The best fantasy books where the gods (maybe) can’t be trusted

Why am I passionate about this?

Pantheons and worship are elements of culture I’ve always found fascinating, partly from being a mostly secular person with relatives who are very religious. I read a lot of epic fantasy when I was younger that featured gods, like Erikson, and I love finding more recent works that play with how deities might affect a world, and vice versa. But I also picked some of the books below because they inject cli-fi or solarpunk into their worlds – something I’ve been adding to my second-world fantasy lately. Because why not create the same sort of aesthetic in other worlds? 


I wrote...

Catalyst

By Brandon Crilly,

Book cover of Catalyst

What is my book about?

Street magician Mavrin Leed doesn’t believe in what he can’t see or prove. His performances are mere tricks; the only true magic in Aelda comes from the benevolent, god-like Aspects circling it. Labeled a heretic, Eyasu Temergon is convinced that Aelda’s true history was hidden. He scours forgotten shadows for proof of the Raw, creatures of energy tied to the fracturing of his world. When their sudden emergence leads to destruction and chaos, Eyasu puts aside his estrangement with his old friend, Mavrin. Ex-soldier Deyeri Renn has a mystery of her own: why are her city’s leaders so interested in the Raw? 

As Deyeri, Mavrin, and Eyasu unpack the secrets that once drove them apart, every seal in their relationship means one more crack that could unravel Aelda’s very existence.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of David Mogo Godhunter

Brandon Crilly Why did I love this book?

I went into this book expecting a lengthy god-chase through Lagos, but it quickly spirals into a much larger story with implications for the stability of the entire city. David is a phenomenal character torn between two worlds (human and god) and surrounded by an equally compelling supporting cast, including cranky mentor Papa Udi, ambitious and over-the-top wizard Ajala, beleaguered state god-hunter Onipede, and more. Desperate stakes, and seriously fluid pacing – I find a lot of fantasy novels lengthier than they need to be these days, but Suyi doesn’t waste a single paragraph. Loved every chapter.

By Suyi Davies Okungbowa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nigerian God-Punk - a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko's dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job's bad luck. He's proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos-feral godling-child hybrids-to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god's twin…


Book cover of The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory

Brandon Crilly Why did I love this book?

I’ve only said this once about a book: this is the sort of indie work that traditional publishers should be salivating over but would never have the courage to publish. There is such a wealth of emotion and reality in Heretic’s Guide. It’s a quiet, deliberate but fraught story of a human who doesn’t realize how much he needs the help of the godly being he befriends, or that the godly being needs him just as much. Fair warning that it’s a hefty story that’s more cerebral than action-packed, but the mystery, compelling dialogue and wondrous worldbuilding makes this one of my favorite books of all time. (Also the sequel to this duology is even better. Just saying.)

By Sienna Tristen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

TRIPLE GOLD MEDALIST IN THE 2019 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARDS!WINNER OF THE 2019 READERVIEWS AWARD FOR FANTASY!“Life is transformation. You change or you die.”Ashamed of his past and overwhelmed by his future, Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani feels too small for his own name. After a graceless exit from his homeland in the Acharrioni desert, his anxiety has sabotaged every attempt at redemption. Asides from a fiery devotion to his godling, the one piece of home he brought with him, he has nothing.That is, until he meets Reilin. Beguiling, bewildering Reilin, who whisks Ronoah up into a cross-continental pilgrimage to the…


Book cover of The Gutter Prayer

Brandon Crilly Why did I love this book?

Epic fantasy was all I read when I was younger, but these days it takes a particularly gripping book to engage me. There’s too much awesomeness in this book to adequately describe, from the vividness of Guerdon as a metaphorical island in a sea of godly destruction, to the factors pulling motley thieves Carillon, Spar, and Rat apart, to the way Hanrahan reinvents fantasy tropes like goblins and mages. I absolutely tore through this tome, and honestly haven’t found an epic fantasy since that’s anywhere as engaging (other than the sequels).

By Gareth Hanrahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Gutter Prayer is captivating and complex. Guerdon is a city that seethes with history, horror, and hidden secrets" (Nicholas Eames).
A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.
Enter a city of saints and thieves . . .

The city of Guerdon stands eternal. A refuge from the war that rages beyond its borders. But in the ancient tunnels deep beneath its streets, a malevolent power has begun to stir.

The fate of the city rests in the hands of…


Book cover of Trail of Lightning

Brandon Crilly Why did I love this book?

This was the first novel by Roanhorse I ever read, after loving her short fiction. The godly aspects here are kept more to the side: this is a post-climate disaster novel with monsters and magic, and I’m a sucker for books where cli-fi aesthetics are part of the backdrop. Monster hunter Maggie carries a lot of darkness and tends to push her allies away, but that’s part of what makes her a fun and engaging character to follow. Especially when she’s bandying with a version of Coyote who’s definitely not to be trusted. 

By Rebecca Roanhorse,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Trail of Lightning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the Time 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time

2019 LOCUS AWARD WINNER, BEST FIRST NOVEL

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALIST, BEST NOVEL

Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

One of Bustle's Top 20 "landmark sci-fi and fantasy novels" of the decade

"Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass Indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick." -The New York Times

"An excitingly novel tale." -Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight Crossroads series

"Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant." -Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling…


Book cover of The Nine

Brandon Crilly Why did I love this book?

This book was a serious inspiration for me when my debut novel was in an earlier draft. Tracy crafts this cool theology where “God” is a scientist and the world his Experiment, but not everyone agrees on whether that Experiment should be allowed to run free. What if God gets tired of playing and throws out the ant farm, or decide it’s not working…? The Nine centers on a motley-found family of characters, many of whom have rich backstories with each other that we get bits and pieces of, which is like catnip to me as a reader (and writer).

By Tracy Townsend,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for... Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor's prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen. The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he…


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Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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