The best fantasy novels with gods as characters

Who am I?

I’m a Canadian writer with a degree in Mediaeval Studies. Even as a child, I wrote stories about characters who weren’t entirely human; they were also always people lurking on the edges of things—families, cultures, places, ways of being, even people existing only on the edges of becoming themselves. Those have always been where I found my stories and as an adult I haven’t lost this fascination and the need to tell such tales. Gods, assassins, devils, demons, shapeshifters, immortal wanderers, and ordinary people caught up in their history, vast, deep worlds, and complex charactersthat’s what I do. 


I wrote...

Blackdog

By K.V. Johansen,

Book cover of Blackdog

What is my book about?

In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, Holla-Sayan flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him.

Necromancy, treachery, massacres, rebellions, and gods dead, lost, or mad follow hard on their heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog's—and Holla-Sayan's—doom. Blackdog begins the epic five-book silk road fantasy series Gods of the Caravan Road.

The books I picked & why

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The Initiate

By Louise Cooper,

Book cover of The Initiate

Why this book?

A classic from the eighties, The Initiate is the start of the Time Master Trilogy. (Nothing to do with Doctor Who!) A powerful young sorcerer finds refuge among the Initiates, scholar-sorcerers who serve the seven gods of Order, but the seven outcast gods of Chaos, their ancient counterparts and enemies, claim Tarod for their own. Tarod’s journey into himself is a dark one. Politics, magic, friendships betrayed, and gods you really do not want to put any faith in or reliance on taking an active part in events as Chaos tries to take back control of the world it once ruled in a reign of terror. I’ve loved this series and reread it I don’t know how many times. 

The Initiate

By Louise Cooper,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The seven gods of Order had ruled unchallenged for centuries, served by the adepts of the Circle in their bleak northern castle on the Star Peninsula. But for Tarod - the most enigmatic and formidable sorcerer in Circle's ranks - a darker affinity had begun to call. Threatening his beliefs, even his sanity, it rose unbidden from beyond time; an ancient and deadly adversary that could plunge the world into madness and chaos - and whose power might rival that of the gods themselves. And though Tarod's mind and heart were pledged to Order, his soul was another matter...


The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign

By Tom Lloyd,

Book cover of The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign

Why this book?

The first book in The Twilight Reign starts off an epic fantasy series of war, loyalty, sacrifice, prophecy, and Gods with their own agendas, to whom their chosen champions are game-pieces to be used in a conflict in which mortals have only a partial understanding. The hero, Isak, is a young man born to be a violent warrior, a tool of prophesy and the Gods, but he never stops struggling to be more than what he was made, and to make himself master of his own fate. This is a satisfyingly rich fantasy world to plunge yourself into.

The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign

By Tom Lloyd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control. Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic, and more powerful than normal men. But with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage he cannot always hide. Brought up as a wagon-brat, feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life. But when the call comes, it isn't to…

The Gates of Heaven

By Curt Benjamin,

Book cover of The Gates of Heaven

Why this book?

The Gates of Heaven is book three of Seven Brothers, a four-book series, in which the presence and role of the gods become more and more apparent as the overarching story unfolds. Llesho’s story starts off as what you might expect of a young prince in exile, sold into slavery as a pearl-diver, who escapes and sets out to find his scattered brothers. It doesn’t end up where you think, and this book is the point in the series where the story of gods and goddesses and dragons involved in human affairs really takes over as the main plotline, though the threads of it have been there from start. Mountains, grasslands, ancient cities, and their trade routes—this is an excellent silk road fantasy as well.

The Gates of Heaven

By Curt Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The evil sorcerer Markko has sworn to capture the last of Prince Llesho's brothers. If Markko succeeds, Llesho will not be able to save Thebin, or reopen the Gates of Heaven. As murder and dark magic threaten Llesho's alliances, he realizes his only chance lies in finding his brothers first. So begins a desperate hunt that will lead the prince from the slave market to a sea voyage fraught with perils, and an incredible discovery about the sorcerer who seems bent on his destruction.

The Tyranny of the Night

By Glen Cook,

Book cover of The Tyranny of the Night

Why this book?

I’ve loved Glen Cook’s work since reading The Black Company back in the eighties. Tyranny of the Night begins The Instrumentalities of the Night. Yes, the series isn’t finished. No, that doesn’t matter; each book might be part of a larger history but each is a satisfying story on its own, so read them anyway. A world of realistically complex late-medieval politics and mostly unpleasant gods with their own agendas that have little to do with the desires of their human worshippers. It’s a secondary world, but the fastest way to describe the main character, Else/Piper, is to say he’s a Janissary sent back undercover to the people from whom he was stolen as a boy, living as a double, or maybe a triple agent—but it gets more complex than that, as you’d expect from a) Glen Cook and b) a hero who begins his story by using artillery against a god.

The Tyranny of the Night

By Glen Cook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Moon, once a solitary wanderer, has become consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court. Together, they travel with their people on a pair of flying ships in hopes of finding a new home for their colony. Moon finally feels like he's found a tribe where he belongs. But when the travelers reach the ancestral home of Indigo Cloud, shrouded within the trunk of a mountain-sized tree, they discover a blight infecting its core. Nearby they find the remains of the invaders who may be responsible, as well as evidence of a devastating theft. This discovery sends Moon…

Paladin of Souls

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Book cover of Paladin of Souls

Why this book?

Although this is called a sequel to The Curse of Chalion, it’s a standalone novel about Ista, dowager royina of Chalion, who is a secondary character in the first book. A middle-aged widow recently cured of madness by the lifting of a curse, Ista rebels against the cage of her life and thinks to find a taste of freedom by going on pilgrimage, but she finds herself the chosen mortal instrument of the god called the Bastard, charged with a task that will take her, most unwillingly, into the bloody heart of war. This book is reflective, philosophic, and humane, with great adventure and thrilling battle scenes too, as well as one of my favourite gods in fantasy, the Bastard, god of misfits and “disasters out of season”. My absolute favourite Bujold character is Ista and this is my favourite of all Bujold’s many books. 

Paladin of Souls

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lois McMaster Bujold has won the Hugo award four times, and the Nebula award twice. This is her second epic fantasy and the sequel to Curse of Chalion.

The Golden General's curse has been lifted from the royal family and Cazaril can now rest easy and enjoy his new life with his bride Betriz.

However, life for Ista, the Dowager Royina has not improved. With the death of her mother, the Provincara, and with her surviving child Iselle now ruling Chalion from the Capital Cardegross, she is left without purpose. Her brother's family still think she's mad and aim to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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