The best books about tricksters

1 authors have picked their favorite books about tricksters and why they recommend each book.

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Trickster Drift

By Eden Robinson,

Book cover of Trickster Drift

Trickster Drift is Book Two in the Trickster trilogy. (Side Note: I loved the entire trilogy, but Book Two is my favourite.) Trickster Drift is an edgy blend of the supernatural, Indigenous lore, and substance abuse. The characters, particularly Jared’s mother Maggie (who is literally a witch) are memorable, and the dialogue is smart and funny. I have to be careful of spoilers, so I’ll just say that Jared’s conversations in his aunt’s Vancouver apartment with a certain individual wearing a bathrobe are not to be missed. Robinson juggles a number of characters (something I have to contend with in my hockey books), and she does it very well.   

Who am I?

One of my favourite sounds is teens interacting—especially when they are throwing shade. I spent twenty-five years as a junior and senior high teacher, and I miss rocking and rolling during class discussions with my students. As a writer of contemporary fiction (actually in anything I write), I work hard at using dialogue as an engine to drive each scene. Each line needs to be refined to ensure that it’s snappy, engaging, and real. I’m a writer from southeast Saskatchewan, Canada, where there’s no shortage of great one-liners to use. I hope you enjoy the dialogue in these five recommendations as much as I did.

I wrote...

Power Plays

By Maureen Ulrich,

Book cover of Power Plays

What is my book about?

Jessie McIntyre, fourteen, is new to Estevan Junior High, and she’s having trouble fitting in. By signing her up with the local girl's hockey team, her parents hope to give her a fresh start and help her make new friends, but bullies can be found everywhere—including the dressing room. Power Plays is a gritty tale sprinkled with humour, heart-pounding hockey action, life lessons, and positive female role models.

“Ulrich demonstrates that there are many ways to succeed in relationships without resorting to any sort of bullying. She stresses the importance of accepting and celebrating the differences between people rather than using them as an excuse for malicious behaviour. This is an excellent novel which provides lots of action, a little romance, and a great deal to think about.” - CM Magazine

Son of a Trickster

By Eden Robinson,

Book cover of Son of a Trickster

I’m sneakily recommending a trilogy here, of which this is the first book. By turns funny, gritty, dark, difficult, and magical, this book by Eden Robinson, who is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations from the Pacific Northwest, is another coming-of-age novel that dives into the gritty realism of life on a reservation, as well as the deep, magical roots of Haisla mythology. 

Who am I?

Having grown up on S.E. Hinton, I love a good, gritty young adult novel that doesn’t pull any punches! In my book, Black Chuck, four misfit teens suddenly find themselves cast adrift after the very charismatic Shaun dies, leaving them to navigate their way to adulthood without their leader. All the books on this list are coming-of-age stories about kids growing up in tough circumstances, finding love, making mistakes, getting hurt, and ultimately finding joy in a world that at times seems set against them.

I wrote...

Black Chuck

By Regan McDonell,

Book cover of Black Chuck

What is my book about?

In this dark, gritty coming-of-age novel about small-town kids from the wrong side of the tracks, tough guy Réal and quiet loner Evie find strange comfort in each other in the aftermath of their closest friend’s death. 

Shaun was the king, the lynchpin that kept their small, close-knit group of friends together. He was the sun they’d all spun around. And in the days after his sudden, violent death, Réal looks to Evie to atone for his sins, and Evie looks to Ré to forget about her own. But each of them is keeping a secret—about Shaun, and the night he died—secrets that might just tear these friends apart forever.


By Gerald McDermott,

Book cover of Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i

This is one of my favorite picture books. To me, the main character is life itself. A mischievous, greedy, daring, vulnerable, colorful aliveness. The strong colors and the bold shapes of the illustrations demonstrate the raw intensity of life. And the theme of Grandmother loving Pig-Boy unconditionally is one mothers would resonate with. Such a treat!

Who am I?

Unburdened with prejudice or beliefs, children are open to the world. I find great joy in books that reflect the child’s fresh perception and playful spirit. Such books have no intention to teach a moral lesson. They rejoice in freedom. In the non-stereotypical, not yet molded to conform reality of the child. Books beyond good or bad may shine with the light of freshness, the unfiltered seeing. In times of great political divisions, non-didactic books can be a window to the glorious amoral way of perceiving.

