The best fantasy books to put some fire in your blood

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a world traveler and educator, a student of psychology and myth, and a lover of the wild and ancient places. I believe that sword and sorcery, the vanguard of modern fantasy, is overdue for a comeback. These tales echo the trials of Hercules, the rage of Achilles, and the melancholy of Gilgamesh and Beowulf, to name a few. There is much yet to learn: I write to stir my readers’ blood, and to examine the lessons of the epics: that man must face down the inhuman and monstrous to discover himself; that we cannot truly live until we have borne a great trial of our own. Stay fierce!

I wrote...

The Trials of the Lion

By L.R. Knight,

Book cover of The Trials of the Lion

What is my book about?

Behold the Coming of the Lion! Ulrem is an exile, cursed by destiny to wander a grim and deadly world. Reviled by some and held as a savior by many, he has been a thief, a soldier, a pirate, and a vanquisher of great evils. Some call him the Slayer. Others call him the Lionborn. And some... some see in his trials the grim portents that would end the age in fire and blood.

Filled with monsters, mysteries, and cutthroat action, these eight interconnected stories chart Ulrem's adventures as he seeks his destiny. This is heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery like you've never seen before!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bran Mak Morn: The Last King

L.R. Knight Why did I love this book?

A doomed king, the last of his kind: a final shepherd of a race fallen into such depravity and barbarity that most no longer see the Picts as human; a man driven to deliver his kin from Roman oppression, to lift his people out of squalor. I was floored by Howard’s iron-hard writing in this all-too-brief sequence of heroic stories. The razor descriptions cut to the core of a man willing to give his all in a doomed quest. I read and re-read the few tales of Bran, but I always find something new and ferocious in the brooding king’s tragedy and bitter triumph. These tales rekindled my love of sword and sorcery, and helped me hone the edge in my own stories. I recommend them to any fantasy fan!

By Robert E. Howard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Robert E. Howard’s fertile imagination sprang some of fiction’s greatest heroes, including Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, and Solomon Kane. But of all Howard’s characters, none embodied his creator’s brooding temperament more than Bran Mak Morn, the last king of a doomed race.

In ages past, the Picts ruled all of Europe. But the descendants of those proud conquerors have sunk into barbarism . . . all save one, Bran Mak Morn, whose bloodline remains unbroken. Threatened by the Celts and the Romans, the Pictish tribes rally under his banner to fight for their very survival, while Bran fights…

Book cover of The Black Company

L.R. Knight Why did I love this book?

For me, The Black Company opened a whole range of personalities that could “work” for fantasy—the grim, desperate men of the Company are not good men… but they’re heroes nonetheless. I found The Black Company’s focus on character over grandiose plot to be refreshing after many years of reading swollen tomes. Even better, The Black Company taught me a lot about focusing in on the relationship between men: the Company men talk like the men I know, gruff, to the point, competitive and combative even when they’re working together. It feels rough and real in a way that sticks with me even years later. As a dad and an educator, my reading time is limited; Cook gets far more across, in far less space, than many other fantasy authors.

By Glen Cook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead.

Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. There must be a way for the Black Company to find her...

So begins one of the greatest fantasy epics of our age―Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company.

Book cover of The Blade Itself

L.R. Knight Why did I love this book?

I stumbled into The First Law as I was returning to write after years away from the craft, and fell in love with the doomed cast of miserables. I love characters who can’t get out of their own way, and Abercrombie writes those better than any. Even better, he fluidly portrays a world I want to take a bus tour through: ancient, steeped in complicated, bloody history, and filled with legends not quite dead. The masterful way he intersects character and plot keeps me turning pages, chasing the characters from one chapter into the next. I readily recommend it to those who don’t mind taking a peek at how the sausage gets made. Just remember who your friends are… and watch them very closely.

By Joe Abercrombie,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Blade Itself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.

Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.

And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior…

Book cover of The Road

L.R. Knight Why did I love this book?

I read The Road when I was working three jobs, enrolled in university full-time, and trying to figure out what it meant to be an adult. I felt the gut-punch bleakness of McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic future, and yet despite all the gray, grim privation, I found hope in the Man and the Boy’s march toward…something. While it’s not quite a fantasy, the ashen world rendered in McCarthy’s beautifully austere language changed the way I write, and changed the way I read. There is a sobering warning that I hear echoed in The Odyssey and Gilgamesh; something like an Ozymandian warning: look upon the works of man, ye mortal: all this shall fade. The Road stays with you like a scar, but one you earned, that taught you something.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…

Book cover of Promise of Blood

L.R. Knight Why did I love this book?

I was turned onto The Powder Mage books by my friend, and anytime a book can bring people together, that’s a special thing. Full of explosive action, swashbuckling adventure, it was the first time I’d read a “gunsmoke” or “napoleonic” fantasy, for that’s precisely what McLellan has constructed. The wartorn, politicized world of The Powder Mage echoes our own recent past, yet amplifies it, bringing to the surface larger-than-life heroes to contend with the likes of Napoleon, Washington, and Cromwell. As a reader, it was another game-changing moment of “I’ve never seen fantasy do that,” and it gave me a glimpse into a whole new domain of what fantasy can be, and what it can teach us about our past.

By Brian McClellan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Age of Kings is dead. And I have killed it.' Field Marshal Tamas's coup against his king sends corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brings bread to the starving. But it also provokes war in the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers' unions and mercenary forces. Stretched to his limit, Tamas relies heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be Tamas's estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty will be…

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Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

Book cover of Returning to Eden

Rebecca Hartt Author Of Rising From Ashes

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Idealistic Storyteller Teacher Mother Seeker

Rebecca's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Looking for clean romantic suspense with spiritual undertones?

Look no further than the Acts of Valor series by Rebecca Hartt. With thousands of reviews and 4.7-5.0 stars per book, this 6-book series is a must-read for readers searching for memorable, well-told stories by an award-winning author.

A dead man stands on her doorstep.

When the Navy wrote off her MIA husband as dead, Eden came to terms with being a widow. But now, her Navy SEAL husband is staring her in the face. Eden knows she should be over-the-moon, but she isn’t.

Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has no recollection of their fractured marriage, no memory of Eden nor her fourteen-year-old daughter. Still, he feels a connection to both.

Unfit for active duty and assigned to therapy, Jonah knows he has work to do and relies on God, who sustained him during captivity, to heal his mind, body, and hopefully his family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife's haunted eyes and behind his daughter's uncertain smile begin to return to him, Jonah makes another discovery. There is treachery in the highest ranks of his Team, treachery that not only threatens him but places his new-found family in its crosshairs.

Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

What is this book about?

Presumed Dead, Navy SEAL Returns Without Memory of His Ordeal in the Christian Romantic Suspense, Returning to Eden, by Rebecca Hartt

-- Present Day, Virginia Beach, Virginia --

A dead man stands at Eden Mills' door.

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden's husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the…

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