to the International Space Station and then to the Gateway outpost orbiting the Moon! It’s a dream come true until space junk collides with the ISS, turning their epic trip into a nightmare of survival. Alone aboard the Aether starship, the kids have to work as a team to save the adults before the ISS is destroyed. Suit up, cadet, and launch into adventure with One Giant Leap!

By Ben Gartner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.

Blast off with the four winners of the StellarKid Project on a trip to the International Space Station and then to the Gateway outpost orbiting the Moon! It’s a dream come true until space junk collides with the ISS, turning their epic trip into a nightmare of survival. Alone aboard the Aether starship, the kids have to work as a team to save the adults before the ISS is destroyed. Suit up, cadet, and launch into adventure with One Giant Leap!

Praise for…


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