I wrote...

Beyond the Fence

By Maria Gulemetova,

Book cover of Beyond the Fence

What is my book about?

Piggy lives in a large house with Thomas. Thomas knows exactly what Piggy needs. But a chance meeting with a wild pig changes everything, and Piggy finds out what lies outside the four walls, beyond the fence. A gentle book about freedom and friendship.

Trickster's Choice

By Tamora Pierce,

Book cover of Trickster's Choice

Technically two books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen), this duet follows Alianne, daughter of the heroine Alanna and spymaster George, who is kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to an outcast royal family. The trickster god enlists/coerces her to aid the family’s plot to reseize their throne, which has Aly working as a spy against her homeland. All of Pierce’s books are fantastic, and the Tortall series shaped me as both a reader and writer of fantasy. It was interesting to move away from the heroism and adventure of the earlier books in this universe to a more morally gray protagonist with spy and assassin training who is secretly working for a god. Also, her love interest is a crow turned human, and it works surprisingly well.

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to badass female protagonists in fantasy, but the femme fatale has a special place in my heart, and none more so than spies and assassins. Their weapons are a mix of daggers and subterfuge, poison, and seduction. They often straddle the line between cold-hearted villainess and righteous freedom fighter, and that complex morality can make for intriguing internal struggles that coincide nicely with their goal of dismantling corruption, which is not always black and white. Additionally, the aforementioned seduction means that they get to be unapologetically sexual (but only on their terms!). All of this went into Lily’s character.

I wrote...

The Black Lily

By Mandy Burkhead, G. D. Burkhead,

Book cover of The Black Lily

What is my book about?

The Black Lily is a dark fantasy novel following a lady spy/assassin tasked with killing the king and prince of Arestea. This book features courtly intrigue, seduction, backstabbing, and a game of cat and mouse between the kickass femme fatale Lily and naïve Prince Adrian.

A Song of War

By Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter

Book cover of A Song of War

If a racially diverse, gender-bending, often raunchy, always nuanced, new take on an old tale sounds like a good read to you, then pick up this “novel-in-parts.” Both the racial and sexual fullness reflect historical reality, although they’ve ordinarily been left out. Retelling the Trojan War from its early causes to its tragic but still hope-infused end, the authors gave this rendition a compelling depth that will make you savor the old tradition with some new spice on your tongue.

Who am I?

I write fiction set in the Bronze Age world of the Trojan War and the Hittite Empire. I love to combine history and archaeology with magic and fantasy arising from the ancient beliefs of this period. My novels bring women to the fore—whether the captive Briseis or a remarkable Hittite queen lost to human memory until recently. Armed with degrees in Classics, I have spent too much time exploring the remains of the ancient Greeks and Hittites through travel and research. From the beginning, the Trojan War tradition has left room for many variations. Here are five entirely different “takes” on this iconic war—all masterfully written.

I wrote...

Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

By Judith Starkston,

Book cover of Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

What is my book about?

A legendary war, an invincible warrior, a woman forced to defend her family and realm—and her independent spirit. Will she become the captive or the captor?

Briseis struggles to protect her city, an ally of Troy, from marauding Greeks and her husband’s arrogant violence. She finds strength in visions of a handsome warrior god until he appears before her in flesh and blood. When Briseis raises a sword against the mighty Achilles, she ignites a passion that threatens to betray everyone she holds dear. Hand of Fire gives voice to Briseis, a pivotal but silenced woman of the Trojan War. Set within a richly developed Bronze Age world, it depicts the resilience of ancient women finding the strength to overcome trauma and loss.

Truth and Other Lies

By Lyra Wolf,

Book cover of Truth and Other Lies

The entire Nine Worlds Rising series is an exercise in watching Loki get taken down a peg or six. I’m deeply in love with Norse myth material, and Lyra is not afraid to take a deep look at the pain that people inflict on each other. Book One deals with betrayal, ostracization, self-sabotage, and becoming the worst version of yourself. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, because the author has a fantastic sense of humour that really shines in Loki. Many of the characters are queer, including at least one that you won’t expect! 

Who am I?

