Fantasy recommendations 101

Hi all,

So I like to think of myself as an expert in the fantasy genre. I’ve been reading it and loving it since I was a kid, and over the years I’ve compiled a mental list of fantasy books I recommend to people who aren’t as familiar with the genre. I thought I’d share that list with you all today.

I’ve linked all the mentioned books to their goodreads pages if any spark your interest. Since many of these are series, though, in those cases I have linked to only the first book.

‘Our world’ fantasy:

These are the types of books that are set in our world but have magic interwoven into them. I always recommend them to people who like reading contemporary/aren’t used to reading books set in other worlds. It’s hard to get used to, like being dropped in the ocean and then having to learn to swim right then. But these books have a familiar world, so all you have to learn is the magic system. Also, note that a lot of these books are middle grade, or for younger readers. I loved this type of fantasy when I was a kid, so that’s why.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Duh. And I know most of you have read HP. Congrats! You’ve read a what I like to call ‘our world’ fantasy. If you’re younger, and haven’t read HP because you were too young when the books were really popular, I implore you to try it out. Trust me, HP never gets old.

2. The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. These books are about this pair of sisters who find out that all the Grimm brother’s stories are real, and they’re trapped living in this tiny town just north of New York. It’s a bit of a slower read, I’d say; it takes about halfway through the first book for you to get into the action. But man, it’s so great, and the characters will make you laugh like crazy.

3. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. I read this one in 2014(?) It’s about this girl who brings the prince in a storybook off of the pages. I mean, how cool is that? I want my favorite character to jump out of the book to be my boyfriend…This one is, I’d say, the most contemporaryish; it feels like a contemporary, and it’s super fluffy. So this is, I think the go-to fantasy for all you contemporary lovers. Also, it’s a companion novel to Between the Lines, which is the story of the prince coming out of the book, while Off the Page is the prince and the girl from our world living their lives as the most adorable couple on the face of the planet. I never read the fist one though, and I’d definitely say that you can jump right into Off the Page and still understand what’s going on.

4. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. I will never NOT recommend PJO to someone. It’s probably my favorite series of all time, just because I grew up with it and it’s very special to me. If you have any interest in Greek Mythology, these are the books for you. And if you’re not into Greek myths, you will be by the time you read these books. 

High Fantasy/ ‘other world’ fantasy:

These books are set in a world completely made up by the author, but the books on this list aren’t super complex. Nothing like, say, Tolkien here. You don’t need to learn about five new countries, learn an elven language, and try to keep up with five million names that you can’t pronounce, all on top of a magic system with so many rules it makes your head spin. I like to think of these as entry-level high fantasy, and some of these you can definitely read if you’re not sure you want to start out with any of the books listed above.

1. Gail Carson Levine. She’s one of my favorite childhood authors, known for writing fairytale-esk stories. My personal favorite of hers is Ella Enchanted (perhaps you remember the movie). It’s a Cinderella retelling, and in this world children are often given ‘gifts’ by fairies at birth. And when I say ‘gift?’ Yeah, it’s actually horrible. The gift our protagonist, Ella, is given is that she has to be obedient, she has the inability to disobey anyone. Some other favorites of mine by Levine are Fairest and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. All are very sweet and magical in a simple, elegant way.

2. Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. This is a debut novel that released last year (2016) that I was pleasantly surprised with. Normally you see fantasy books set in a world loosely based off of medieval times, but this one has more of a vibe closer to the industrial age of Britain, and it has a unique take on witches. Our main character has a unique ability; that of being able to become ‘unseen.’ So not invisible, but she can slip into this in-between dimension so that people don’t notice her. It’s amazing, and I’ve been keeping my ears pricked for news of sequels.

3. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. This is one of my favorite high fantasy series of all time. It’s a series that I highly recommend if you want to get into really high fantasy, but are a bit intimidated by it. It’s a good bridge. The first book follows our protagonist, Celaena, who is her land’s best assassin. But it starts after she was caught, and has been in a slave prison for two years. Why start the story there? Because the king of the land has decided that he needs a champion – a personal assassin to do all his dirty work. And the prince, his son, has nominated Celaena. I will admit, it takes a bit to get into the book, but I’m telling you: get through the first book, and you will love this series. That’s the thing about fantasy, especially high fantasy. You can’t fall into it immediately. You have to spend a little time in the world before you really start flowing with it. But I think Throne of glass (book 1) does a good job of keeping the world only as big as the story demands. You don’t learn a bunch of useless world building that doesn’t even relate to the plot.

There are of course a ton of other recommendations that I have for fantasy. Cause you know, it’s like 80% of what I read. No, seriously, I think last year I read like three books of a different genre.

(Am I exaggerating there? Am I serious? The world may never know…)

There are several books that I almost put on this list, but I think it’s more of fantasy 201 type material…?? Maybe I’ll make that. Let me know if you’d like another post like this!

And as always, have a lovely day and I’ll see to you again soon. 🙂