The best books for world building and imaginary worlds

Donna Maree Hanson Author Of Argenterra
By Donna Maree Hanson

Who am I?

I love reading and writing and I have always loved science fiction and myths and legends. I read my first fantasy when I was around 23, Stephen Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane. I know some people hate that series, but to me, the world he created was so real, so full of interesting things. At that time, I had not read Lord of the Rings so I didn’t realise how closely the world building was to Tolkien. I need to bond with my characters and feel their journey, cry at the end if it is sad, and think about them well after I have finished the story.


I wrote...

Argenterra

By Donna Maree Hanson,

Book cover of Argenterra

What is my book about?

Every one hundred years a woman comes to Argenterra through the Crystal Tree Woods. This time two women came...

While on a ghost tour in Castle Crioch, Sophy and her best friend and foster sister, Aria, are sucked into the world of Argenterra, where they encounter a strange Crystal Tree. Two leaves fall from it, one of which Aria catches and the other delves into Sophy's chest. Met by Dellbright, the prince of Valley Keep, the girls learn they're expected. Aria has beauty and talent with the given, the land's native magic. She finds a home and a husband in Prince Dellbright and is revered as the legendary Gift of Crystal Tree Woods. Sophy is out of place as anything made with the given makes her ill.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Stormlord

By Glenda Larke,

Book cover of The Last Stormlord

Why this book?

I’ve been reading Glenda Larke for years and I beta-read for her a lot. This book is special to me because it was great to give feedback on the draft but also to wonder at her genius and writing process. The great cast of characters adhere to the heart, and I was behind each and everyone. The book also was up for a few awards and when Larke won, I was there to accept an award for her.

The Last Stormlord

By Glenda Larke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'one of the very best Australian writers of fantasy fiction' NEXUS An absorbing new series about the most precious commodity of all - water - from the much-loved author of ISLES OF GLORY terelle, on the run from indentured servitude in a snuggery, finds refuge with a strange old man who paints pictures on water. She is horrified to discover that his floating artworks can fix the future for those portrayed in them. the Cloudmaster and his stormlords keep the land alive with their power over water and rain, but the current Cloudmaster is dying and there is no one…


The Cloud Roads: Volume One of the Books of the Raksura

By Martha Wells,

Book cover of The Cloud Roads: Volume One of the Books of the Raksura

Why this book?

This book, which is the start of a series, was recommended to me at a romance reader lunch I go to regularly. I’d been talking about the Murder Bot series by Martha Wells and this book was pointed out to me. I started listening to it on Audible and was blown away. I have read the series now and onto the related short stories. This fantasy is a non-human-based fantasy. The main character, Moon, is sort of a man-sized shape-shifting dragon. The setup of the culture of the Raksura is intriguing and the magic in the world stunning in its depth and variety. It really is an adventure in more ways than one.

The Cloud Roads: Volume One of the Books of the Raksura

By Martha Wells,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Series. "Wells...merrily ignores genre conventions as she spins an exciting adventure around an alien hero who anyone can identify with."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is - a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight.

An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself . . . someone…


The Curse of Chalion

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Book cover of The Curse of Chalion

Why this book?

This is an oldie but a goodie. I listened to it on Audible and the voice actor was amazing. This is a fantasy in one book (although there are related books) and again depth of world building, characters, and magic are all so well done. I have read quite a lot of Bujold, who writes SF and fantasy. The Curse of Chalion took hold of me and didn’t let me go until the very end. The main character Cazaril, has many physical and mental wounds to overcome and I just loved him to bits. 

The Curse of Chalion

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.

But it is more than the traitorous intrigues of villains that threaten Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle here, for a sinister curse hangs like a…


Sorcerer to the Crown

By Zen Cho,

Book cover of Sorcerer to the Crown

Why this book?

A great voice, an interesting take on fantasy, a non-white hero and heroine, rich mix of traditional fable and myth, and lots of Austeneque language. This story also takes on colonialism. I loved this book so much. It was a delight from start to finish and I’ve gone on to read other books by this author and I went to a coffee talk at the World SF Convention in Dublin. I was so thrilled to meet her.

Sorcerer to the Crown

By Zen Cho,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of NPR's 50 Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of the Past Decade

Magic and mayhem clash with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s  stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…
 
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures…


Nevernight: Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle

By Jay Kristoff,

Book cover of Nevernight: Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle

Why this book?

Again, I listened to this book, but I was blown away by the world building, a city built into the bones of a god and the character, Mia Corvere, youngish and the very difficult position she is in and how she finds her way to assassin’s school. I felt it broke a few barriers for me and the story wasn’t what I’d typically call young adult. What stood out of me is Mia’s personal history, her back story, and also how she pushes through and faces very difficult challenges in a cut throat world. Very well written too, with great pacing.

Nevernight: Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle

By Jay Kristoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a world where the suns almost never set, a woman gains entry to a school of infamous assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers that destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father's failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she wanders a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and its thugs. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the hearth of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined. Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in curses, indentured servants, and revenge?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about curses, indentured servants, and revenge.

Curses Explore 57 books about curses
Indentured Servants Explore 16 books about indentured servants
Revenge Explore 72 books about revenge

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, Gideon the Ninth, and The Thief if you like this list.