15 fantasy novels that are grounded in reality

I don’t read heaps of fantasy novels, but I do enjoy venturing outside my comfort zone and finding a book I absolutely love. The right fantasy novel for me is often grounded in reality, whether it’s a modern setting with fairytale elements, a story inspired by historical events, or a well-researched adaptation of cultural folklore. 

Having that “real world” backbone somehow makes magic more accessible for this literary fiction lover. Plus, I love the opportunity to learn about an author’s inspiration and research process after I’ve read the book. 

Today I’m sharing 15 fantasy novels that are rooted in reality. I’ve read a few of these, but consider this primarily a peek at my TBR list. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the following titles, plus, as always, I’d love to hear your fantasy recommendations in comments. 

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15 fantasy novels that are rooted in reality

Fantasy Novels that are Grounded in Reality


I waited far too long to read Kindred by Octavia Butler, and I was riveted from the first page. Time travel meets slave narrative in this modern science fiction classic. When Dana, a modern Black woman from 1976, gets transported to the antebellum south in order to save one of her white ancestors, she preserves her own history. But it doesn’t end there. As she keeps getting pulled back to the past, her trips grow more and more dangerous, and Dana must figure out how to survive in a reality far more terrifying than the history books ever suggested. If you still need a push to read Kindred, listen to Volume II Episode III of One Great Book. More info →
My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane

The Princess Bride meets The Other Boleyn Girl in this quirky spin on the true story of Lady Jane Grey. Sixteen-year-old King Edward has arranged a marriage for Jane in order to secure his line to the throne. He doesn't have much interest in ruling, and she doesn't have much interest in marriage. Duty is the least of their problems because, well...Jane's betrothed turns into a horse every night. Note: this sassy book is especially great on audio. More info →
The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood

I loved this so much I included it in the 2018 Summer Reading Guide. This dark fairytale takes place in modern day Manhattan. Alice and her mom have spent 17 years on the run, trying to dodge the persistent bad luck mysteriously connected to an unnerving book of stories penned by Alice's estranged grandmother. When Alice's grandmother dies, her mother thinks they're free—until the day Alice comes home from school to discover Ella has been kidnapped, leaving behind a page torn from her grandmother's book and a note: Stay away from the Hazel Wood. But Alice has to save her mom, so she enters what she slowly begins to see is her grandmother's book of stories-come-to-life—and they suddenly look a lot more like horror than fantasy. This seriously twisted and sometimes bloody fairy tale reminds me of The Thirteenth Tale, with a dash of The Matrix. More info →
A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

I recommended this one to Keren on episode 193 of What Should I Read Next because of its clever twist on a familiar story. Harper, a modern day 17 year old girl, is going through a terrible time when she gets sucked into a fantasy world. Prince Rhen, heir to the throne of Emberfall, is cursed, turns into a beast, and destroys everything he holds dear (sound familiar?). This Beauty and the Beast retelling is delightfully modern, features a character with cerebral palsy, and straddles reality and fantasy in a refreshing way. More info →
The Poppy War: A Novel

The Poppy War: A Novel

This epic fantasy is rooted in 20th Century Chinese history and mythology. It features Rin, an orphaned peasant girl, who, against all odds, earns a place in an elite military academy. At school, Rin discovers that she possesses incredible powers and studies the mythical art of shamanism. As the Nikara Empire teeters on the brink of war, Rin answers the call to save her people. Kuang has spoken about her choice to write fictional accounts of historical events like the Nanjing Massacre with unflinching detail, not to glorify war, but to show the realities of trauma. (Content warnings for sexual violence, atrocious warcrimes, self-harm). More info →
Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers

In this alternate WWI history, the British use their top secret Spirit Corps, a group of mediums who communicate with dead soldiers in order to collect valuable information from the front. While working for the Spirit Corps, Ginger uncovers evidence of a traitor within its ranks. Because she is a woman in the early 1900s, no one believes her. To complicate things, the Spirit Corps is being targeted by German forces, and Ginger needs to stop them. If you enjoyed The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, this book is the perfect foray into the fantasy genre. More info →
Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown

Many readers have compared this historical fantasy novel to the works of Jane Austen, which OF COURSE intrigues me. When Britain's most respected magical organization falls into disgrace and disrepair, Zacharias Wythe sets out to discover why the magic is drying up. When he crosses paths with Prunella Gentlewoman, a spunky and powerful heroine, they team up to turn the world of magic on its head. More info →
Iron Cast

