The best fantasy & steampunk books with wildly worldly invention, highly questionable morals, & supreme ideas

Who am I?

I have been drawn toward tales and stories of the bizarre since childhood. As a reader, I look for works that will surprise me. The real world in general, I find very unsurprising (lord yes, I do!). When I read, when I enter the fictional world (my favorite!) I want to be inspired to read on. I have put down many a book through boredom. I am not a plough. If I am uninterested, I stop. These books have inspired me in my own craft. Currently writing my sixth novel of the unpredictable, I feel I have experienced enough to forward on some irregular reads of the pure and the awesome.  


I wrote...

Dave Bi-Plane Fights the Red Winged Death Command

By S.B. Norton,

Book cover of Dave Bi-Plane Fights the Red Winged Death Command

What is my book about?

An otherworldly tale ... of dreaming in the world of Sombre and of the mysterious Dave Bi-Plane.

Jasper Reeves is 15. He skates. Has music. Everything he needs. No clutter. There’s no room for clutter. Only room for Dave Bi-Plane. The airman's adventures in Sombre give Jasper a balance like nothing else can. He welcomes sleep. When he sleeps his troubles fall away. Dave Bi-Plane has his own trouble. Dave is being hunted. A squadron of Spitfires, known as The Red Winged Death Command, want something from Dave, something he is unwilling to give, something he can't give. They won't stop until they have it. An ultimate battle looms for Dave in the Nightmare world - a battle that seems impossible to win.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ancient Appetites

S.B. Norton Why did I love this book?

A wildly imaginative tale from the wildly underrated writer, Oisin McGann. A lot of the ideas here stem from his fantastic artwork. (So impressed was I with the read, I Googled his webpage!)

The Wildenstern family is a power-hungry lot, set in a slightly removed, Steampunk/Dystopian idea of a long-ago Ireland. Competitive cousins, Gerald and Nate Wildenstern are wonderful characters, and Nate’s sister-in-law, Daisy, is quite the uppity aristocrat (you can’t help but like!).

There are wild animal-like machines, a lot of deaths, twisted family values, and mystery to be had within this book. Very much a page-turner. I am rereading again – and the rest of the series as well!

By Oisín McGann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancient Appetites as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Nate Wildenstern's brother has been killed, and the finger is pointed at him . . .

After nearly two years, eighteen-year-old Nate returns home to the family empire ruled by his father - the ruthless Wildenstern Patriarch. But Nate's life is soon shattered by his brother's death, and the Rules of Ascension, allowing the assassination of one male family member by another, means he's being blamed. He knows that he is not the murderer, but who is?

With the aid of his troublesome sister-in-law, Daisy, and his cousin Gerald, he means to find out. But when the victims of the…


Book cover of Mortal Engines

S.B. Norton Why did I love this book?

How can one not love a book about moving Traction Cities? In a magnificently imagined world where these Traction Cities fight for what is left of a destroyed future earth (left behind by us humans – from a stupid massive war to end all wars – go figure eh!).

Tom Natsworthy is aboard the traction city of London. London needs to feed and hunt for smaller cities to feed into its mighty jaws. Tom soon learns that London’s sinister hierarchy of scientists are building their own bomb – MEDUSA. Tom is thrown from London when he befriends a physically and emotionally scarred stow-away slave girl, Hester. 

The journey back to the ever-moving London to try and stop – MEDUSA is an amazing one – I must say. So well written, brilliant actually.

By Philip Reeve,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mortal Engines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

"A breathtaking work of imagination, Hester Shaw is a heroine for the ages. The moment we finished reading this book we knew we wanted to make it into a movie." -- Producer Peter Jackson

* "Reeve's [Mortal Engines] remains a landmark of visionary imagination." -- School Library Journal, starred review

窶銀�窶起ow a major motion picture produced by Peter Jackson!

London is hunting again. Emerging from its hiding place in the hills, the great Traction City is chasing a terrified little town across the wastelands. Soon London will feed.

In the attack, Tom Natsworthy is flung from the speeding city with…


Book cover of The Hunchback Assignments

S.B. Norton Why did I love this book?

This was my very first read in the Steampunk genre. 

What a great book and series this is. 

As a baby, Modo is purchased from a travelling gypsy by a well-to-do aristocrat, the mysterious Mr. Socrates. Modo is hideously ugly. Mr. Socrates raises and educates Modo in proper English and manners and fight craft. He lives his life tucked away in a manor, hiding his face from society. 

One day, on a rare carriage ride through London, a grown Modo is abandoned in the streets by Mr. Socrates and has to fend for himself. He becomes a detective, yet he can never show his real face to anyone – he meets the beautiful Octavia Milkweed – she finds him curious and befriends him. The evil Clockwork Guild is causing chaos throughout London and Modo must get to the bottom of it. Then find a way to stop it. The adventure begins. A must-read.

By Arthur Slade,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hunchback Assignments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A gripping new series combines Steampunk, spying, and a fantastic Victorian London.

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania’s efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a…


Book cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

S.B. Norton Why did I love this book?

Ransom Riggs has created quite the extraordinary book here. It also reads like a graphic novel of sorts as there are a lot of odd photos to accompany the text. It crosses genres rather seamlessly as well, between Urban YA to Fantasy to Horror to a Speculative fictional realm where Miss Peregrines' home resides. It is a rare read with well-developed characters and plot. The children are all quite odd, though strangely likable. If you want different, this is as different as it gets. Gave me chills of the good and ill-feeling variety. That’s what you want, yes? I do.   

By Ransom Riggs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather…


Book cover of The Black Book of Secrets

S.B. Norton Why did I love this book?

This book won a few awards and it is easy to see why. It has a brilliantly written plot of old-world small country European nostalgia of the Dickensian spirit. It twists and turns and is told from different perspectives. Deliciously sinister and greedy and secretive. Wonderful to read by the fireplace. The story creeps and flows to a heart drumming climax and Ludlow is a wonderful character. You have to love a book about an awful broker type that trades in people’s secrets! 

Highly recommended – hard to believe it was a debut novel by the author as well – but it was!

By F.E. Higgins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Book of Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Perfect for teaching:

multiple narrative perspectives
stories within a story
theme of moral dilemmas.

Waterstone's Children's Book Prize Shortlist.


You might also like...

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

Book cover of The Finest Lies

David J. Naiman Author Of The Finest Lies

New book alert!

Who am I?

Anyone with siblings knows the deal. Your sibling becomes your first best friend and closest confidant but also your first competitor and fiercest critic. Navigating that relationship as a teen is fraught with peril. If done poorly, it can leave deep scars. If successful, it can teach you the foundations of how to build healthy relationships for the rest of your life. This theme has everything a writer needs to craft an emotional narrative, and these books do it best.

David's book list on sibling rivalry that will inspire you to reconnect

What is my book about?

A mysterious stranger traps teen siblings in a precarious game where each must overcome their embittered past for the other to survive.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

What is this book about?

High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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