This month we asked our librarians what their favorite fantasy books are!
I already recommend a lot of fantasy, so I’m going to try recommending things I don’t remember recommending for past prompts! These aren’t necessarily the all time favorites, but they’re all absolutely fantastic.
The best fantasy series I read in 2018 was Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I stumbled upon it by accident while browsing through Libby and was quickly drawn to the rich details and descriptions.
If you’re a big fan of Game of Thrones and you’re anxiously awaiting the next title in the Song of Ice and Fire series or the last season on HBO (don’t forget to check out George R.R. Martin’s most recent title, Fire & Blood – the first volume of the two part history of the Targaryens in Westeros), I strongly suggest picking up this trilogy. It features an intelligent, cynical, no-nonsense young queen who finds herself all of a sudden in charge of a kingdom with new and unpredictable powers and a viciously cruel ruler threatening to invade her people. While there are hints of magic here and there, there’s also a dystopian feel to this world, but what exactly happened? You’ll have to read it to find out!
I would have to say I tend to enjoy fractured fairy tales or myths the most. Maybe its because I enjoy the familiarity with the story, but it may also be because I like how each author gets to put a stamp on their version of the tale, including characters, events, and interpretations they make.
Some of my favorites in the past few years are:
- The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C Yee
Basically, a retelling of the Monkey King tale in which an overachieving, high strung high school junior is tasked with killing demons alongside the reincarnation of the Monkey King. It has a lot of banter. and definitely engages teen into mythology and folktales!
- The Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
A precursor to the Little Mermaid, the book is an teen origin story for Ursula. Let me tell you, Ursula is just a REALIST.
- Snow White by Matt Phelan
A graphic novel depiction of Snow White during the Great Depression. The illustrations are brilliant!
- Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
A retelling of Baba Yaga in Brooklyn. It is a lot. As a reader, you just have to let go of any preconceived ideas and allow yourself to dwell into the author’s idea of Brooklyn.
- To Be Read: I really want to read A Blade So Black, which is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland in Atlanta.
Beyond that fixation of mine, I quite enjoyed the following:
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
A queer parody of Harry Potter full of fun and a sweet romance! Its based on fan-fiction from Rowell’s Fangirl.
- The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
First off, her name is Nix, and she’s an angsty 16-year-old that travels through time with her father and his crew on a magical ship, always wondering if she can travel back in time to bring back her mother. Its a pretty cool premise!
- Not Your Sidekickby C.B. Lee
Jessica, a girl with powers, is trying not to use her powers. Except, she takes an internship with the town’s supervillian, only to find out there’s something much larger happening beyond good and evil!
- To Be Read in May 2019: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling: A queer teen witch in Salem, MA that may lose her magic if a non-witch sees it! EXCITED.
I love fantasy! So I’ll try to limit myself…but I have to mention the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore, and of course Harry Potter. More recently, I’ve been really impressed by fantasy/sci-fi/speculative short story collections from Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning), Kelly Link (Get in Trouble), Kelly Barnhill (Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories), N.K. Jemisin (How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?), Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others), and Ken Liu (The Paper Menagerie). There are so many strange worlds to visit…
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: I read them as they were published, and recently relived the whole series on audiobook
His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman: Fantastic on audiobook, but I’ve also read it in print
The Broken Earth Series by N.K. Jemisin
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (I actually would consider this horror, but apparently everyone else thinks it’s fantasy)
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton: I’m really looking forward to the sequel, The Everlasting Rose, which is out soon!
I loved Colin Meloy’s juvenile series, Wildwood. As soon as a murder of crows takes off with the main character’s baby brother, you know you’re in for a wild story (no pun intended). Colin Meloy is also songwriter for The Decemberists. His penchant for storytelling is evident in both mediums.
For those burning out on series, Bill Willingham’s novel Peter & Max is a good choice. While it is a companion piece to his long running graphic novel series Fables, it holds up well as a standalone. Peter and Max are the Piper brothers of story and rhyme. Peter picked a pickled pepper and Max played the rats and then the children of Hamelin outside of the city walls.
A recent discovery for me is the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. This series takes place during the Napoleonic wars, with the fascinating addition of a worldwide population of dragons. Novik does an incredibly thoughtful job of illustrating both how different cultures adapted to the presence of dragons, and the social and cultural repercussions of access to these powerful and intelligent beings (for instance, the American conquest, we find, has gone very differently than what we have in our history books!). Novik has recently earned even more acclaim with the wonderful novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver, which I also recommend.
What are your favorite fantasy novels? Let us know in the comments below!