Iron Cast

Best friends Ada and Corinne are employed by Johnny Dervish and perform at his secret nightclub. Their "afflicted" blood gives them the ability to create beautiful illusions on stage together. It also spells danger, as they navigate Boston in 1919 as two young women with secret abilities. This book focuses on the central female friendship, rather than a romance plot, which many readers find refreshing. More info →
The City of Brass

The City of Brass

Chakraborty masterfully includes history and cultural symbolism in this fantasy novel (for a peek into her research process, check out Chakraborty's reading list). This book subverts expectations in the best way. Eighteen year old Nari makes her living as a con artist on the streets of Cairo. When a job goes horribly awry, she accidentally conjures a djinn warrior who transports her to the magical city of brass. If you love a feisty heroine and rich world-building, this is the book for you. More info →
Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey

Publishers call this "the fantasy novel you've always wished Jane Austen had written." Jane and Melody are on the hunt for eligible men (who are in possession of a good fortune and in want of a wife, naturally). However, in this version of Regency England, glamour—that is, the power to create visual illusions—is considered a ladylike skill (think pianoforte or painting). When Jane discovers a plot to take advantage of her sister's dowry, she pushes herself to the limits of glamouring. Will the sisters find their happily ever afters? More info →


This steampunk alternate WWI history makes a great family road trip book (Alan Cumming narrates the audiobook). Aleksandar is a Clanker, part of the Austro-Hungarian force of steam-driven machines and guns. Deryn is a Darwinist, part of the British force of genetically modified animals, including the Leviathan, a whale airship. When they cross paths, the two foes develop an unlikely friendship and travel the world on the adventure of a lifetime. More info →
The Lost Queen

The Lost Queen

I've been meaning to read Signe Pike for ages; feel free to convince me in comments! The "lost queen" is Languoreth, a real sixth century Scottish queen whose twin brother inspired the legend of Merlin. Ancient Scotland is the perfect setting for a fantasy novel. Ancient magic, complex politics, and clashing religions all conspire to create an intriguing story. Reminiscent of the Arthurian legends, this book is perfect for fans of Phillippa Gregory. More info →
His Majesty’s Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire

His Majesty’s Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire

When sea captain Will Laurence captures a French ship and finds an unhatched dragon egg among its cargo, his life changes. He develops an unexpected bond with the dragon, Temeraire, and joins the aerial corps to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. Combining high fantasy with real 18th century military tactics, Novik weaves a beautiful story of friendship, love, and adventure in her first novel. More info →
The Diviners

The Diviners

When spunky, psychic Evie O’Neill is sent to her Uncle’s house in New York City, she is immediately enamored by the sparkle and glamour of the Jazz Age, but things get serious when her uncle is called to a crime scene to study occult symbols left behind by the murderer. Evie realizes that her unexplained powers could help catch a serial killer. With a unique cast of characters and snappy, witty dialogue, The Diviners qualifies as YA that adults will also love. Think City of Girls but with ghosts and evil lurking around every corner. More info →
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Mr. Norrell, a recluse with an extensive library, agrees to use his magical efforts to help the British fight against Napoleon Bonaparte. When Jonathan Strange, an ambitious magician, arrives on the scene, Mr. Norrell eagerly agrees to teach him the ways of English magic. While Norrell is stuffy and rigid, Strange is wild and eager. Circumstances grow more and more dangerous as they uncover lost magic. If BBC miniseries are your cup of tea, then this vividly detailed novel might be for you. Fun/embarrassing fact: my brother loaned me this giant book four years ago and I still haven’t read it (because I keep meaning to!). And I still haven't returned it. More info →

Have you read any of these titles? Which books would you add to this list?


Leave A Comment
  1. Lydia says:

    The Book of Things, by John Connolly. A boy gets lost in a forest, full of creatures from fairy tales, but the characters from the fairy tales do not behave as you would expect them to.

  2. Deborah G Ball says:

    I also do not read fantasy, however your frequent recommendation of Kindred made me order it to take to the beach this summer. WOW! Not a beach read, but aa life changing book and a real eye opener. I often could only read 4-5-6 pages and it was the only book I did at the beach even though I took my usual 5! I still think about it and recommend it to certain discerning friends. Thank you for enlightening me and educating me about this book. I am changed, and isn’t that what reading is all about??

