The best progression fantasy books

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved fantasy novels, movies, and video games. When I got to high school, I finally met people who played Dungeons and Dragons, and it was all downhill from there! I started Dungeon Mastering at a young age, but everyone said I had a real talent for it. The stories I created always caught the imagination of the players, and more than once, people told me I should write books. Well, here I am. I love escapist fantasy, epic adventures, wonderful characters, and terrible villains. I can’t get enough of them, and every day I immerse myself in the fantastical, whether it be reading another book, writing another story, or booting up another Final Fantasy game.

I wrote...

Knightmare Arcanist

By Shami Stovall,

Book cover of Knightmare Arcanist

What is my book about?

Knightmare Arcanist is set in a unique world where everyone gains magical powers based on the mythical creature they bond to. Phoenix arcanists have fire and healing, whereas hydra arcanists have poison and regeneration—the stronger the creature, the more amazing the powers. Volke Savan bonds with a creature of shadow—a knightmare—and soon learns that his magic progresses based on his training and spiritual cultivation. Volke wants nothing more than to be like his childhood hero, Gregory Ruma, so when he joins Gregory’s guild, the Frith Guild, he’s more than elated. But when it turns out Ruma might be a villain, things take an interesting twist…

The whole series is filled with epic fights, badass tournaments, and magical corruption. Definitely worth a read.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Unsouled

Shami Stovall Why did I love this book?

Unsouled (Cradle #1) by Will Wight has extremely clear, strong, and defined characters. I love characters. No story is good for me unless I love the cast, and thankfully, this book delivers. The progression of Lindon's (the main character) soul throughout the Cradle series is key to the story and thoroughly thought out. His counterpart, Yerin, has less progression, but is extremely key in teaching and protecting Lindon (and their gradual love subplot is perfect!). 

There are epic fights, great mentors (I’m looking at you, Eithen), and an amazing tournament. By the 10th book in the series, you’re hooked and can’t wait for more. Trust me.

By Will Wight,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the natural world.Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan.When faced with a looming fate he cannot ignore, he must rise beyond anything he's ever known...and forge his own Path.

Book cover of Iron Prince

Shami Stovall Why did I love this book?

The Iron Prince by Bryce O’Connor and Luke Chmilenko is the gold standard for academy-style adventure fantasy. And it’s the only one on my list that has definite sci-fi elements, which I adore!

The progression in this novel is litRPG in that we have numbers/letters used to denote power levels. If you’ve never read a litRPG, think Dragonball Z or a video game level-up system. The whole point of this story is following Reidon’s ascension to godhood (or at least, the start of it) since his special power is to have the highest rate of gain stat ever seen! He starts with the lowest starting stats, but that quickly turns around. 

A fantastic start to what should be an amazing series.

By Bryce O'Connor, Luke Chmilenko,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reidon Ward will become a god. He doesn't know it yet, of course. Reidon was born weak, sickly and small. Afflicted with a painful disease and abandoned by his parents because of it, he has had to fight tooth and nail for every minor advantage life has allowed him.His perseverance has not gone unnoticed, however, and when the most powerful artificial intelligence in human history takes an interest in him, things began to change quickly. Granted a CAD—a Combat Assistance Device—with awful specs but an infinite potential for growth, Reidon finds himself at the bottom of his class at the…

Book cover of Dungeon Born

Shami Stovall Why did I love this book?

Dungeon Born by Dakota Krout is another litRPG style novel (with numbers/letters that denote the progression) only this time we find ourselves following the tale of a sentient dungeon named Cal. The dungeon’s goals are what you would expect: kill adventures, gain experience, make loot to lure more powerful adventures, and have great boss monsters.

The story is also partially told from an adventurer named Dale. He ventures into the dungeon, and you can see the progression of him and his fellow adventurers as he braves Cal’s monsters and traps. This is the book that introduced the concept of “dungeon core” to the world, and while it’s not for everyone, it does have one of the most clear-cut progression stories ever told. Well worth the read.

