The best fantasy books with world-building you don’t want to get lost in

Who am I?

I grew up on a steady book diet of child detectives, fairy tales involving monsters in the woods, and historical fiction about the black plague. The same themes go through the books I love to read and write, transporting me with world-building set in realms or historical settings with technology so strange it could be fantasy. Characters are shaped by the world around them and the more perilous the world, the more it challenges the characters. If there are monsters, I’m in. 

I wrote...

Perils of Sea and Sky

By Lilian Horn,

Book cover of Perils of Sea and Sky

What is my book about?

The Grey Veil is a foggy hellscape that sweeps over the Baltansea and endangers all who dare enter. Captain Rosanne Drackenheart made a pretty penny smuggling through the secret safe routes of the Grey Veil, but when she’s blackmailed into finding a lost warship, she must venture into the bowels of the fog unknown to even her. Stranded on a mysterious island and hunted by creatures based on Scandinavian myth, Rosanne must reunite her crew, defend against pirates gunning for her ship, and save herself from the creature known as the Forest Devil.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D Vol. 1

Lilian Horn Why did I love this book?

If you’re not familiar with Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D you’re in for a treat. 

D is a vampire hunter traveling between remnants of human civilization after the vampires’ technology changed the world with rampant weather machines, DNA-spliced monsters, and slumbering technological marvels without master to command them. 

D is hired by Doris who’s been chosen to become a vampire bride, but between struggling against his other half as a vampire, werewolf lackeys, and bloodthirsty humans wanting Doris dead or alive, D has his work cut out for him. If you ever find yourself traveling the Frontier, D, alongside his sassy friend, is your guy. 

By Hideyuki Kikuchi, Saiko Takaki (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year is 12,090 A.D., and what little is left of humanity has finally crawled out from the ashes of war and destruction. From the darkness of fallout, mutants and a race of vampires known as the Nobility have spawned. They rule the weak with no remorse. Once bitten by a Nobility, one is cursed to become a member of the undead. Villagers cower in fear, hoping and praying for a savior to rid them of their undying nightmare. All they have to battle this danger is a different kind of danger - a Vampire Hunter.

Book cover of Gideon the Ninth

Lilian Horn Why did I love this book?

Necromancers in space is a concept that drew me in instantly. Gideon is a glorified sword-wielding bodyguard to Harrow, a necromancer asked to aid in the emperor’s war. But to do that, they’re shipped off to the House of Canaan where they must discover the secrets to lyctorhood. With the dozens of other necromancers and their cavaliers, the crazy experiments haunting Canaan House, and someone out to murder them, this necromantic space mystery should absolutely be on your TBR, but not on your vacation list. 

By Tamsyn Muir,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Gideon the Ninth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

15+ pages of new, original content, including a glossary of terms, in-universe writings, and more!

A USA Today Best-Selling Novel!

"Unlike anything I've ever read. " --V.E. Schwab

"Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!" --Charles Stross

"Brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through." --NPR

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as…

Book cover of Sea of Ghosts

Lilian Horn Why did I love this book?

Alan Campbell set the mixed steampunk science-fantasy genre for me, with his high fantasy worlds where machines and magic go hand in hand, to prison cities surrounded by poisonous waters that can turn you into permanent sea-dwellers, and telepathic abilities worth killing for.

This is a world where a trip to the beach might kill you if the telepaths don’t find you first.   

By Alan Campbell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Leaving the behind the imaginings of Deepgate, Alan Campbell introduces a new world, a new cast of characters in a novel that reads like a cross between Stephen Deas and Joe Abercrombie.

With non-stop action, beautiful characterization and Alan's usual flair for imagination and lyrical writing, welcome to a world of water - where dragons are used as weapons and countries are separated by power, greed and fear...

Thrown out of the Graveyard corps by a corrupt and weak emperor, Granger has to turn to running his own prison. It's not a lucrative business but if he keeps his head…

Book cover of The Lies of Locke Lamora

Lilian Horn Why did I love this book?

Welcome to Camorr, the city of prosperity and thieves where you’ll be down to your skin if your hair wasn’t stuck on your body. While thieves and heists are a huge part of the story, this world is filled with the subtleties of black magic where your true name could be your end, and anyone regardless of economic status is a victim. It’s up to a band of thieves to protect their assets and their lives. 

By Scott Lynch,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Lies of Locke Lamora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of my top ten books ever. Maybe top five. If you haven't read it, you should' Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

'Fresh, original and engrossing' George R.R. Martin, the phenomenon behind A Game of Thrones

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the…

Book cover of Boneshaker

Lilian Horn Why did I love this book?

Boneshaker is set in an alternate Seattle where a rampant machine unearthed toxic gas that turns people into zombies, and the only way to contain this disaster was to wall off the city. What I love about Boneshaker is how people remain defiantly close to the city and move on with their lives despite the toxic rain, the zombies clawing on the walls, and, even more so, the people who take it further and travel through the ruins of the once great city in an airship, or, if they’re daring, on foot. 

Better pack your guns and your wits when exploring this cityscape!

By Cherie Priest,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the start of the Civil War, a Russian mining company commissions a great machine to pave the way from Seattle to Alaska and speed up the gold rush that is beating a path to the frozen north. Inventor Leviticus Blue creates the machine, but on its first test run it malfunctions, decimating Seattle's banking district and uncovering a vein of Blight Gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead. Sixteen years later Briar, Blue's widow, lives in the poor neighborhood outside the wall that's been built around the uninhabitable city. Life is tough with a ruined…

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By Laci Barry Post,

Book cover of Songbird

Laci Barry Post Author Of Songbird

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Group fitness instructor Mom of two Travel consultant Hiker

Laci's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It's 1943, and World War II has gripped the nation, including the Stilwell family in Jacksonville, Alabama. Rationing, bomb drills, patriotism, and a changing South barrage their way of life. Neighboring Fort McClellan has brought the world to their doorstep in the form of young soldiers from all over the country and German POWs from halfway around the globe.

Songbird is an inspirational, historical fiction novel, dealing with family, faith, strong women, and the American home front. It explores many historical elements of the World War II era, such as women's aid groups, the writings of Ernie Pyle, D-day, radio and music of the 1940s, and the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


By Laci Barry Post,

What is this book about?

When the perils and social changes of World War II confront a small southern town, faith, family, and love sustain the lives of one young woman and her family. Can those left behind endure?

"I'm waiting for my life to begin. Waiting for the train to come in," Ava Stilwell, a young woman eager for life, sings a popular song with the big band that reflects her heart. In the midst of a world at war, Ava finds love, a passion for her music, and new opportunities, but the war still looms over her, threatening to take it all away.…

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