I’ve been reading books about dark content since I was a teenager, and I’ve always loved the understanding and companionship it provides to people who carry around broken pieces of themselves. Over the years, this interest in hardship has become a lot more specific; I’ve discovered my own queer identity, which has cause me to seek shelter in queer fantasy. It also inevitably lead me to queer Norse mythology, whose source material is dripping with queer hints for anyone with the historical knowledge to find them. Combining all these things, I’ve gathered a large collection of stories that promise to help you lick your wounds, all while drawing you into the next chapter. 

I wrote...

The Goddess of Nothing At All

By Cat Rector,

Book cover of The Goddess of Nothing At All

What is my book about?

Perhaps you know the myths. Furious, benevolent Gods. A tree that binds nine realms. A hammer stronger than any weapon. And someday, the end of everything. But few have heard of me.

Looking back, it’s easy to know what choices I might have made differently. At least it feels that way. I might have given up on my title. Told my father he was useless, king of Gods or no, and left Asgard. Made a life somewhere else. Maybe I would never have let Loki cross my path. Never have fallen in love. But there’s no going back. We were happy once. And the price for that happiness was the end of everything.

Aesop Without Morals

By Lloyd W. Daly, Grace Muscarella (illustrator),

Book cover of Aesop Without Morals: The Famous Fables and a Life of Aesop

You've probably heard of the Aesop fables, which were written so that slaves could speak the truth to their masters in disguised terms. The Life of Aesop is an ancient novel length version of the escapades of the slave. Potbellied, snub-nosed and bandy-legged, his openly sexual behaviour broke all the rules of ancient life, which generates much of the humour. He is a trickster who wins small, temporary victories based on an intimate knowledge of how the powerful operate. He works constantly to invert the social order and even though he loses in the end it is only to overwhelming odds. The translation can be found in Daly, L. W. (ed.), Aesop Without Morals: The Famous Fables and a Life of Aesop.

Who am I?

I'm the Director of Studies in Classics at Churchill College, Cambridge University. My research looks at Roman cultural history, with a focus on history "from below," meaning that I'm most interested in ordinary Romans, slaves and the poor. There have been thirty-five translations of my books into sixteen languages. I come from a modest background and was the first in my family to go to university. I found moving up the social ladder a bewildering and sometimes terrifying experience. Classics back then was still an elite subject, dominated by people from wealthy backgrounds. My research interests have always reflected my fascination with those at the bottom of the social ladder.

I wrote...

The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx

By Jerry Toner,

Book cover of The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx

What is my book about?

My book provides a clear and simple manual for managing slaves the Roman way. Full of details of the reality of ancient slavery, its shows how the Roman world, for all its apparent familiarity, was almost casually shocking.

I wrote it in the guise of Marcus Sidonius Falx, a Roman of noble birth, because I wanted to get across how normal slavery was back then. I also wanted to expose how dreadful it was from the inside. My book is based on lots of original sources to show all the details, like how they bought slaves and then got the best from them. It talks about what made a good slave, how you punished bad slaves, whether you could have sex with them and how you set them free.

The Magus

By John Fowles,

Book cover of The Magus

The first time I read The Magus—I’ve re-read it twice—I barely slept until I finished it. I’m not exaggerating. Conchis, the rich and eccentric psychiatrist (or is he?), and Julie, the mysterious seductress, seemed yanked out of my own unconscious mind. At twenty-something, I identified so strongly with Nicholas, the similarly-aged protagonist, that I felt toyed with and tortured along with him. I was desperate to see how, and if, he would emerge from his sometimes-blissful, sometimes agonizing ordeal. Darkly erotic, The Magus is one of the most psychologically unsettling books I’ve ever read, and one of the best-written. Compelling is an understatement.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind. The deeper I spelunked into that cave, the deeper into the dark I wanted to go. It’s not surprising that I became a writer obsessed with the unconscious, a clinical psychotherapist, and now a Professor of English. Before that, I was a professional rock singer/ guitarist, which also gained me entry into parts of life that most people don’t see. I tell my students, “I read because one life isn’t enough.” The books I’m recommending gave me a chance to enter other lives, and to inhabit minds—some strange and twisted, all astonishing—that I could not have accessed on my own.

