The best books about curses

56 authors have picked their favorite books about curses and why they recommend each book.

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By Jessica Townsend,

Book cover of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

I was privileged enough to be a part of the first wave of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Like many others I’m sure, those books irrevocably captured my imagination, and sparked the flame of my own story-telling pursuits. I didn’t think there’d ever be a story that would match the sheer wonder and imagination that Rowling created. Then I read Nevermoor. And my imagination was re-captured in the same invigorating, child-like wondrous way. This book is something truly special. It’s full of wonder and wit, including a Willy-Wonker-esque patron, a giant talking cat, and a magical, room-changing hotel. And the setting… the setting is marvelously whimsical, magical, with just the right amount of menace to leave you enraptured. You won’t regret following Morrigan into Nevermoor.

Who am I?

I am a full-time Children’s Fantasy author and illustrator; the result of having my imagination captivated by all the stories told before me. When delving into a story my desire is to have my imagination captured and swept up on a dizzyingly wonderful and fantastical ride. When reading, I just want a good, solid adventure. More importantly, I want to feel like I’m with the characters (and that I actually want to be with them)—that I’m seeing the world unfold as they do. I love when my imagination is inspired, invigorated, startled, and surprised. If you’re like me, give the books on my list a go—your imaginations will (hopefully) be captured and swept up, too!

I wrote...

Kin Seeker

By N.R. Eccles-Smith,

Book cover of Kin Seeker

What is my book about?

The dragons have mysteriously vanished from the lands of Valadae—except one. With no memory of his past, or what happened to his kin, Laeka’Draeon begins the daunting quest for answers, aware that time and unknown perils are against him.

Through ancient, blighted forests and regions steeped in mysterious lore, Laeka’Draeon encounters unexpected allies and terrifying foes, and discovers a dangerous connection between his missing kind and the ominous deterioration of Valadae’s realms. If the dragons fail to return and restore the waning magic of the legendary towers of Klonnoth Aire, the consequences will lead to the return of an ancient and devastating enemy; beasts that once ravaged Valadae in a calamitous 100-year war.

What Disturbs Our Blood

By James Fitzgerald,

Book cover of What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past

A remarkable, inter-generational tale about madness amongst accomplished medical men. When the Toronto journalist James FitzGerald reached his father’s age at the time of his death by suicide, he felt the haunting pull of family history. His father and grandfather had both killed themselves, sleeping in the same bedroom in the same house.

Dr. John G. Fitzgerald founded the lab that first produced insulin for diabetics, and was also instrumental in the development of a diphtheria vaccine. His son was also a highly respected doctor. Both were pulled under by the riptide of depression at a time when successful, bread-winning men did not talk of mental anguish.

Resolved not to follow in their footsteps, James FitzGerald instead went into therapy and wrote this intensely gripping book about the shadow side of masculine privilege and the history of medicine and psychiatry in the first half of the 20th century.

Who am I?

I’m an author and journalist who has published eight books and written for The New Yorker and the New York Times, among other publications. I was diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder in my twenties. “Anxiety is a shapeshifter; it visits me in unfamiliar guises,” I wrote about the disorder, and that has been indisputably true throughout my life and career.

I wrote...

A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine

By Patricia Pearson,

Book cover of A Brief History of Anxiety...Yours and Mine

What is my book about?

“If only more psychology were written with the literate intelligence of this book. It is a weaving of stories that accomplishes a great deal: cultural analysis, psychological insight, and personal reflection. If you are ever afraid of the dark, crowds of people, heights, and the insanity of your fellow humans, as I am, you may find comfort here.” Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

A Court of Thorns and Roses

By Sarah J. Maas,

Book cover of A Court of Thorns and Roses

I’ll be honest, because I write mainly for the young adult/new adult audience, I rarely read that many simply because I don’t want another author’s work to blend into mine. But I made the exception with A Court of Rose and Thorns. I’m a sucker for a flawed dark hero and Ms. Mass did a great job of leading me down one road, only to switch things up on me later. If you haven’t read this series, it’s a must!

Who am I?

