The best quest books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about quests and why they recommend each book.

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A Voyage to Arcturus

By David Lindsay,

Book cover of A Voyage to Arcturus

In the first half of the 20th Century, before Fantasy was taken over by Tolkien imitators, some very crazy novels were written. My favorite is David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, about a man exploring a world where people’s bodies reflect their worldviews—one’s philosophy might require one to grow new eyes, new arms, or even a few tentacles. The characters inhabit a constantly shifting landscape of wild space creatures. The overtly Gnostic message is presented with such clarity and color (several colors unknown on Earth!) that I find it an exhilarating read, even if I disagree with it. The book undermines its own Manichaeanism by showing us an amazing world that I guess we’re supposed to recoil from, but much of the time I find myself thinking “Isn’t that cool!”


Who am I?

Growing up in a household with a fantasy author dad and a philosophy professor mom, I learned to appreciate stories that expressed big ideas. I realized the books and movies I liked weren’t just vehicles for ideology, but that ideas are the hooks that draw me into a story. I’ve also always loved animals and monsters. Like Miyazaki and C.S. Lewis, I was attempting to create a narrative that brought my beliefs and interests together. Now I live in Southern California with my husband, son, and cat, surrounded by rattlesnakes, tarantulas, hawks, and coyotes. It’s an imperfect, beautiful world! 


I wrote...

City in the Desert

By Moro Rogers,

Book cover of City in the Desert

What is my book about?

In the isolated desert kingdom of Kevala, Irro, a carefree monster hunter, and Hari, his not-quite-human assistant, are doing a roaring business. Then a mysterious cult leader arrives, promising to rid Kevala of monsters once and for all. What does a monster hunter do when all the monsters are gone? And can we live without monsters? 

The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Fellowship of the Ring: The Lord of the Rings: Part One

When it comes to epic fantasies, The Fellowship of the Ring sets the bar by which all other epic fantasy novels are judged. I was 12 years old when I first read The Hobbit and immediately plunged into The Fellowship of the Ring. The depth of Tolkien’s world-building is astounding. I read the series every year for nearly 20 years and continued to gain new insights into Middle Earth and the mind of J. R. R. Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring is not merely an epic fantasy; it’s a masterpiece of literature. The world-building is second to none, and the depth of the backstories allowed Christopher Tolkien to author another 20 books based on his father’s notes on Middle Earth. 


Who am I?

I was bullied throughout grade school until my senior year of high school. As a child, I only read Hardy Boy mysteries, so my mother tried to expand my range of literature by having me read The Hobbit. Reading epic fantasies allowed me to escape into another world and set my imagination on fire. ADHD has always been a part of my life, but fantasy novels helped to channel my creativity, allowing me to sit down and focus on something for hours on end. Readers will find themes from several fantasy authors in my books. They say to write what you know. I know epic fantasy and teen fiction.


I wrote...

The Scions of Faerie: The Faerie Chronicles Book 1

By J.D. Edwards,

Book cover of The Scions of Faerie: The Faerie Chronicles Book 1

What is my book about?

What if every story, every myth, and every legend were true? Driven by a need to rescue his aunt and avenge his parent’s murder, Ian Prescott discovers that the more he learns about his past, the less he knows about himself. Ian’s destiny lies hidden in the past he can’t remember and a future he can only imagine.

Unfortunately, all magic comes with a price. One false move could extinguish all life on Earth and plunge Faerie into chaos. The greater good always involves sacrifice, but every choice has consequences. When the needs of the many conflict with the needs of the few, Ian must decide who lives and who dies: His aunt or his mother’s best friend. How much is a single life worth?

Quichotte

By Salman Rushdie,

Book cover of Quichotte

By 2020 the boundary between fantasy and reality had become virtually erased. Confined to home, we all found ourselves the targets of conspiracy theories. Even the president scoffed at the dangers of the coronavirus. Rushdie’s spoof of Cervantes’ Don Quixote features an updated avatar of Quixote whose reality has been formed by tv soap operas. He is “deranged by reality television,” and in love with a talk show celebrity. Driving across America to reach her he encounters “the pollution of the real by the unreal.” In fact, he himself turns out to be the fictional creation of another major character, an author who is soon exposed to be no less fictional. But this is Rushdie in whose ludic novels the material unreal is the imaginative real.

Who am I?

