The best portal fantasy books by small/independent presses

Why am I passionate about this?

Indie authors and presses are sometimes dismissed as “lesser-than” and not carried by bookstores. The stories are labeled as “amateurish” or “boring.” (Some are, but so are some books coming from big publishers!) Size doesn’t really matter in the world of publishing. Being published with a small press showed me a realm beyond the huge, traditional publishing houses—it’s populated with fantastic books written by gifted authors who often write, not for fame or money, but because they love writing. I’ve found many hours of enjoyment in indie books (and lost hours of sleep, as well!) I hope, with this list, you find the same.


I wrote...

Spark

By J.M. Hackman,

Book cover of Spark

What is my book about?

Brenna James is just a normal teen. Going to school, hanging out with friends, shooting fire from her bare hands...um, what?

When her mother disappears during a business trip, Brenna will do anything to find her. Even travel through a portal to an alternate reality. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. With no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen. Exactly what she wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna’s horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Illusionary

J.M. Hackman Why did I love this book?

In Illuminary, the main character Kamryn finds herself in the land of Ur after falling down a staircase. I felt an immediate kinship—fellow klutzes, unite! This contemporary adventure blends elements of well-known fairytales (like Peter Pan) with a unique, fantastical world. For me, characters really make the story come alive, and this story was no different. Ur held wonderful side characters, as well as a villain that’s easy to hate.

I also need happy endings for my reading choices. Kamryn and the hero Reese both had to draw on a strength greater than their own to reach their own happy ending, but it was so worth it.

By Desiree Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dorothy got sucked into a tornado.

Alice fell down a hole.

Wendy flew to Neverland.

Kamryn? She tripped down the stairs.

Now, Kamryn Kensington finds herself in a strange new world. Within minutes of her arrival, she dodges an archer’s arrow and avoids getting sliced up by a cosplay reject holding a dagger to her throat. And that’s before the storyteller’s breath brings stories to life.

Home is the mission—to return to her family and pursue her life’s dream of art and travel. Yet the longer she’s in the Land of Ur, the harder it is not to feel for…


Book cover of All That We See Or Seem

J.M. Hackman Why did I love this book?

Kristina Mahr does an amazing job creating two fantastical worlds, a beautiful one the heroine Reeve experiences by day, the other a nightmarish realm when she falls asleep. Reeve must navigate her dreamworld without dying (a serious problem with carnivorous, killer falcons) and discover why she’s experiencing this phenomenon. The author pulled me into the story, causing me to root for both Reeve and the hero Bran, as they make choices that affect both of their lives. I deeply felt the emotional connection between them and stayed up way too late to finish the story. The entire duology has a HEA (happily-ever-after), but book one’s cliffhanger is rough! Have book two on standby.

By Kristina Mahr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All That We See Or Seem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every night, seventeen-year-old Reeve Lennox finds herself under a noose.

By day she is a lady of Acarsaid’s royal house, daydreaming of adventure and love. But every night in sleep she wanders through a nightmarish city, an invisible witness to the screeches of monsters and the screams of their victims. Her only consolation is Bran, a battle-torn young man with a selfless heart and eyes that reflect the stars.

Yet while Reeve falls deeper into her dreams, in truth she is engaged to Arden, a mercurial nobleman who has long been cured of his belief in love and breathes fire…


Book cover of The Gold-Son

J.M. Hackman Why did I love this book?

The Gold-Son is about a teen boy, Tommin, cursed with the need to steal. When the leprechaun, Lorcan Reilly arrives, he tricks Tommin and takes him to the realm of the Leprechauns. The thing I marveled over the most was the description of Tommin’s urge to steal—it was so well written. The author’s writing is lyrical and beautifully atmospheric, and she melds the legends and folklore of leprechauns to craft a tale of a terrible curse, a young love that lasts, and second chances.

By Carrie Anne Noble,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The story is, simply, beautiful." -Fictionist Magazine

All sixteen-year-old Tommin wants is to make beautiful shoes and care for his beloved grandmother, but his insatiable need to steal threatens to destroy everything. Driven by a curse that demands more and more gold, he's sure to get caught eventually.

When mysterious Lorcan Reilly arrives in town with his "niece," Eve, Tommin believes the fellow wants to help him. Instead, Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where, alongside Eve, he's forced to prepare to become one of them.

As Lorcan's plans for his "gold-children" are slowly revealed,…


Book cover of The Gwythienian

J.M. Hackman Why did I love this book?

I loved the adventure and world building in this book. Odan Terridor is a fantastical world hidden from most eyes filled with dragons, curious beasties, and a mysterious, powerful stone that makes the main character, Enzi (aka Mackenzie) invisible. As usual, the characters pulled me in. Enzi isn’t your beautiful-but-clueless heroine—she struggles with school, her weight, and a past trauma that’s truly heartbreaking (but tastefully done). It makes her victory at the end of the series so satisfying.

By Savannah J. Goins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gwythienian 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?

A magic relic missing from another world for years. A Tennessee teen who doesn’t know it’s hers. A dragon who needs it back, and just found out she has it.

He’s not the only dragon watching her now.

Seventeen-year-old Enzi Montgomery had worn the stone around her neck for years. It was set in a cheap metal fitting, nothing fancy.

But it made her wonder if she was crazy.

Sometimes, when she had it on, she could disappear. She couldn't make it happen. It just worked on its own. But always at convenient times, like when she'd needed to hide…


Book cover of Keen

J.M. Hackman Why did I love this book?

Keen is about a banshee, Caoine, currently living in the contemporary world, even though the fae realm is closer than many know. I’d never read about a banshee, but I understood Caoine’s feeling of not fitting in, of being weird or different. Caoine is a sympathetic heroine as she tries to learn how to use her ability, even though she’s certain her only purpose is to bring death to those around her.

By Laura L. Zimmerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Keen 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?

You must walk the darkness to find the light.

Half-faerie Caoine has no control over the banshee lament she sings each night, predicting the death of others. A senior in a brand new high school, she expects the same response she’s received at every other school: judgment from fellow students over her unusual eyes and unnaturally white skin and hair. However, when Caoine arrives at West Lincoln High, for the first time in her life she finds friends. Real friends.

But being a teenager is never easy, especially when the star soccer player, Oliver, sets his sights on her. Allowing…


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Shadow of the Hidden

By Kev Harrison,

Book cover of Shadow of the Hidden

Kev Harrison Author Of Below

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Traveller Horror addict Reader

Kev's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It’s Seb’s last day working in Turkey, but his friend Oz has been cursed. Superstition turns to terror as the effects of the ancient malediction spill over, and the lives of Oz and his family hang in the balance. Can Seb find the answers to remove the hex before it’s too late?

Journey with Seb, Oz, and Deniz across ancient North African cities as they seek to banish the Shadow of the Hidden.

Shadow of the Hidden

By Kev Harrison,

What is this book about?

It’s Seb’s last day working in Turkey, but his friend Oz has been cursed. Superstition turns to terror as the effects of the ancient malediction spill over and the lives of Oz and his family hang in the balance. Can Seb find the answers to remove the hex before it’s too late?

From Kev Harrison, author of The Balance and Below, journey with Seb, Oz and Deniz across ancient North African cities as they seek to banish the Shadow of the Hidden.


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