The best gaslamp fantasy books to read by the dragon-fire

Who am I?

I am Lucy Tempest, an bicultural author that puts my love of history, culture and folklore into creating vivid, expanded adaptations of tales that stood the test of time. I adore stories either set in our own recent past or are similar to them in set-up, finding them full of interesting opportunities, not just in world-building but aesthetics as well, that Medieval-fantasy lacks. Gaslamp fantasy is a Goldilocks setting, detached enough from our modern world, but with enough crucial traits to be familiar. I can read about the magical adventures of pseudo-industrial people without worrying about how they survive without indoor plumbing!


I wrote...

Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

By Lucy Tempest,

Book cover of Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

What is my book about?

Thief of Cahraman, first of a trilogy, is an expanded, gender-bent and culturally rich adaptation of Aladdin starring a small-time thief who is plucked from her isolated island to the desert Kingdom of Cahraman and blackmailed into a palace heist to steal a golden lamp. She infiltrates a bridal contest set for the mysterious crown prince, has to go through trials with ever-increasing stakes to buy herself time and finds herself in a comedy-of-errors style romance. As their fates further intertwine, Ada and Cyrus uncover grave secrets about the past along their winding path, exploring and breaking the cycle of dark magic, conflict and politics they were born into.

The books I picked & why

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The Paper Magician

By Charlie N. Holmberg,

Book cover of The Paper Magician

Why this book?

It’s in my Rereads Club, what I return to when I need to escape to a fantastical yet familiar world. This is also the driving force behind my love for the genre. 

Set in an alternate-history Edwardian London where magic is something you specialize in like any other skill, Ceony’s arc was the first time I read about what happens after one leaves magic-school. And the directions a post-graduate magician can head in when they’re assigned something that, at first, appears to ruin their dreams, but instead opens up new opportunities and drives home why you should take a chance on the unexpected.

The Paper Magician

By Charlie N. Holmberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Charlie is a vibrant writer with an excellent voice and great world building. I thoroughly enjoyed the Paper Magician." -Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn and The Way of Kings

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she's bonded to paper, that will be her only magic...forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to…


Ella Enchanted

By Gail Carson Levine,

Book cover of Ella Enchanted

Why this book?

Ella Enchanted is a reimagining of Cinderella that expanded her world and filled in the gaps of her story, so to speak and inspired my approach to my own series

Everything from how Ella’s lot in life was explained, to the ‘anachronistic’ setting, how her world connects her to later spins on fairy tales, and her relationship with her prince opened my mind to the directions I could take my work in. Adapting these tales didn’t need to be beat-by-beat the version we knew and loved, it could go in many different directions as long as it reached that beloved destination in the end.

Ella Enchanted

By Gail Carson Levine,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Ella Enchanted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ELLA ENCHANTED is a witty, refreshing take on the popular fairytale, Cinderella which preserves the spirit of the original but adds plenty of humorous twists and a spunky, intelligent female protagonist. "If you've read HARRY POTTER, try ELLA ENCHANTED" Publishers Weekly

Ella is given a blessing at birth by a very stupid fairy: She gets the gift of obedience! but the blessing turns into a horror for Ella who literally has to do what anyone and everyone tells her, from sweeping the floor to giving up a prrecious necklace! She has to battle with ogres and wicked stepsisters, make friends…


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

By Susanna Clarke,

Book cover of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Why this book?

This captures more of the alternate history aspect of the genre than my other recommendations, it feels more grounded in a sense, written in the style of 19th Century novels to invoke the time period in the best way. 

Here magic is widely acknowledged, having been common in the past but is now with limited practitioners, namely the title characters. It is a fascinating exploration of how differently recent history would have gone under the influence of magic, and how those who wield it would have been viewed in society.

It bridges my love of historical fiction and fantasy, blending both into an intriguing experience where, no matter the liberties the story takes with logic and fact, you can almost say ‘This could have happened.’

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

By Susanna Clarke,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of…


Stardust

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Stardust

Why this book?

Stardust is, in essence, a modern fairy tale, with the concept of ‘the magical world next-door’ I always wished to discover as a child. As with my previous recommendations, it isn’t a secret to be stumbled upon, but a known world to venture into if you dare. 

What I love about these settings is how you go in thinking that they’d seem mundane and easier to navigate compared to stumbling into hidden worlds, but the catch is that the laws of everything—including reality—differ there. It heightens the excitement and how the plot can surprise you with those new twists!

Stardust

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture—this charming fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author, weaves a magical story set long ago in the tiny English village of Wall, a place where things are not quite what they seem.

Go and catch a falling star . . .

Tristran Thorn promises to bring back a fallen star for his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and crosses the wall that divides his English country town from another, more dangerous world of lords and witches, all of them in search of the star. Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one…


The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

Why this book?

This is among the novels that broke the ground in my mind on what was possible in fiction, and how a concept being niche shouldn’t discourage me from tackling it, because people will want to explore it along with me, even if it is deemed unpopular or ‘too difficult’ by some. 

Lyra’s arc travels a multiverse on a limited scale, showing us worlds like our own but not quite, which has become among my favored tropes. Across the His Dark Materials series we travel the overlapping worlds starting from the gaslamp fantasy of Lyra’s Oxford to the England of our own world and continuity, and beyond.

The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

By Philip Pullman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first volume in Philip Pullman's groundbreaking
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, now a thrilling, critically
acclaimed BBC/HBO television series. First published
in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first
book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all
die."

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live
half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands
of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences
far beyond her own world...



This…


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