  3. Susan Craig says:

    My favorite fantasy series is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The setting is very like Dickens’s London, but with witches, trolls and dwarves. Terry Pratchett loved fantasy novels, but also lampoons them gently. Within the series are mini-series that focus on one place and group of characters. My favorites are The Watch (set in the city and focusing on the police force) and The Witches (set in a small mountain town and focusing on the local coven.) If you haven’t tried any Discworld books, I suggest starting with Guards! Guards! It is the first of the police books. Terry Pratchett was a beat reporter and his police officers feel like very real people (albeit one of them is a werewolf.)

    • Mandy says:

      I love Discworld! His YA Discworld series that begins with The Wee Free Men is a great starting point too, with a strong female protagonist.

      • Louise says:

        The Wee Free Men is one of my all-time favourite books, Pratchett or otherwise, fantasy or otherwise. For all that she’s only nine years old, Tiffany is one of the most relatable protagonists ever.

    • Heidi says:

      I adore Terry Pratchett, and almost always recommend him when I leave comments on MMD. I also love the audiobooks, read by Stephen Briggs.

    • Swati says:

      Hi Anne,
      My name is Swati and I have loved reading since the time I learnt to read. I have been the quintessential bookworm( modernly called booknerd/book dragon).
      I have always known about podcasts but never really got interested into them. But quite recently, my friend recommended me to give a podcast called Binge mode a try ( enabling my Harry Potter obsession).I was supremely surprised that not only did I love it but it made me look for more podcasts related to interests ( reading being the primary one). The moment I read the name of What Should I Read Next?, I knew it was going to become a regular for me! While I have been pretty stubborn with my reading choices as I generally prefer fiction. Hearing you discussing all these amazing books of different genres makes me want to give them a try.
      The episode 196: What the cool kids are reading with Anudeep Reddy especially touched me as I have been in pretty much the same boat as him when I was younger and I literally went like same!!, everytime he shared a very Indian family fact.
      Anne, you are doing a wonderful job and thank you soo much for opening my mind to innumerable reading options.
      Best Regards,

  4. Lynn Hotalen says:

    Have you read “What the Wind Knows” by Amy Harmon? It is so well written and centers around Michael Collins and the Irish Easter Rising of 1916 (and a mystery-fantasy and love story). I LOVED this book and learned so much about a bit of history I knew nothing about. You have to read it!

  5. Michelle says:

    The best books (not just fantasy) that I’ve read in the past couple of years are The Books of Imirillia by Beth Brower. They are fantasy but just feel set in the Middle Ages, no magic or anything like that. Good plot development, character development, etc. They are highly rated on Amazon as well, nothing less than 4 stars.

  6. Jennifer Geisler says:

    The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.
    Contemporary time, a feisty young woman who excelled in academia, born of two witches and determinedly denying any magic to seep into her life. Despite her efforts, magic appears regularly, completely out of control, and when she realizes that other witches, and a vampire are after her due to a book she found, the storytakes off. A unique take on witches, vampires and “daemons”, a wonderful love story and love of family weave through the plot. If you liked The Outlander, I think you would enjoy this book. I do not recommend the second and third in the series, but the first was unputdownable!

    • Amy Lynn says:

      Yes! I second The All Souls Trilogy. I just finished the series and it was one of my favorite reads in a long time. Also, the TV series actually lives up to the books.

      • Karen says:

        I enjoyed The Lost Queen but as a trilogy it takes a commitment. The second in the series is ready so you can continue the story immediately. I listened to the lost queen and loved the Merlin and Arthurian connections.

  7. Carol says:

    Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I’m not a fantasy reader…except…I adored Kindred. And also loved Spinning Silver. It is an imaginative retelling of the fairytale. It’s a timeless love story. I just fell into the world she built.

    • Byrd says:

      Yes!! I was reading through the comments before posting at the bottom that Spinning Silver is amazing — three strong women — love it. Would start here with Novik (it’s her latest and her writing skill shows) then back up to Temeraire

      • Elizabeth says:

        Yes to Naomi Novik–the Temeraire novels are like Jane Austen and the Aubrey/Maturin novels, but with dragons. Uprooted (another fairy tale adaptation) is also wonderful.
        I really liked The Bear and the Nightingale.
        If you want a great Arthurian fantasy rooted in the decline of the Roman Empire in Britain, Mary Stewart’s tetralogy beginning with The Crystal Cave is great. I’m so grateful for this post and the entire comments section–my TBR list is blowing up (again!).