I spent the first half of my life in England and the second half in the United States, or more specifically in Venice, California, a unique and unusual community. While working for London University I made several research trips to the US. Eventually, I immigrated to the States, where I taught at several universities in Southern California. Once I stopped teaching full-time, I surprised myself by writing two suspense novels (a genre I had spent most of my life analyzing), Money Matters and Dangerous Conjectures. The second novel was written during the pandemic and takes place during the early rise of the virus.


I wrote...

Dangerous Conjectures

By Brian Finney,

Book cover of Dangerous Conjectures

What is my book about?

Oakland, California, 2020. Computer scientist Adam cannot understand the widespread appeal of conspiracy theories popularized by the president. He decides to investigate one, QAnon, which turns out to have hidden connections to the White House intent on subverting the upcoming presidential election. His wife Julia, who works at the ACLU, is terrified by the outbreak of the coronavirus and is drawn to the fake online cures Adam detests. Further threatened by the reappearance of a violent ex-boyfriend, Julia sees her life unraveling and resorts to desperate remedies. Dangerous Conjectures is a powerful, gripping exploration of the inner lives of two Americans living through a pandemic and a culture overrun with misinformation.

The Black Cauldron

By Lloyd Alexander,

Book cover of The Black Cauldron

I read the second book in the Prydain Chronicles first, so it remains my favorite for introducing me to this magical version of medieval Wales and an Assistant Pig-Keeper. While I, like Taran, wanted to avoid the mundanities of life and skip straight to the magic swords, it was the grounding in the reality of chores that made me believe in the world. It also made me believe that if I had the good fortune to discover a portal to Prydain, that I could at least take up a career in the scullery, the forge, or possibly as a pig-keeper, while I waited to be discovered for the princess-in-disguise that I surely must be.


Who am I?

I'm an American writer who grew obsessed with all things King Arthur at age 10. Trying to be the best 7th-grade Arthurian scholar in the world set me on a path of life-long learning and research. My historical fantasy novels for children have been flatteringly called "maybe the only [fiction] depiction of the complexities of feudal obligations & responsibilities I've ever seen" by a real medievalist. While that wasn't what I was going for, it speaks to the thing I seek out when I read: total immersion in another world. If you don't feel like you scrubbed pots in the Middle Ages, why would you read about a medieval scullery maid?


I wrote...

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

By Merrie Haskell,

Book cover of Handbook for Dragon Slayers

What is my book about?

Thirteen-year-old Princess Matilda, whose lame foot brings fear of the evil eye, has never given much thought to dragons, attending instead to her endless duties and wishing herself free of a princess's responsibilities.

When a greedy cousin steals Tilda's lands, the young princess goes on the run with two would-be dragon slayers. Before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending magical horses, and battling flame-spouting dragons. On the adventure of a lifetime, and caught between dreams of freedom and the people who need her, Tilda learns more about dragons—and herself—than she ever imagined.

The Talisman

By Stephen King, Peter Straub,

Book cover of The Talisman

Hands-down, this is Stephen King’s best novel to date, though it doesn’t get the same hype as his other books. Written with author Peter Straub, this magical story is one of the reasons I became a writer. Any fantasy reader will fall in love with the young male hero, along with all of the odd but fleshed-out characters. I have read it twice. And I just discovered it is now in production as a Netflix series!


Who am I?

I don’t remember when books weren’t a part of the scenery in my family’s home, and I can’t remember what the first book was that I read, though I suspect it was steeped in fantasy. Stories of ordinary people being tossed into extraordinary circumstances—the more extraordinary the betterhave always been a part of my reading life and a built-in template for my career as a writer. After two decades of writing, I have discovered that I didn't choose to be a writerI was born with a need to share ideas; to make others think in a different way. Without creating stories, I’d be lost. Without sharing them, I’d be incomplete.


I wrote...

Maggie's Dream

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Maggie's Dream

What is my book about?

When World War II drags Maggie Lerner’s husband off to Europe, Maggie joins the workforce as one of America’s Rosies. Though she savors her freedom, she is haunted by a dream that leads her to believe something terrible will happen to her husband. After the war, Sam returns home unscathed, and Maggie, who once again takes her place as a doctor’s wife, believes the dream will disappear. Instead, it evolves into an all-consuming world where Maggie can have whatever she wishes. But all is not as it seems: Beneath the dream’s flawless surface, a monster lies in wait. In an era of post-war feminism and the latest in psychoanalysis, Maggie will need to confront this evil—whether real or imagined—before it destroys both her worlds.

