The best fantasy novels with worlds to get lost in

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always sought to escape this world for another; one more exciting. Whether it was reading, or playing D&D, I constantly looked for new places to explore. Building my own has become one of my favorite things about writing. What starts as a simple ‘What if...’ turns into a place I find myself in daily. I’m no longer just an explorer, but a builder, and my craving for unique worlds hasn’t gone away. I’m still learning, still creating new worlds beyond my first, and always still walking new ones. I hope you love escapism as much as I do, because these books will transport you.


I wrote...

Where the Shadows Beckon

By Gillian Grant,

Book cover of Where the Shadows Beckon

What is my book about?

A culmination of five years of worldbuilding through tabletop gaming, Where the Shadows Beckon is the first of many adventures set in Eith, a world breaking apart without its gods and desperate for heroes to save it.

A lone hunter with a scarred past, a part giant with a weapon of legend, a knight of the Banished Divines, a noble seeking redemption and honor, an eccentric sailor whose honeyed words carry magic, and a goblin wizard. After meeting under death-defying terms, this unlikely band of adventurers push deep into unexplored, cavernous underground of the Yawning Deep. Perpetual darkness and monstrous creatures can be handled, but unearthing Eith’s greatest secret could push their quest, and the world, into a state of survival instead of heroics.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Way of Kings

Gillian Grant Why did I love this book?

If we’re talking unique, immersive worlds, it would be a crime to not put one of Sanderson’s works up here. While all his books have amazing worlds, nothing beats Roshar in terms of creativity and sheer awe. A world that routinely gets magical hurricanes, which in turn shapes the wildlife, flora, and fauna, and the culture of the people that live there down to their currency is amazing! Not to mention the magic system comes straight from the storms. Add in unique races (they sing to speak!). beautifully written characters with mental illness representation, giant swords and armor, and a story as epic as the setting there’s no question that The Way of Kings is one of modern fantasy’s best. I, too, would like to inhale lightning and fly.

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Way of Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings, Book One of the Stormlight Archive begins an incredible new saga of epic proportion.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and…


Book cover of She Who Rides the Storm

Gillian Grant Why did I love this book?

This book promised me high fantasy with tomb raiding and boy, did it deliver! Sangster’s world is simply named the Commonwealth, but it is anything but simple. Twin moons, ancient lore circling around monstrous shapeshifters, a forbidden magic opposing a heavily religious relegated one, carnivorous unicorns, deadly tombs, and swords carrying the souls of those it killed, She Who Rides the Storm is chock full of detailed worldbuilding. With a beautiful cast of four amazingly well-written characters you actually grow to care about, their individual heists to get into the tomb of the shapeshifter king are loaded with high stakes and dangers. Even better? The plot twists that connect them are glorious and had my jaw on the floor. Conclusion: a humble epic waiting to be discovered.

By Caitlin Sangster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked She Who Rides the Storm 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?

In this atmospheric YA fantasy that is Wicked Saints meets There Will Come a Darkness, four teens are drawn into a high-stakes heist in the perilous tomb of an ancient shapeshifter king.

Long ago, shapeshifting monsters ruled the Commonwealth using blasphemous magic that fed on the souls of their subjects. Now, hundreds of years later, a new tomb has been uncovered, and despite the legends that disturbing a shapeshifter's final resting place will wake them once again, the Warlord is determined to dig it up.

But it isn't just the Warlord who means to brave the traps and pitfalls guarding…


Book cover of The Unspoken Name

Gillian Grant Why did I love this book?

Why have one world when you can have multiple? The Unspoken Name took me by surprise when our main character was taken from her death cult and whisked through a gateway that would lead her to many worlds all connected by a misty maze. Dead worlds and gods, flying ships, undead cities, and a revenge plot that twists into something far bigger, The Unspoken Name feels like three stories in one, but in the best way. The various worlds and their cultures are intricate and vibrant, brought to life by the lovely cast of characters the story is told through. From an orc mercenary outrunning a god, to a wizard with godlike ambitions, the cast is phenomenal and diverse in both race and sexuality, something I love reading in fantasy. 

