The best speculative fiction books you may not have read (but really need to)

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 12 when I first played Dungeons and Dragons. I’d always been interested in swords, armour, the fight between good and evil (thank Star Wars for that) but I’d never read fantasy. D&D introduced me to it, and I fell in love with the genre. Conan was my first reading foray into fantasy, and then The Hobbit and I was hooked. I still go to the Royal Ontario Museum and stare at armour and weapons, and love visiting medieval castles. I can’t walk in the woods without picking up a stick and it becoming a sword to fight the orcs waiting for me around the next bend.


I wrote...

The Stone of Death

By Troy Young,

Book cover of The Stone of Death

What is my book about?

Four strangers seek the shelter of an inn from a freak winter storm: a former mercenary returning home in disgrace, a crippled Magus fresh from the academy, a middle-aged priest, and an enigmatic woman who knows more than she’s revealing. What seems like a typical beginning becomes anything but. Soon the four strangers have to rely on each other as the Followers of Necris, the God of Death, have targeted them for knowledge that has inadvertently fallen into their possession: the secret location of the Stone of Death, an ancient artifact lost for 7,000 years.

Do they have what it takes to remain ahead of those out to destroy them? Can they even trust each other? If they beat the assassins to the Stone, what will they do with it?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Daughter of the Empire

Troy Young Why did I love this book?

Most readers know about Feist’s Riftwar series. I like that series. I love his Empire series (with Janny Wurts). Mainly because I like my fantasy to be unique, and Empire is that. Strong female lead, intrigue, not focused on big battle scenes; the best characters use their wits, not their brawn, to survive. I consider it a thinking person’s approach to fantasy. It’s not your typical fare, and I like to dip my toe into something different. That’s not to say I don’t love the big epics like Lord of the Rings or The Song of Ice and Fire, but now and then you want something different.

By Raymond E. Feist, Janny Wurts,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Daughter of the Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the imagination of two of fantasy's greatest names comes a magnificent epic of heroic and dynastic struggle.

At age 17, Mara's ceremonial pledge of servantship to the goddess Lashima is interrupted by the news that her father and brother have been killed in battle on Trigia, the world through the rift.

Now Ruling Lady of the Acoma, Mara finds that not only are her family's ancient enemies, the Minwanabi, responsible for the deaths of her loved ones, but her military forces have been decimated by the betrayal and House Acoma is now vulnerable to complete destruction.


Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Troy Young Why did I love this book?

Too often, sci-fi and fantasy are so very serious. Like, mega-serious. And that is fine. But, off-beat and funny are good too. Hitchhiker’s is a funny book in a sci-fi setting. But I enjoy adding a touch of whimsy to an otherwise serious tale. If it isn’t done well, it can take you out of the setting and flow. I like to balance edge, action, and drama with interspersed humour at appropriate times. Would I want all the fantasy I consume to have these elements? No. Does the odd fantasy story with humour in it act as a palate cleanser? Indeed, it does.

By Douglas Adams,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This box set contains all five parts of the' trilogy of five' so you can listen to the complete tales of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Bebblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android! Travel through space, time and parallel universes with the only guide you'll ever need, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Read by Stephen Fry, actor, director, author and popular audiobook reader, and Martin Freeman, who played Arthur Dent in film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He is well known as Tim in The Office.

The set also includes a bonus DVD Life, the Universe and…


Book cover of The Graveyard Book

Troy Young Why did I love this book?

I’d never read Neil Gaiman before. I made it to age 48 without ever having read a Neil Gaiman book. In early 2019, I found a copy of The Graveyard Book in a Little Library near my house, so I picked it up. Wow. A modern-day fantastical setting, a quick read, but a good one. I loved how he crafted his characters. Characters need complexity, and not be caricatures. This had just enough edge and menace to keep you on the edge of your seat. It also compelled me to write a short story in part influenced by one character in this book. That short story was the first thing I ever published and it started me off on my writing career.

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Graveyard Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing his entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?


Book cover of The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

Troy Young Why did I love this book?

Princess Bride combines the action of fantasy along with a touch of whimsy and fun. If you’ve only ever seen the movie (the most perfectly crafted piece of cinema ever IMO) you really should try the source material. Flawed characters drawn together facing challenges in an overarching quest, but each with their own motivations and reasons for being there. It’s got action. Adventure. Romance. Betrayal. And a touch of magic. What is not to like?

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Princess Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers.

This tale of true love, high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts was unforgettably depicted in the 1987 film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Fred Savage, Robin Wright, and others. But, rich in character and satire, the novel boasts even more layers of ingenious storytelling. Set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin, home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest…


Book cover of The Tower of the Elephant

Troy Young Why did I love this book?

This is a short story featuring Conan, and one of, if not, my favourite (it has tough competition from Red Nails and Wolves Beyond the Border). Simple, straight-up, sword and sorcery action. Howard’s Conan was the first real fantasy I fell in love with (before discovering Lord of the Rings). Epic character, but straightforward stories. The opposite of the sprawling epic. One of my books is a collection of sword and sorcery stories, and the first story is heavily influenced by The Tower of the Elephant. The otherworldly aspect, magic, (but not all-encompassing magic), a quest, and ultimately a choice between good and evil. I can’t not recommend a Conan story when talking about fantasy.

By Robert E. Howard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

t is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan infiltrating a perilous tower in order to steal a fabled gem from an evil sorcerer named Yara. Due to its unique insights into the Hyborian world and atypical science fiction elements, the story is considered a classic of Conan lore and is often cited by Howard scholars as one of his best tales.


You might also like...

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb Jones wants something more than a father-daughter relationship. He sends Carol far away, where the boy won’t be a hindrance to his plans. Marilyn devises a plan of her own: to locate her little brother, kidnap him, and run away.

Independence, however, often comes at a high price.

As Marilyn weathers the unexpected and often brutal storms of her childhood and adolescence, hope becomes her ally as she winds through small southern towns, wrapping herself around an assortment of hearts along the way. With unexpected help from a caring social worker, a carnival of misfits, her first true love, and even the elusive Tan Man himself, Marilyn will discover that “family” isn’t always what we imagine it to be.

"A dazzling piece that delves deep into the themes of survival, the casualties of self-discovery, and the power of familial ties." ~ Prairies Book Review

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


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