The best fantasy books for readers who have had it with dystopian angst

Who am I?

I had the great good fortune to be born into a wonderful Southern family whose idea of a good time was to gather on the front porch and tell jokes and stories. I was also blessed with a detailed fantasy life and a host of imaginary friends who developed into characters for my books. My favorite books to read have a good balance of humor and drama, nothing too grim, please, and if they are inventive and clever, then I’m all in. As for my own books, I strive to keep that balance of light and dark. I’m very lucky to have six fantasy novels published so far.


I wrote...

Over the Edge

By Jane Tesh,

Book cover of Over the Edge

What is my book about?

When fairy tale expert Mel Worthington was summoned over the edge to retrieve a rogue laptop, he did not expect to discover his mother was revered as the Diamond Queen and that he has a rightful claim to the throne. However, the attractive but fierce bodyguard assigned to guide him disagrees.

Riley Evensong knows it’s her destiny to rule Eldenfair and is suspicious of this human. But something has put a spell on all the cell phones in the land. A strange social media fad called Flitter has all the young fae enchanted and is causing havoc. Riley must put aside her resentment of Mel, and Mel must come to terms with his own emerging magic to save Fairy tales from becoming warped beyond recognition.

The books I picked & why

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Going Postal

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Going Postal

Why this book?

Terry Prachett is my favorite author, and Going Postal is my favorite of his many novels set in his imaginary Discworld, an alternate universe Prachett created to spoof traditional fantasy and human foolishness. Moist Lipwig, a dashing con man, is heading for the gallows, but is given a second chance. He must save Ank-Morpork’s derelict postal service. Moist (what a name!) tries to get out of the job, but I love the way he gradually has a change of heart and takes on the challenge with his usual flare. There is romance, danger, and an amazing satire on the internet. I am in awe of the way Prachett can mix comedy, drama, humor, and pathos, which is what I strive for in my own novels. 

Going Postal

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Going Postal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful new hardback edition of the classic Discworld novel.

Moist von Lipwig is a con artist and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork's ailing postal service back on its feet.

It was a tough decision.

But he's got to see that the mail gets though, come rain, hail, sleet, dogs, the Post Office Workers Friendly and Benevolent Society, the evil chairman of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, and a midnight killer.

Getting a date with Adora Bell Dearheart would be nice, too.


The Big Over Easy

By Jasper Fforde,

Book cover of The Big Over Easy

Why this book?

Jasper Fforde is an author whose works defy description. Mystery, fantasy, time travel, and delightful humor are all found in his work, plus there is enough wordplay and literary references to please an English major like me. I had the opportunity to hear him speak, and he is just as entertaining as his books. My favorite is The Big Over Easy. Jack Spratt and Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division investigate the death of Humpty Dumpty. Did he fall or was he pushed? Add the evil Goliath Company, friendly aliens, and a rampaging Gingerbread Man, and you will see every nursery rhyme and fairy tale character in a totally new light. If you are looking for something completely original, try the Nursery Crime Division series!

The Big Over Easy

By Jasper Fforde,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Big Over Easy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's Easter in Reading - a bad time for eggs - and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town.

Following the pathologist's careful reconstruction of Humpty's shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody.

As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack's…


The Graveyard Game

By Kage Baker,

Book cover of The Graveyard Game

Why this book?

I gravitate toward authors who can mix drama and humor, which is something I strive for in my books, and Kage Baker is one of the best. Known for her wildly inventive and unpredictable plots and sardonic sense of humor, she creates characters the reader really cares about, something else I hope to achieve. The all-seeing, all-knowing Company is headed by the mysterious Dr. Zeus, who has created cyborgs to go back in time to save treasure for clients who will pay big bucks for a lost Van Gogh or missing Hemmingway manuscript. But the cyborgs aren’t heartless robots, and my favorite character, Literature Preserver Lewis, is in love with the Botonist Mendoza, who, of course, loves another. I was totally charmed by Lewis and his unending optimism.

The Graveyard Game

By Kage Baker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You wouldn't take Lewis for an immortal cyborg: he looks like a dapper character from a Noel Coward play. And Joseph - short and stocky in his Armani suit, with a neatly trimmed black moustache and beard that give him a cheerfully villainous look - you'd never guess that his parents drew the Neolithic cave paintings in the Cevennes. What are these two operatives of the Company doing in an amusement arcade in San Francisco in 1996? They're looking for Mendoza, fellow cyborg of Dr. Zeus Incorporated, who has been banished Back Way Back. They're also trying to solve the…


Storm Front

By Jim Butcher,

Book cover of Storm Front

Why this book?

I’m just wild about Harry—Dresden, that is, Chicago’s only wizard for hire. Storm Front is the first of 20 books in the Dresden Files, a great mix of urban fantasy, noir, and pop culture references. When Harry investigates a double murder committed by black magic, he has many suspects to choose from: spirits, ghouls, vampires, and he’s always contending with the overbearing White Council of Wizards with its draconian laws and rules. Butcher’s ability to get Harry out of impossible dangers is impressive. No deus ex machina here. Harry survives by his wits and his snarky remarks. Oh, and he’s not bad looking, either. Always a plus! The battle scenes can be graphic and gory, but it’s worth it for the snark.

Storm Front

By Jim Butcher,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Storm Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put…


The Amulet of Samarkand

By Jonathan Stroud,

Book cover of The Amulet of Samarkand

Why this book?

This was the first book I read by Jonathan Stroud, and I was hooked on page 4 by the unexpected and hilarious footnote from Bartimaeus, the delightfully egotistical and wily djinni summoned by Nathaniel, an eleven-year-old magician’s apprentice. But this isn’t your typical genie in the lamp story. This story is set in an alternate London ruled by magicians who control all types of spirits and are constantly battling for superiority. Nathaniel is out for revenge on the magician who humiliated him and sends Bartimaeus to steal his treasured amulet. However, Bartimaeus has a rival djinni who would love to see him fail. As a theater person, I love the way Bartimaeus’ footnotes break the fourth wall. A wildly inventive character!

The Amulet of Samarkand

By Jonathan Stroud,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Amulet of Samarkand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first volume in the brilliant, bestselling Bartimaeus sequence.

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation or a few simple illusions. But Nathaniel is a precocious talent and has something rather more dangerous in mind: revenge. Against his will, Bartimaeus is packed off to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, both djinni and apprentice are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, murder and rebellion.

Set…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopia, wizards, and Chicago?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopia, wizards, and Chicago.

Dystopia Explore 255 books about dystopia
Wizards Explore 73 books about wizards
Chicago Explore 262 books about Chicago

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Prayer for the Dying, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Paper Bag Princess if you like this list.