By A. K. Larkwood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood is the incredible first epic fantasy in the Serpent Gates duology.

'An astounding debut . . . unlike anything I've read before' - Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld

Does she owe her life to those planning her death . . .

Csorwe was raised by a death cult steeped in old magic. And on her fourteenth birthday, she'll be sacrificed to their god. But as she waits for the end, she's offered a chance to escape her fate. A sorcerer wants her as his assistant, sword-hand and assassin. As this…


Book cover of Realm Breaker

Gillian Grant Why did I love this book?

Realm Breaker was pitched as Lord of the Rings meets Guardians of the Galaxy, and it doesn’t disappoint. A vast, intricate world full of complex political powers, vibrant cultures, and dangerous magic easily slides this into the epic category. Allward is a realm of relative peace until one of the many Spindles that separate it from other realms is opened and unleashes a terrifying army. In order to stop it, a group of unexpected allies band together to use the Spindleblade to shut the Spindles before more are opened. With a dangerously handsome villain, a slow-burn romance to die for, and amazing action sequences, you’ll find yourself longing to walk, sail, and travel the Ward long after you’ve put Realm Breaker down.

By Victoria Aveyard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Realm Breaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF RED QUEEN COMES A BRAND NEW SERIES

SAVE THE WORLD OR END IT...

A strange darkness is growing in the Ward. Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.

Fate knocks on her door, in the form of a mythical immortal and a lethal assassin, who tell Corayne that she is the last of an ancient lineage - with the power to save the world from destruction.

Because a man who would burn kingdoms to the ground is raising an army unlike any seen before,…


Book cover of Rule of Wolves

Gillian Grant Why did I love this book?

Starting a recommendation with the latest book in the series might be the wrong move, but nothing captures the scope of Bardugo’s beautiful Grishaverse like this novel. Read the rest before this one, because this is the book where all our favorite plots and characters collide. And this book has it all. Gritty criminals, powerful saints, the horrors of war, touching romance, and answers to questions many had after finishing the first trilogy. More than anything, Rule of Wolves solidifies the Grishaverse as a fantasy world worthy of being with the big boys like LotR and the Wizarding World. No matter if you identify with the thieves, the Grisha, the pirates, or the monsters of legend, there’s a place in this world for everyone. Count me as a Crow, though.

By Leigh Bardugo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rule of Wolves 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?

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

2021 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Best Young Adult Fantasy!

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

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times–bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young…


You might also like...

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

Book cover of The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

Katherine Grant Author Of The Viscount Without Virtue

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist History nerd Amateur dancer Reader New Yorker

Katherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Enjoy this Persuasion-inspired historical romance!

Six years ago, Amy decided *not* to elope with Captain Nate Preston. Now, he is back in the neighborhood, and he is shocked to discover that Amy is unmarried. Even more surprising, she is clearly battling some unnamed illness. Thrown together by circumstances outside their control, Nate and Amy try to be friends. Soon, it becomes clear that their feelings for each other never died. Has anything changed, or are they destined for heartbreak once more?

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

What is this book about?

Is love worth giving a second chance?

Six years ago, Amy Lamplugh decided not to elope with Nate Preston. Ever since, she has been working hard to convince herself she was right to choose her family over Nate.

Now, Nate is back. After an illustrious career as a naval captain, he faces a court martial for disobeying orders while fighting the slave trade. He accepts an invitation to await the trial at a country estate outside of Portsmouth - and discovers he is suddenly neighbors with Amy.

Nate is shocked to find that Amy didn’t end up marrying someone rich…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in war, magic-supernatural, and orcs?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about war, magic-supernatural, and orcs.

War Explore 1,863 books about war
Magic-Supernatural Explore 604 books about magic-supernatural
Orcs Explore 17 books about orcs