Once Again

By Liz Braswell, Cameron Dokey,

Book cover of Once Again: Snow; Beauty Sleep

Once Again is actually a combined volume of two stories inspired by Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but each easily stands out on their own. Snow was by far my favorite, introducing an evil stepmother who has a particular love for the science arts, and the dwarves were inspired into a combination of unforgettable human-animal hybrids that was perfectly brilliant. Raven and Jessica, or Snow as she is known to the Hybrids known as the Lonely Ones, were a cute pairing that made a very sweet ending together. 


Who am I?

A fantasy romance author myself, there's something comforting about seeing my favorite fairy tales retold in new ways. It's so much fun to see how authors can twist the tales into something new and totally unique. Maybe the handsome prince is no longer the prince, but a cursed ogre. Or that dragon flying through the night is a queen in disguise, waiting for that one special true love to unlock their curse. But no matter the journey, we know that true love will win, break the curse and save the day, and here are my recommendations for some of my very favorite books.


I wrote...

Foxgloves Are For Deception

By Clair Gardenwell,

Book cover of Foxgloves Are For Deception

What is my book about?

A darkly twisted mixture of Snow White and King Arthur filled with magic, romance, and danger. Regina Laelia was cursed at birth, bound to a dark element of magic that is destined to destroy her, and hunted by the very queen of the kingdom herself. It's only with the help of her friends that she survived a fiery attempt on her life, and sparks a journey that will span the entire land of Myrr as she searches for a way to take back her rightful throne. All while trying not to fall prey to the dark temptations of the magic swirling in her veins, and resisting the pull to one ruggedly handsome blind knight expelled from the Evil Queen's army.

The Forests of Silence

By Emily Rodda,

Book cover of The Forests of Silence

An astoundingly creative world fashioned by Australian author Emily Rodda, the unique and thrilling creatures roaming the land of Deltora quickly captured my imagination as a young reader. From the fearsome vulture-like Ak-Baba carrying out the Shadow Lord’s will to the tyrannical lizard-esque Wennbar demanding food offerings from the Wenn, Rodda has a talent for conceiving creatures that both excite and terrify readers. These creatures are further brought to life by the vivid illustrations from the talented Marc McBride, and an anime series that I only just learned the existence of while writing this article, but am now thrilled to check out! 


Who am I?

A profound love for fantasy took hold of me at a young age, the inception being when my mother scattered a rotating collection of books around our house for me to find and devour. Several of the novels leaned against the walls of my childhood home ended up on this list, and inspired me to craft my own stories. My writing has appeared across many different mediums such as comics, trading cards, and video games. Currently working as a Lead Narrative Designer, I have the pleasure of directing narratives for several exciting video games while also continuing to pen fantasy novels and original TV pilot scripts in my spare time.


I wrote...

Aether Warriors: The Hidden War Series Book 1

By Dean Ravenola,

Book cover of Aether Warriors: The Hidden War Series Book 1

What is my book about?

In this riveting urban fantasy novel, young orphan Chase’s life is abruptly turned upside-down as he discovers that he is an Aether Warrior, a small group of magically gifted children fated to continue fighting a war that has been ongoing secretly for centuries. Each of these young warriors draws power from a unique Aether animal, which grants them astonishing abilities such as flight and invisibility. Fantastical creatures inspired by mythical beasts and cryptids, powerful ancient artifacts, and deadly deceptions await Chase as he rushes headlong towards his destiny. 

Story Thieves

By James Riley,

Book cover of Story Thieves

Most novels, fantasy or otherwise, use portals to travel between worlds—but why stop there? Story Thieves certainly doesn’t! It takes the whole concept of fictional worlds and brings it one step further—characters can physically step in and out of books, and even influence their contents.

Sounds interesting? I certainly found it to be, and read through each novel in this series within days of its release, not to mention several times later throughout the years. Should you be looking for a bit of fresh air in your library, this is certainly one choice worth considering.


Who am I?

With nearly a thousand novels under my belt (or time-worn Kindle, more accurately), I was itching to make my own mark in the world of literature as I entered my teenage years. Having all but one of the books I read be, puzzlingly, written by those definitively into their adulthood only strengthened that desire. Over 850 pages of my own story, drawing from all that I’d read and heard, finally satisfied it three years later — and placed me in a position to share with other readers my age, one teen to another, those tales that most influenced and inspired me.


