Sunday, 16 August 2015

QotB Recommends: FANTASY BOOKS

So you are thinking about making the move into reading Fantasy novels but don't know where to go? I've got you covered! Not that I'm a certified expert, but I do have to say I have read a lot of fantasy novels (and own a lot -- enough to fill a bookcase and a half). I'm going to do this in three separate lists. Basics, Further Study, Back of the Bookshelf. 

"But Jamie, how do you define these?" you're asking. Well I do have an answer for that:
Basics are the books that are fantasy lite; they will help transition you into the genre and give you an understanding of the tropes/types of things you will see in most Fantasy novels. 

Further Study are the books/series that are heavier on the world building and character development; they are typically trilogies or short sagas so they won't fill up your shelves, just your hearts with love.

Back of the Bookshelf are the epic sagas that go so much deeper than world building. I have tried to make these ones the epic fantasies and the long sagas, but it also includes some books that are not as mainstream.
I'm going to limit each list to five books (or series) per list to not overcrowd you but if you want more let me know: I'm always good to rec a book. I am also going to ONLY place books on here that I have read and can actually recommend that you read -- I'm not a fan of recommending books I haven't read in case I categorize it wrong and/or don't like it because I wouldn't want you to read a book I didn't like. 

I also have no real logic or system behind this other than the fact that I think some of them are easier to read and get into than others. In a sense, you have to be almost "seasoned" to read some of the books on the second and third shelves -- mostly because then you can see the tropes and understand why an author did something or said something a certain way, or even understand some of the mythology or varying uses of magic ahead of time. A lot of reading Fantasy to me is trial and error and finding your niche. 

I tried to cover a wide spectrum of the genre so everyone could (hopefully) find something they want to read, but if you read all the summaries and think "NOPE" let me know and maybe I can find something more tailored to your Fantasy needs.

The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo
SummarySurrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Why I recommend it: This is very Fantasy lite. It is a great way to go from "I only read contemporary/romance" to Fantasy because it has the elements that you know from the contemporary novels and meshes them into a fantasy novel. But I do stress and emphasize that there isn't a whole lot of the sort of world building in this series that you will get in some of the fantasy novels farther down this list. But it is a good start to bridge your gap into Fantasy. 
SummaryIf there's an upside to having your heart broken, it's this: A broken heart makes you brave.

The first day of sophomore year doesn't go the way Lucy planned. After a summer apart from her boyfriend, she's ready to greet him with a special surprise and instead gets a shocking one in return: He's breaking up with her. Beyond devestated, Lucy has no idea how she's going to make it through homeroom, let alone the rest of her life.

Enter three stunning girls with the unnatural ability to attract boys and an offer Lucy can't refuse: They can heal her heart in an instant. And then she'll be one of them - a member of a sisterhood that is impervious to heartbreak and has access to magic distilled from the tears of brokenhearted boys. But to gain their power, Lucy must get a guy to fall in love with her the old-fashioned way, and then break his heart in the next seven days.

While the sisterhood may need another Heartbreaker, Lucy's only desire is to get her ex back. But how far is she willing to go, and who is she willing to cross to get what she wants?

Why I recommend it: This is basically contemporary with some magic. It will introduce you into the use of magic and the benefits and consequences of doing so. I think it is important to see magical realism on this list because it helps segue you from the contemporary into the magic in a familiar setting.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
SummaryHarry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy - until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!
Why I recommend it: What kind of list would this be without Harry Potter? I think the best benefit of reading this series before some of the others is that everyone knows it and the story. It also isn't exactly hard to follow like some of the other series that expand into too many novels (see: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan).
Hex Hall Series by Rachel Hawkins
SummaryThree years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
Why I recommend it: This one has a little bit more world building than the Grisha series but it is also heavy on the relationships and romance. But this is a good one to read before reading the Trylle series (which I recommend in the "Further Reading" section). Sophie is a likeable character and it is written in first person which gives the reader a bit more insight and perspective to the world -- something that doesn't happen very often in Fantasy but would be helpful in some of the novels I've read.
SummaryPercy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
Why I recommend it: Much like it's predecessors on this list, the PJO and THO books are kind of staples to understanding the fantasy elements. I also think this is a good one to read if you want to read more retellings because it gives you a unique insight into stories you already know (or can look up and read online) and allows you to see how they can be expanded. There is also a lot of prophecy in them which is HUGE in the Fantasy genre. Like if there is a prophecy in a book, you write that shit down and after every chapter you can reflect and see how the events are leading to the prophecy.

The Tyrlle Series by Amanda Hocking
SummaryWhen Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth. With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed—and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.
Why I recommend it: I mean, obviously I was going to include this one on this list. This is probably my all-time favourite series because the world building is exquisite and goes beyond what I imagined it would considering it is so heavy on the romance. I think because there hasn't been much written about trolls (at least, them being one of the good guys), it is a refreshing take on creature mythology -- which is something you see a LOT of in Fantasy.
The Seventh Crow by Sherry D. Ramsey
SummaryWhen you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…
Why I recommend it: I got this as an ARC from NetGalley and I loved every second of it. There is so much that happens here but the magic and the way that it is used is probably one of my favourite depictions of magic in a long time. Without spoiling too much, I also liked that there was more at play than what was initially described in the summary. I am excited to see if there is more and what is to come for Rosinda. I think it is good to see limits of power and what that means in the long run here. This one has a little bit of everything but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't been a seasoned veteran of the Fantasy genre, which is why it is on this list.
The Black Mage by Rachel E. Carter
SummaryBefore the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice-follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm's three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage...