  8. Lynda says:

    I read a lot of fantasy, and really enjoyed My Lady Jane, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and The Hazel Wood. I just borrowed The Lost Queen and added Kindred to my TBR list on your recommendation!

  9. Mandy says:

    I love Charles de Lint’s Newford books – urban fantasy novels and short stories with a cast of unique characters that the reader will grow to love. Start with Dreams Underfoot, a collection of short stories that gives you an introduction to several key characters. And the first story is the weirdest, so don’t let that turn you away from the rest of the book!

  10. Sara EB says:

    I’ve recently delved into fantasy and have found that they are a great balance to whatever nonfiction I’m reading at the same time. (I usually read 2 books at the same time.) I recommend reading anything by Seanan McGuire. She has written a plethora of books. Every Heart a Doorway, the first in the Wayward Children series, is great. A short book full of complex characters, murder, and mystery. I have now read 4 books by McGuire and have enjoyed each one thoroughly.

    • Jaia says:

      I was coming here to suggest the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire too! I love the series, especially on audio. McGuire has a magical voice and her characters are so compelling. I was addicted and read/listened to all 4 books in 3 days. I can not wait for the 5th to come out!

  11. Leslie L says:

    Not read these, but in kid lit (good for any age)…
    The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
    Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull (He has others)
    Harry Potter by JK Rowling

    • Amberle Shaffer says:

      A Court of Thorns and Roses series is one of the best I’ve read in a long time! The best way I can describe the first book is a cross between Beauty and The Beast and East of the Sun, West of the Moon with elements of at least a half dozen more fairy tales mixed in. It’s well written with strongly developed characters, and, is one of the few series I’ve read where the first book is amazing but the second and third are even better (not just my opinion, everyone I’ve heard who’s read it says the same thing).

  12. All of Susanna Kearsley’s books would fit well on this list, I think. The Winter Sea and A Desperate Fortune are my favorites from her. I love how she can write a gripping plot with just one or two elements of fantasy/magic. And I especially love the time periods she gravitates towards for her historical stories.

    • Adrien says:

      Yes! I was scrolling through the comments to see if anyone had recommended this amazing trilogy. I’m halfway into the Girl In the Tower now and I just love it so much!

  13. Samantha Newbern says:

    I enjoyed the Jackaby series by William Ritter. The best way to describe it is as a Sherlock Holmes meets Fantastic Beasts book set in Victorian America.
    I’m currently reading the Jane Austen Project, Kathleen A Flynn and really enjoying it! It’s two people who are sent from the future to befriend Jane Austen in the hopes that they can bring back a lost manuscript.

  14. I love all varieties of fantasy (and in fact just posted a beginners guide to the high fantasy genre and book recommendations on my blog), but this type of magical realism is one of my favorites to read. I always recommend Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen since it’s the perfect blend of women’s fiction with a hint of magic.

  15. Jenn Anderson says:

    There is an audio book of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. However, it is a LONG story. I haven’t finished it yet, but I did enjoy what I got through so far.
    I’d be interested in a collection of this genre of books for teen boys…. My son is always looking for something good to read and he prefers fantasy. However, I don’t want books that are full of adult content for him. When he finds something he likes, he reads very quickly.

    • Becky says:

      Has he tried Brandon Sanderson? He does have a few series geared towards YA (The Reckoners trilogy, and a book called Skyward that’s more sci-fi but has the second one coming out soon). He generally keeps his work clean as far as adult content goes, though, so I wouldn’t have any objections to my kids reading his more “adult” fantasy books either. The Mistborn books are a good start.

      • Jenn Anderson says:

        He has read some Brandon Sanderson, but I’m not sure about the Mistborn books. I’ll check. Thanks for the recommendation!

  16. Julie R says:

    The Wood Wife by Terri Windling is one of my absolute favorite books in this category. Charles de Lint has also written some fab stores. Seven Wild Sisters is one of my favorites.

    • Charlynn Greene says:

      I would include here The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro and Daniel Kraus. It is definitely rooted in early 1960’s reality with the added fantastic element of the captured amphibious man/water creature. It is a very different story, weaving together fantasy, romance, and a little horror too, with excellent writing. I liked it a lot!