I wrote...

The Trilogic Worlds: The Fictional War

By Simon Ilincev,

Book cover of The Trilogic Worlds: The Fictional War

What is my book about?

Upon receiving a mysterious letter, run-of-the-mill Emmanuel is thrust into a complicated battle encompassing all three worlds of Earth, Destroyia, and Fantasia. The latter two are fairy-tale worlds, filled with the classic fictional characters whose lives Emmanuel has loved to escape into. However, they come with a twist—despite the beauty fairy tales suggest, its villains, Destroyians, had the upper hand, dominating all in their once-united land of Destasia, and even going so far as to enslave their kind-hearted counterparts.

After decades of oppression, the Fantasians' only option was to flee to a whole new world. But united under one fearsome leader of suspicious origins, the Destroyians are once more coming for them, despite their powerful magical barrier… and don’t plan on stopping there.

Ancillary Justice

By Ann Leckie,

Book cover of Ancillary Justice

Even though I’m not much of a tea drinker, I wanted to become one as I read this book (and its two sequels, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy). The attention to detail in both the preparation and consumption of the tea in these books—and what those actions say about the characters who perform them—is fascinating and revealing. As more of a coffee fiend myself, it makes me want to pay such careful attention to coffee in a book of my own…hmm…


Who am I?

I love food and drink! I am an avid cook and kitchen creator. Since moving to an island five years ago, far from mainland stores, I’ve learned to craft much more myself. I make limoncello, fresh ice creams, shrub (sipping vinegar); I roast and saute and barbecue and preserve; and I belong to a “bean club” which sends me a box of interesting dried beans every quarter. (No, really.) Combine this with my love of imaginative literature, and you end up with Arouf’s “spicy sweetprawn stew” in Our Lady of the Islands…a recipe I’ll have to actually invent someday.


I wrote...

Our Lady of the Islands

By Shannon Page, Jay Lake,

Book cover of Our Lady of the Islands

What is my book about?

Sian Katte is a successful middle-aged businesswoman in the tropical island nation of Alizar. Her life seems comfortable and well-arranged…until a violent encounter one evening leaves her with an unwanted magical power.

Arian des Chances is the wife of Alizar’s ruler, with vast wealth and political influence. Yet for all her resources, she can only watch helplessly as her son draws nearer to death. When crisis thrusts these two women together, they learn some surprising truths: about themselves, their loved ones, and Alizar itself. Because beneath a seemingly calm facade, Alizar’s people—and a dead god—are stirring…

The Bark of the Bog Owl

By Jonathan Rogers,

Book cover of The Bark of the Bog Owl

The Bark of the Bog Owl satisfied my urging desire for adventure and a mission for a higher calling as a pre-teen reader! The fast-paced escapades were so realistic I wanted to search my own forest home for mystical creatures to befriend and go on adventures with. As I dreamed of belonging to a greater kingdom, this book was a taste of that fulfillment. Even as an adult reader, I go back to this series to re-realize that life is a purposeful adventure with God, and the truth within has stuck with me over the years.


Who am I?

As a child, I roamed the forests and imagined I was on epic adventures to change the world with a sword, live epically, and be part of a Kingdom. I dove into stories like that, stories that whetted my appetite to see Truth discovered and the world’s eyes opened to the beauty and purpose one has when following that Truth. As I followed Jesus and fell in love with Him, He guided me to create those stories, and I love writing beautiful words in novels, poems, and children’s books. I hope you become a dreamer again and believe there’s a Kingdom that’s calling.


I wrote...

The Torch Keepers

By Hosanna Emily,

Book cover of The Torch Keepers

What is my book about?

The king's blue flame quivers as a new fire arises, and Kadira must hold fast to his torch. It's destiny; she's a torch keeper.

A fiery revolution sweeps across the kingdom of Érkeos, and each person must choose a side. Kadira, a girl set apart to serve the king, finds her city engulfed in the Liberation's emerald flames. Her blue eyes mark her as the enemy, and she flees from death. It stalks her anyway. When she meets Rekém, the Liberation warrior sent to kill her, she rebels against the king's ways. Two armies collide; indecision isn't an option. As hearts and lives hang in the balance, Kadira and Rekém could bring destruction or liberation to the entire kingdom.

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