I’ve been reading romance since before dirt was old—(okay, I’m not actually that old, but some days I feel like it)—and I have a deep belief that romances can be our shining light in a sometimes very dark world. Which is why when I wrote my own stories, my very first editorial letter started out with, “Wow, you really like to torture your characters.” I wanted to create genuine characters that make mistakes, mess up, and sometimes are their own worst enemy but you still want to root for them. My list of books on Heroines That Won’t Get Nominated For Sainthood will take you on a journey far more interesting than sainthood—the human experience.

I wrote...

Mi Familia: Part 1

By K.C. Klein,

Book cover of Mi Familia: Part 1

What is my book about?

My life could be every episode of Cops. Kicked out of the trailer by my stripper mother with an angry drug dealer hot on my trail. I’m outta gas and outta money and stuck in a crap-hole bar too close to the Mexican border. Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this picture. But I’ve gotta plan—hustle money out of the losers at the pool tables or five-finger discount some fat wallets, and then back on the road before anything else in my life implodes.

Too late. Meet Jack. Designer jeans. Bulging wallet. Perfect pick-pocket material. Until I follow him into the men’s bathroom and learn he’s playing his own game. Dark, dangerous, and involved with the mob, Jack’s everything I hate...and in this family, I’m the weakness he can’t afford to have. 

The Sleeper and the Spindle

By Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Sleeper and the Spindle

I first read this book to my daughter when she was seven years old, and we’ve read it together multiple times since. I love Gaiman’s take on these two mashed-up classic fairy tales—not only does he allow a normally passive princess to be the hero and choose her own future, he completely subverts reader expectations about the outward appearance of good and evil. This was the first time my daughter had been confronted by this kind of subversion in a book, and it blew her mind in the best possible way.

Who am I?

“All stories have two sides,” my fifth-grade teacher said to us one day. “Sometimes, they have more than that.” She told us to rewrite a scene from the book we were reading from the perspective of a different character. What was meant to be a quick writing exercise turned out to be the start of my lifelong fascination with retellings. I love that retold tales show the fundamental truth that everyone has a story, no matter how peripheral they might seem in the original. I’ve written two Pride and Prejudice continuations, and my forthcoming novel is a historical retelling of Beauty and the Beast. 

I wrote...

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

By Molly Greeley,

Book cover of The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

What is my book about?

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. But she comes to see that what she has always been told is an affliction of nature might in fact be one of nurture – and one, therefore, that she can beat. She throws away her laudanum and seeks refuge at her cousin’s London home. Suddenly wide awake to the world but utterly unprepared, Anne must decide what matters more: society’s approbation, or the pull of her newfound sense of self.

An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Jane Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

Where the World Ends

By Geraldine McCaughrean,

Book cover of Where the World Ends

This wonderful piece of writing isn’t obviously a travel narrative or a book about natural history as it is marketed as a children’s fiction but it is based on a real event and the sense of place the author achieves is astonishing. A group of men and boys from St Kilda are put ashore on a rocky stac in the North Atlantic. Their mission is to harvest birds and collect fulmar eggs and oil which will sustain their little rural community through the harsh Scottish winter. No one comes to bring them home though and the unfortunates spend months huddled against the storms.

The narrative vividly captures the risks such adventurers took dangling from homemade ropes over cliffs above unforgiving seas with shearwaters and other seabirds screaming at them. It is a masterful portrait of the harsh life on the Scottish islands.

Who am I?

I put my hand where I couldn’t see it and was repaid for my foolishness by a scorpion sting. I was the doctor on an expedition to Madagascar and my friends thought their doctor was going to die. I was already fascinated with the ways animals interact with humans and this incident brought such reactions into sharp focus. Working as a physician in England, Nepal, and elsewhere, I’ve collected stories about ‘creepy crawlies’, parasites, and chance meetings between people and wildlife. Weird, wonderful creatures and wild places have always been my sources of solace and distraction from the challenging life of a working doctor and watching animals has taught me how to reassure and work with scared paediatric patients.

I wrote...

A Glimpse of Eternal Snows: A Journey of Love and Loss in the Himalayas

By Jane Wilson-Howarth,

Book cover of A Glimpse of Eternal Snows: A Journey of Love and Loss in the Himalayas

What is my book about?