  17. Janet says:

    Jonathon Strange is excellent and even though it’s long, you don’t want it to end.

    Neil Gaiman needs to be on this list (Stardust, Neverwhere), try it, you’ll like it!

  18. JoAnn Stump says:

    I have been enjoying A Strong Woman in the Middle Ages (A Medieval Tale _ series) by Lina J Potter. A current day woman is zapped back to the middle ages as the wife of a Duke. He ignores her and banishes her to his country estate. Later sending his awful daughter and her nanny. While he romances his current amour at court.
    When she starts thinking clearly she sees both opportunities and dangers in her position. First she realizes she can “invent” many things to make life better and to make money. She is brighter than many of the other people and does not have the prejudices they do. So she can work with and hire people that would never have come close to her if she were the actual Duchess who was, it must be said pretty awful herself) . On the other hand she doesn’t want the Duke hearing something that will bring his attention to her or his neglected estate. That might bring him or someone else to check on her.

  19. Golem and the Jinni is a good suggestion. Some of the others have less of a real-world connection, though they’re still good.

    I also recommend Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, which weaves together a version of Rapunzel with the story of the real-life woman who first told the tale.

    And how about:
    The Owl Service by Alan Garner — 20th century teenagers caught up in an ancient mythological curse
    Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones — more mythology seeping into modern times, a version of the Tam Lin legend
    The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope — ditto, but set in Elizabethan England

    Ok, better stop now…

    • Karen says:

      I loved The Perilous Gard! Pope also wrote The Sherwood Ring, a sort of ghost story/time-travel book set during the American Revolution. Lighter in tone than the Perilous Gard, but I loved them both.
      I’ll have to try The Owl Service again. Tried to read it long ago and just couldn’t get into it. Alan Garner also wrote The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and a sequel The Moon of Gomrath, for a slightly younger audience, I think – very Celtic and Matter of Britain – which are my favorites of his. Apparently he wrote a third book to follow Weirdstone and Moon – the name escapes me – about the characters as adults, for adults and very psychological. I’d like to read it, but, on the other hand, I don’t want it to spoil the first two for me.
      Have read and loved other DWJ books, but not yet Fire and Hemlock. Will have to look for it.
      Thanks for the ideas!

  20. Micaela says:

    So happy to see Ghost Talkers on here! I was reluctant to read it but it is so well done and it’s a great intro to fantasy. Great blend of historical fiction, mystery, and romance.

  21. Kirsten L says:

    I’m not generally a fantasy reader either, but I loved Biding Time and Borrowed Time by E.W. Barnes. My sister is a brand-new novelist, having recently published the first two books of her time-travel trilogy, and I am loving the storyline and characters she has created. Visits to the future are well-balanced with visits to historic events in the past, like 1215 England and 1948 Paris.

  22. Marie says:

    YA novel, A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney that’s a retelling of Alice in Wonderland that places the protagonist as a black American teenager living in Atlanta. Also, Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente is a retelling of Russian folktales alongside the country’s history (but not in an obvious way) and the entire book feels *very* Russian. The most magical is Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series (someone mentioned above too!) which is YA with fantastic characters and LGBTQ.

  23. Cat says:

    The Diviners books are quite good. I enjoy them a great deal and can’t wait for the next one to come out.

    Seanan McGuire has also done a great job of combining our reality and magic. The Toby Daye series just had a new book come out yesterday, and she also has the InCryptid series and Wayward Children series.

  24. Heather Bruck says:

    Most of these look AAMAZING. But I DNF Strange and Norwell because it is very slow paced and somewhat of a tome.a tip, if you do read it: I’ve read reviews that say it really speeds up at the end but I just couldn’t get that far!

  25. Nicole says:

    The worldbuilding and some characters in The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold are loosely based on the region of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages (think Isabella and Ferdinand).

    • Austin says:

      Ah excellent! I was going to pop in and suggest The Curse of Chalion as “the history of uniting Spain…but add magic” so I’ll second this recommendation!

  26. Ingrid says:

    I would add The Magicians by Lev Grossman. First in a trilogy, the tv show on SciFi is horrible. Almost a Harry Potter for adults- what would it REALLY be like if you found out you were a magician? Clever and gritty, not for kids, many fun references to HP and Narnia.

  27. Mary Prather says:

    I haven’t read any of these – but upon your recommendation, I did pick up Octavia Butler a few weeks ago and will be starting it soon.