I wrote...

Ursula Lake

By Charles Harper Webb,

Book cover of Ursula Lake

What is my book about?

Former best friends Scott and Errol meet unexpectedly at Oso Lake, a remote Canadian fly-fishing paradise where, five years before, fresh out of college, they had the time of their lives. Their situations have changed, their high hopes quashed by workaday realities and, in Errol’s case, marriage to Claire, who has come with him, trying to stave off divorce.

But Oso Lake has changed. The fall before, a woman’s severed head was left in a campfire pit. The shadow cast by her murder is darkened further by a fire-scarred white truck driver who claims to be a long-dead Native shaman, and plans to eradicate all of western civilization. The beauty of the wilderness becomes more threatening and perverse. But the worst danger the vacationers face may be themselves.

Norse Mythology for Kids

By Mathias Nordvig,

Book cover of Norse Mythology for Kids: Tales of Gods, Creatures, and Quests

Kevin Crossley-Holland published excerpts from his Norse Myths as a book for children. But as a child’s first introduction to the tales, it might be too poetic. I’d recommend, instead, Norse Mythology for Kids by Mathias Nordvig.

Nordvig retells the myths as your wise uncle might—if he happened to be Loki, the trickster god. For Nordvig not only blends different versions of a tale, but he also adds bits he thinks our original sources shouldn’t have left out.

Into that “mist world” at time’s beginning, for instance, Nordvig inserts a loon who helps the goddess Jord build the Earth. It’s a tale I’m familiar with from Native American mythology, but as Nordvig asserts, the Norse stories “are still alive.” And to keep them that way, we need to make them our own.

Who am I?

Nancy Marie Brown is the author of seven books about Iceland and the Viking Age, including The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, and the award-winning Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. Her books combine extremes: medieval literature and modern archaeology, myths and facts. They ask, What have we overlooked? What have we forgotten? Whose story must not be lost? A former science writer and editor at a university magazine, she lives on a farm in northern Vermont and spends part of each summer in Iceland.

I wrote...

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Book cover of Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

What is my book about?

Song of the Vikings brings to life Snorri Sturluson, wealthy chieftain, wily politician, witty storyteller, and the main source of Viking lore for all of Western literature. Tales of one-eyed Odin, Thor and his mighty hammer, the trickster Loki, and the beautiful Valkyries have inspired countless writers, poets, and dreamers through the centuries, including Richard Wagner, JRR Tolkien, and Neil Gaiman. Author Nancy Marie Brown brings alive the medieval Icelandic world where it all began. She paints a vivid picture of the Icelandic landscape, with its colossal glaciers and volcanoes, steaming hot springs, and moonscapes of ash, ice, and rock that inspired Snorri's words, and led him to create unforgettable characters and tales. Drawing on her deep knowledge of Iceland and its history and first-hand reading of the original medieval sources, Brown gives us a richly textured narrative, revealing a spellbinding world that continues to fascinate.

Eight Days of Luke

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Book cover of Eight Days of Luke

This is a classic Middle Grade book that was first published in 1975 and still holds strong. Neil Gaiman himself endorsed it, so you know it’s going to be a fantastic mythology-based book! This is one of those stories that drops so many clues and hints that when you get to the end, you’ll want to read it again to catch everything you missed.

Who am I?

While writing my YA series based on Norse mythology, I did a ton of reading and research, and fell more in love with the mythology each day. I’ve been a huge fan of the Thor movies since the beginning, and between that and my Icelandic heritage, I find that I always gravitate to books about Norse mythology. There are a lot of viking books and TV series, but it’s a little harder to find books and shows specifically about the mythology, so I hope you find this list interesting as you dive into the nine Norse worlds and all of their gods and creatures!

I wrote...

The Valkyrie's Daughter

By Tiana Warner,

Book cover of The Valkyrie's Daughter

What is my book about?

Sigrid, a stable hand who dreams of becoming a valkyrie, crosses the nine worlds in search of the mythical eight-legged stallion, Sleipnir.

The Valkyrie’s Daughter is a YA LGBTQ+ Fantasy featured on BuzzFeed, Goodreads Most Anticipated YA Books for July, Gizmodo, Paste Magazine, Tor, Book Riot, and more.

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