The best fantasy novels with the most beautiful endings

Who am I?

My first two lessons as a geophysicist were confusing opposites. My supervisor told me that I must carry my investigations to professional conclusions, while the very best physicists showed me that good scientists are the most parsimonious about what they conclude. It's a battle between humility and the need to tell a story. We human beings crave a nice, neat ending, and we often only get one in fantasy, for the real world is complex. It was this insight that led me to start every story I ever wrote with at least a concept for the ending. If we are going to go anywhere with our narratives, we better first consider where that is.


I wrote...

Book cover of Bed of Rose and Thorns

What is my book about?

Sir Ezra wears plate armor to hide his true nature. He is an Elysian Bell, a being of pure and powerful emotions. His secret love for the Queen ended in a night of passion, blood, and her promise to kill him. When the Queen disappears, Ezra must find her.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Curse of Chalion

Lee Hunt Why did I love this book?

The Curse of Chalion may be the best work of fiction I have ever read. Bujold is a phenomenal writer—her prose grips from the first pages, and her construction of character, theme and plot is astounding. I have never read a novel where the outcome seemed more hopeless, and one in which I knew that the author would not pull off some cheap Deus ex machina trick. Caz, Iselle and Betriz appear to be completely and totally doomed in this well thought out novel. But Bujold pulls off an ending that not only pulls together the character and thematic arcs of the novel, but reaches the sublime for its brilliant perfection. Prepare for goosebumps.

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Curse of Chalion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a…


Book cover of Red Sister

Lee Hunt Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with Lawrence’s character Nona, and was not at first sure why. Being a poorly mannered eater of breakfast was the least of her bad habits. She was also a serial liar and killer. We find out, as Nona’s true story is unveiled, that she has her reasons. And she surprises us again and again throughout the story. But it is the ending that is most sweet, for this little killer is driven by love and the desire for friendship. And when she speaks her final words, we love her too.

By Mark Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's not until you're broken that you find your sharpest edge.

"I was born for killing - the gods made me to ruin."

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices' skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don't truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought…


Book cover of Last Argument of Kings

Lee Hunt Why did I love this book?

Sometimes we think we are reading fiction as an exercise in entertainment, and fantasy as a guilty pleasure. Abercrombie is a favorite writer of mine because his work does all that, but he also surprises with sharp insight every single time. Last Argument of Kings ends his First Law Trilogy with the most surprising reveal of all—that the moral center does not exist. Not at all. All the blood and death that his characters have dealt out and survived are not in service to some higher good. More than just an exercise in cynicism or a service to violence, this story shines a light on power, politics and the people who stand atop the heap. And somehow Abercrombie does this all while making you laugh and shake your head in amazement.

By Joe Abercrombie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The end is coming.

Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him - but it's going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there's only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It's past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. His days with a sword are far behind him.…


Book cover of The Dragon's Path

Lee Hunt Why did I love this book?

I stopped and blinked at the end of the first chapter, knowing the author had touched on something brilliant. His character, Kit, asked something I never expected to read in a fantasy novel. I broke out in goose bumps as I thought to myself, where will this go? An ending is a conclusion, and both feel best when they are strong and unquestionable. So, what happens when we find a book that makes us question what is true? Not an abstract quest towards the meaning of life or epistemology, but an indictment of human dogmatism, The Dragon’s Path will make you laugh at your own desire for simple, unquestionable answers.

By Daniel Abraham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Everything I look for in a fantasy." -- George R. R. Martin

All paths lead to war. . .

Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but…


Book cover of Best Served Cold

Lee Hunt Why did I love this book?

Who doesn’t want to right the wrongs committed against them? I try to be a grown up and move on with my life when someone antagonizes me, but sometimes I wish there was justice in the world. Who doesn’t, even if sometimes we know we are not being mature? Revenge is the ultimate ending, and Abercrombie’s clever stand-alone novel examines just how cold it really can be. It turns out, not at all. Monza has been screwed over bad. She has every reason to want to get even—which means everyone who tried to kill her needs to end up dead. The bodies certainly pile up but when she reaches victory, Monza finds it more absurd than cold. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and more than a little darkly humorous. Take it with a shadowy laugh.

By Joe Abercrombie,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Best Served Cold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories…


You might also like...

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Part-time celt Modern alchemist Myth hunter Jungian

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A traditional mystery with a touch of cozy, The Alchemy Fire Murder is for those who like feisty women sleuths, Oxford Colleges, alchemy, strong characters, and real concerns like trafficking, wildfires, racism, and climate change. This book especially works for those fascinated by myth and witches in history. Read for a seventeenth-century alchemist in Connecticut, a lost alchemy scroll stuck in a California Museum, and a blizzard in Los Angeles.

Murder ensues when an intern is attacked after making a momentous discovery with Mary Wandwalker, an inexperienced detective commissioned to recover the treasure vital to the survival of her Oxford college, St Julian’s. When the young man’s brother is falsely accused, Mary has to step in.

The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

By Susan Rowland,

What is this book about?

Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.

Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in curses, convents, and torture?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about curses, convents, and torture.

Curses Explore 77 books about curses
Convents Explore 13 books about convents
Torture Explore 40 books about torture