    My son (14) read the Leviathan – the entire series – and enjoyed it very much. My daughter (18) read The Hazel Wood and enjoyed that, too.

    Our book club tried to stretch ourselves with something from the Sci Fi genre last month. We read The Martian, and I can say with 100% certainty that I did NOT like that book. We probably should have chosen one off of this list!

  28. Anne says:

    You should read one of Naomi Novik’s more recent books, Uprooted! I really enjoyed the Temeraire series, but this book I love to the point of forcing everyone I know to read it. It’s a delightfully well-told story that feels like a fairy tale the Grimm brothers missed, and is incredibly well-written.

    • Austin says:

      YES — I read Uprooted this summer and loved it so much! Haven’t made it to Spinning Silver, but I’ve been recommending Uprooted to everyone who will listen.

    • Adrien says:

      I had always thought that I was the only person who preferred Uprooted to Spinning Silver. It’s just so unique and magical. Loveeee the Dragon.

  29. Ann Barker says:

    I just finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The plot is unique involving dueling love-struck magicians. It is so beautifully written and draws you into the time period and story. It was a #1 National Bestseller as well.

  30. Anne says:

    I feel the same way – pure fantasy is less interesting to me than fantasy grounded in “the real world.” Don’t know why that it is, but it is!
    A Curse So Dark and Lovely – Loved it!
    Leviathan – I recommend it to everyone I can! Alan Cummings’ narration just makes it over the top amazing!
    Shades of Milk and Honey – I listened to this and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Great list, but now my TBR pile is even higher!

  31. Jenn says:

    There are some that I already had on my wishlist, but there were many that I hadn’t heard of. Thanks for an awesome e fantasy list!

  32. Katie says:

    I LOVE My Lady Jane. My Plain Jane is good as well and I’m eagerly looking forward to the third Jane – My Calamity Jane.

    I’m currently reading A Curse So Dark and Lonely and really enjoying it!

  33. Rachael says:

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a fabulous beast of a book. Highly recommend – it’s great as an audiobook too!

    I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan, and am excited for this list!

  34. Amy Lynn says:

    I would also add the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris to this list. Compulsively readable and a lot of fun. I devoured the whole series.

  35. Kelli E says:

    Reading the Poppy War as we speak and loved City of Brass! Thanks for these recs – I’ve read a bit more fantasy than my norm this year as well and I’ve been so glad I did.

  36. sabiha chunawala says:

    I absolutely loved City of Brass, and its sequel Kingdom of Copper was even better! I’m also not a regular fantasy reader, but like you, if it’s based on historical events or with a really rich setting that immerses you, then I’m game. Lost Queen is in my TBR stack so I’ll likely move it up based on your recommendation. I recently met the author of An Ember in the Ashes young adult fiction series, Sabaa Tahir, so also have those on my TBR. Does anyone have any thoughts on the new book, Priory of the Orange Tree? I just purchased this during the B&N Bookhaul event.

  37. Carla Dawn Bynum says:

    The Little Shop of Found Things: A Novel
    by Paula Brackston. Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

    It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life

  38. Terri Burke says:

    Kindred has been at the top of my favorites list regardless of genre for maybe 15 years. I love that it is so historically grounded with just the one key fantastical element.
    I was stunned that The Outlander didn’t make this list—another great use of a fantastical element spun into an amazing story by a remarkable storyteller.

  39. Marion says:

    A fantasy list should always have the novels of 2 Canadian Authors: Guy Gavriel Kay and Charles de Lint. Both men have redefined the genre in their own way and are two of my favorite novelists working today.

    Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky and A Brightness Long Ago are my recommendations of his work.
    Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream and The Little Country are my recommendations of his work.

    Anne, I’m so glad that you are taking a step outside of your reading zone and trying a different genre. I have always believed that reading is the cheapest and easiest passport you can get to another world. And reading across genres is the best way to do just that!

  40. Belle says:

    I love Leigh Bardugo and The Six of Crows. It is part of a duology. Is that the right word?!? Too long of a work day today and now all words are looking weird to me.

