The best fantasy novels with original, innovative magic systems

Who am I?

I’ve been an avid fantasy reader since I was old enough to read—starting with a Greek mythology book beloved by young adults everywhere—and my love with reading translated into my love of writing. After years of scouring for the perfect story, I have indie-published three fantasy romance books. I see reading as the gateway to all creative endeavors and a rekindling of the imagination. After almost two decades of storytelling, I have established a commitment to finding good stories and sharing them with others. I use my platform to uplift authors, especially marginalized writers or fellow indies, knowing that community is what makes reading fun.  


I wrote...

Soul of the Sorceress

By Cassandra Diviak,

Book cover of Soul of the Sorceress

What is my book about?

The second installment of the Shadow and Soul series sees Cordelia and Percy’s domestic life in Runswick and fledgling relationship interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious invitation. At its call, the two sail across the Seven Continents to the hidden kingdom of Ambholde where magic is open and freely practiced, far from the eyes of humans.

The golden halls of the Ambrose Palace and its leader in King Oberon inspire some degree of trust. However, the gilded halls and shining disposition does little to quell a darkness lingering in every corner of the castle. Cordelia and Percy’s relationship and loyalties are tested by those who might wish to drive them apart.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Six of Crows

Cassandra Diviak Why did I love this book?

This book was my introduction to Bardugo’s work and I would argue it stands among her best. Six of Crows’ greatest selling points are the compelling plot that involves heists, intrigue, and shifting allegiances, the magic system of the Grishaverse, and the chemistry among the cast of characters.

The worldbuilding and relationship dynamics in her books directly influenced aspects that I explore in my book. Additionally, the magic system is organized and medium on the complexity scale. There exist magic users known as Grisha that fall under three main divisions of magic. While the basic elements are established in a separate trilogy within the same world, Six of Crows expands the world by introducing more viable threats to Grisha and demonstrating the feats that magic explores—upping the stakes.

By Leigh Bardugo,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Six of Crows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

*See the Grishaverse come to life on screen with Shadow and Bone, now a Netflix original series.*

Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017, this fantasy epic from the No. 1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Grisha trilogy is gripping, sweeping and memorable - perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Laini Taylor and Kristin Cashore.

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams - but he can't pull it off alone.

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk…


Book cover of Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Cassandra Diviak Why did I love this book?

I’ve always adored retellings, whether of the mythology or fairytale variety, and I encountered this feminist YA retelling of Snow White. Girls Made of Snow and Glass explores themes of grief, trauma, and complex relationships between women when they are put into competition. 

However, the magic system stands out to me. While the book could have easily done the genre-approved staple of following a purely fantastical explanation for magic, the mechanism that magic exists in for the story takes on a more scientific approach. The spells and rituals reminded me of alchemy and the lines between practical experimentation and magic blurred in a fascinating way. The feats of glass hearts that render people unable to love and making life out of snow blew me away.

By Melissa Bashardoust,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Girls Made of Snow and Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone-has never beat at all, in fact, but she'd always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king's heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she'll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her…


Book cover of A River of Royal Blood

Cassandra Diviak Why did I love this book?

Set in a fantasy world inspired by North African folklore and mythology, A River of Royal Blood creates the perfect environment for magic not seen in the mainstream literary fiction.

Within the story, magic plays an integral part in the conflict known as the “Rival Heir” tradition, where the female heirs to the throne must fight one another to the death when the youngest turns of age. Only one of them can be queen. The magic is their greatest tool but is somehow Eva’s greatest curse as no one knows how to use her magic, least of all her. And when more than just her older sister wants her dead because of her powerful magic, I was on the edge of my seat and impatiently awaiting a sequel.

By Amanda Joy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A River of Royal Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Seventeen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of blood and bone--a dark and terrible magic that hasn't been seen in so long, the knowledge on how to wield its power has been lost to history. She wants nothing to do with the magick or with the Ivory Throne and heavy responsibility of leading her fractured country. But she has little choice. If she can't learn to harness the magick inside her by her nameday, she'll die at the hands of the Rival Heir. Her older sister Isadore, whose magick of light and persuasion is more glamorous but no…


Book cover of Daughter of the Burning City

Cassandra Diviak Why did I love this book?

A story with magic and mystery, like my first book, Daughter of the Burning City is unlike any book I have read. The magic system within the book is called “Jynx-work” and the users of the magic often inhabit the traveling city circus of Gomorrah Festival, a place of vice and sin shunned by the more pious world around them. 

Sorina is the first illusion worker in years. She creates tangible illusions, ones with personalities and free will to exist outside of her control. But when they start dying like real people would in a series of gruesome murders, there appears more to Sorina’s magic than meets the eye. I love magic mysteries because they keep readers engaged and wanting to unravel the questions left behind during shocking twists.

By Amanda Foody,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Daughter of the Burning City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Utterly original. Amanda Foody has a wicked imagination.' Stephanie Garber, Sunday Times bestselling author of Caraval

Reality is in the eye of the beholder...

Even among the many unusual members of the travelling circus that has always been her home sixteen-year-old Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years.

This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all of their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival's Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her…


Book cover of Little Thieves

Cassandra Diviak Why did I love this book?

Retellings are some of my favorite fantasy stories as they rely on new, inventive ways to spin the same yarn. Little Thieves is a reimagining of the Goose Girl from the perspective of the original villain as our main character. Vanja is the goddaughter of Death and Fortune, two of the goddesses in a pantheon with deities who represent abstract concepts like Time and Justice. 

Vanja has spent her life conning and stealing like when she steals the identity of her former friend, Princess Giselle, and steals from the haughty nobles. She maintains these three identities by using magic pearls that change her appearance. But the story truly begins when Vanja is cursed to either return what she has stolen or be consumed by her greed.

By Margaret Owen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Little Thieves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Kids' Indie Next pick for November/December!
Amazon Best Book of October 2021!

A scrappy maid must outsmart both palace nobles and Low Gods in a new YA fantasy by Margaret Owen, author of the Merciful Crow series.

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl...

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love—and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele's dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their…


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The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

By J.M. Unrue,

Book cover of The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

J.M. Unrue Author Of The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m an old guy. I say this with a bit of cheek and a certain amount of incongruity. All the books on my list are old. That’s one area of continuity. Another, and I’ll probably stop at two, is that they all deal with ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances—those curveballs of life we flail at with an unfamiliar bat; the getting stuck on the Interstate behind a semi and some geezer in a golf cap hogging the passing lane in a Buick Le Sabre. No one makes it through this life unscathed. How we cope does more to define us than a thousand smiles when things are rosy. Thus endeth the lesson.

J.M.'s book list on showing that somebody has it worse than you do

What is my book about?

The Festival of Sin is a three-story light sci-fi arc about a young boy rescued in 6000 BCE and taken to the home planet of the Hudra. Parts two and three are exploratory excursions. It's a fish-out-of-water series. More than fish-out-of-water. Fish-on-another-planet.

Plus, there are two fantasy stories dealing with people who must overcome "supernatural" circumstances, things well beyond the realm of common understanding. 

The Festival of Sin: and other tales of fantasy

By J.M. Unrue,

What is this book about?

The Festival of Sin is a three-story light sci-fi arc about a young boy rescued in 6000 BCE and taken to the home planet of the Hudra. Parts two and three are exploratory excursions. It's a fish-out-of-water series. More than fish-out-of-water. Fish-on-another-planet.

Plus, there are two fantasy stories dealing with people who must overcome "supernatural" circumstances, things well beyond the realm of common understanding. 


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