The best fantasy novels for quality writing and believable characters

Who am I?

I’ve been a connoisseur of all things terrifying and fantastical since I was 5, and so scared of my Baba Yaga book downstairs I couldn’t sleep. I pursued the delicious fear of a well-written monster through my teens and into adulthood but found that so many books within the horror and fantasy genres are aimed at younger readers. So I wrote the books I wanted to read. I’d always planned to write, but it was developing extreme anxiety that inspired me to nurture my creative side and finally do it. I was having terrible nightmares at the time, and these awful dreams became the central scenes of my novels.

I wrote...

Darkly Dreaming: Book 1 of the Darkly Vampire Trilogy

By Chloe Hammond,

Book cover of Darkly Dreaming: Book 1 of the Darkly Vampire Trilogy

What is my book about?

Darkly Dreaming is for readers who savour rich characters and carefully crafted writing; it’s as much about friendship as it is about vampires. It’s been accused of giving people ‘the feels’. Rae and her best friend Layla have just moved back in together after their marriages ended. They’re busy being violently happy, pretending everything is fine. They stumble into a party infested with vampires.

Infected with the vampire virus, which mutates and distorts their DNA, Rae, and Layla struggle to come to terms with losing their humanity and their old lives, and coming to terms with their strange new gifts. They should be wary in a Pride rife with jealousies and ancient rivalries. They aren’t safe, but will they recognise the threats in time?

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).


By Anne Rice,

Book cover of Taltos

Why this book?

In her final novel of the Mayfair Witch Trilogy, Anne Rice really seduced me with the concept of the sympathetic monster. Ash, her Taltos character is inhuman, but so pure and love-filled, I understood that an inhuman character can be used to highlight humanity’s greatest strengths. Around the creation of her creatures, she wove a history of fiction and legend and Celtic history that I found fascinating. I read this book almost thirty years ago, and it’s still one of those books that I hark back to as inspiration.

A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness,

Book cover of A Discovery of Witches

Why this book?

Deborah Harkness’s All Soul’s Trilogy was the first time I found an Urban Fantasy novel that featured a more mature heroine, which I loved. I missed being able to lose myself in another world as I got older myself, and found it harder to relate to teenage characters. I savoured Deborah’s strong female characters, women who won’t give up who they are, or their morals to please their man, even if he is a centuries-old vampire who is stuck in his ways. I loved the rich writing, which took the time to create believable characters rather than just rushing from adventure to the next alpha male. High-quality, literary writing in dark fantasy is a real treat.

Fool's Assassin

By Robin Hobb,

Book cover of Fool's Assassin

Why this book?

Writing at its absolute finest. I adore all the Robin Hobb novels. I revere all her characters, her world building, and her carefully traced storylines she never loses, and never labours. But the Fool, the Fool was my favourite. Ambiguous, indefinable, irresistible, brave, beautiful, and self-sacrificing. The Fool's Assassin is so beautifully crafted from Robin’s words, dancing out from the page in mischief, magic, and melancholy, that you are left feeling like you knew them.

The Reindeer People

By Megan Lindholm,

Book cover of The Reindeer People

Why this book?

Evocative, believable, beautifully written. Dark Fantasy at its finest; Megan’s characters will resonate with anyone who feels a bit different, like they don’t fit in with everyone else. Megan explores all this can mean in her trilogy, the good, the bad, and the downright terrifying. Her world is richly written, you can smell the tangy woodfires, and feel the biting cold.

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova,

Book cover of The Historian

Why this book?

The Historian is brilliantly brooding. Kostova builds a wonderfully gothic atmosphere of menace using a combination of history and legend to make her fiction utterly believable. The novel is fascinating, delving behind the iron curtain as it does. Her characters are strong and step right out of the page for the reader, so you are completely gripped by their story throughout.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in witches, Louisiana, and Eastern Europe?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about witches, Louisiana, and Eastern Europe.

Witches Explore 81 books about witches
Louisiana Explore 45 books about Louisiana
Eastern Europe Explore 28 books about Eastern Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Imagining the Witch, Dead Witch Walking, and Room on the Broom if you like this list.