  41. Marissa says:

    So many great suggestions on this list. Many I have read, many that will form a new tower in my TBR piles.
    I second the Neil Gaiman recommendation, both the ones mentioned and the Ocean at the End of the Lane. Also Good Omens a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a delight for Gaiman or Pratchett fans.
    I also am a big Brandon Sanderson fan. Mistborn series is excellent, as is The Stormlight Archive — although its a commitment of time.
    I am also a fan of Jo Walton. This crowd might particularly enjoy her Jane Austen style-novel of manners about dragons, Tooth and Claw, her most recent Among Others. Also her speculative fiction series, Farthing, Ha’Penny, Half a Crown.

    I also like The Hummingbird’s Daughter, more magical realism by Luis Alberto Urrea.

    Too many great books to name. Love this thread

  42. Glen says:

    Octavia Butler is great. Ive read a great many of her books (own them, in fact) and they are all good.and not formulaic. Novik is an author Ive been wanting to read, seduced by her cover art! Others are on the TBR list to at least try. But you may want to check there arent prequels to these titles, since that will make it easier to understand some of the story.Series books are difficult if you start in the middle. Fantastic Fiction is a great place to check if there are prequels, and sequels too, if you really like the book.

  43. Stacy says:

    Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang is an excellent book! It’s so rooted in reality that it barely qualifies as fantasy. As the story unfolds, you learn about the main character’s “powers” (for lack of a better word) and how they prevent him from living a normal life. A story about a boy raised by wolves in modern day America didn’t sound that interesting to me, but I’m so glad I read it – it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

  44. Sue says:

    His Majesty’s Dragon is for me! Thank you for the recommendation! My first thought for fantasy novels is the Dragonrider series by Anne McCaffrey—I know, I know, I’m more of a Star Trek girl myself, and when a little old lady pressed this series into my hands, I fully intended to return them unread. But I decided to read the first page of the first one, so I could say I tried, and I was hooked! Everyone else I’ve given them to has loved them, too. I thought I wasn’t into dragons, but these critters are cute and funny! And as the series goes on, it gets into a lot of science. Earth sent 3 ships to colonize a planet when Earth was no longer livable, and left instructions which became like Legends… the dragons were created by men from the native “fire lizards” to help them survive the dangers of the new world… it’s fascinating! A wonderful world to read about!

  45. Abbey says:

    A Natural History of Dragons is a great series. It has a strong Victorian female character who is telling the story in her memoirs.

  46. I have Kindred on my list. I read Parable of the Sower a couple of months ago. It was really good.

    George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series was inspired by the 15th century War of the Roses. One of the best fantasy series I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot over the years), though I am only on Book Three, A Storm of Swords.

  47. Cindy says:

    It’s been years since I’ve read them but I throughly enjoyed the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde. The first one is The Eyre Affair which introduces Thursday Next, a literary detective. The others are Lost in a Good Book, Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing and The Woman Who Died a Lot. They are a fun read.

  48. Sassy Apple says:

    Not fantasy, more Sci/Fi (don’t turn up your nose yet!) and DEFINITELY rooted in historical events, ‘The Chronicles of St. Mary’s’ series by Jodi Taylor is wonderful. You definitely see her develop as a writer throughout the series, but I have thoroughly enjoyed each book. St. Mary’s investigates ‘historical events in contemporary time,’ but they’re not to call it time travel (it’s totally time travel). I’ve learned quite a bit of British history and laughed a lot with this series. Bonus? FANTASTIC audio books. The narrator really does make or break the book. Hope someone takes a chance on these!

    • Patricia says:

      Sorry to say, but this series is way too much like Connie Willis’s Oxford Time Travel series which were published years before. A number of reviews on Amazon have noticed the similarities .

  49. Valerie says:

    Abraham Merritt wrote fantasy unlike any other I have read. He uses language that is more “poetic” than what I’m accustomed to reading, so I had to pay attention. Most, if not all, of his work is in the public domain, so is available free.

  50. Kristen says:

    I am not much of a fantasy reader but I couldn’t read The Rook by Daniel O’Malley fast enough. It was utterly captivating. And if you like it, there’s a second one as well. (Full disclosure: I’m afraid to read the second one because I don’t want it to ruin my experience of the first one.)

  51. Amy says:

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has been on my to-be-read list for YEARS. I read the first part of it a couple of years ago, and it felt to me like the very best of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and J.K. Rowling combined in perfect proportions of cozy, British, historical, and magical. I haven’t finished it only because I keep running into very busy seasons of life in which I have no time to read, especially not a book of that size. Now that I’m done with university, I plan to read it this fall/winter!

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