The book that has my heart and soul in it is A Glimpse of Eternal Snows. It describes a couple of years when we – as a family – moved to an island in Nepal with no road access and no electricity in the middle of the largest tributary of the River Ganges where visitors might include hornbills, rhino, elephant, or even a tiger.

While my husband led a team of engineers intend on preventing floods during the monsoon, I tried to set up a programme of health promotion aiming to reduce deaths due to rabies while as well caring for our two young children. Our second son was born with life-limiting health problems; we’d fled from high-tech medical care in the UK so that he wouldn’t be put through unnecessary and painful operations and medical treatments. Our Nepali friends and neighbours taught us to live for the present and accept what life had flung at us, and our troubled child thrived and was a joyful presence in our remote little village.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

By Brigid Kemmerer,

Book cover of A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a fantastic YA portal fantasy novel told in dual POV. It is a Beauty and the Beast retelling where Harper, a girl from our world, must break the curse on the prince whom she meets when she’s taken to his world. The two-character POVs we get are Harper and Rhen, the cursed prince. I loved having a POV from each world; one from ours and one from the fantasy realm. That made for a very engaging read and kept the points of view unique. Rhen was my favorite to read from! The romance was five stars, and only made better by the fact that you could experience it from both characters’ perspectives. Reading this book actually inspired me to write my first dual POV novel as it was done so well here. Brigid has become one of my instant buy authors! I’ll read…

Who am I?

Storytelling has been a passion of mine since fifth grade. I’ve always loved the way authors can put you inside of a world and introduce you to a cast of characters who feel as real as the people around you. The characters you meet inside these books become a part of you, and the best way to connect a reader to these charming and brave characters is to let them tell their story. Tell it from all of their perspectives and let the reader come to know and love each of them. Why read a book and only love one character when you could find an entire found family within those pages?

I wrote...

Ending In Cadence

By Catherine Downen,

Book cover of Ending In Cadence

What is my book about?

Jumanji meets Narnia in a brand new YA Portal fantasy.

When Ash Bane follows his sister through one of their grandmother’s paintings, they discover a vast new world on the other side. But the portal home remains out of reach unless they play the enchanted card game filled with riddles, puzzles, and mystical creatures they’ll have to defeat. Emma Delaney, a fierce and spunky scrapyard worker native to this new land agrees to help them complete the game and return home. This life-threatening game may turn out to be the least of Ash’s concerns when his heart betrays him and Ash Bane and Emma Delaney find a love that spans worlds.

The First Girl Child

By Amy Harmon,

Book cover of The First Girl Child

This was my first adult historical fantasy (not Young Adult) and I loved it. It’s epic in all ways that matter, with amazing world building, endearing and complex characters, sweeping landscapes and battles, love stories, and it’s beautifully written. This is one of those novels you would binge if it was a show, episode by episode, and wish that you could.   

Who am I?

I write historical fiction and survival adventures, but I’m a historian at heart. The past fascinates me and provides the best fodder to explore age-old questions about life, love, and the hero and heroine’s journey to greatness. History has sparked inspiration for some of the most beautiful fictional and reimagined stories I’ve ever read, and transports readers to places long forgotten and unknown—and all without cell phones and internet at the core. Perhaps that’s what I love—a crueler but more hard-earned, simpler life. I hope you enjoy these epic tales of love and adventure as much as I did, and lose yourself in the magic of story. 

I wrote...

Tide and Tempest: A Forgotten Lands Novel

By Lindsey Pogue,

Book cover of Tide and Tempest: A Forgotten Lands Novel

What is my book about?

Forged by fire. Bound by blood. Tortured by fate. Venture into the lightning-decimated lands of Ebonpeak, where tempests and firestorms are the least of Samara’s concerns. Raiders pillage the coastline, destroying everything and leaving no one unscathed. But when the enemy washes ashore with the rising tides, Samara must shed the scars of her past and fight for her people, or die trying.

Prepare to feel the sand against your skin and the wind in your hair in this action-pack dystopian adventure full of twists and turns that will leave you white-knuckling through the pages. Perfect for Black Sails and Vikings fans.