By Dakota Krout,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A powerful dungeon. A sheep-herder turned Noble. Their path to ascendance through cultivation.

Conquering dungeons and using them to grow has long been the most efficient way to become a powerful adventurer. The only thing keeping the process from being easy is the Beasts that inhabit these places. Questions plague those entering this particular place of power: Where do the ‘rewards’ of weapons, armor, and heavy gold coins come from? Why is a fluffy bunny charging at me? For abyss-sake, why are there so many monsters?

Cal has all of the answers to these age-old questions for a very simple…

Book cover of Into the Labyrinth

Shami Stovall Why did I love this book?

Into the Labyrinth by John Bierce is another academy-fantasy tale where the main character, Hugh, studies magic alongside others. This is a great story for emotional development and plot twists! At first, things seem like they don’t add up, but by the end, you get a satisfying sense of “ah-ha!” as most of your questions are answered (not all, though!).

This is a great coming-of-age story where Hugh finds great mentors, deals with his first love, and struggles with magic where others excel. It’s a great entry point for younger readers, too. Just well worth the read.

By John Bierce,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hugh of Emblin is, so far as he's concerned, the worst student that the Academy at Skyhold has ever seen. He can barely cast any spells at all, and those he does cast tend to fail explosively. If that wasn't bad enough, he's also managed to attract the ire of the most promising student of his year- who also happens to be the nephew of a king. Hugh has no friends, no talent, and definitely doesn't expect a mage to choose him as an apprentice at all during the upcoming Choosing. When a very unexpected mage does choose him as…

Book cover of Forging

Shami Stovall Why did I love this book?

The Land by Aleron Kong is the third litRPG on this list, and probably the most famous. Every litRPG uses a few ways to denote progression, but this book has an almost unending series of charts, numbers, rules, and powers for everything. And I do mean everything.

Character growth. Weapon quality. Town building. To career building. Even dungeon building.

Everything progresses. Everything has level-ups. The world is huge, and the events feel extremely epic. This is also the longest series on the list, with books so massive, you could knock a fool out with one.

Definitely worth the time, though. Don’t miss out.

By Aleron Kong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover Dr. Aleron Kong, the Father of American LitRPG! #1 in Cyberpunk and Video Game Science Fiction! Over SEVENTEEN HUNDRED positive reviews on Goodreads!!! The second captivating installment of Aleron Kong's, Chaos Seeds series. "We are life takers and heart breakers," Richter shouted. "Let's go!" Richter and Sion are at it again! Even more of what you loved in the first book! Leveling, world building, awesome items, and what's that you say? Sure! Why not? What's a little necrophilia between friends!?! Join your favorite Chaos Seed as he answers the call of adventure and deals with the invaders, greedy dwarves,…

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The Woodland Stranger: A Fairy Tale with Benefits

By Jane Buehler,

Book cover of The Woodland Stranger: A Fairy Tale with Benefits

Jane Buehler Author Of The Ocean Girl

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Introvert Romantic Norm avoider Backyard birdwatcher

Jane's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Burne’s been hiding out in the forest since deserting the King’s Guard. Each time he tries to return to the village, he begins to panic. And then one day, he encounters a handsome stranger picking flowers and hides behind a tree instead of talking.

He wants to be braver—and he’s about to get another chance. Because the stranger is Gray, a fairy and master of illusions who’s now following Burne home. And Gray’s got more on his mind than talking. Would a fairy that beautiful ever want someone like him? Stranger things have happened.

The Woodland Stranger: A Fairy Tale with Benefits

By Jane Buehler,

What is this book about?

Whoever said, Don't talk to strangers?

Burne hid behind a tree. He wanted to talk to the handsome man picking flowers at the edge of the forest, but he'd only flub it if he tried-he'd stumble over his words and blush bright red. And now the man is gone.

He tries to continue on to the village, but the same thing happens as always: his hands start shaking and panic wells up inside him. What if he runs into the bullies who tormented him in the King's Guard last spring? Ever since he deserted, he has hidden out in the…

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