The best fantasy novels with storyteller voices that reach out and grab you

Garrett Calcaterra Author Of Dreamwielder: The Dreamwielder Chronicles - Book One
By Garrett Calcaterra

Who am I?

Like most authors, my love for writing grew from a love for reading. In particular, I’ve always loved stories with captivating storyteller voices. There’s a huge variety of subgenres in fantasy—with endless combinations of imaginative worlds, magic, heroes, monsters, and villains—but at the end of the day, what draws me in are fantasy novels with bold voices that are clearly in control of the story and immediately take you to another place. Those are the types of novels I like to read, and always aim to write.


I wrote...

Dreamwielder: The Dreamwielder Chronicles - Book One

By Garrett Calcaterra,

Book cover of Dreamwielder: The Dreamwielder Chronicles - Book One

What is my book about?

In a world shrouded by soot and smoke, young Makarria has literally been forbidden to dream…

Legend has foretold that a young sorcerer will bring about Emperor Guderian’s demise. When Guderian’s minions discover the presence of a dreamwielder—Makarria—on a seaside farmstead, Makarria is forced to flee and embark on an epic journey. Dogging her every step is the part-wolf, part-raven sorcerer, Wulfram, but Makarria soon discovers she is not alone. With the help of her new friends—a dishonored prince, an underground sorcerer, and a nightflying airship captain—Makarria discovers the power growing within her and their only hope to defeat Guderian.

The books I picked & why

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A Wizard of Earthsea

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of A Wizard of Earthsea

Why this book?

This fantasy adventure is a classic for good reason. From page one, Le Guin whisks you away to a faraway island in a storm-racked northern sea where we meet Ged, a soon-to-be wizard bound for greatness. Le Guin’s storyteller voice makes you feel like a kid again, hearing the first fairy tale that truly captured your imagination. Add to that the non-stop adventure and subtle philosophical undertones that set this novel apart from male-written fantasy classics, and A Wizard of Earthsea is a timeless story.


Stardust

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Stardust

Why this book?

Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced Neil Gaiman read in person, but every time I read the opening pages of Stardust, I hear it in Gaiman’s rich voice. You don’t even have to wait for the first line. That quintessential British storyteller voice comes out in the title of the first chapter itself: “In Which We Learn of the Village Wall, and of the Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years.” While the other fantasy novels in this list all take place in secondary fantasy worlds, Stardust is set on Earth and has all the charm and wonder that perennially draws readers to fantasy lore set in the British Isles.


The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

By N.K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

Why this book?

I have to be honest, I was a little off-put when I first read the opening lines of The Fifth Season, which are written in second-person: “You are she. She is you. You are Essun.” One of the first things I learned in Creative Writing 101 was to avoid writing in second person, and I had to push past that bias. I’m so glad I did. Jemisin is a masterful storyteller, and the way she intertwines the primary storyline with the backstory by alternating between a present-tense second-person viewpoint and a more traditional past-tense third-person viewpoint is remarkable—giving life to a breathtaking adventure set in a wholly unique fantasy world.


The Hobbit

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Hobbit

Why this book?

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but where the writing in those latter books is often dense and slow, the voice in The Hobbit is light and bristling with energy. Tolkien brings the full power of an omniscient narrative to play here, unflinchingly jumping from one character’s inner thoughts to another’s, from one far-off place to another, often within the same chapter, giving The Hobbit an epic scope that’s truly remarkable seeing as how it’s only a couple hundred pages long.


The Elfin Ship

By James P. Blaylock,

Book cover of The Elfin Ship

Why this book?

Blaylock may be an unknown name to many traditional fantasy readers, and if that’s the case for you, consider The Elfin Ship as your gateway drug to his work. This fantasy novel is very much in the vein of The Hobbit in that it has dwarves, elves, and a good bit of pipe smoking, but it does so with Blaylock’s one-of-a-kind voice that shines with understated American wit and humor. It also has airships! (Which crossover into Blaylock’s more well-known steampunk works.) The adventure is both action-filled and hilarious, never taking itself too seriously but at the same time embracing the traditional tropes that make fantasy so fun to read.


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