The Night Gardener

By Jonathan Auxier,

Book cover of The Night Gardener

The setting and mood of a book often draw me into the story more than anything, as is the case with The Night Gardener. From the dark wood and the run-down manor, to a terrible curse, this Gothic tale is dripping with atmosphere. This is a book about siblings, storytelling and lies, and what the things you desire are truly worth. Perfectly creepy!

Who am I?

Each summer when I was small, I visited my gram. During the day we would go off on one adventure or another—and at night, she enticed me to sleep with the promise of a story. Most often, she read Grimm’s fairytales to me. Full of darkness and also hope (!), they were, and still are, some of my very favorites. And they inspire what I most enjoy writing and reading.

I wrote...

The Plentiful Darkness

By Heather Kassner, Iz Ptica (illustrator),

Book cover of The Plentiful Darkness

What is my book about?

In Warybone, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded magician that's been disappearing children in the night.

When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone’s children.

Aru Shah and the End of Time

By Roshani Chokshi,

Book cover of Aru Shah and the End of Time

I love this book because Roshani Chokshi introduces the vibrant gods, goddesses, and demons of Indian mythology to young readers by making it relatable with pop culture references, laugh-out-loud humor, and wild-ride adventures! Aru Shah is a regular middle-schooler from Atlanta, Georgia and unbeknownst to her is a reincarnation of a major character from one of India’s epic myths. The jaw-dropping part—she accidentally awakens the God of Destruction! Did I mention there’s a feisty and sardonic pigeon named Boo, too? 

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and as a kid I loved to read. But I never saw myself—an Indian girl like me—represented in children’s books before. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I began writing my first novel at age 23. When I did, I wrote the entire first draft with white characters and set it in a western country. I believed my Indian culture and my experience as an Indian kid was not worth writing about. I was so wrong! Now, with the novels I write, I’m passionate about representation, especially South Asian representation because all kids deserve to see themselves and their cultures in the books they read.

I wrote...

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia, Book 1)

By Payal Doshi,

Book cover of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia, Book 1)

What is my book about?

Rea Chettri is a 12-year-old girl living a simple, if boring, life on the tea plantations of Darjeeling, India. Rea's life gets turned on its head when her twin brother, Rohan, goes missing. Determined to save him, Rea embarks on a secret adventure into the enchanted world of Astranthia. Rea must grapple with dark truths of her past, discover her true self, learn what has happened to her brother, and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can Rea rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

“A gateway into pure imagination, with a fast-paced plot that will hook you and characters that will endear you. A wonderful debut.” - Kacen Callender, National Book Award winner for King and the Dragonflies.

Winter, White and Wicked

By Shannon Dittemore,

Book cover of Winter, White and Wicked

It is hard for me to pick only one character from this book that I’d recruit for my crew because they each bring something different to the table. Sylvie’s tenacious spirit, Kyn’s sweet loyalty, Mars’s passion, and Hyla’s bravery all could prove useful. This book was a wild ride set in a world so different from most fantasies I’ve read, but it left me with four new friends in these characters.

Who am I?

I once thought I was broken, because I became so invested in the characters I read about. I carried them with me out into the real world, where their struggles kept me from focusing on my own tasks. Then I learned this connection is a feature of reading, not a bug. While some people collect book boy/girl-friends–and I do enjoy swooning over a love interest–I am more drawn to those characters I’d want to share a rum with or meet for a beer. Authentic characters show us we’re not alone and inspire us to grow. They become so much more to us than mere words on the page.

I wrote...

On These Black Sands

By Vanessa Rasanen,

Book cover of On These Black Sands

What is my book about?

An awkward stowaway. A troubled pirate captain. Is she the key to his quest or will she be his ruin? 

In a world of secrets and legends, a lost dagger may be the key to saving a nation. But it will take far more than wit and a cutlass to retrieve it. Can a runaway heir and a pirate work together--or will their secrets drown all hope? An enchanting tale of deceit, magic, and love on the high seas perfect for fans of Adrienne Young, Tricia Levenseller, and Danielle L. Jensen.

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