Priya is pursuing her undergrad in law and business administration. She loves translated books, world cinema and French chic.
10 Great Adult Fantasy Novels
Fantasy can be a tricky genre. Either it’s good, or it’s not so good—there is no in-between. It is difficult to create a fantasy world, and I appreciate authors who take the time and effort to build it up. Even then, I’ve only found a few adult fantasy novels worth reading, and this post is an attempt to share them with you. (This is a numbered, but not ranked, list.)
One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.
— C.S. Lewis, "The Chronicles of Narnia"
"City of Brass"
"Burn for Me"
"The Ninth Rain"
"The Colour of Magic"
"The Girl with Ghost Eyes"
1. Jade War by Fonda Lee
Jade War is a trilogy written by Canadian-American author Fonda Lee. The first book was the recipient of the World Fantasy Award in 2018, so you’re in good company. Its setting and characters are a complete departure from the half-baked, medieval-European types of societies that run rampant in too many fantasy novels.
The worldbuilding here is spectacular. Lee brings out every aspect of society in detail: folklore, beliefs, superstitions, history, culture, foreign affairs, commerce, etc. The main characters have well-thought-out arcs and change and adapt in response to circumstances.
2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere is a story about Richard Mayhew, a young businessman who gets tugged into a world that exists underneath the streets of London. In this book, Gaiman captures the real essence of the word “fantasy” and really tests our imaginations and forces us to abandon all sense of order and authority. It is exciting, fast-paced, unexpected, unusual, and an absolute page-turner.
3. City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Fantasy novels that weave mythology into their stories are my favourite kind. Chakraborty’s book explores Arabic and Persian mythology. I wasn’t a big fan of the characters; what I loved was the world—the richly textured and painstakingly crafted city of brass—the author had touched upon the food, clothes, beliefs, and ideals of the people (or should I say the djinns?). This new world was like a much-needed breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre.
4. Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews
A husband-wife duo, Ilona Andrews has churned out plenty of fantasy novels. Burn for Me is the first of the Hidden Legacy series. Set in an alternate world, a young detective has the power to detect lies, a trait that comes in handy in her line of work. It’s common to have powers in this world. Examples include controlling and manipulating elements, talking to animals, and teleportation. The various aspects of the story included a close-knit family, a peculiar love interest, politics and political alliances, and of course, a staunch heroine who sets out to save her beloved city.
5. Soulless by Gail Carriger
This book was published in 2009 and provides a different dynamic than the usual vampire-werewolf mythologies. The main character, Alexia, is witty, charming, and doesn’t have a soul. What’s not to like? Set in Victorian London, our spinster protagonist goes about wrecking problems with her parasol in tow and exploring a very frustrated but enamoured love interest.
6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman features again. I’ve mentioned that I like stories that incorporate mythology. American Gods is an extensive dictionary on world mythology. Gods from every culture make an appearance, and Gaiman reimagines them in the modern world. Odin is a con-man, Anubis runs a funeral parlour, the Queen of Sheba is a prostitute, and Horus lives on road-kill. The conflict in the book is between the old and new gods. Shadow, our protagonist, gets pulled into it when he takes up a job as a bodyguard. Like Gaiman’s other books, this too has a major plot twist. The book also won plenty of awards including the Nebula and Hugo Awards in 2002.
7. Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh
Think angels, vampires, and hunters—all in one book. Singh has created an alternate world where angels are akin to rulers. The protagonist, Elena, is a hardcore, badass, born vampire hunter. I liked her determination to solve the mystery haunting the city. Though, I should warn—underneath all the plot suspense it is but a romance novel with an oversexed love interest. Her writing style is amazing, and her descriptions vivid. This one is a must-try if you’re into angel books.
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8. The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
The Ninth Rain is the first book of the Winnowfire Flame trilogy by Jen Williams. The book is set in the fictional Sarn which, from what I understand, is a planet. A prime example of soft-worldbuilding, the author releases titbits about the world and its characters (delightful and witty) only to the extent the reader needs to know. There are two parallel stories which converge to the end in a spectacular twist (I didn’t see it coming) that also sets the premise for the next book.
9. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
This is just the most delightful novel I’ve ever read. Quite like PG Wodehouse in terms of humour, but set in a fantastical world of wizards, dryads, heroes and dragon riders. The Colour of Magic is the first novel in the Discworld Series by Pratchett. And while I’m yet to read the remaining 40 novels, I have to admit I’m hooked to this satirical masterpiece that satirises every fantasy novel ever written.
10. The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
If you’re tired of the elves and orcs and thinly veiled stories from Greek mythology, then this book is for you. It was a book on Chinese mythology, with Daoshi priests, magic, and exorcism. Set in the 19th century Chinatown, San Francisco, the story follows Xian Li-lin who walks the hero’s path of sacrifice to save Chinatown from the evil designs of a newcomer. The backdrop of the story was refreshing, but the story itself was trite. Reluctant hero on a quest to save the world. But I’d recommend everyone to read this book just for the backdrop. It takes you on a ride into an often-ignored world of Chinese monsters.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Priya Barua
Priya Barua (author) on August 03, 2020:
Thanks @Uriel for dropping in.
Uriel Eliane from Toronto on August 03, 2020:
Thank you for this great and useful recommendation!
Priya Barua (author) on August 02, 2020:
@Umesh, glad to know you liked the list.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 02, 2020:
Good compilation. Well presented.