For 15-year-old Ryiah, the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead -the realm's most notorious war school for those with magic. 

Yet when she arrives, Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every "first-year" is given a trial year to prove their worth -and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail -and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived. 

When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship, she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve -and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat... Still, nothing is ever as it seems -and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in -herself. Will it be enough?
Why I recommend it: Rachel's world in this is immaculate, but honestly this one is on this list for the magic. The depiction of magic in this incredible -- the idea of depletion and how long stamina can last is by far my favourite. And the pain magic? YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES. There is also a swoon-worthy romance that I am all for.
The Fire Children by Lauren M. Roy
SummaryTwo children escape the darkness of their underground dwellings, to find adventure, magic and terrible danger await anyone who ventures above ground.

Fifteen years have passed since Mother Sun last sent her children to walk the world. When the eclipse comes, the people retreat to the caverns beneath the Kaladim, passing the days in total darkness while the Fire Children explore their world. It's death to even look upon them, the stories say. 

Despite the warnings, Yulla gives in to her curiosity and ventures to the surface. There she witnesses the Witch Women -- who rumors say worship dead Father Sea, rather than Mother Sun -- capturing one of the Children and hauling her away. Yulla isn't the only one who saw the kidnapping; Ember, the last of the Fire Children, reveals himself to Yulla and implores her to help. 

Trapped up above and hunted by the witches and the desert wind, Yulla and Ember must find a way free his siblings and put a stop to the Witch Womens' plans, before they can use the Fire Children to bind Mother Sun herself.
Why I recommend it: This one was just good. It is a "folklore retelling" but there are some definite fantasy elements to it. It bridges the gap from PJO to more elaborate Fantasy in my opinion.
Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)      Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)      Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)
Summary: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Why I recommend it: I feel like this is the "Further Reading" equivalent of HP. This list would not be complete without it. There are so many amazing things to say about TOG but I suggest just reading it. I thought the first book was a little slow and heavy on some parts I wasn't a fan of, but there is SO MUCH GOODNESS in Crown of Midnight that it is worth the read. Even the novellas add so much to the world building without taking away from the overall story. I just *heart eyes*

The Glasswrights Series by Mindy L. Klasky
SummaryA mere glasswrights' apprentice must uncover an elusive brotherhood whose deadly venom reaches out to stain the heart of her guild, the heart of her family -- and the heart of her king....
Why I recommend it: I have mixed feelings about this series but it is definitely a lesser known Fantasy novel. There was a lot to this one and the pacing is a little off for my personal taste. But I love Rani Trader and all the ups and downs she went through. I thoroughly enjoyed so much about this series *coughs* Crestman *coughs* so I think my unhappiness with it stems from the fact I wasn't a fan of the ending. But it is a good read and something that is not as widely mainstream as some of the other Fantasy novels.
A Murder of Mages by Marshall Ryan Maresca
SummaryA Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.
Why I recommend it: This one is a detective novel mashed up with Fantasy but the idea of magic users being ostracized for their ability to even use magic is one thing I really enjoyed. I think for someone who wants to see how far the Fantasy genre can expand, this is one for you.
Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy
SummaryShe never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer. 

1913. Austria-Hungary. Ardis knows better than to save a man on the battlefield. Even if he manages to be a charming bastard while bleeding out in the snow. She hasn’t survived this long as a mercenary without some common sense.

When she rescues Wendel, it isn’t because he’s devilishly handsome, but because he’s a necromancer. His touch can revive the dead, and Ardis worries he will return from the grave to hunt her down. Besides, a necromancer can be useful in this world on the brink of war.

A gentleman of questionable morals, Wendel drops to one knee and pledges his undying loyalty to Ardis. She resists falling for him, no matter how hot the tension smolders between them. Especially when she discovers Wendel’s scars run much deeper than his skin, and it might be too late to truly save him from himself.
Why I recommend it: This has fast become one of my favourite historical fantasy series. The use of historical fiction and fantasy gives me chills. Plus there is an added steampunk element that I love beyond belief. I do give caution: there are some NSFW scenes that aren't for kiddy eyes.
A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
SummarySixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.

But when Beckan's clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn't have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. 

This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.
Why I recommend it:*sighs* what can I even say about this one to do it justice? This is a step up of mythical creature tales from the Trylle series which is why it is in this category. I love the writing style but it is definitely one that you will either love or hate -- which is why there is a split on the Goodreads ratings. But Hannah does a great job of having the characters be believable in a world that is so effed up that it is only fitting to be in a Fantasy. You can see so many elements of it that are in our world and I just love it to pieces. It has easily been one of my favourite reads in a long time.
The Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler
The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns, #1)      The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #2)      The Price of Valour (The Shadow Campaigns, #3)
SummaryEnter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel—but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic....

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.
Why I recommend it: I didn't really have an EPIC fantasy on this list until now so I am remedying that by recommending The Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler. It is also a high fantasy which means lots of magic, lots of fighting, and lots of intrigue to keep you hooked as you read along. I would say that it is pretty standard to rec ASOIAF or TWOT if you are doing Fantasy recommendations, but I think this series sits up there among those two so if you want to read something that isn't completely mainstream but just as good, pick this one up.


  1. Loved these recs! Fantasy has always been a favorite gender for me but on the last couple of years I felt like I was reading so little of it in favor of other genders that this year I challenged myself to read 30 fantasy books at least, fingers crossed I can make it. Def gonna add some of those for my TBR, specially your Back of the shelves recs, so much good stuff I had never heard of!

    Deyse @ Bound with Words

    1. If you ever need any more recs, let me know! I have lots more lesser known series and books that I could recommend to you :)